Electricity is a powerful force, but because it doesn’t have a readily visible form and almost exclusively takes place in components that are small and hidden for safety, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about exactly how it works. To set the record straight and hopefully help you avoid making a poor decision regarding your electrical equipment, this blog will set the record straight on a few of the most prominent and prevalent electrical myths we’ve come across.
“It’s not the voltage that kills you, it’s the current.”
We hear this one a lot, and it’s kind of become engrained in culture regarding electrical safety. There’s just one problem: it’s completely untrue. Both high voltage and low voltage can cause serious or even fatal harm, as can both high and low current levels.
To demonstrate, think of water flowing through a pipe. A pipe with a bigger diameter represents greater voltage and higher water pressure represents a greater current level. If you have a small pipe but the water inside is under thousands of pounds of pressure (such as with a pressure washer), then the water can still do you harm. Conversely, if you have a pipe that’s 50 feet in diameter or more, even an extremely slow flow will still unleash enough water to sweep you away and cause serious injury. A fire hose is a fairly wide water pipe, but the water inside is under a ton of pressure, and that means it could cause injury if it were to hit you straight on.
It is true that a higher voltage level traveling with extremely low current is less dangerous, but that doesn’t mean it is harmless. Hundreds of thousands of volts at any current level can be extremely dangerous, so avoid coming in contact with it at all costs.
“That bottom pin on your plug is for helping hold your plug in place.”
This is a surprisingly relevant myth: there are people out there who think that the pin located on the bottom of your plug between the two main prongs is there purely to help secure your plug into the wall. While it’s true that your ground pin often can make your plug connection more stable, the truth is it isn’t a useless feature. In fact, it is anything but useless—it’s a crucial safety feature that can prevent you from getting hurt and your device from starting a dangerous electrical fire.
A ground pin connects your device to what is known as a “ground circuit.” A ground circuit is essentially a pathway where electrical devices can safely dump the extra current and voltage in the event of a short or power surge. When something unexpectedly goes wrong with your electrical system, a surge can cause wires to overheat, lines to melt, and fires to start or injuries to occur. Instead, with a ground circuit, the extra energy flows through this line where it can be safely grounded to keep you and your home protected. As such, always make sure that any three-prong plugs are plugged into a three-prong port, never remove the ground pin from any plug that has one, and always make sure any new outlets you install are properly connected to your ground circuit for maximum safety.
“Wearing rubber gloves lets you handle live wires safely.”
It’s absolutely true that rubber is an insulator, meaning electricity doesn’t travel through it naturally. So, naturally, many people believe that wearing their rubber cleaning gloves or rubber rain boots will protect them when handling live electrical wires. This isn’t necessarily the case. Rubber is an insulator, but only pure rubber can boast this quality. Pure rubber is actually quite rare, as most rubber products today are mixed with other chemicals to alter its qualities and durability. Finding a pure-rubber product today is almost impossible, and that includes with your rubber gloves and boots. Instead, these devices could still be conductors, albeit not great ones. Nonetheless, they won’t necessarily protect you from electrocution, and particularly so if they happen to be wet when you use them.
If you do have a loose wire that’s sparking or live, the first thing you should do is immediately shut off the circuit at your circuit breaker. This will cut off all electrical current running to the line. Remember, just because a line isn’t sparking doesn’t mean it isn’t live. Second, call a professional electrician to come out and inspect the issue and fix it safely and effectively.
“Overhead power lines are insulated.”
Believe it or not, the overwhelming majority power lines that are running overhead are not insulated. Most insulation materials wouldn’t last more than a few months in typical outdoor, high-voltage conditions, and line workers would have to be constantly working on lines to replace worn insulation if we were to properly shield them. Instead, lines are put way up out of reach and left completely exposed and open. This is why fallen lines are so dangerous—the entire line is a live wire and contact with any part of it could subject you to immense voltage and current levels.
So wait, you might ask, how can birds sit on power lines if they aren’t insulated? The answer is simple: because the bird doesn’t form the path of least resistance, and thus the current and voltage doesn’t flow through them. Birds don’t actually form a path to the ground that the electricity can pass through, and thus they can sit on these wires to their heart’s content. This is also how shoes and other debris that gets stuck on electrical lines doesn’t immediately burn or melt as soon as it makes contact with the wire.
Got an electrical problem? Get it fixed by the experts at All Pro Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electrical! Dial (909) 253-0664 now to request an appointment for your service.