Safety precautions - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-22-2008, 04:59 AM Thread Starter
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Safety precautions

My little accident yesterday ( https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/eq...im-2213-a.html ) had me thinking a little about the risk of electric shock in our hobby. Random thoughts and questions:

1) I know very little about electricity and such, but I have a lot of respect. Before touching anything in the aquarium, I switch filter and heater off. Necessary? Do you guys do that?

2) My house is quite new and has circuit breakers. The power strips I use are grounded. Is there any danger of a serious electric shock at all?

3) If not, why do the outlets in my bathroom and in the kitchen have this GFCI? If yes, why are GFCIs not installed everywhere?

4) Anything I can do to make things safer? I'm not an electrician (surprise!) and I rent this place. So major installations are not an option.

Looking forward to your input!


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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-22-2008, 05:42 AM
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1) I don't worry about it. The only electrical components exposed to water around my tank are those designed for it, like filter(with internal heater). If it malfunctions and I get electricuted, I've(or my wife) has a nice check coming from the manufacturer that claimed "fully submersible". I also don't use knock off electrical components.

2) and 3) Many, I think most people, use GFCI outlets. You can buy GFCI power strips.

4)Put a drip loop between your power strip and components, meaning, the lowest part of the cord isn't the plug. I have my power strip mounted 20" off the ground under my stand, very little risk of water exposure.


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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-22-2008, 05:44 AM
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1. no, no
2. no, unless the heater completely shatters in the tank
3. you normally plug in a hair dryer and they are energy hogs. They'll cause surges. The gfci are expensive too. That's why you don't see them everywhere.
4. don't freak out.. Even if you do get shocked, you won't die.


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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-22-2008, 02:28 PM
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Usually they install one GFI and then install other outlets in series after it, then in affect the other ones become CFI also. And GFI's are normally install were there normally would be water, IE bath, kitchen, and such.
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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-22-2008, 04:21 PM
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Buy a GFCI outlet, switch the breaker off, and install it where the current outlet is. Don't worry; installation is easy. Unscrew the current one from the wall, pull it out, undo the screws holding on wires (one at a time), switch the wires over to the new outlet in the corresponding positions (color coded), screw the wires down on the new outlet, screw it back into the wall, and you're done.


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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-22-2008, 06:06 PM
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I would be careful about replacing an outlet. While it is that straight foward, one mistake can be pretty deadly there, for instance if the wrong breaker was pulled. Easy solution: Get a GFCI Power strip or external plug. Here are a few: http://www.drsfostersmith.com/produc...m?pcatid=14702
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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-22-2008, 06:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stevie D View Post
I would be careful about replacing an outlet. While it is that straight foward, one mistake can be pretty deadly there, for instance if the wrong breaker was pulled. Easy solution: Get a GFCI Power strip or external plug. Here are a few: http://www.drsfostersmith.com/produc...m?pcatid=14702
Bah humbug. If you're not smart enough to check to see if you flipped the right breaker before dicking around in there, you deserve the jolt you get. It won't be deadly either unless you're standing with your shoes off in a puddle of water or you're particularly unlucky.

Want to check to see if you flipped the right breaker, but don't have a fancy little wand or a multimeter? Plug in a lamp and turn it on. If it lights up, there's still power there.


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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-22-2008, 07:10 PM
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^ guy's got a point.
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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-22-2008, 07:17 PM
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The gfci are expensive too. That's why you don't see them everywhere.
A GFCI is $10 and change at Home Depot. Your life is worth it!
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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-22-2008, 10:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by macclellan View Post
A GFCI is $10 and change at Home Depot. Your life is worth it!
you know what I mean... When construction co. build the house, they don't install these outlets except for the bathroom because it's expensive ($16 @ home depot) vs $6 for a normal outlet... Most of the time it's not really needed.

By all means, buy one if you want. And you won't die from a shock unless you have heart disease.


