Voltage in the Pool

JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
21,129
Another thing that you can do is to check the current going through the main supply wires coming in to the breaker panel.

All current should be accounted for.

This is how a gfci works.

For example, if you have a mixed load situation with 120 and 240 loads on a gfci breaker with a neutral, all wires go through a device that measures current.

The forward and reverse current should cancel out exactly on all three wires.

In other words, if you put a clamp ammeter around all 3 wires, the meter should read zero amps.

Or, if you measure the current separately, the amps should cancel when added together.

By measuring the current at your incoming supply lines, you're essentially seeing if there's any current not accounted for.

Have an electrician do this test.

Basically, it's similar to putting a gfci as your main breaker to see if it would trip.

I suspect that you will find that you have a substantial amount of current that won't be accounted for.

This is demonstrated in the Mike Holt video where he showed that a significant part of the current was returning to utility neutral through the ground.
 
Last edited:

Flintstone55

Member
Mar 18, 2020
24
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Thanks again, folks! I have a TRMS Multimeter on order and should be in this week. I'll make the different measurements (AC/DC/Frequency/Amps), record them and then post them here in case someone sees something looks strange.
 

Flintstone55

Member
Mar 18, 2020
24
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Another thing that you can do is to check the current going through the main supply wires coming in to the breaker panel.

All current should be accounted for.

This is how a gfci works.

For example, if you have a mixed load situation with 120 and 240 loads on a gfci breaker with a neutral, all wires go through a device that measures current.

The forward and reverse current should cancel out exactly on all three wires.

In other words, if you put a clamp ammeter around all 3 wires, the meter should read zero amps.

Or, if you measure the current separately, the amps should cancel when added together.

By measuring the current at your incoming supply lines, you're essentially seeing if there's any current not accounted for.

Have an electrician do this test.

Basically, it's similar to putting a gfci as your main breaker to see if it would trip.

I suspect that you will find that you have a substantial amount of current that won't be accounted for.

This is demonstrated in the Mike Holt video where he showed that a significant part of the current was returning to utility neutral through the ground.
Thank you, and yes, I suspect you're right about unaccounted for current....and I'll definitely have the electrician do the test.
 

JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
21,129
Have the electrician check the current on both hot wires and the neutral at the same time.

You will need 3 meters.

See if the current on one hot adds up to the current on the other hot plus the neutral.

Watch the values as you turn on and off different things.

Check for current on the neutral with the main breaker off.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Flintstone55

Brett S

Well-known member
Mar 15, 2019
709
Orlando
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.
I’ve gotta admit that I’m surprised that you’re still getting in the water at all. Especially since you haven’t even fully identified the source. Electricity and water can kill. You’re risking more than just an uncomfortable tingling feeling. You could die if you happen to touch the wrong thing or the current suddenly increases.

Even if you test the water with your multimeter before you get in, since you don‘t know what’s causing this you could be in for a big shock 5 minutes after you get in or 30 minutes after you get in if, for example, your neighbor’s AC starts up or something else happens that increases the current.

I know it’s awful to have a pool that you can’t use, but I would strongly suggest staying out of the water until you have definitively figured out what the problem is and fixed it.
 
Last edited:

Flintstone55

Member
Mar 18, 2020
24
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
I’ve gotta admit that I’m surprised that you’re still getting in the water at all. Especially since you haven’t even fully identified the source. Electricity and water can kill. You’re risking more than just an uncomfortable tingling feeling. You could die if you happen to touch the wrong thing or the current suddenly increases.

Even if you test the water with your multimeter before you get in, since you don‘t know what’s causing this you could be in for a big shock 5 minutes after you get in or 30 minutes after you get in if, for example, your neighbor’s AC starts up or something else happens that increases the current.

I know it’s awful to have a pool that you can’t use, but I would strongly suggest staying out of the water until you have definitively figured out what the problem is and fixed it.
I know you're right, and I know we have to close the pool....probably for the season. It's probably difficult to understand the wait times out here, but you'll knock me over with a feather if I can use the pool before next summer -- finding anyone with any expertise who will drive more than 20 miles is a bigger challenge than I would've thought. I've always lived in and around urban and suburban areas in multiple states, and I've never had the problem finding contractors and tradesmen that I've had living out here. Seasoned and experienced professionals aren't interested (no matter what you're willing to pay) to take this on, which often leaves the "newbies" who figure they'll "take a crack at it" and they are often not licensed or carry insurance. Most folks out here (nearly all) are DIY no matter what the problem is....which is why my house is an electrical menace along with the everyone else's touching my property.

