What is stray voltage and why should you be concerned with it as a pool builder? If you’ve ever felt a shock from your pool deck, you may have already experienced stray voltage, and you might well know why it’s important to prevent. If you have felt it and survived, you’re one of the lucky ones. It can even be fatal, and as a pool contractor, you want to protect your clients’ well-being, right? Read on to find out what causes contact voltage and what you can do about it.
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Stray voltage occurs when voltage exists in the ground. Meaning, loose electricity has “escaped” from a cable, a transformer, or other power source. It’s now traveling through the ground, trying to dissipate. Realize that the natural path for electricity is the earth and it tends to flow into the ground (think of a lightning strike).
Following the path of least resistance, the electricity will tackle whichever target is easiest. So, when you have moisture (wet dirt, or say, a pool deck), the electricity will instead travel through that conductive material before dissipating into the ground. Wet concrete would be much easier for it to travel through than the natural ground!
There are ways to prevent against it, but first let’s find out why it can occurs in the first place!
What Causes Stray Voltage?
Stray voltage comes from many sources, such as:
- Cuts and nicks in buried lines
- Faulty “drops” from overhead power lines (where power comes to a home from the main line)
- Damaged pads underneath transformers causing power “leaks”
- And numerous other sources
The fact is, these voltages exist in the ground all throughout America. Even if your home’s electrical is perfectly up to code, you could still be at risk from nearby sources.
Since you can’t possibly stop all the ways stray voltage is caused, you need to stop it from ever reaching you.
How Can I Protect Pool Areas From Stray Voltage?
There are several ways that your pool deck can proof against stray voltage. One of the best ways to get peace of mind is with equipotential bonding. This is essentially a copper wire grid that gets installed in the concrete deck and will attract any contact voltage, keeping the wet ground (and those on it) safe from the risk of shock. Read more about the Electric Power Research Institute's (EPRI) testing report on equipotential bonding configurations for in-ground swimming pools.
Why Haven’t I Heard About Stray Voltage Before?
In years past, metal rebar was installed in all concrete flooring as standard practice (for concrete stability). As a result, electricity would choose to flow through metal rather than concrete, and stray voltage wasn’t really a concern in those days.
When the industry started mixing concrete with other materials and rebar was no longer needed, stray current entered the picture. Subsequently, there have been far too many cases of injuries and even deaths from contact voltage.
Protect your clients by using equipotential bonding grids and mitigate the risk of stray voltage. Consolidated Manufacturing International can help.