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Safety in the Home Physiological Effects of Current


In other terms, OVERCURRENT.. In electricity supply, overcurrent or excess current is

a situation where a larger than intended electric current exists through a conductor, leading to excessive generation of heat, and the risk of fire or damage to equipment. Possible causes for overcurrent include short circuits, excessive load, incorrect design, loose connection, ground fault or surge power draw when a motor starts up. Fuses, circuit breakers, temperature sensors and current limiters are commonly used protection mechanisms to control the risks of overcurrent.

Overcurrent protection devices are

essential in electrical systems to limit threats to human life and property damage. Fuses are selected to allow passage of normal current and of excessive current only for short periods. A fuse was patented by Thomas Edison in 1890 as part of his successful electric distribution system.

In electronics and electrical engineering a fuse (from the

Latin "fusus" meaning to melt) is a type of sacrificial overcurrent protection device. Its essential component is a metal wire or strip that melts when too much current flows, which interrupts the circuit in which it is connected. A fuse interrupts excessive current (blows) so that further damage by overheating or fire is prevented. Wiring regulations often define a maximum fuse current rating for particular circuits.

A fuse is generally inserted into an electrical circuit for 1

of 2 reasons, either to protect the power source which includes the wire that connects the power supply to the electrical device, or to protect the electronic equipment. The electronic equipment manufacturers specify a fuse rated to open the electrical circuit before damage can be done to the device or open the circuit if the electronic device fails in some way (electronic devices may pull excessive current when they fail). If a fuse larger than the specified fuse is used, a small mistake when installing the equipment may cause catastrophic failure of the equipment.

In most cases, the wire size is reduced at the point of distribution. ANY time that the wire size is reduced, you must add a fuse in the line (at the point of distribution) to protect the smaller wire. Look at the following for more detailed info about changing wire sizes.

Example: In the diagram below, you see that there is a fuse between the battery and the amplifier. In this configuration, the fuse can be used to protect the wire and the amplifier. If the fuse is the proper one for the amplifier, all you have to do is make sure that the wire segments 'A' and 'B' are rated to pass more current than the fuse and you'll be OK. Wire segment 'A' must be as short as possible because it is NOT protected by the fuse.

In the next diagram, things get a little more complicated. As you can see, wire 'A' is used to deliver power to the distribution block. Wire 'A' is of a large enough gauge to power both amplifiers. 4 gauge wire is commonly used as a main power wire. Fuse 'A' must be rated to protect wire 'A'. Any fuse rated at less than ~150 amps is sufficient to protect a 4g wire and the vehicle (if the 4g wire is longer than ~15 feet long, you may want to limit the fuse to ~125 amps). Again, fuse 'B' protects wire 'B' and fuse 'C' protects wire 'C'. Wire segments 'X' and 'Y' MUST be as short as possible because, unless they are of the same gauge as wire 'A' (or larger), they could be a fire hazard.

Circuit Breaker
The circuit breaker is an absolutely essential device

in the modern world, and one of the most important safety mechanisms in your home. Whenever electrical wiring in a building has too much current flowing through it, these simple machines cut the power until somebody can fix the problem. Without circuit breakers (or the alternative, fuses), household electricity would be impractical because of the potential for fires and other mayhem resulting from simple wiring problems and equipment failures. The circuit breaker is an incredibly simple solution to a potentially deadly problem.

The basic circuit breaker consists of a simple switch, connected to either a bimetallic strip or an electromagnet. The diagram below shows a typical electromagnet design.

The hot wire in the circuit connects to the two ends of the

switch. When the switch is flipped to the on position, electricity can flow from the bottom terminal, through the electromagnet, up to the moving contact, across to the stationary contact and out to the upper terminal. The electricity magnetizes the electromagnet. Increasing current boosts the electromagnet's magnetic force, and decreasing current lowers the magnetism. When the current jumps to unsafe levels, the electromagnet is strong enough to pull down a metal lever connected to the switch linkage. The entire linkage shifts, tilting the moving contact away from the stationary contact to break the circuit. The electricity shuts off.