What I'm fascinated by is the number of stories I've been reading about people with pools that aren't properly bonded or not bonded at all, and the amount of voltage (and in some cases actual current) in and around their pool. My wife and I are talking about whether we fill in the pool -- we've learned of 3 neighbors who decided to do that for various reasons; or whether we basically "buy" another pool by having this one effectively torn out and replaced with one that is safe. In the meantime, my new multimeter should arrive today, and I'll continue to take measurements. I've got a call out to an AC person, and I'm now searching for a licensed electrician who will be willing to test the daylights out of my house and then do what it takes to fix it. And I'm going to get the power company out to see what they find, but here's the thing....my house is leaking electricity -- not really their problem, I would think. My neighbor's house most likely have the same problems I have, which mean they "leak" electricity -- again, not really the power company's problem. The only thing the power company, I would think would care about it is if the "leak" was someone coming from their equipment.

Oh well, I'm just venting. I've been reading other threads around here, and I still haven't really discovered how (and how much) it will take to properly bond an existing pool. Most people that try to piece meal a bond seem to still have some voltage the pool. So it's really discouraging to have this 18000 gallon monstrosity in the back yard that you can't use and will take several professionals and I'm guessing many thousands of dollars to get up and running. My apologies....not a very helpful post, and I do appreciate everybody's help with this. I'll press on and keep you posted, and I'll try to keep the whining/venting to a minimum.
 

Newdude

Well-known member
Jun 16, 2019
4,584
NY
The only thing the power company, I would think would care about it is if the "leak" was someone coming from their equipment.
Exactly. They care about being found responsible and negligent. So let them exhaust every free measure to prove its not them first. Meet the crew if you can. Thank them in advance and *Nicely* explain your fustration and being at wits end after handing each crew member $20. Tip upfront and it always goes better. Its probably not their fault but here's the thing..... seasoned guys may have seen this 20 times before and know where to point you, or have a far superior wild guess than we all do.
Most folks out here (nearly all) are DIY no matter what the problem is....
On top of your current (sorry) situation, it also probably lends to the lack of pros in the area if nobody ever hires them.
 

markayash

Gold Supporter
Mar 21, 2016
2,617
Atlanta Ga
Exactly. They care about being found responsible and negligent. So let them exhaust every free measure to prove its not them first. Meet the crew if you can. Thank them in advance and *Nicely* explain your fustration and being at wits end after handing each crew member $20. Tip upfront and it always goes better. Its probably not their fault but here's the thing..... seasoned guys may have seen this 20 times before and know where to point you, or have a far superior wild guess than we all do.

On top of your current (sorry) situation, it also probably lends to the lack of pros in the area if nobody ever hires them.
Great point, I was friendly with the Atlanta Gas light guy and even though he said the bad part was my responsibility he replaced it.
I gave him a tip also but refused
 

sean.a.hyde

Well-known member
Jun 5, 2018
131
Pittsburgh, PA
I know you're right, and I know we have to close the pool....probably for the season. It's probably difficult to understand the wait times out here, but you'll knock me over with a feather if I can use the pool before next summer -- finding anyone with any expertise who will drive more than 20 miles is a bigger challenge than I would've thought. I've always lived in and around urban and suburban areas in multiple states, and I've never had the problem finding contractors and tradesmen that I've had living out here. Seasoned and experienced professionals aren't interested (no matter what you're willing to pay) to take this on, which often leaves the "newbies" who figure they'll "take a crack at it" and they are often not licensed or carry insurance. Most folks out here (nearly all) are DIY no matter what the problem is....which is why my house is an electrical menace along with the everyone else's touching my property.

