Voltage in the Pool

mguzzy

Gold Supporter
Jul 8, 2015
2,393
OV, CA
I think it would be worth it to give your local utility a call. I know the One the the big utilities in Ca is under fire for the BS they have done recently but they have always been willing to come out and check their side of things if there are issues in my experience. I think they are compelled to make sure their stuff is running properly pursuant to whatever code is on the books for them. At least it would rule out anything on their end. And since they have the big tools often they will diagnose things on the other side of the meter for the customer/contractor. Just sayin'

And the bit about using your kid as a test electrode... YIKES!

Meanwhile out here in the ether.. @Newdude might be on to something. He owns his own bucket truck so you gotta wonder ;)
 

ajw22

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 21, 2013
20,468
Northern NJ
Stray voltage sources take a lot of detective work. Here are two threads to give you ideas of what you are looking for:

Here is a thread that has been going on for 6 years trying to find the source of a tingle...


Here the voltage source was a streetlight connected to the house power line...

 
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JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
21,129
In my opinion, if you're serious about tracking down the source, you need the right equipment and a comprehensive testing plan.

You can get an oscilloscope for under a hundred dollars or a good one for a few hundred dollars.

In my opinion, it's a good investment.

There might be something about the frequency or waveform that helps identify the source.
 

sean.a.hyde

Well-known member
Jun 5, 2018
131
Pittsburgh, PA
First, thank you all for weighing-in and helping me with this. I know it's challenging to help troubleshoot from a distance, and it's even harder when you're dealing with a person with so little base knowledge of the problem. The info (both in links and words) you've all provided has been extremely helpful.

Some changes have happened. As you may recall, upon the advice of an electrician, I sunk in 3 ten foot grounding poles around the pool, ran 4 gauge copper wire connecting those poles and ran the wire back to the "known" ground pole by the pump and that external breaker box. Prior to doing that, I had a measurement of 2 to 3 volts in the water (the 2 different values are from 2 different multimeters, a Cen Tech and a Fluke). After putting in the poles and hooking up the wire (where it was just coiled above ground, so prior to burying it), the readings jumped to 6 to 7 volts using the Fluke -- the 6 volts were if the breaker to the pool equipment was off, the 7 was with it on.

So I started burying the wire (only a few inches deep) and I made sure to lay it in a trench that where it was touching, and in some cases tucked underneath (and touching) the concrete slab which is my "decking" around the pool. It was a difficult job (almost 200 feet of wire), and I finished it yesterday evening. After it was done, I took some readings and here's what I found:
  • All readings done with the Cen Tech Multimeter (since it's what I have)
  • First reading was done with the pool filter/pump running (and I could hear my large air conditioner/fan running): 3 volts
  • Second reading was done with breaker thrown for the pool filter/pump equipment (AC unit still going): 2 volts
  • Wife suggested throwing the breaker to the part of the house with the AC unit going....I did that and measured 0 to 1 volts (the reading would fluctuate between 0 and 1)
Now I'm not really sure what to do. Had I come to you all sooner, I would've not done my pseudo-bonding experiment, and I should've been throwing the breakers and measuring with a voltmeter in a more systematic way to really get a handle on what's what. A few things I know about my house wiring from the electrician....at least one breaker he checked (the pool breaker, has uneven loads....not sure if that's a big problem, he didn't indicate that he thought it was affecting the pool situation). The AC units (I have two large condenser/fan units, one for each part of the house) are not grounded, and he suggested we do that.

I still suspect stray voltage and if I run the "everything", I've got 3 volts in the pool....probably 3 volts too many, I'm sure. There probably is stray voltage in the ground, but my playing with copper has muted that. I'm trying to figure out next steps, which I'd love to get feedback on...here's what I'm thinking:
  • Call the power company as planned and see if they can identify stray voltage using their equipment, which I hope is more than just a multimeter
  • Get an electrician to thoroughly go through all of the breaker boxes I have, balance the loads, make sure there are no shared neutrals, and ground any large external appliances (i.e., the AC units)
  • Try to find a pool contractor/pool electrician who can tell me what would need to be done and quote a price to get the pool to be equipotentially bonded
In the meantime, I'm wondering if the pool is safe with the breakers thrown for the AC Units and Pool equipment, and the measurement fluctuating between 0 and 1. Again, any thoughts on this would be helpful. And has anyone known someone or had their own pool equipotentially bonded after it was installed?
Is the change you are noticing with the A/C related to the A/C actually running, or just whether the breaker is on/off?
The A/C actually running will affect the power draw to the whole house (which would cause extra ground currents if there was something wonky with the power to the house). If the A/C isn't running but throwing the breaker changes things, then I agree that something on the A/C could be miswired.
 

