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Thread: Interesting Sunday Morning- electrical question for everybody

  1. #1
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking Interesting Sunday Morning- electrical question for everybody

    Got a call this morning from one of my customers....

    their sump pump had failed and they fiddled with it trying to get
    itto run.....

    They woke up to 8 inches of water in the basement
    it was an unfinished basement, but their was work out equipment
    a television set, sterio--- computor on a strip cord--
    and various items still plugged into
    power when I arrived.....

    in fact their are hot plugs that were still laying in water
    strewn all about the basement floor.....


    Now my question about electricity......

    The lady homeowner was walking around in this basement all
    morning long trying to salvage thiings in her BARE FEET

    I toldher to get the hell up the stairs...

    So basically, what kept her from getting killed?????

    I would think that is a pretty good ground,


    a guardian Angel???


    I am no tfooling around about this, I really want to
    understand how she did not get lit up.....

  2. #2
    Electrical Contractor Chris Tittle's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Good question mark

    Basically, it would have to come down to this. One, pure water is actualy an insulator, but I doubt the water in her basement was void of any mineral content. A high content would have made the water conductive and slide down the conductivity scale as the mineral content moves toward zero. Two, human skin is less conductive when we are colder and more when we are warmer. The skin's resistance to current flow varies from person to person and is inflenced by many factors connected with the bodies physical condition. Third, elctricity will seek the least resistive path to ground. I would say that your conclusion that her power distribution system "had a good ground" was spot on. Apparently, the combination of the water's conductivity level and her skin's restistance to current flow was greater than the path to ground through the equipment ground system. Stay safe brother.

    Chris

  3. #3
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking a live wire

    what you are saying is that the electricty already had a
    ground and did not need anything from her....
    to make a good ground into the water...

    I am under the assumption that the water
    might and could "bite you in the ass" just for kicks....
    I will always assume that this is possible
    its just safer that way----- to wear rubber boots-----



    now if she would have picked up a live wire
    out of the water , then she and her bare feet
    would have made a good ground for that wire
    if it were to short while in her wet hand.......


    Either way,
    this lady has spent at least half of her 9 lives today....

    yes she should probably buy some lotery tickest.....
    Last edited by master plumber mark; 02-19-2006 at 02:28 PM.

  4. #4
    DIY Senior Member Mikebarone's Avatar
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    Default hot foot!

    I would think that the power strip that everything was plugged into would have had a over load protection on it that would / should have blow when the water got to it. The mian breaker in the electric box should also have blown. Do you know if the power strip was still working?

  5. #5
    In the Trades Bob NH's Avatar
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    Default

    A power strip will have both the hot wire and the ground wire within 1/2" of each other, effectively shorting out the potential field. Also, any electrical potential in the water would be grounded to the floor.

    Since the water is in contact with the ground at all places, there is no potential voltage between the water and the soles of her feet.

    You get electrocuted with electricity going through you from a high voltage to ground. Birds sit on 50,000 Volt wires without getting electrocuted.

    This is different than the circumstances in a bathtub which is probably insulated by the enamel or plastic. If you drop a hair dryer into the water, it is possible (though not certain) that the water can become electrified, so if you contact the supply pipe, which is grounded, you can complete the circuit through your body.

  6. #6
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking thank you bob NH

    that all sounds pretty convinceing,..
    wether all the wires in the water were shorted out or not
    I do not know.......I did not care to test them

    I just changed out the sump pump
    and tomorrow I got to change the burner assembly on
    the flooded water heater...

    and maybe you are right and everything gets all grounded directly into the concrete....


    but I am still wearing my rubber boots...

  7. #7
    General Contractor Carpenter toolaholic's Avatar
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    Cool Go Back Tomorrow

    ask her to get in a tub full of water, then throw her hair dryer in.

    we need to know more about this situation!

  8. #8
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default water

    When she was in the water she was at the same potential, (similar to high line workers who have their bucket clipped the line they are working on). Either the water was "hot" and not grounded, so she would be safe until she touched something at ground potential, or she was at ground potential and was safe until she actually touched a hot wire that was not in the water, (where it would have grounded out and tripped the breaker).

  9. #9
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking hj

    to respectfullly correct what you said,


    in theory ,------ the hot line would have grounded out and the breaker ""should"" trip.....



    I dont think you or me would run around bare foot in a
    basement full of wires and accessories

    she was just plain lucky
    Last edited by master plumber mark; 02-20-2006 at 09:41 AM.

  10. #10
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default water

    The question was how she did what she did, not what she should have been doing.

  11. #11
    DIY Senior Member Mikebarone's Avatar
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    Default Dear Hot Stuff

    You should have got a photo of yourself after the lightning strike. You should write that one into, “believe it or not”! I bet you really give your husband a charge….LOL

    Mike

  12. #12
    DIY Senior Member Mikebarone's Avatar
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    Default Mater plumber Mark.

    Just a suggestion….you might want to suggest to her in having a licensed electrician to install a GFI main breaker in the main electric panel, (if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself). I hate GFI breakers because they trip a lot sometime, but there is a reason they trip. This might save her butt, next time she isn’t so lucky!
    (It might take more then one breaker if there is more then one circuit down in the basement). She can also install just GFI receptacles in the basement, and in most cases, one GFI receptacle, can protect all of the rest of the receptacles down line from it, if it’s wired correctly….again, maybe by a licensed electrician.

    Mike

  13. #13
    DIY Senior Member Cal's Avatar
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    Default

    Mark,

    I'm with you . That women had an Angel on her shoulder . I can see,hear and feel water , can smell and hear gas,,,,electricity---NO THANKS !

    Will you share those power ball numbers ???

  14. #14
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default leak

    I was called to repair a leaking copper line next to a water meter one night while it was raining. I knelt down to put a temporary clamp on it, and a spark jumped from the copper to my finger, then from my steel to to the ground. The man asked, "Did you see that?" I thought he was talking about the spark and said, "Yes, and I felt it, so I will shut the water off and see you in the morning." He said, "No, lightning just stuck that utility pole across the street."

    Another time a copper service was leaking and everytime I put my hand in the water to try to find the leak it was like putting it into mild acid. I took my voltmeter and tested the water and it was "live". So I called the electric utility company to check their wires. The wire to the meter was damaged and charging the water, and also caused the deterioration of the copper line.
    Last edited by hj; 02-22-2006 at 05:26 AM.

  15. #15
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking HJ and your 9 lives

    HJ, looks like you might have spent a few of your 9 lives too
    over the couse of your plumbing carreer....

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