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This job can kill you. Be careful and check for voltage if you have an electrical complaint.

AlboGator

1,592 views

From now on potential electrical issues will be a big red flag.

Get into the habit of checking a unit’s frame to a trusted ground before you start working on anything with a power related issue.

I went out on this call expecting something to be wrong with the refrigerator and so as usual I start the standard diagnostic process. It was plugged into a standard outlet and not a gfi so I automatically rule out nuisance trips from being the culprit. I opened the door, felt the hot gas lines, listened to the fans, checked the temps in the freezer and the refrigerator, cycled the icemaker, put the unit into defrost and heard the heaters kick on and start sizzling. Everything seemed to be normal and working as expected.

At this point I figured a mouse may have gotten into a wire or the icemaker line and I really needed to check the back compartment out anyway so I pulled it out to take a look. Again everything looked normal, nothing unusual. I unplugged the unit, checked for continuity between neutral and l1, ground and l1 and again nothing unusual. I plugged the refrigerator back into the outlet and needed to roll it forward a little so I pushed the bare metal back with my hand forward and in doing so my knee hit the copper line coming out of the wall. This is where I simultaneously found the problem and I took 120 volts straight through the chest, violent shaking the whole bit. It hurt like hell and left me scared to touch the damn thing again, but I went back to work.

I checked the outlet and it was wired backwards (hot and neutral reversed) but that's not really that uncommon for a house that's 20+ years old around here. I checked ground to neutral and I got some really big fluctuations in resistance that were sometimes unreadable by my fluke meter so I knew something was going on but not sure exactly what. So I checked ground to the copper pipe. 120 volts. I plugged the refrigerator into a gfi outlet that had a microwave on it and turned off the breaker to the refrigerator and got her in contact with an electrician I know and trust. He went out and a few days later I spoke with the customer again and she told me that the electrician said I was really lucky so I had to call and speak with him about it. I called him and he told me that the ground wire had shorted out to the hot line, energizing everything. I asked him how that was possible without tripping the breaker and he said that the outlet didn't return to ground, that someone had crawled under the house and rigged up the electrical line at some point probably removing the ground and that something chewed the wires shorting the ground and the hot line. The lady said she had no knowledge of it and it must have been done before she bought the house.

I'm making the assumption that something had chewed the wire shorting the rigged up ungrounded ground wire to the hot line. I still don't understand completely what happened but I know I got the shit shocked out of me and if I would have had a hand hold on something I may have been killed, but I wasn't thankfully. It still scares me though. This woman was old and frail and if she would have touched the refrigerator and the sink or the microwave anything to a good ground it probably would have killed her. Be careful with electricity. I've been shocked many times but never like that. 120 volts are extremely powerful. We tend to get complacent with it.

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DurhamAppliance

Posted

Wonderful blog post Bro AT, well written, informative and funny! Although from one who also "had the shit shocked out of him" by 120vac, it does bring back a painful memory from my youth (see http://appliantology.org/blog/15/entry-741-you-cant-touch-this-non-contact-voltage-detectors/).

Maybe we need to start the STSB120vac (Shocked The Shit By 120vac) support group. Members must have been shocked by 120vac... not the little sissy-girlie shock most have experienced, but had to be the full-on, hallelujah Jesus, I see images of my life flash but flickering like a shorted out black and white tv screen before my eyes kind of shock. So far we have two of our 12 steps .. 1) Make sure everything is grounded and 2) Understand insulation.

Btw those only shocked by 240vac are not accepted.. start your own damn group... that is, if you can find more than a few survivors.

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coolhandkenny

Posted

Yea I one time touched 120 while motor was running felt my heart beat slow down scared me to death I also double take as being on who have "had the shit shocked out of him"

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DurhamAppliance

Posted

Welcome to the club CHK!

Btw..unplugging a malfunctioning range is not, I repeat, is not safe. Had one the other day... intermittently working... removed the storage drawer to reach behind it to pull the plug.... luckily I couldn't reach it so I decided to move the range out to get to the plug... and then arc welding class was in session! Sparks started flying, customers started screaming then everything went dead. Thank God that didn't include me.

