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An electrifying experience - why me?


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I'm hoping you clever people might be able to answer this one!

I feed my horses steamed hay; that is ordinary hay which has been put into a large chest and has steam from a boiler going through it for one hour.  The system I use is called a 'Haygain' if you google it you can see a picture.  I have owned my Haygain for about 5 years and it has never given me any problems.  In the summer this year, I started getting a tingling feeling through my fingers when I touched the neck of the filling point on the boiler (3Kw kettle) and I thought that the boiler must have an electrical fault and was live.  Ben couldn't feel anything though, and I think he thought I was making it up, but just to shut me up, he changed the plug on the boiler.

Today, the tingling experience has evolved into a proper buzzing / electric shock.  It is continuous, and lasts as long as I am touching the neck of the boiler.  I opened the chest to clean out some wet hay from the bottom and got the exactly the same feeling.  It was uncomfortable to the point of being painful, and this comes from someone who happily moves the  (mains powered) electric fence, or joins the wires together without switching the unit off first.:stupid:  I decided that there must be a fault with the boiler, so went in and contacted the supplier, who had never heard of such a problem.  Whilst I contemplated the cost of a new boiler vs sending mine back for their workshop to look at, Ben went out to experience the buzz.  Well he still can't feel anything. I stood with him, and told him where to touch, but nothing.  He tried it all over the equipment, and still nothing.  So I got hold of his finger and touched it against the boiler and then he got it!  ZAP!!  I touched the boiler on my own, and it gave me the same shock, with a spark. Then I touched the water in the bottom of the chest and it shocked me and sparked as well.

So, my questions are; 

1.   do you think this is static and I have I suddenly become positively/negatively charged?  Why has this started now?

2.   What is it about the hay steamer which causes these shocks?  Nothing else I touch affects me in this way. 

I'm hoping someone will have some interesting suggestions.  I had better call the Haygain supplier tomorrow and tell them that the fault is not a fault and the thing just doesn't like me.:bomb_ie:

 

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Needs testing, a simple multimeter will show up most things.

Check the resistance from the body of the machine to the earth pin on the plug, it should read zero. Now check resistance from the live and then neutral  pins to the body, on the highest resistance range. Wants to be greater than 2Mohms.

Next, test the machine, plugged in and working on voltage. Test again from the part that zaps you to earth (if you have flush sockets, the screw on the front of the socket will be earthed. Again should red zero, but volts AC this time. 

Ideally you want it PAT tested. 

I assume the circuit it is plugged into is RCD protected? If not, get it sorted! 

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I’d stop using it right now before it kills you.

 I think you may have two faults. One is with the immersion heater element which has significant earth leakage. The other is with your household wiring which either has an earthing fault or no working RCD. Sounds like you are providing the earth path when you touch it - this should be doubly prevented by the earth wire carrying the leakage to ground and the (mandatory) RCD device tripping if more than 30mA flows. You should not be able to feel 30mA.

Individual human conductivity varies depending mainly on how sweaty/wet your hands and socks are and what footwear you have on.

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The problem has existed at both our old property (hampshire) and new property (Devon), it doesn't seem to matter where I plug it in.  Yes we use it through an RCD, and it doesn't trip.  I have already decided to stop using it, and will get a sparky to look at it.  I'm too young to die! 

But, the big question is, why doesn't it do it to anyone else?

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Be surprised if you can generate much static in damp (wringing wet?) November Devon!

Anyway static is a brief zap then gone. This is not what you are describing.  My bet is still two faults. A leaky heater element (or some other components) and interrupted earth path. As it does it in two locations then I reckon the earth fault must be in the unit itself. Clive’s test suggestion above will tell you.

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If there really is an RCD 'protecting' this circuit it obviously isn't working. I suggest you get a new one as a matter of urgency and test it regularly.  RCDs contacts can stick if not cycled from time to time.

What you are feeling is leakage current through your body to earth. People's skin resistance varies as does the insulating properties of their footwear or clothing so what is felt can vary from person to person. 

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Vicky,

Like the above, but out of less engineering/electrical knowledge and more  physiological, this fault is most alarming and I believe dangerous.  You should not use the device at all, for your own safety, so your last post is most wise!

I looked it up as you suggested:

HG 600 Equine Hay Steamer for Horses - Haygain - Haygain Denmark

The active part is the water boiler on the right.    There is a users manual online that shows the construction of that:  https://www.fresh-group.com/uploads/5/6/9/4/56944931/haygain_hay_steamer_600.pdf   Page 6

That shows that it is a redesigned electric kettle, with a heater element in the base and a polycarbonate (non-conducting) shell.     Above, you have more educated opinions but to me the only way that electricity can get to the connector on top is from the heater,  through the water, which is most alarming!      An elelctric kettle that gave me shocks would go straight in the bin, or back to the shop! 

You have contacted the makers or your supplier, and as they know their products and must take responsibility for their safety, you should return the unit to them ASAP!   Don't investigate it yourself, or get anyone else to do so!

John

 

Edited by JohnD
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Hi Vicky,

get Ben to earth his left hand. You hold his right hand and then stick you finger in the hay and see who lights up first. DON'T DO THIS - I WAS JOKING:tongue:

Electric things outside are always problematic.

After it is fixed consider using blue garage glove and use only one hand at a time. This way the current will not pass through you and light up Ben.

Will you be getting a Christmas tree this year - if so hang Ben from it and wire him to the hay bale

 

Roger

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Thank you all for your replies; the sensible ones:) and the one from Roger :huh:.

I have decided to order a new boiler; the old one is clearly trying to kill me and I don't ever want to see it again.  Ben has already taken it to bits for a post mortem, so there is no going back now!  We will get our RCDs tested as neither the hard wired RCD socket or the mobile one pluged in to an ordinary socket tripped with the boiler fault. 

