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I was shocked! Power strip protection not as great as I thought.

I was shocked! Power strip protection not as great as I thought.

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  #1  
Old 11-12-04, 11:47 PM
bum4evr
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I was shocked! Power strip protection not as great as I thought.

I live in a motorhome at a doggy rescue kennel, and for power I have 2 lines leading to my motorhome, the first line plugs into the motorhomes normal power source, I unplug that when I have to leave. The second line is a heavy duty extension cord, which runs through a window for power to a clock and a small fridge, on that end of that cord, I have a 6 outlet power strip, one of those plastic ones you buy at K-mart that has a breaker on it.

Today I walked over to the fridge with bare feet, and got a heck of a shock when I touched the metal on the inside of the door, I was lucky cause the fridge is right next to the dogs water dish, which they knock over and slosh water around sometimes so I have walked through damp carpet there before, luckily it was dry this time.

Well I flipped the breaker on the power strip and touched the same spot again ZZAAAAPPP! again. Ow! well geez the power must be comming from somewhere else, so I got my shoes on and went outside and unplugged the main line into the motorhome and came back and touched the same spot. No zap this time. Opps wait, Im wearing shoes, so I take them off and touch it again ZZAAAAAPPP! Ow. where is this power comming from? So I unplug the power strip and touch it again, no zap. Somehow the power thats zappin me is getting past this power strip.

So I went outside and followed that cord for about 100 feet and discovered that mice/rats had chewed it really bad and the actuall wire was exposed in many places, and I am guessing that 2 wires must have been touching in that cord which sent power up through the ground, and into my hand. When I switched to a different extention cord, the problem was gone.

And I guess those power strips only protect against a sudden load on the hot wire itself?

Any way I can protect against this in the future? The wires that lead to my motorhome must run on the ground, there is nowhere else to put them so there is always a chance this could happen in the future as there are many hungry rats and mice here. I would be happy if I could buy some device that I could connect to the main power line before my motorhome plugs in, something that protects against all kinds of surges. Any Ideas?
 
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  #2  
Old 11-13-04, 04:49 AM
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It is against most codes and against common sense to use an extension cord for other than a temporary source of power. It is also against common sense to continue to try to shock yourself after getting shocked accidentally. You could have easily killed yourself.

Extension cords are fine for temporary power, as long as they are in good shape and are rated for the distance they will be used and power they will carry.

If the power supply to the mobile home is not large enough to supply the power you need, then have it enlarged. This is your only safe and legal option.

As for those power strips, you get what you pay for. Most don't have a breaker, and those that do aren't worth the extra money they charge for them, as the breaker isn't very good quality.

However, there is more wrong with this story. Any extension cord you were using should have been plugged into a properly grounded receptacle GFCI receptacle. From your description, a properly grounded receptacle or a GFCI receptacle and a properly connected refrigerator would have prevented the shock you received.
 
  #3  
Old 11-13-04, 04:49 AM
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What you are doing is so unsafe in so many ways that there is no good way to make it safe.

Extension cords are _not_ supposed to be used for permanent wiring.

Wiring is not supposed to be run exposed on the ground.

The metal frame of a 'detached structure' should be bonded to the electrical system ground.

You shouldn't be testing for electrified surfaces by repeatedly getting yourself zapped.

From what you described, several things must have all gone wrong together.
1) The equipment ground wire in the extension cord must have been broken.
2) The hot wire in the extension cord must have come in contact with the now broken equipment ground wire after the break
3) The metal frame of the fridge must be isolated from the metal frame of the 'mobile home'.

No standard equipment that you could buy would protect you in this situation, since the 'ground wire' had been energized, and everything leaves the ground connection intact. The 'power strip' (which is not designed for personal protection in any case) is an example; when you switched it off, both the neutral and ground conductors remain connected, and in your particular case you were shocked by one of these two conductors.

A 'gfci' receptacle feeding the extension cord, combined with another gfci on the end of the cord near the fridge _might_ have helped the situation that you described, but I can imagine a couple of ways that even this no-standard 'doubled up' gfci protection would not be sufficient.

Why don't you tell us why you are using this extension cord to power the fridge, why you disconnect the main power connection to the mobile home, etc. Describe the main power connection as well. Perhaps there is a solution that gives you the end results that you want.

-Jon
 
  #4  
Old 11-13-04, 07:12 AM
bum4evr
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shocked

I use 2 wires cause I like to be able to unplug one when I leave, the main wire runs about 150 feet and is not a cord its that stuff you put inside the walls of a house, that gray wire, and thats conected to an outlet. i plug the motorhomes main power into that outlet. The second wire that runs through a window is for the fridge, which has to remain on all the time, so I bought the power strip for that cord, thinking it might at least help to prevent a fire.

The second wire, the extention cord, runs from a different source then my main power wire, its connected to an old shack here thats been here for many years, and I dont think its grounded at all.