The short not only tripped the oven breaker but tripped the subpanel main breaker as well... shutting off power to the entire house.

Problem, as most of you guessed, L1 had burned itself off the block and shorted against the cabinet...it may have even crossed. L2...of course, there wasn't a power cord strain relief in place.

It would've been some sight if I was able to reach that plug while my shoulder was practically under the range... more importantly, my membership in the STSB120VAC support group may have ended quite abruptly.

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"the full-on, hallelujah Jesus, I see images of my life flash but flickering like a shorted out black and white tv screen before my eyes kind of shock"

 

Perfect description. That's a hell of short to take out the sub panel, glad to hear you weren't part of it. 

 

I'm going to put some thought into this club

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You know you're a Real Tech when you can get shocked, and not respond to it in front of the customer!  

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beyonddoubt

Posted

You know you're a Real Tech when you can get shocked, and not respond to it in front of the customer!  

 

Reminds me of when I went to discharge a microwave cap on a plugged in and running microwave (so stupid, I know. I was flustered by a looky-loo customer and wasn't thinking) and it went BAM right in front of the customer. I just looked at him and said, "those capacitors hold a big charge, don't they?" without even blinking. I wasn't gonna fess up.

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Spannerwrench

Posted

I'm one of the small percentage of 240v survivors.  I went out to a cooktop that only the 120V section work work, so basically just the indicator lights, just installed brand new.  So I said OK something wrong with the pig tail hookup, boy was I correct.  I grabbed the glass top enough to get my fat fingers under it and took full hold of the metal frame and full hold of 240v, a bottom front tooth flew through my bottom lip and across and lip and shot across the kitchen, blood spewed and I went flying across that kitchen.  I picked myself up and regained my composure with a bloody rag in hand as soon as the terrified elderly lady said boy I'm glad that didn't happen to me.  I was glad to, because it probably would have killed her.  

 

I went right back at it.  Turned the breaker off, no indicator light now but that didn't satisfy me this time.  I disassemble the kitchen cabinets to get to the plug as well to unplug it just in case.  Checked the outlet, all good.  I remove the junction box on the cooktop and low and behold the installer had hooked one leg to ground and one leg to neutral, the neutral and ground were wired to the L1 and L2.  So I wired it properly and all was good except I was still shaking!

 

While I was helping her clean up all the bloody hand prints off of the counter she was apologizing how she realized what she said must have sounded very selfish and I reassured her it wasn't, but the only reason that it didn't happen to her was because she only toughed the plastic knobs when she was trying to use it.

 

Needless to say ten years later I look in the mirror, see that missing tooth and I have a whole new respect for how dangerous improper wiring can be.

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DurhamAppliance

Posted

Damnation, Bro Spanner, you are a trooper!

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after reading all those stories Im almost ashamed to even type this out.  

was at christmas time in the mid sixties..I was 8 or 10 years old.  We were leaving the house and I was to unplug the tree lights so they didnt catch fire ......I was being slick and thought I would time it so when the lights blinked off I would pull the plug.  small plug and snug outlet so to get a good grip I wiggled the plug out part way.  Watching the blinking light ...got a good grip...just a little more....then my thumb and finger touched hot and neutral at the same instant.  looked like a lightening bolt in my eyes.    I never said a thing to my folks about it.

oh ...and then there was the time a few years later while sitting in the back of the class at school...bored...(idle hands and minds are the devils workshop my mom used to say) so I folded up a Wrigleys gum wrapper, one of the foil backed ones, and stuck it in the light socket beside my chair.  This time I was at least smart enough to use the eraser side of my #2 pencil to push the other end into the opposing hole in the socket.  I dont recall if they had a ground hole at that time...very loud POP!, a bit of smoke, and very short flash of bright light.  Teacher looked up but no one said a word.....last time I did that.  

Thats the extent of shocking experiences for me if you discount the low amp high volts in any engine ignition system.  Magnetos are the worst.  they will hurt you in ways unspeakable is general civil society....

Now if you want to talk capacitors, and ignition systems...stay far far away from the ignitor systems used in any modern jet engine. They have the power to burn a hole clean thru the engine case if it gets loose.  (no I didnt do it, but have seen it done)

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