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post #11 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-22-2008, 10:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mistergreen View Post
By all means, buy one if you want. And you won't die from a shock unless you have heart disease.
Quote:
Originally Posted by confuted View Post
It won't be deadly either unless you're standing with your shoes off in a puddle of water or you're particularly unlucky.
Tank maintenance/re-scapes = wet. And I don't know about everyone else, but when I do tank maintenance/trimming/re-scaping on Sundays, I don't have my shoes on.

$16 to help save my life? Hm. I pay more in car insurance a week!
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post #12 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-22-2008, 11:40 PM
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If you have the extra money to drop on a GFI, do it, it's the peace of mind factor. Other than that, common sense prevails: If you drop the lights into the tank, unplug them before fishing them out. keep water away from the surge protector. Replace broken, exposed heaters. dont stick your tongue between the contacts of a 100w light fixture. Ya know, the basics.

How NOT to do a drip loop:
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post #13 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-23-2008, 12:11 AM
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Just don't do like I did and put a GFI in behind the tank cabinent where it's a pain to reset if it does trip! Twice now I've found myself lying on the floor, arm stretched out as far as I can with something non-metal (for extra length) trying to blindly poke the stupid reset button! Not my best planning

Other than that, I definitely agree that the GFI is worth the peace of mind.
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post #14 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-23-2008, 12:36 AM
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By the way just to avoid confusion, the GFCI is to plug your whole aquarium setup into, not to check if the breaker is off. The reason i said becareful messing with electrical outlets if you don't have any idea is because a friend took some advice while fixing his home from a forum, and is still in the hospital after 3 months because he didn't grasp what the person was telling him in the forum.

GFCI=Peace of Mind=Saved Equipment for the price of some filter pads, and you only have to buy once!

By the way Aquarist Fist, what is that fish in your avitar, some kind of killi? I private messaged you a little while back, you must not have got it...but anyway, would love to have 1 of those in my tank soon!

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post #15 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-23-2008, 01:54 AM
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1) Yes, I would say it's necessary. You never know when there's a little crack in the heater or something else has failed, just waiting for a path to ground. You don't want to be that path to ground.

2) Absolutely yes there is danger. Breakers only trip at >15A current, and they are SLOW. It takes much less than 15A to kill you and it will happen before a breaker will trip.

3) GFCI are usually required by code anywhere there is water. They detect a current imbalance between line (120V) and neutral (power return which is attached to earth ground at the breaker box). When a GFCI detects less current flowing in the neutral (return path) than through the line (120V) conductor, it cuts off power.

This means that if you touch the hot (120V) line and become a conductor to ground, it detects that there is no return current on the neutral line, and trips. They are much faster and much more sensitive than circuit breakers; even slight imbalances (milliamps) will cause them to trip. Circuit breakers provide almost no form of electrocution prevention; GFCI's provide some.

4) Install a GFCI outlet on your aquarium, and turn gear off before sticking a hand in. Take precautions so that sprays, drips, etc do not get into wiring extensions, etc

From the US Consumer Product Safety Commission:

Quote:
In the home's wiring system, the GFCI constantly monitors electricity flowing in a circuit, to sense any loss of current. If the current flowing through the circuit differs by a small amount from that returning, the GFCI quickly switches off power to that circuit. The GFCI interrupts power faster than a blink of an eye to prevent a lethal dose of electricity. You may receive a painful shock, but you should not be electrocuted or receive a serious shock injury.

Here's how it may work in your house.. Suppose a bare wire inside an appliance touches the metal case. The case is then charged with electricity. If you touch the appliance with one hand while the other hand is touching a grounded metal object, like a water faucet, you will receive a shock. If the appliance is plugged into an outlet protected by a GFCI, the power will be shut off before a fatal shock would occur.
Take it from an electronics engineer that's been hit by everything from line voltage up to 45kV plasma discharges: GFCI's can be a lifesaver, and you are foolish if you don't have one on your tank after you've read this.
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