Flintstone55

Member
Mar 18, 2020
24
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
if the trouble goes away with the AC breaker off, we can pretty much zero in on the trouble to being on that leg. We can also reasonably assume that this problem is relatively new since the last summer or time the pool was used by the previous owner.

I am going to suspect one of 2 things.

1) the previous homeowner/ electrician mis-wired the AC unit and a hot leg is crossed with the nuetral. This could also be by accident by hitting the power line with a weedwhacker while trimming around the AC units.

the reason that this one ‘jumps’ at me is I replaced the outlet for my oven when replacing it. The labels were wrong on the new outlet box and against my better judgement I wired it up like they said, putting the neutral where the 2nd leg should have been. As soon as I touched the stainless oven, I had that tingle that made me not want to tingle anymore. Not crazy but just enough.

2). The AC unit has a fault and it’s time for service or replacement.
Thanks -- I've got a really good AC guy, and I think I'll have him come out and check the wiring out. The home inspector said something interesting about the AC units -- and I'm sure I'm not going to get this quite right doing it by memory (I do have the report)....he said there was an inconsistency that was out of code with the AC unit (the part that's in the attic) something like it was a 4,000 BTU....but should've been 3,000 (or vice versa). He recommended getting it checked out, and it's been on the list, but I haven't done it yet. Could be something there that's causing a problem.

And man, I certainly know that feeling "...that tingle that made me not want to tingle anymore". I got in the pool yesterday after registering 0 to 1 volts in the water, but I couldn't get myself to do the "test" that I've done too many times before....splash water on the concrete deck and grab on to it while in the pool. It's such a strange feeling....not a shock or pain, just tingling that doesn't "feel right" at all.
 
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Flintstone55

Member
Mar 18, 2020
24
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Is the change you are noticing with the A/C related to the A/C actually running, or just whether the breaker is on/off?
The A/C actually running will affect the power draw to the whole house (which would cause extra ground currents if there was something wonky with the power to the house). If the A/C isn't running but throwing the breaker changes things, then I agree that something on the A/C could be miswired.
Good question and a good point. I threw the breaker with the AC running instead of just turning the AC off and taking the measurement. It's an easy enough thing to do, and then I'll have another data point (or two).
 

Flintstone55

Member
Mar 18, 2020
24
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
In my opinion, if you're serious about tracking down the source, you need the right equipment and a comprehensive testing plan.

You can get an oscilloscope for under a hundred dollars or a good one for a few hundred dollars.

In my opinion, it's a good investment.

There might be something about the frequency or waveform that helps identify the source.
I agree.
 

Flintstone55

Member
Mar 18, 2020
24
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Stray voltage sources take a lot of detective work. Here are two threads to give you ideas of what you are looking for:

Here is a thread that has been going on for 6 years trying to find the source of a tingle...


Here the voltage source was a streetlight connected to the house power line...

Great threads, I will definitely check them out. Thanks!
 

BowserB

Silver Supporter
Jul 29, 2018
363
Katy, Texas
Hey, Flintstone. Former BR here again. I know the town of Clinton. It's up Hwy 67 (aka Plank Road) from Baton Rouge. As big a nuisance, expense, and time waster as city codes and inspections seem, they can have some value. The bonding wire was subject of a fail, then conditional pass, and two followup inspections here in Katy for our pool. We had at least two inspections for our water softener and several for our standby generator. Inspections were part of why it took 4 months to complete our pool, and that was after a 30 day delay between paying our deposit and the guys with the Bobcat showing up to dig. Indeed, there is a pool company located here in the city of Katy. This company will not build a pool in the city. They build in the county and in neighboring Houston, but not here in the city where they're located.

