What is the difference between Static Shock and Electric Shock?
Over the past hundred years, electricity has evolved and adapted into a necessity which society cannot live without. We have become quite dependent on its uses; making it hard to escape, from flicking the kettle on in the morning to the powerful yet beautiful strikes of lightning during a storm.
Put simply, electricity is made through the burning of fuel. Australia uses either coal or a natural gas, which is burnt to heat water and create steam. This turns a turbine generating electricity, then travelling along the conductor wires, which we call powerlines, to the specified destination.
Although electricity is used every day, it can sometimes be harmful but also fun – being the core ‘ingredient’ to some experiments.
Static electricity, also known as electrical energy at rest, is the build-up of electric charge on a material. This charge is usually built up through friction, which is the contact between two objects which are both insulators.
One of the most common science tricks to create static shock is to rub a balloon against your hair, making your hair stand up on its ends.
Another example is to rub your rubber-soled shoes against the carpet and then touching a metal door knob, giving you a ZAP!
These things happen due to an imbalance in electrons in both objects, with one losing their electrons, creating a positive charge and the other gaining electrons, creating a negative charge.
A static shock isn’t harmful; it may be uncomfortable and cause a bit of a fright to the receiving personnel.
An electric shock is the sudden discharge of an electrical current from an electrical source, like a power point, which has enough force to pass through a human body part. This electrical energy flows through the human body part, creating a shock type feeling which can cause little to no injury or can be life threatening.
There are some different ways which you can experience an electrical shock, including; faulty appliances, power points, damaged electrical cords, electrical appliances and water coming into contact, incorrect household electrical wiring, and also a lightning strike.
Electrical shock can have little external evidence that it has occurred, however the internal effects of receiving an electrical shock could be life threatening.
An electrical shock can cause burns, tingling, numbness, nerve damage, and even cardiovascular problems. Seeking advice from a health care professional is always advised after receiving an electrical shock, even if you feel ok.
The main difference between these two different but similar shocks, are the outcomes and the way which they are created.
Static shock is created through human effort and electrical shock is created through electrical means.
Static shock doesn’t give a harmful result and electrical shock can cause no to life threatening results.
Electricity should be seen as a tool and the ways that we can use it are endless. But we can’t forget just how dangerous it can be when installed incorrectly, not properly maintained or used without care. Issues such as flickering light, tripping circuit breakers, electric shocks and much more, all indicate possible points of concern with your home’s electrical circuit. If you are experiencing any of the following issues, please call us today to have them inspected to ensure your’s and your family’s safety.
1. Tripping Circuit Breakers
Many people are unsure about the difference between safety switches and circuit breakers within their home. Circuit breakers provide protection for your WIRING and ELECTRICALS within your home by opening the circuit when a fault is detected. They do not provide personal protection from electric shock. There are three main reasons why your circuit breaker might trip within your home.
One of the most common reasons is that you are ‘overloading your circuit’. This is an electric circuit that is carrying more current than what it can handle, running the risk of causing a fire or an injury through overheating. For example, in one outlet you may have a powerboard plugged in, that is overloaded with cords and adaptors that, simultaneously, are drawing too much current. Your outlet/powerboard may not be able to handle such a large current and therefore runs the risk of overheating. Your circuit breaker would trip to avoid any overheating, minimising your chances of getting hurt.
Your circuit breaker may also trip due to a ‘short circuit’. In your homes electrical circuit, this occurs when a live wire touches a neutral wire, resulting in high current and therefore triggering your circuit breaker. There are many reasons why these two wires can come into contact with one another. Your attachments in your home may be extremely old and deteriorated, possibly have been chewed through by an animal or pest causing them to become loose, or caused by a faulty appliance.
Ground faults are another reason why your circuit breaker may be tripped. A ground fault is when electricity finds an unplanned path to ground and are often caused by damaged wiring or faulty/old appliances. They often occur in ‘wet’ areas of the house such as the kitchen or the bathroom.
Sometimes faulty circuit breakers can be installed unknowingly. These circuit breakers can trip at lower current ratings than what are specified. If this were the case, your circuit breaker might be tripping quite frequently and need replacing immediately.
