Aluminum Screens

Why is my aluminum screen door electrocuting me?

I just moved into a new house, and up until this afternoon I have had no problems with the front screen door. However, shortly after I was done gardening in the yard it began electrocuting my boyfriend and I whenever we would touch it.

Our hands were wet and the surface we were standing on was also wet. When we touched the door it sent electric shocks all through our bodies, and the point on my finger which I touched the door still slightly hurts (20 minutes later).

So, why is my door electrifying us? Is this dangerous? What can we do? Thank you!

Interesting problem. The electricity has to be coming from somewhere and my first suspicion is that a screw mounting the door frame has penetrated insulation of a wire in the wall. If however the house has aluminum siding that is connected to the door, the source could be anywhere around the house. Start by inspecting the door and frame to see if there is any attachment to metal other than the door and threshold. If not, the electrical source is somewhere around the door and we can find it.

Go to Ace or Lowes or Home Depot and buy a simple neon electrical tester (about $4.00). This is a small plastic device with two wires sticking out. If you stick one wire in the hot slot of a wall receptacle and grasp the other with your fingers, the neon lite will glow dimly.

First use your tester on the door, touching the metal with one bare end of your tester while grasping the other bare lead with your bare fingers. Since the door has been shocking you it should cause the neon to glow. If it does not, try it with one lead on the door and the other lead in the ground hole of a plugged in extension cord. If there is still power in the door, the lite will glow.

Now go to your electrical panel and start by shutting off the breaker that controls the porch light. Test the door again. If the neon doesn't glow, you've found the circuit. If it does, keep testing the other breakers one by one until you've found the one supplying the errant voltage to your door. Leave the breaker on for now.

Now start removing the screws that hold your door in place one by one, testing the door for the presence of voltage after each screw is removed. You can replace each screw if voltage is still present at the door. I suspect that when one certain screw is removed, there will no longer be voltage in your door. At that point I would simply leave the screw out, fill the hole with caulking and leave well enough alone. If you're a purist however, you can remove the door, casing and jamb, find the wire that was pierced and repair the insulation.

As long as there are no other metal connections to the door, this approach should work. If it does not, turn your attention to the porch light. Check if turning the porch light off, stops the voltage to the door.

Finally, if all else fails, remove the door and frame and check for voltage on each of the nails that are attaching the rough-in 2 x 6 door opening. If one of them has pierced a wire in the wall, it could be transmitting current to the metal door frame.

If you keep eliminating possibilities, sooner or later you'll find the solution to this intriguing little mystery. Because of all the possibilities, it could take an electrician quite awhile to eliminate them but much of this you can do yourself. Have fun.

Good luck; please let me know how it all works out for you.

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