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Thread: Hypothetical

  1. #1
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    Hypothetical

    Doing flood clean up here in Houston and an interesting question comes up.
    What are the physics behind a 120v outlet being submerged in water... Assume a living room with several outlets submerged. Circuit stays energized.
    Is there a standard voltage gradient for water? Is voltage 120v next to outlet, and dissipates as distance from outlet increases?
    Think standing water, not clean(ish) rain water, but whatever is floating from what's picked up from streets, lawns, yards... Trash, sewage etc. Fairly decent conductor.
    Thanks for the replies.

    Sent from my HTC6545LVW using Tapatalk

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaneyj View Post
    Doing flood clean up here in Houston and an interesting question comes up.
    What are the physics behind a 120v outlet being submerged in water... Assume a living room with several outlets submerged. Circuit stays energized.
    Is there a standard voltage gradient for water? Is voltage 120v next to outlet, and dissipates as distance from outlet increases?
    Think standing water, not clean(ish) rain water, but whatever is floating from what's picked up from streets, lawns, yards... Trash, sewage etc. Fairly decent conductor.
    Thanks for the replies.

    Sent from my HTC6545LVW using Tapatalk
    Voltage gradient changes quite a bit for fresh vs saltwater. Dirty water, no telling where that falls. If possible, de-energize the house before entering. I do not know the proper protocol or safety measure one should take in entering a powered dwelling that's still underwater. istm to be premature at that point. If I had to do it, and I'm not recommending this at all, but if it were me, I'd have a set of rubber hipwaders on, rubber gloves, make my way to the panel and kill power. If the water around the house has receded, I'd pump out a basement with a portable gas powered pump before entering it.
    Electricians do it until it Hertz!

  3. #3
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    A few ideas:

    1) Something has sealed the outlets to prevent liquid from penetrating boxes.
    Perhaps painted over outlets with attached cord & plugs, and/or Tamper-Resistant inserts?

    2) HACR breaker(s) can hold inrush & sustained current, if below trip-curve limits.
    Perhaps flood debris is not a reliable conductor above several amps?

    3) Arcing not detected.
    Perhaps arcing wiring burned up inside wall/boxes, before extinguished by liquid?
    Roger Ramjet NoFixNoPay

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by JFletcher View Post
    .. I'm not recommending this at all, but if it were me, I'd have a set of rubber hipwaders on ...
    I sure wouldn't recommend it, either. Many plastics & rubbers are conductive and there's a pretty good chance that hip waders would not provide any protection against step potential.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by ramsy View Post
    A few ideas:

    1) Something has sealed the outlets to prevent liquid from penetrating boxes.
    Perhaps painted over outlets with attached cord & plugs, and/or Tamper-Resistant inserts?No. None of these keep water out of the junction box

    2) HACR breaker(s) can hold inrush & sustained current, if below trip-curve limits.
    Perhaps flood debris is not a reliable conductor above several amps?Maybe, sort of

    3) Arcing not detected.
    Perhaps arcing wiring burned up inside wall/boxes, before extinguished by liquid?No
    Fresh water, even when it's dirty, is not all that conductive.
    Once in a while you get shown the light
    In the strangest of places if you look at it right. Robert Hunter

  6. #6
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    __________________________________________________ ____________________________
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by ActionDave View Post
    Fresh water, even when it's dirty, is not all that conductive.
    In addition, the two points which establish the voltage potential are submerged in relative proximity in the same water.
    I will have achieved my life's goal if I die with a smile on my face.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by JFletcher View Post
    Voltage gradient changes quite a bit for fresh vs saltwater. Dirty water, no telling where that falls. If possible, de-energize the house before entering. I do not know the proper protocol or safety measure one should take in entering a powered dwelling that's still underwater. istm to be premature at that point. If I had to do it, and I'm not recommending this at all, but if it were me, I'd have a set of rubber hipwaders on, rubber gloves, make my way to the panel and kill power. If the water around the house has receded, I'd pump out a basement with a portable gas powered pump before entering it.
    Thank you... This was more to satisfy curiosity... I have read a fair bit in the last week regarding electrical safety with flood damage.
    To be clear, I've had the utility shut off service and will not call for a reconnect until I verify all circuits.
    My plan was to use a megger to determine integrity of each circuit.

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  9. #9
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    Thank you, Jraef. I read through this when you posted it the other day.
    Good info!

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaneyj View Post
    Is there a standard voltage gradient for water?
    for pure water, yes. anything else no. all depends how ionic the water is. salt water is a good carrier of e-trons, std tap water not too much.

    a stagnate pool of dirty water may have some gradient, then when you move the water that gradient can change to better or worse, etc.

    since garbage contains lots of chemicals, those chemicals leach out into the water and can make water very ionic, all depends on how much garbage, type, stagnate, etc etc.

    however, from a shock perspective, i would rather be in salty/dirty water than clean water if electric was under the water.

    replace replace replace, and dont be in the water with the juice on, that sour can bite.

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