A short circuit (sometimes

abbreviated to short or s/c) in an electrical circuit is one that allows a current to travel along a path where essentially no (or a very low) electrical impedance is encountered. The electrical opposite of a short circuit is an "open circuit", which is an infinite resistance between two nodes.

A short circuit is an abnormal

low-resistance connection between two nodes of an electrical circuit that are meant to be at different voltages. This results in an excessive electric current (overcurrent) It is common to misuse "short circuit" to describe any electrical malfunction, regardless of the actual problem.

During the operation of appliances such as washing machines, charges can build up inside

and on the surfaces. If you touch them, you might experience a shock or ground. This happens because the charges seeking to find a way to the Earth have used you as the pathway. Grounding means to attach to the ground a conductor in one line of the circuit to make that line electrically common (or neutral) with the Earth.

This means that the Earth and that line will have the same voltage, zero, after grounding. It is a

safety measure in which excess charges are removed by connecting it to the Earth. The earth is a very large sphere which can absorb a lot of excess charges if a charged body is brought contact with the earth. The charges flow out of the charged body until it becomes neutral. Connecting a charged body to the Earth to dissipate excess charges is called Grounding.

Grounding is a means of protection against

electric shock caused by the build up of charges. Examine closely the electric cords of some modern electrical devices. There is a third wire, called the Ground wire. This is plugged into a wall socket or attached to the outlet plate which will provide a way for builtup charges to escape. Since the metal wire is a better conductor, built-up charges would prefer to go this way rather than through you.


How electricity affects the human body

Electric Shock
An electric shock is the effect of passing an

electric current through the human body. The minimum current a human can feel is thought to be about 1 milliampere (mA). When the skin is dry, its resistance is approximately 1.5 x 103 ohms. This value decreases to 500 ohms when the skin is wet.

Factors that may affect the value of current:

The voltage rating given for household

appliances is not the maximum voltage possible. The dimensions of the conductor. Resistance depends on whether the whole body is part of the circuit, whether the two points between which current flow flows are a finger and a toe, the two fingers or etc. Resistance also depends on how hydrated the person is.

Effects of Current to the Human Body

Current (mA) SAFE Less than 1 1-8 UNSAFE 8-15 15-20 Effects No sensation; not felt Shock sensation; not painful; can let go at will Painful shock; can let go at will Painful shock; loss of adjacent muscle control; can not let go

50-100 100-200 More than 200

Painful; severe muscular contractions; difficulty in breathing

Possible ventricular fibrillation Certain ventricular fibrillation Severe burns; severe muscular contractions; chest muscles clamp heart and stop it for the duration of shock.

In the human body, currents can cause serious burns

Physiological Effects of Current

and a lot of pain. Muscles are activated by electrical signals.

When an external current, courses through the body, it may interfere with the bodys natural electrical activity, impairing motor control and causing muscle spasms. An external current through the heart can interfere with

the hearts natural rhythm, sending the heart to a condition known as fibrillation, in which the heart muscles twitch. This may eventually lead to death by cardiac arrest and asphyxiation.

Repeated or severe electric shock which does not lead to death has been shown to cause neuropathy or the damaging of the nerves or nervous system. When the current path is through the head, it appears that, with sufficient current, loss of consciousness almost always occurs swiftly.

Preventing Electric Shock

Cover all electrical outlets with plug sockets guards. They

are cheap and easily obtainable. Place lamps and appliance cords out of the kids reach, perhaps behind heavy furniture. Where an appliance has a plug that pushed into the rear of it which is frequently the case with portable stereos etc, make sure that the child cannot pull the plug out. If they do and put it into their mouth it could be very serious. Always check appliances and cables for damage. If you're not qualified then don't mess with electricity. As stated earlier it is not visible so you don't know if it's there without special equipment. If in doubt, call for a qualified electrician.

Danger: High Voltage?

Voltage is not a reliable indicator of danger of electric shock. Current in the body, not voltage per se, causes pain and burns and possibly death. It is always best to treat electricity with caution. Any voltage 30 V and above should be considered capable of giving dangerous electric shocks.