Related to your problem, I got curious. Actually my wife did and insisted I check for voltage in the pool--as though it's like checking free chlorine or the temperature! Anyway I got out my digital mulitmeter. Couldn't reach soil from the water with just the meter leads, so I extended my reach to the ground with a root feeder. So one lead in the water, one touching the root feeder probe which I stuck maybe ten inches into the ground. Meter set to A/C volts. Meter reading: .002 volts. 2/1000 of a volt doesn't seem significant, but I wonder if it should be zero. My pool is not a salt pool, although when I run the Taylor salt test, it reports 1200 ppm. Maybe the salt plus other chemicals in the water turn it into low grade electrolyte?

Anyway, Flintstone, please keep up posted on your investigation. Good luck with it.
 
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JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
21,129
What might be helpful is is to select at least 4 point in the pool, at least 10 points in the yard, and at least 5 points on the bonding grid (pump, handrail etc.) and measure the voltage from every point to every other point.

For the ground points, stick a metal rod into the ground for good contact.

Plot these on a scale drawing with the voltage indicated between each point.

For the strongest signals, check the waveform on an oscilloscope. Check the frequency and other characteristics. Note these on the scale drawing.

Check the voltage and measure for current on AC and DC. For DC, note the polarity of the voltage and current so that we can tell which way the electrons are flowing.

Show the scale drawing and a picture of the oscilloscope screen.

If there are any pieces of electrical equipment (transformer, cable or phone boxes etc.), put a metal rod into the ground near the equipment but not in a way that could make contact with anything underground.

Call the utility marking service and tell them that you are going to be doing a lot of digging and you need to have them mark their lines.

Show the equipment and marked lines on the scale drawing.

Note: Don't do anything unless you're 100% sure that you can do it safely.

Consult with an electrician or other expert to review your plans before doing anything.

Do at your own risk.

Maybe consider hiring an electrical engineer to help you find the problem.

The diagram might be able to show the general direction of the source based on information from the above tests.

There may be something about the frequency or waveform that identifies the source if it's unique and someone recognizes it as belonging to a particular source.
 
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Flintstone55

Member
Mar 18, 2020
24
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Another update....I'll try to make this one quick. Temps hit over 90 (pool water was 87) so it felt like a swim day. I reach for the trusty multimeter and before shutting anything down (i.e., breakers), I take a measurement of the water: 14 volts!!! I took multiple measurements around different areas of the pool (all in the water) and they all come out to be 14 volts. So I try to do some testing with stuff on and off. I turn off the pool breaker (pump, lights and outlet) and it drops to 10. I hear both my AC condensers going, and I turn one off and it drops to 8, then the other one and it drops to 6, then I throw the breaker for the side of the house closest to the pool and I get to 3. I couldn't shut down the main breaker (whole house) because the dishwasher was going.

So here's what I'm planning to do:
  1. Set my multimeter to 200 instead of 750....when it's on 200 I can actually read a decimal point (e.g., 3.6) versus the 750 I've been using which is rounding up to the largest integer.

  2. I'm going to create a pool voltage journal and start to track what the voltage is on a given day and time of day, and then start trying to see how the voltage changes based on the appliance that is on (Pool Pump, AC units, etc). I'm going to look at voltage changes both with the power switches on and off and with the breakers on and off. I'm also going to get an oscilloscope (as recommended) to try and get a sense of what this voltage looks like.

  3. After some data collection (or while I'm collecting data) I'll reach out to an electrician, my AC guy, the power company, and the utility company and see if I can't get my house, the large appliances, and the surrounding electricity issues dealt with.
That said, my pool is clearly NOT bonded. So as I understand it, I've 2 problems: voltage in the ground and a lack of bonding to protect me from the voltage in the ground. I can fix the first issue, but if it something happens down the road, I am not protected from it. I can fix the second issue -- I think, frankly I'm not sure how or who will do it without practically rebuilding the pool -- but that won't address my electrical "leakage" issues. So I need to do both.

I won't bother you guys with a lot more on this topic until I make some progress. But I want to say thank you again for all of your help. You've given me some great suggestions for testing, and significantly improved my understanding of the problem.
 