What I'm fascinated by is the number of stories I've been reading about people with pools that aren't properly bonded or not bonded at all, and the amount of voltage (and in some cases actual current) in and around their pool. My wife and I are talking about whether we fill in the pool -- we've learned of 3 neighbors who decided to do that for various reasons; or whether we basically "buy" another pool by having this one effectively torn out and replaced with one that is safe. In the meantime, my new multimeter should arrive today, and I'll continue to take measurements. I've got a call out to an AC person, and I'm now searching for a licensed electrician who will be willing to test the daylights out of my house and then do what it takes to fix it. And I'm going to get the power company out to see what they find, but here's the thing....my house is leaking electricity -- not really their problem, I would think. My neighbor's house most likely have the same problems I have, which mean they "leak" electricity -- again, not really the power company's problem. The only thing the power company, I would think would care about it is if the "leak" was someone coming from their equipment.

Oh well, I'm just venting. I've been reading other threads around here, and I still haven't really discovered how (and how much) it will take to properly bond an existing pool. Most people that try to piece meal a bond seem to still have some voltage the pool. So it's really discouraging to have this 18000 gallon monstrosity in the back yard that you can't use and will take several professionals and I'm guessing many thousands of dollars to get up and running. My apologies....not a very helpful post, and I do appreciate everybody's help with this. I'll press on and keep you posted, and I'll try to keep the whining/venting to a minimum.
More testing is always good. From 1000 miles away, it really does seem to be correlated with total electrical usage by the house. This makes some sense as if the return path for current to the ground is bad/weird/through-the-pool, then the more power the house uses, the more current will flow on the bad path and the more voltage you will be able to measure (V = IR -- as I goes up, so will V).
I may be totally wrong, but it just feels like a bad ground on the house supply. Do you have a subpanel, or just a main?
 
  • Like
Reactions: Newdude

JohnT

Admin
Mod Squad
TFP Expert
Apr 4, 2007
9,864
SW Indiana
More testing is always good. From 1000 miles away, it really does seem to be correlated with total electrical usage by the house. This makes some sense as if the return path for current to the ground is bad/weird/through-the-pool, then the more power the house uses, the more current will flow on the bad path and the more voltage you will be able to measure (V = IR -- as I goes up, so will V).
I may be totally wrong, but it just feels like a bad ground on the house supply. Do you have a subpanel, or just a main?
There is no ground on the house supply, at least if you are referring to the utility supply. Ground is established at the service panel with grounding electrodes and a bond from the electrodes to the neutral. Under normal conditions, the ground doesn’t do anything. No current flow or voltage. The ground only carries current when something is wrong. You might have a neutral connection issue causing current to flow to the grounding electrodes and then to the neutral in your panel.
 

JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
21,129
Maybe have the electrician check for voltage and current on the ground to neutral by disconnecting the neutral and ground and checking for voltage and current between the two with the main breaker off.

Note: Don't do this yourself because there can be dangerous levels of voltage and current.

One of the problems is that you're trying to check for voltage, which is usually measured with reference to ground.

However, if the ground is energized, it becomes more difficult to measure because you don't have a zero ground reference.

It might be helpful if you can do a few tests with a distant reference point.

Maybe find a few remote locations about 200 to 250 feet from the pool and check the AC and DC voltage and current and frequency.

As Mike Holt showed in the video, the voltage increased as he approached the live wire source.

So, even if he didn't know where the source was, he could have figured it out from the readings by looking for the increase in voltage as he approached the source.
 
Last edited:

markayash

Gold Supporter
Mar 21, 2016
2,617
Atlanta Ga
I am following this to learn but shouldn't the power company be racing to get out there and see whats up? I would think this is the kind of stuff that scares them in a law suite kind of way :(
 

sean.a.hyde

Well-known member
Jun 5, 2018
131
Pittsburgh, PA
There is no ground on the house supply, at least if you are referring to the utility supply. Ground is established at the service panel with grounding electrodes and a bond from the electrodes to the neutral. Under normal conditions, the ground doesn’t do anything. No current flow or voltage. The ground only carries current when something is wrong. You might have a neutral connection issue causing current to flow to the grounding electrodes and then to the neutral in your panel.
I agree there would have to be some other problem too to have the return power flowing through the ground as the return.
 

Flintstone55

Member
Mar 18, 2020
24
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
No outside parties have come in yet (i.e., power company engineer or electrician). But there's been more change and subsequently more data. It's been VERY hot here, and the pool water seems to evaporate pretty rapidly, so my wife noticed that the water level was so low that it was almost below the skimmer. So I grab the hose and while the pool is filling, I figure I'll take a voltage measurement. Here's what I found:
  1. Pool pump/filter is on, both AC units running, and it was 4pm and over 90 degrees out, so it could be assumed that the whole neighborhood was heavily using electricity. The first reading I took was 1.8 volts.