Last night I ran a cord for the fridge to my main outlet, and im not gonna use that old shack for power for the fridge anymore, Im just worried that one gray wire that goes 150 feet isnt enough to handle an entire motorhome, with TV, air conditoner , fridge, microwave etc.. But at least that grey wire is connected to a newer breaker box that runs a water pump, im pretty sure its grounded correctly.

Ya, shockimg myself aint too smart, but I dont have a voltage tester, so my finger was all I had to use.

And ya the fridge is one of those small ones for like dorm rooms, its not built in to the motorhome.
 
  #5  
Old 11-14-04, 07:30 AM
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Sorry dude, your setup is simply outright scary. The problem with electricity is that it still works in some very sketchy and very dangerous situations. Your setup will continue to function even if the wires are overheating and shorting out. But it will still be a significant electrocution and fire risk. This setup could easily get you dead.

That grey wire that is normally inside the walls? It is not made to be used as an extension cord. The wires inside are not flexible enough, and will crack and break. The outer covering is not made for exposure to water or sunlight, and will decay. Wire has to be protected, both mechanically and electrically.

Running all of those appliances over 150 feet of skinny wire? Very hard on anything if you draw any sort of current at all. I bet you notice the lights dim every time you turn anything on. Well this is the voltage dropping because of the load on the skinny wire.

The best I can say: turn this whole mess off, go to the library, and read a couple of books on electrical wiring. With a baseline of knowledge and some hard work, you can fix this mess. But the devil is in the details, and there are many details to deal with.

-Jon
 
  #6  
Old 11-14-04, 01:34 PM
bum4evr
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I gonna fix this best I can

I wish I could afford to do this right, but I live and work at a rural animal rescue kennel, and I dont have much money and cant go without electric.

But, I can make it as safe as possible. This is the box where the 2 cords plug in, the one on the right is for the fridge, the left one powers everything else:

<img src="http://bum4evr.com/files/outlet.jpg " hspace=20 BORDER=0>

I will buy 2 portable GFCIs for each cord, a 15 amp for the fridge cord and a 20 amp for the other.

and this is the where the main yellow cord plugs in, its in bad shape and makes an electrical crackling/poping noise whenever I touch it, you can see the top is broke off too:

<img src="http://bum4evr.com/files/3prong.jpg " hspace=20 BORDER=0>

Im gonna go to camping world and get a new plug for that on tuesday when I get paid. cause that thing is starting to worry me.
 
  #7  
Old 11-14-04, 04:33 PM
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Do you have a death wish? You have a fire waiting to happen. Do not use this setup. Have this wired properly.
 
  #8  
Old 11-14-04, 05:20 PM
bum4evr
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scary

I never leave that plugged in while I am gone, and I have a smoke detector and new fire extuinguisher handy. when tuesday comes I will replace that cracking plug and get 2 portable GFCIs for both cords which is better then before.

I wish I could have things up to code, but its a choice between putting up with this or driving my motorhome out of here and losing my job and living on the streets.
 
  #9  
Old 11-14-04, 05:28 PM
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I would be more worried about a fire while I was there than a fire while I was away.

All that you smoke detector is likely to do is to wake you up so that you can die awake instead of asleep. Your fire extinguisher will likely be useless. Motor homes and trailers are death traps. They burn quickly and extremely hot.

You are taking your life into your hands by using the wiring as you are. Worse, you are risking the lives of the firefighters who will attempt to save you.

One final note. Should you survive a fire, you won't have enough money to cover the fines you will face, and your employer won;t have enough money to cover their fines either. By allowing you you to use their electricity, and by having an improper hookup, they are putting themselves at risk.

Please. Disconnect the electricity until you can fix the problems. If not for your own sake, for the sake of EVERYONE else.
 
  #10  
Old 11-14-04, 07:05 PM
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bum4evr,

I admire your ability to simply keep trying. 'CODE' and 'LIABILITY' present a significant problem for someone caught in the middle. Electrical code presents a set of minimum standards which must be met in order to be legal, and if anyone here tells you to do things which are less than that minimum, they open the door to significant liability should you have a fire or get electrocuted.

However electrical safety is always a continuum, and you can always do things to improve the safety of a situation. But I cannot advise you to improve the safety of your situation short of true code compliance.

Code compliance does cost money, but if you are willing to spend some time reading, you can do the work yourself, and achieve a safe, code compliant system, without too much cash outlay. Your electrical needs are modest, which means that the circuits which you need to install are modest.

The pictures that you show are downright scary. Arcing and lights flickering when you touch a receptacle or plug means _loose connections_. Loose connections mean heat and fire. Any loose connection will quickly degrade. You need to investigate and correct _all_ loose connections.

GFCIs are great, but if the rest of the wiring is sketchy, then they will be plagued with 'nusiance tripping'. I'd give odds that when you plug your extension cord into the GFCI outlet, the GFCI will trip, simply because of random leakage throughout the system.

Again, I advise you to get a book on electrical wiring and read it. You deserve a minimum standard of safety, and it sure sounds like you are willing to work to get it. My advice is to learn more about wiring and find out how to best proceed.

-Jon
 
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