I still find it worrying that Ben said he couldn't feel the fault at all, as he gets one hell of a kick from the electric fence.  Maybe he could really, but said he couldn't as he wants to replace me with a newer model?

Roger, if I put Ben where the Christmas fairy goes, will he light up on his own?

Vicky (lightly toasted) x

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good solution.

BTW RCD do fail and need to be tested at least by pressing the test button.  

I have seen lots of RCD adapters fail and have had a 2 month old MK MCBO (combined RCD and circuit breaker) fail, would not trip when the test button was pressed.. To be fair MK were very good and changed all the units that I had brought at the same time. if you need to turn the power off on your board its worth pressing the test button just to check its still work...
To properly test it you need a calibrated RCD tester that puts different fault currents and measure the trip time. I think it should be 30mA trip current and trip within 30 milliseconds. 
How much current do you need to kill you depends on lots of factors and the path the current takes thru the body, and the time and amount of current, see picture. 

 

Mike

RCD curves.JPG

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When I was much younger I managed to hold a 240V live in one hand and neutral in the other whilst kneeling on my bedroom floor trying to find out why my record player wasn't working. I say 'hold' but it wasn't for very long as the flex wasn't long enough to reach to the other side of the room down the back of the bed where I landed without being particularly aware of getting there.

Fortunately.

Always been a bit more circumspect/careful since then and I would concur with the advice above.

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We have got a sparky coming out to the farm as, having just moved in, there are sockets we need in places where there aren't any and various other electrical things that need sorting.  I will make sure he does a full safety check on the place; it needs it.  As you can tell, things electric are not really my area of expertise.  Thank you all for giving your time to reply and enlighten me a little more.  I have learned something from your advice.

EE, that sounded like a nasty experience.  Did it make the turntable go round?

When I was a lass, I used to work for a dairy farmer.  Every morning he would drive me around the farm and every couple of hundred meters he would open the door, push me out and tell me to touch the fence.  Apparently he didn't want his cows getting out.  I am now immune from electric fence jolts.

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Full electrical safety check on a house when you first move in is very wise.  We had ours checked out..... I'd already removed some of the more "exciting" additions, but our man had no trouble finding more.  I've since found more still when digging deeper as part of other projects.

38 minutes ago, Sidescreen Vicky said:

When I was a lass, I used to work for a dairy farmer.  Every morning he would drive me around the farm and every couple of hundred meters he would open the door, push me out and tell me to touch the fence.  Apparently he didn't want his cows getting out.  I am now immune from electric fence jolts.

So maybe all this is actually stored electric fence charge flowing back the other way....... :blink:  Ben needs to watch out!  Dunno how you can be immune to electric fence jolts.  Had to untangle a sheep from one once.  Eeuuugggh ouch :pinch:!  

I've had a number of.... encounters..... with mains voltage but the one that sticks in mind was at school, where I used to do the stage lighting.  Backstage there was a lighting bar that winched up and down and this was internally wired with 12 flying sockets.  The other end of each wire emerged in the lighting box at the side of the stage as a flying lead with a 5A  3 pin plug on it.  These would then be plugged into the dimmer banks.  The drill was to wind down the bar until 5 feet above the stage, clamp the chosen lights on it, then plug them in and test.  With a few lights already on and lighted (though likely not at full power), I went to plug the next one in and grabbed the relevant plug - after all, plug prongs aren't live until safely in the socket..... unless there is an insulation failure in the wiring .......  The shock knocked me over and I had a deep burn in the palm of my hand where the bulk of the current had used my flesh to get to the adjacent pin, rather cooking it in the process.  I ached all over for several days and the scar on my hand remained visible in cold weather for decades.  Needless to say, other arrangements for the wring had to be made for that play!

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12 hours ago, Escadrille Ecosse said:

When I was much younger I managed to hold a 240V live in one hand and neutral in the other whilst kneeling on my bedroom floor trying to find out why my record player wasn't working. I say 'hold' but it wasn't for very long as the flex wasn't long enough to reach to the other side of the room down the back of the bed where I landed without being particularly aware of getting there.

Fortunately.

Always been a bit more circumspect/careful since then and I would concur with the advice above.

When I was very young I did a similar thing because I wanted to know what electricity felt like... Oh my goodness it hurt! 

I was stupid when I was young, I hope I have matured a little!

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If we are swapping shocking stories to try and top Vicky's ......

I defibrillated myself.     Old model of shocking machine, that auto-recharged.    I had used it on a patient and went to put the paddles back into their rack while watching the ECG.     I must have pressed the button on the paddle, because it discharged.    My hands had gel on from doing chest compressions and made a conductive pathway around the paddle through my hand, into the metal rack.      Lucky really, as otherwise it would have gone to my other hand, across the chest and heart.   An untimed defib in normal cardiac rythm can precipitate VF!

As it was, I had a horrible shock, a numb paralysed arm and  a burn on my knuckles.    Electrical burns are notoriously slow to heal, and I found the same as NIck.

What was weird, was bumping into a friend at work the same day.   He was astonished to see me up and around, as the Bush Telegraph had inflated the story into my spontaneous collapse and resuscitation!

John

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On 11/19/2020 at 12:11 AM, Nick Jones said:

Full electrical safety check on a house when you first move in is very wise.  We had ours checked out..... I'd already removed some of the more "exciting" additions, but our man had no trouble finding more.  I've since found more still when digging deeper as part of other projects.

I did find live wires (no insulation!) direct under the wall paper in my old Copenhagen-flat. Some *** wanted a power outlet on the bathroom. Though most of the wiring was from 1920's, this 'addition' was quite new.

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