If your circuit breaker trips, identify why it may have happened and eliminate the chances of it happening again. If you cannot find the cause, or it electrically more advanced than simply unplugging a device, call an electrician today.
2. Frequent Power Surges
Power surges in the home can be caused by a number of reasons, most of them within your control. They occur when there is an interruption to the normal flow of electricity within the home, or when there is a sudden influx of electricity into the system.
Internal power surges are most common, and may include:
Power hungry devices such as refrigerators and air conditioners being switched on.
External influences include:
Animals chewing through wiring
Fallen tree limbs touching power lines.
While the actual surge of electricity is generally extremely quick, the damage that it can have on your appliances can last a lot longer. Frequent power surges can damage your electrical devices componentry and reduce their life expectancy.
To protect yourself from power surges in the home, you need surge protectors installed. There are three different types of surge protectors you can choose from:
Portable surge protectors: These plug into an outlet and protect the device that is plugged into them. While cheaper than other options, these run the risk of only being able to be used once.
Powerpoint surge protectors: These surge protectors are installed within the powerpoint itself, and therefore must be fitted by a qualified electrician. They protect anything that is plugged into that powerpoint.
Main switchboard: Installed by a licenced electrician at your switchboard, these surge protection devices (SPDs) protect your entire circuit from a power surge. Should a fault occur, they switch off the power to your entire home keeping you and your family safe.
It’s important to remember that these are all different types of surge arrestors, and are used for different types of surges and in most cases, two types will be safest for your property. The primary type is used for large surges such as lightning strikes, to protect your motors or non-sensitive equipment. The secondary type can be utilised to protect your electronics.
3. Buzzing/Humming Outlets and Switches
A number of issues in the home can cause outlets and switches to buzz – some are normal and some may be an indication that there is something else going on. Generally, there is no need to worry, but if you are concerned, then call us today to complete an electrical inspection.
Dimmer switches work by ‘chopping up’ the current between the switch and the light, so rather than actually dimming the light itself, it flickers rapidly enough so that it appears dim. It is this ‘chopping up’ of the current that can produce vibration and therefore cause a buzzing noise. High-quality dimmer switches should have a filter to reduce this buzz, but if the noise intensifies it may be another issue. It may be a sign that you have an LED or CFL globe installed that is being controlled by a dimmer built for an incandescent globe. Your globes may also flicker if this was the issue. It could also be a sign of an overloaded switch. Dimmer switches are rated according to the maximum wattage that they can handle. If you have a globe in your fixture that’s wattage is higher than what the switch can control, then you may hear some buzzing and need to upgrade your switch.
If an outlet in your home is buzzing, then it may be a sign of an overload or bad wiring. The wires in your home may have become loose, which can cause them to hum. This is more prevalent in older homes with outdated, old, or worn out wires, but there may also be a chance that they have been installed incorrectly. To see whether it is the outlet itself, or possibly an overload, try plugging in a different appliance to see if the outlets continue to buzz. Only do this if it is safe to do so, but if you are in doubt, please do not touch it. Instead, call us today to organise an inspection. Any loose wires or connections within the home shouldn’t be ignored, as larger, more serious issues can result.
4. Electric Shocks
An electric shock occurs when a person comes into contact with an electrical energy source. This electrical energy then flows through the person’s body and causes a shock. Exposure to an electric shock can cause anywhere from no injury at all, if you’re lucky, to serious health issues and even death. It’s important to distinguish between whether you have experienced an electric shock, or simply a static shock.
Static shocks are simply the build up of a negative electric charge on the surface of an object. Negative charges are carried by paricles called electrons, which are found in all matter. Most electrons are packed within matter, but sometimes they can sit on the surface. If two objects come into contact with one another, the electrons on the surface will move to the material with the greatest bonding strength or pull (such as your body). This movement of electrons is the ‘zap’ that you experience, which is completely harmless.
Static shocks are nothing more than annoying, but electric shocks are a much larger cause for concern. Depending on the duration and intensity of the shock, you may experience:
Burns to the skin or internal tissues.
