What those D.I.Y. videos on YouTube and Home Depot fail to tell you ....
American's are known for their hard work and ingenuity. Our history is rich with those individuals who have strived, sacrificed and in some cases have given their lives for the future betterment of our society. It is ingrained in our culture to
find easier, less physical and more affordable means of performing any task.
We all know someone that is a 'do-it-yourself' type of person. It might be working on cars, small home projects or more. To some degree all of us are guilty of being a DIY type of person in some way or another. It is important for each of us to understand and realize our limitations when it comes to tackling projects and tasks that require more education, skill, experience, and equipment than we are capable of providing ourselves.
It is common place for sites such as YouTube® to post videos on how to do things. There is virtually nothing that cannot be found on the internet these days, however it is important to realize and understand the true depth and risk of what is being performed and the dangers that lie behind the scenes. Somewhat recently, some home centers, such as
Home Depot® have begun posting their own DIY videos relating to the installation of electrical devices. Several even depict the ease of the regular DIY person installing circuit breakers in panels with live wiring.
We at A & K Services of Iowa feel as a service to the public, this situation should be appropriately addressed. Some may say we are doing this because the DIY person is bad for business and it takes away from the services we perform. Although this is true to a very minor degree, it is very disturbing that such retailers would promote and encourage individuals with little to no training or experience to install and repair electrical devices. These acts are overwhelming risky with the incurrence of possible property loss, to personal injury and even death in some cases. Electricians have many years of classroom and hands-on training prior to ever being licensed. In the State of Iowa, for example, a Journeyman Electrician (entry level electrician) is required to have a minimum of 600 hours of classroom time and also 5 years of
on-the-job experience prior to being eligible to even take the national exam to become a Journeyman Electrician. Additionally, a Master Electrician (required for contractor status and to do electrical design) must have 2 more years of
on-the-job experience prior to being eligible to take the national exam to become a Master Electrician. For anyone keeping track, that equals more 7 years of training in the field of electrical work. An individual can get their doctorate in the same amount of time!
Most would agree that a video on YouTube® or Home Depot® can hardly account for the knowledge of what is really going on behind the scenes when someone has a part of their body inside an electrical panel. Ask yourself this:
Would I want a physician treating me that had learned their practice a few days earlier on YouTube®? None of us here would! Additionally ask yourself: What will I do if something goes wrong and the repairs I am trying to make do not work? If something ends up going awry, then that individual more than likely ends up calling a contractor to straighten the issue out. In the long run it ends up costing a great deal more because the contractor has to figure out what the person did before addressing the original issue. There is a saying that applies to many fields of trade, but also applies here: "Good work isn't cheap, cheap work isn't good." and also "Mistakes get people killed."
So with all of this being said, what are the dangers of electricity?
Dangers of electricity include a variety of hazards ranging from electrical shock, psychological damage, physical burns, neurological damage and ventricular fibrillation resulting in death.
Electricity at any voltage can be dangerous and should always be approached with caution. An electric shock can occur upon contact of a human or animal body with any source of voltage high enough to cause sufficient current flow through the muscles or nerves. The minimum current a human can feel is thought to be about 1 milliampere (mA). As little as 80 milliampere, can seize the heart muscle. The current may cause tissue damage or heart fibrillation if it is sufficiently high. A fatal electric shock is referred to as electrocution.
The perception of electric shock can be different depending on the voltage, duration, current, path taken and frequency. Current entering the hand has a threshold perception of about 5 to 10 milliampere (mA) for DC (direct current) and about 1 to 10 milliampere (mA) for AC (alternating current) at 60 Hz. Shock perception declines with increasing frequency, ultimately disappearing at frequencies above 15-10 kHz.
Dangers of electricity include physical burns. High-voltage (>500 to 1000V) shocks tend to cause internal burns due to the large energy (which is proportional to the duration multiplied by the square of the voltage) available from the source. Damage due to current is through tissue heating. In some cases 16 volts might be fatal to a human being when the electricity passes through organs such as the heart.
• Ventricular Fibrillation
A low-voltage (110 to 220V), 50 or 60Hz AC current travelling through the chest for a fraction of a second may induce ventricular fibrillation at currents as low as 60 mA. With DC, 300 to 500 mA is required. If current has a direct pathway to the heart (i.e., via cardiac catheter or other kind of electrode), a much lower current of less than 1 mA, (AC or DC) can cause fibrillation. Fibrillations are usually lethal because all the heart muscle cells move independently. Above 200 mA, muscle contractions are so strong that the heart muscles cannot move at all.
• Neurological Effects
Other dangers of electricity cause interference with nervous control, especially over the heart and lungs. Repeated or severe electric shock which does not lead to death has been shown to cause neuropathy.
When the current path is through the head, it appears that, with sufficient current, loss of consciousness almost always occurs swiftly.
• Arc Flash
An arc flash is the result of a rapid release of energy through the air, due to an arcing fault between two electrical points with large amounts of voltage.
The flash is instantaneous, almost too fast for the eye to comprehend. Within milliseconds an arc flash can reach temperatures of more than 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit or as hot as the surface of the sun. At the same time a brilliant flash of light and a loud explosion occurs spreading hot gases and melting metal through the air.
The consequences of an arc flash are devastating. The flash alone causes radiation burns and loss of eyesight, while the subsequent explosion results in loss of hearing. The fast-moving pressure wave also can send molten metal and loose material into the air and causing further injury to anyone standing nearby.
We at A & K Services of Iowa care about your safety. Please use caution and common sense when doing any work and when you know that you are in over your head, do not hesitate to call a professional to complete the project for you. As always, we are here to help when you need us.