  2. I did my routine of taking the various "pieces out of play", first the pool pump/filter with the breaker off -- voltage dropped to 1.7, then turned the first AC unit off, (voltage at 1.5), 2nd unit off (voltage at 1.3).
I developed a theory that somehow the level of the pool water was connected to the amount of voltage in the pool -- perhaps a screw or piece of aluminum was somehow catching the electricity and when the water reached it, it lit the pool. I thought it was a brilliant theory and anxiously waited for the pool to fill. Once I had it at the level it is usually at, I took my measurement and got EXACTLY the same measurements as when it was low. No Nobel Pool Prize for me....

This morning it was 66 degrees out, and I decided to put the Dolphin in to clean the pool -- by the way, this maintenance is not because we're using the pool, we are not....I'm just trying to keep up the maintenance of this unusable water fixture in my yard. So before I put in the Dolphin, I realize that it's cool out, my AC units are off, the neighborhood is quiet and the pool timer has the pump and filter currently off....so I measure the voltage: 1.3 volts.

That's the update....this thread is sort of becoming a pool journal. I'll let you know what the experts find....when they show. I'm not sure how to measure various parts of the ground with my current set up. If I stick the red probe on the ground it really doesn't measure anything. It seems like I'd need a specialized probe (i.e., bigger) to be able to measure voltage in my yard.
 

Flintstone55

Member
Mar 18, 2020
24
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Hi all -- sorry for the really delayed response, but I finally got the problem diagnosed....only took 3 electricians (3rd one was the charm!!!) I'm going to spare you the drama, false starts, weird ideas and glimpses into what true frustration looks like, and just give you the answer. I'm hoping it will help somebody else should they ever have this issue. Very quick recap: 1 to 7 volts (depending on the day, lower in the morning, higher in the afternoon) could be found in the pool by using a multimeter (red lead goes into the water, black lead is attached via a copper ground wire which is attached to a known ground [i.e., rod]). Here's the answer (which I think some of you had already surmised and put forth): the Neutral running from the transformer is believed to be faulty. Ta daaa! The pool was "fixed" when the electrician disconnected the pool light completely from electricity (just throwing a breaker doesn't stop the problem). The pool light was inadvertently energizing the water, and when someone in the water grabbed on the surrounding "ground" (i.e., concrete and brick pool deck) they got a "tingle" for their trouble. So we left the light fixture in, but the wires are "stubbed off" (not connected), and the voltmeter reads ZERO....not .2 millivolts, but actually 0.000.

Now for those who have been asking, "why are you dragging your feet on calling the power company" -- actually, everyone asked more politely than that -- I called them and told them the following:
"I have electricity in my pool, and people are getting shocked….I also noticed that my workshop and house have a problem with lights constantly dimming. I called an electrician and after bonding all electrical boxes, checking that the grounds were solid and isolated from the neutral; he was still able to measure current on the ground and in the neutral. It appears that the neutral wire from the transformer serving both my workshop and my house (as well as another structure) is faulty. Please send someone out as soon as possible. We have turned off the pool, but we are concerned about the safety and the quality of our electrical service."

The dimming / blinking of lights in my shop and home is really something I thought was just par for the course, but turns out that a less-than-great neutral wire (or transformer under an excessive load) will cause that to happen. So I get on the phone and I relay that to my power company, and they send a guy out the same day (within just a few hours). First thing he says is he thinks it's stray voltage in the ground; but not from them, since there are no downed wires or any other "general" indications that they are leaking power. He say he's had at least 3 calls for similar pool problems himself in this area, and really the only solution is to "put a grid around the pool with copper rods". He says they never found the power leaks, and that "fixing the pool" is really my only solution. So I explain to him what the electrician did and said, and then because the electrician is an outstanding guy and told me I should do this, I call the electrician and put him on speakerphone so that the power company guy and he can communicate directly. The gist of the conversation was the power company guy saying "I hear what you're saying and I believe you; but you have to hear me and believe me" and they basically each make their case, but neither person was persuaded. The power guy said he would put a volt recorder on my house and he would (and did) go up to the transformer and check and clean the connections. He also said that he would advise they put the transformer on a load study, but he also said that was a "corporate call" and it would be their done at their discretion. As he left, he again strongly advised me to put a grid around the pool, and drove off.