Loss of consciousness.
Loss of breath.
Interruption to the natural rhythm of the heartbeat, causing it to beat out of rhythm or not at all.
There are many situations within your home where you could experience an electrical shock. These include:
Damaged or frayed electrical cords and wiring.
Electrical appliances coming into contact with water.
Incorrect or deteriorated household wiring.
Downed powerlines or lighting strikes.
If you are certain that you are experiencing electrical shocks within your home, do not hesitate any longer. Call us today to organise a site inspection before it worsens. Electricity is extremely useful within the home, but it can also be extremely dangerous.
5. Higher Than Average Electrical Bills
If you have noticed that your electrical bills have been higher than average, there may be a few reasons why. Certain things that can cause higher electrical bills include:
Keeping appliances plugged in and turned on when not in use.
Increased electricity rates.
Leaks in your hot water system.
New appliances, such a larger televisions, can use a lot more power, so be sure to purchase appliances that are ‘energy smart’.
Higher electricity bills may also be the result of old appliances or wiring within the home. Older appliances can degrade and lose their efficiency over time causing them to become large consumers of electricity. It’s important to maintain your appliances and update them when necessary to avoid paying too much for electricity. Faulty or degrading wiring can also consume larger amounts of power as it deteriorates, just to provide appliances with the necessary amount of power. It’s important to distinguish what may be causing this spike is power usage so that you can amend it. If you are unsure, call an electrician today.
I’m experiencing issues with my electricals, now what?
If you are experiencing any of the issues mentioned above, or possibly something else, please do not hesitate to give us a call. Your safety is paramount to us. Most electrical issues are typically quite detailed and as electricity can be extremely dangerous when not handled correctly, it’s important that you let a professional perform the necessary actions. Please call Green Efficient Living today on (08) 8297 3422 for any electrical related issues.
Electricity in the home can be a marvelous tool. It can be a source of light, heat, entertainment and much more! But when it is neglected, it can become more dangerous than helpful. Have a think back to the last time that you had your home or business’s electrical system checked to make sure that everything is working safely and is compliant with the latest regulations and standards. Have you EVER had an electrical inspection carried out? Is your home old or recently built? Or maybe you are in the process of purchasing. It may be time to have an inspection done to keep you and your family safe.
According to Master Electricians Australia, 15 people on average are killed in Australia each year from electrical-related deaths inside of their homes and 300 people on average, are hospitalised. The Electrical Regulatory Authorities Council also states that between 2016 and 2017 90% of the people who were fatally electrocuted in their homes were members of the general public (i.e. non-professionals).
Many electrical issues in the home go undetected to the untrained eye. This is why it is extremely important to have your home’s electrical safety inspected to ensure that you and your family can live your days free of risk.
What Happens During An Electrical Inspection?
During an inspection, the electrician will visually inspect your home or business’s electrical system ensuring that all wiring, system, and components meet the relevant legal standards.
Some elements of the inspection will be simply a basic visual audit with recommendations regarding non-compliant components. Others will be an in-depth audit ensuring continuity of electrical system and safety switches are tested, the polarity of the outlets. Unfortunately, as most of the electrical system is inaccessible in wall cavities, a thorough visual inspection with a testing of the electrical system is the extent that can be carried out without perforating the wall.
It is important to ensure that the person that is completing the electrical inspection on your home or business is qualified to do so. By ensuring this, you will have peace of mind knowing that they are aware of and trained on the issues to be aware of and recommend how to fix the problems should they find anything.
When Should You Get An Electrical Inspection?
Despite the importance of electrical inspections, they do not need to be carried out annually. Typically, every three to five years should suffice. Technology is constantly changing and as a result, so are the electrical standards and regulations of compliance. However, there are three major situations in which you should have an electrical inspection completed immediately.
1. If you have an older home.
As mentioned, electrical standards and technology are constantly developing and changing, and therefore, the wiring that is in an older home may be severely outdated and unable to cope with the load requirement of some modern technological appliances. It also means that it may be weathered and worn and unsafe to continue using.