Flintstone55

Member
Mar 18, 2020
24
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Hey, Flintstone. Former BR here again. I know the town of Clinton. It's up Hwy 67 (aka Plank Road) from Baton Rouge. As big a nuisance, expense, and time waster as city codes and inspections seem, they can have some value. The bonding wire was subject of a fail, then conditional pass, and two followup inspections here in Katy for our pool. We had at least two inspections for our water softener and several for our standby generator. Inspections were part of why it took 4 months to complete our pool, and that was after a 30 day delay between paying our deposit and the guys with the Bobcat showing up to dig. Indeed, there is a pool company located here in the city of Katy. This company will not build a pool in the city. They build in the county and in neighboring Houston, but not here in the city where they're located.

Related to your problem, I got curious. Actually my wife did and insisted I check for voltage in the pool--as though it's like checking free chlorine or the temperature! Anyway I got out my digital mulitmeter. Couldn't reach soil from the water with just the meter leads, so I extended my reach to the ground with a root feeder. So one lead in the water, one touching the root feeder probe which I stuck maybe ten inches into the ground. Meter set to A/C volts. Meter reading: .002 volts. 2/1000 of a volt doesn't seem significant, but I wonder if it should be zero. My pool is not a salt pool, although when I run the Taylor salt test, it reports 1200 ppm. Maybe the salt plus other chemicals in the water turn it into low grade electrolyte?

Anyway, Flintstone, please keep up posted on your investigation. Good luck with it.
Thanks. And the way I've been getting a "ground" for the multimeter is running some green wire (just some 14 gauge) to the ground pole and attaching the green wire to my black probe, and then the red probe went into the water....it's how my electrician did it. I wasn't getting enough "ground" to measure anything prior to that....just a thought.

I'll let you know if I find someone who is willing to take on a bonding job for an in-ground established pool....I'm guessing it's a fools errand, and I'm guessing it'll be finding a pool contractor who will disassemble (i.e., tear out the existing concrete and basically rebuild the pool) and give me an equipotential bond. I hear you regarding the inspection process and time they take, but I'd sure be a lot happier if someone had taken the time to bond and test that bond on this pool. I basically have what was estimated by my "pool guy" as a $40K pool that I may have to fill in or spend close to that amount to be able to use it. I don't harbor any fantasies that even if I get my own electrical backyard under control that I'll be able to encourage my neighbors to fix theirs, and I'm sure the power company is going to tell me it's my problem, not theirs. We'll see, I'm feeling pretty discouraged about it, but it's hot enough here (and in Katy, I know) that a pool is more than a little nice to have.
 

mguzzy

Gold Supporter
Jul 8, 2015
2,393
OV, CA
Post back when you get the PU guys to come out. I'm really curious what they see. Our local electrical company is VERY responsive to safety issues. Even if the line between what side of the meter the issue is on is kind of blurry. And this falls in the category of a safety issue as far as I'm concerned. I just hope the LA utilities see it that way. So good luck!
 

ajw22

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 21, 2013
20,468
Northern NJ
A house should only have one ground at the main electrical service panel. All grounds in and around the house should connect to that one ground. People will create other grounds when installing subpanels or equipment which is incorrect. Multiple grounds create the stray voltages and imbalances in an electrical system. Even where a new ground is allowed wiring it back to the main ground point may be preferable on a property.

I would have a careful review made of the grounds on your property.
 
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JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
21,129

Watch this video where Mike Holt has a live wire in the pool and even with a live wire and 10 amps of current, he's not getting 14 volts. Start at 17:00.

So, you must have a very serious amount of current flowing through the area.

The pool is very dangerous. It needs to be closed until you get the problem resolved.

The power company equipment is probably defective in some important ways.

They should send out an electrical engineer to do a thorough investigation.

That's what you should insist on, in my opinion.
 
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JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
21,129
You should check more than just the voltage.

You need a good True RMS multimeter that can test AC and DC voltage, current and frequency.

Check all of the above to get a better understanding of the situation.

It's the same test procedure, just a different meter setting and moving the leads to test current.

It would be interesting to see how much AC and DC current is moving through the meter at 14 volts.
 
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ajw22

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 21, 2013
20,468
Northern NJ
You should check more than just the voltage.

You need a good True RMS multimeter that can test AC and DC voltage, current and frequency.

Check all of the above to get a better understanding of the situation.

It's the same test procedure, just a different meter setting and moving the leads to test current.

It would be interesting to see how much AC and DC current is moving through the meter at 14 volts.
Note on the point @JamesW is making. Current is what kills. Any voltage can be deadly at enough current. Voltage is not the measure of electrical risk, current (amps) is.