We use electricity every single day—here’s what you should know to stay safe.
The number one rule with power lines is to not touch them. Let the professionals take care of these potential killers. If you hear someone spouting the myths below, set them straight with these tips from NYSEG, Indiana Electric Cooperatives, and electricity experts.
“Power lines are insulated”
90% of the powerlines in the UK are not insulated, and even those that are could have lost insulation from a recent bad storm. This means that they are never safe to touch for humans. You may see birds sitting on powerlines, but they don’t get electrocuted because they don’t complete the path to the ground.
“The line is safe because it’s not high voltage”
This is one of the biggest myths going around, it’s not the voltage that will kill you. It’s the amperage that will take your life. It only takes one amp to cause life-threatening heart irregularities. The average house in the UK has around 60-100 Amps running through it.
“A fallen wire will shut off”
No, it won’t. If it falls on a poor conductor, like asphalt, the wire will not short circuit. Always stay at least 20 feet away from a downed line. It could still be live, even if it doesn’t produce sparks. Which brings us to the next myth…
“A live wire will make sparks when it falls”
This is not always true. The fallen or damaged power line will spark if it doesn’t make complete contact. It will not spark or make noise and this could potentially make it even more dangerous to anyone who believes otherwise.
“Wood is not a conductor”
False. Wood is just a poor conductor, but wet wood is much better, so be careful around any wood that could have been energized.
“Rubber gloves and rubber shoes insulate”
Only if they are 100% pure rubber. Since your typical cleaning gloves and shoes are mixed with cheaper materials, they can be conductors. Don’t expect them to protect you from potential electrocution.
“If you turn something off, it won’t be using any energy”
There is only one exception to this and that is if an item has a “standby” mode, which generally consumes zero electricity when it’s turned off, according to Michael Bluejay, aka Mr. Electricity. “Other devices can continue to use a little energy when you switch them off because they’re not really off,” he continues. “However, with the exception of devices like DVRs and cable TV boxes, devices that use standby power use just a trifling amount of standby power.”
“It saves energy to keep lights on rather than turning them off then back on”
If you’ve ever heard someone saying that it saves money to keep the lights on all the time rather than suffering from the “startup penalty” of turning them on after they’ve been shut off, you can now officially debunk that myth. “In practical terms, there isn’t any such startup penalty,” says Bluejay. “You always save energy by turning the lights off.”
“Household currents aren’t strong enough to kill”
As much as we’d like to think that the electricity in our homes isn’t dangerous, it is. Household electricity has killed people before, and of course, is especially dangerous with water.