2. If you have experienced a major storm recently.
South Australia can experience its fair share of wild weather and sometimes, extreme weather can cause damage to the electrical elements within a home. While you may notice any damage, it is also important to seek the qualified advice of a professional to ensure that any safety features and internal elements have not been damaged. It is especially important to have an inspection completed if appliances in your home stop working after a storm.
3. Before purchasing a new property.
It is strongly recommended that you have a building inspection completed before purchasing a property. While a building inspector will examine the structural components of your home and some minor electrical components, they won’t go into much depth. They may flick switches, check that you have smoke alarms and monitor some appliances, but to ensure your home’s electrical integrity, having an in-depth inspection completed is strongly recommended.
Your electrician will be able to identify in more depth, any significant electrical issues that your home may experience and take a closer look at the wiring that is installed. You can never be too sure of what work the previous owner may have had done in your home, or if they even used a qualified and licensed professional. Having an inspection done will ensure that you do not get presented with a hefty bill or an unsafe home after purchase.
Why Should You Get An Electrical Inspection?
1. To identify any faulty wiring.
Faulty wiring is a common cause of fires and injuries by electrocution. As mentioned, every year in Australia, there are roughly 300 people admitted to hospital as a result of electrical malfunctions within their homes. Electrical wiring has a certain lifespan, so just because it may have been safe ten years ago, doesn’t mean that its age hasn’t impacted its safety today. Many old homes have never had their wiring upgraded and wiring safety and efficiency have come a long way in a short span of time. Power and lighting circuits are now required to all be on individual safety switches. This came into effect in 1991, so if your home was built before that, then chances are your electrical system is non-compliant and not protected.
2. To notice any issues with your smoke alarms.
A smoke alarm can help save lives by providing you and your family with a strong warning if there is a fire in your home. Legislative requirements state that it is compulsory that ALL South Australian homes be fitted with a working smoke alarm and there are a few rules and regulations as to where the smoke alarm should be located and whether there should be more than one. Smoke alarms are now required to be hardwired, with a battery for back up.
Many injuries and fatalities from fires in Australian homes would have easily been prevented if a smoke alarm was present, or if their smoke alarm was working. Over time, some smoke alarms have become outdated and no longer comply with Australian standards.
During an electrical inspection, the electrician will note your smoke alarms location/s, whether you have enough in your home and whether they are working and compliant.
3. Identifying overloaded circuits.
Electrical circuits are designed to have a limited amount of electrical current. An overloaded circuit occurs when there is more demand on the circuit than it can safely handle.
If your home has limited outlets, you can be tempted to utilise multiple powerboards which would increase the demand on the circuit. When the limit is exceeded, the circuit breaker should trip, shutting off the power and removing the threat to your safety. If the circuit breaker was to fail, an overload on the circuit would cause the wiring to overheat and the wire insulation to melt, which may result in a fire.
Electrical installations can age and can become overloaded very easily, particularly in old homes where the wiring was not designed for the number of electrical appliances in use today.
The most obvious sign of an overloaded circuit is the circuit breaker tripping and shutting off the power. However, some other signs to look out for are:
Buzzing outlets or switches
Outlets or switches that are warm to the touch
Power tools or appliances that seem to lack power
During an electrical inspection, the electrician will identify the electrical demands of your circuits and provide you with any corrections that are necessary to avoid serious threats to your safety. These corrections may be the installation of new and additional circuits or reducing the load on each existing circuit.
4. Ensuring that your home’s electrical system is up to code and is compliant
There are certain electrical standards that your home’s electrical installation and wiring must comply with. It is impossible to know what type of work has been done on your home previously, and whether the previous owner used a licensed or unlicensed technician.
Understanding the current state of your electrical system is extremely important to be aware of your level of safety within your home and how much money you may need to pay to fix the legal issues.
In Austalia, it is illegal to complete your own electrical work if you are not a qualified tradesman. Licensed tradespeople have the equipment, training, certification, and knowledge to do the necessary work safely and in accordance with appropriate regulations and rules.