Here's more info on the how and why diagnoses:
  1. Electrician #3 who has 30+ years of working on residential and commercial electrical projects, along with 20+ years of bonding pools for pool companies; had a long drive but was willing to take me on as a client. He was adamant that we find source of the problem first, and then discuss how we bond the pool.

  2. After a tour and looking at my pool voltage journal, he started by pulling the meter and working on eliminating potential problems by bringing my ground wires up to code (e.g., #8 ground wire was used for a 200 amp box, and only one ground rod, he replaced the wire with #4 (as per code) and put in a secondary rod that was 6 feet away. No change to anything. I have 2 breaker boxes inside the house, another one by the pool equipment, another in the workshop and one more in a cabin on the property. He got the 2 in the house and the 1 by the pool equipment straightened out. One of the boxes had the ground sharing the neutral and he isolated the neutral.

  3. Once everything was cleaned up, he started measuring amperage on the neutral in the back of the house and noticed that it was reading 2 amps; he also noticed that the newly installed ground wire was reading 1.8 amps. Then we tried some test of turning things off and on and noticed that the lights were dimming as large appliances were kicked on and off. Then a visual inspection of what appears to be a 40+ year old (possibly older) transformer, and noting that the split is going to 3 areas, each of them drawing 200 amps potential. So a faulty neutral or inadequate transformer starts to really feel like the culprit.

  4. Then we head to the pool and he notes that there isn't any metal in this vinyl-liner pool, except for the pool light (which does not have a ground wire. All this time and through the above, we were checking the voltage in the pool and watching rise during the day as my AC units would kick on and off, and the neighbors giant unit which shared my transformer would kick on and off. So we decided to pull the pool light and see if we could run a copper wire into and ground it. As we were in the process of doing that, he disconnected the pool wiring and we noticed that the voltage in the pool went to zero, but if you measured the voltage on the pool light wiring, you got your 6 volts -- and this was with the main breaker being thrown in the off position. So even with the breakers off, the voltage (because of the faulty neutral line) was traveling through the neutral line and even the ground line). So I had him completely disconnect the pool light and the next liner change, the light fixture itself is going to go completely away and be capped off.....I'm done.
Meanwhile, I'm running "dirty electricity" and the life span of my electronics are likely shortening before my very eyes, but until I can convince the power company of that, I am out of luck. But at least I have a pool again.

If I can offer one piece of advice, it is to find yourself a seasoned electrician who has also has experience with pools. I hope I got most/all of the details right in conveying this story. I've learned a bit more about electricity, but honestly, I'm still confused by how it travels, where it goes and despite our safety measures (i.e., breaker boxes, etc) can still be problematic. I have a ton of respect for those of you who do this for a living!!! And thanks again to everyone here for weighing in with your thoughts, ideas and support!!!

P.S., I hope there aren't too many typos....I'm typing this fast and I have to run to a training course tonight, so I'll try proof-reading and fixing them when I return.
 
Last edited:

ajw22

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jul 21, 2013
20,467
Northern NJ
Thanks for the update.

Send a letter with that explanation and a link to this thread to the CEO and corporate offices of the electric company. If you don't hear from them after 30 days send it to the officials in your State public utility commission.

Your problem is clear to anyone one understands electrical wiring. The key is that the CB does not disconnect the neutral of a 120V circuit.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Flintstone55

JamesW

TFP Expert
Mar 2, 2011
21,129
240 coming to your house is split single phase, which is 240 volts on the secondary side of the transformer. The secondary is 2 sets of 120 volt windings in series with the neutral center tapped to give you 120 volts from the neutral to either hot leg or 240 to both hot legs at once. The neutral is grounded at the transformer and at the house. So, the neutral and the earth are parallel paths for the unbalanced current to return to the transformer. Since the neutral should be a good conductor, the majority of current should travel back to the transformer through the neutral wire. If the neutral is compromised, the amount of current traveling through the ground goes up significantly. An open neutral can be energized.