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Thread: Getting zapped by DC Voltage

  1. #1
    Previous member
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Riverview, Fl.

    Default Getting zapped by DC Voltage

    They used to say that stuff will "come and get you" if you mess up.
    From another Thread, Jimbo said the above. I know DC Voltage can come get you, but I'm wondering about something.

    I recently got shocked unhooking Coax from a Receiver at my Repeater site for Ham Radio. The Receiver has a small pig tail that the Coax plugs into. I had one piece in each hand and as soon as the two came part, I got nailed. It felt like 115 AC. Another time, I got nailed from our Pump hoist which is a Diesel with two 12 volt batteries, I was hooking up jumper cables to try out a new Electro Magnet we had built to check casing depth in a well. Same thing, I got nailed from a 12 volt battery. I have never before gotten nailed by 12 Volts DC and some say I'm crazy, but trust me, I felt the shock.

    Has anyone got any experience with this sort of thing or can you share your experiences with weird occurrences like these?


  2. #2
    Senior Robin Hood Guy Ian Gills's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2007


    Not DC, but I got zapped disconnecting a ceiling fan. The power was off, and all the wires were disconnected, but when I had the fan on the floor a capacitor must have discharged and it hit me.

    Ouch, and very weird.

  3. #3
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Sep 2004
    New England


    An antenna could have a huge static charge on it...just like touching the doorknob after shuffling across a carpet. Also, if the transmitter was on, there could be numerous watts of RF energy that likes to jump a gap. Your muscles are more inclined to notice a/c type signals rather than dc.

    I know I've been zapped by high voltage a couple of times...one when I was testing a HV regulator assembly for a radar...I never did find that test lead after it got thrown! I've also seen a guy get zapped by a 40Kv supply...it burned a channel from his elbow to his wrist (inside) and arced out his boots through the nails in the heel. Somebody else got to the emergency shut off before I did on that one, but that guy was never the same...didn't really want to work on radars any more!

    The resistance in your body depends a lot on how sweaty you are...the salty sweat reduces the resistance and you become less of an insulator and more of a conductor.

    Bottom line, you can arc weld with dc, so it has significant potential as does a/c. A/c messes up the bodies ability to exchange messages in the nerves, while dc could burn you. Both are dangerous under adverse conditions.

    Given enough current, you certainly don't want to be the fusible link.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  4. #4


    My friend unplugged a fluorescent fixture from a ceiling plug. The plug swung down and touched his lip...and shocked him. All wire is like a battery or capacitor-it holds an electric charge which eventually dissipates down to zero. But you can accidentally use your body to draw off the current.

  5. #5
    Like an engineer alternety's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006


    Speedbump - the antenna could have been static. If the transmitter was not turned off a bit of RF could do it; it likes to crawl around. The batteries were probably because of what you were testing. Unlike plain old wire, capacitors and inductors do store "electricity". You built a big inductor (electromagnet) and then charged and probably discharged the stored energy with sparking as the cable brushed the contact. Being a Ham you have probably seen the results of the voltage spikes inductors can cause when the field collapses. That is why you have to put those protective diodes on electronic switches used on inductive loads. Taping a heavy duty coil (probably had an iron core) with the power source can cause ringing which can induce a voltage much higher than the initial source.

    For people fooling around inside a TV using a CRT - an example of capacitance storage can be experienced by taking a set that has been off for some time and sticking you finger in the hole (DO NOT DO THIS) on the side of the picture tube with the red wire going to it. The picture is a very high quality capacitor and you can get a spark of 5 or 10,000 volts after many days (months) powered off.

    My high voltage story. Building about 30' wide and 75' long. Contains two 1.5 megawatt transmitters I was maintaining. Antenna at one end, power entrance diagonally across the shack. 3 miles of dipole antenna a minimum of 150' above terrain, on top of a moderate mountain.

    Thunder storm heard in the distance. SOP - disconnect and ground antenna feed with big knife switch. A few minutes later a lightening bolt entered the shack from the grounded antenna feed and left via the service entrance. New addition to SOP - and then leave. There was no lightening outside - just a static build up.

    Except for a few brown marks and some trouble hearing for a while; no damage. But it was impressive.

  6. #6
    Jack of all trades frenchie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Brooklyn, NY and Fire Island, NY


    This thread is starting to remind me of this video Phil posted at JLC last year...


    Personally, I think you're all nuts. Even 115 scares the crap outta me.
    Master Plumber Mark:

    there is nothing better than the
    manly smell of WD 40 in the air
    while banging away on brass with a chisel and hammer...

    it smells like......victory......

    do not hit your thumb...
    Just so everyone's clear: I'm the POODLE in the picture ("french", get it?) The hot woman is my wife.

  7. #7
    Engineer Furd's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Wet side of Washington State


    Direct current will pull a much longer arc than a similar AC voltage.

    A few years ago I was attempting to "polarize" an exciter generator in the historical museum I sometimes volunteer at. I was using #4 jumper cables to connect 120 volts DC (single phase full wave rectifier) to the field winding and when I disconnected I pulled an arc that was close to a foot long. I was surprised that I didn't blow the rectifier or the fuse supplying it.

    And yeah, the generator now works!

  8. #8


    AC's actual energy is about 70% of that same DC voltage.


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