For the safety of you and your family in your home, it is clear to see why spending a little bit of money in the short term on an electrical inspection, may save you much more in the future, including your lives. Have a qualified electrician inspect your home or business’s electrical system to ensure that it is compliant and running as it should be.
Note: NEVER ignore an electric shock or tingles from anywhere in your home, whether it is from a tap, a pipe or an appliance. It may be a warning sign that there is something more serious going on with your home’s electricity supply and here at Green Efficient Living, we take electrical safety extremely seriously.
Getting an electric shock from anywhere in your home should never be ignored – without attention, it may become dangerous! It is generally a warning sign that your electricity is not flowing through your home as it should be, and there may be a few reasons why.
WHY DO WE EXPERIENCE ELECTRICAL SHOCKS OR TINGLES WITHIN THE HOME?
A bad earth connection or a poor neutral wire/neutral bond are the most common reasons why people experience electric shocks. For electricity to flow within your home to a light or to an appliance, a complete path (circuit) must be provided for it to return to the electricity supply. The active wirecarries the electricity from the electricity supply, while the neutral wire returns the electricity to the electricity supply – so there are always at least two wires to each appliance. Many appliances these days have a green-yellow wire (earth wire) connected to it, in which the other end is connected to an earth stake. A current will always take the path of least resistance so if your earth connection is good then the current will flow freely down this path instead of flowing through you. An earth connection using an electrical earth stake is essential for the effective operation of safety switches.
If you have received an electric shock when you have touched a tap, it may be because an active wire from an appliance is touching a metal pipe somewhere in your home and there is now electricity flowing through that pipe. If your earth wire is connected correctly, it should trip your safety switch or circuit breaker and remove any safety issues before you touch your tap. A fault in the earth connection means that the safety switch or circuit breaker cannot be activated and the pipe now becomes live. When you touch the tap, and your feet are on the ground, you complete the circuit, so electricity can flow through you and you experience the electric shock.
I’VE BEEN SHOCKED! NOW WHAT?
Before jumping to any conclusions, there are some questions that you can ask yourself. Do you experience the sensation the whole time your hand is on the tap, or do you just get a small shock when you first touch it? Do you get a shock when the water is running, or only when it is not running? Does it happen in just one area of your home or from multiple locations throughout your home? Have your neighbours experienced the same thing?
Firstly you need to distinguish whether it is simply a static shock, or something more serious. Static shocks are experienced very suddenly and are of very short duration and once the shock is experienced, the item can then generally be safely touched without experiencing it again. Static electricity is an electrical charge trapped on the surface of an object. The charge will remain there until the object is touched and the electricity can escape to an object with a weaker electrical charge. However, while static shocks may not seem as serious as other types of electrical shocks, they are still a sign that your earth connection is not as it should be.
If the shock is a lot worse than a static shock, then the situation is quite serious. If you are left feeling burnt or are experiencing pain in that area, have experienced the shock more than once, are experiencing it multiple areas of your home, or are experiencing other electrical phenomena such as flickering lights or the sound of electricity zapping, then call your electrician immediately!
It may seem unimportant, but it is worth speaking to your neighbours. If they seem to be experiencing the same issues, then it may be a faulty transformer or connection outside of your home and the appropriate company will need to be called immediately. Generally, this is the emergency number that can be found on the bottom of your electricity bill.
There are many things to remember when it comes to experiencing shocks within your home.
The first is that it should never be ignored! As mentioned, it can often be a sign that there is something wrong with your electrical circuit within your home, and it needs to be fixed immediately before the situation worsens!
The second is remembering what to do in the event that somebody becomes electrocuted. Call 000 first and NEVER touch them while there is still live power running through the home. Always check for danger to yourself, and switch off the power before touching them. Once the power has been shut down, remove the patient from the electrical supply without directly touching them – instead use a non-conductive, dry material such as a wooden broom handle.
Find the full Electric Shock procedure from St Johns Ambulance here.
If you are concerned about any electrical faults within your home, or feel as though you would like an electrical assessment, please don’t hesitate to call Green Efficient Living on (08) 8297 3422. We will do a thorough examination of your home to ensure that you and your family are safe.