Hot Tub Electrocution

Hello everyone,
I was wondering if anyone could help me out with a problem I am having. We have one of those portable hot tubs (the kind that you can assemble
and reassemble easily). I recently put it up outside (it is about 2 years old)and filled it up. I plugged it in, and when I put my hand in the hot tub to feel the water, I was electrocuted! There weren't any burns or anything. Thankfully, it was just my hand and I was able to pull it right out.
How could this have happened? There were no live wires touching the tub or anything. I can understand there being a risk of something going faulty with where it was plugged in, but this was the actual water inside the tub.
Any thoughts?
Matt
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On 9/1/05 8:22 PM, in article snipped-for-privacy@o13g2000cwo.googlegroups.com,

Considering you were electrocuted, you write rather well! Were you shocked as well?
Obviously, you should stay away from such equipment. If you have to ask the question, you do not know enough to repair the problem. This is no joke.
Bill
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Hi Bill,
Make no mistake, I am not planning on fixing this, or going anywhere near it! I was just wondering how/why it happened. I am also wondering if it poses a safety concern/liability of the maker of the tub. Perhaps electrocution was the wrong word? When I put my hand in the tub, the feeling was a strong tingliness. There is no way I will ever get in a hot tub like this again, and was hoping that the company will refund my money, even though the tub is 2 years old. I guess what I am looking for is how unusual is this to happen? It seems like a huge risk to me.
Matt
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snipped-for-privacy@enterthefreudianslip.com wrote:

I'm a Brit who has never seen or heard of such a unit before, so someone who knows more about them and US domestic electrical systems will perhaps correct me if what follows is wrong.
There may be a fault in your home's wiring. Here, something like that would be connected via what I think is called a GFCI in the US. This would trip and protect people from electrocution and may stop a fire happening.
So, there could be a fault in the unit - but at present it hasn't got bad enough to trip the GFCI but is enough to detect with a hand. If the fault gets worse, the GFCI would trip - hopefully before any injury results. That doesn't mean use it until it does - not that you would.
Or as above but the fault /is/ bad enough so it should have tripped the GFCI - but the GFCI is faulty and/or the house wiring is faulty. In which case, you must get the house wiring fixed, urgently.
Or there could just be a fault in the house wiring. Which needs fixing urgently.
Here, like you, I certainly wouldn't use it until fixed. But I would get an electrician to have a look, if I wasn't totally confident that the house wiring was safe. The electrician can test the unit and test the house wiring.
In the UK, you probably would be entitled to getting the unit replaced/repaired if it is only two years old and could be expected to last significantly longer. You may have similar consumer protection law? You certainly would not be able to get your money back after that length of time.
--
Sue






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On 2 Sep 2005 00:25:36 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@enterthefreudianslip.com wrote:

My money is on a bad heater element. I had one in mine that tripped the GFCI. If I didn't have a GFCI it would have energized the water. Most of the parts in a spa are plastic so the grounding/bonding are not usually enough to operate the overcurrent device.
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On 2 Sep 2005 00:25:36 -0700 snipped-for-privacy@enterthefreudianslip.com wrote:
| Make no mistake, I am not planning on fixing this, or going anywhere | near it! I was just wondering how/why it happened. I am also | wondering if it poses a safety concern/liability of the maker of the | tub. Perhaps electrocution was the wrong word? When I put my hand in | the tub, the feeling was a strong tingliness. There is no way I will | ever get in a hot tub like this again, and was hoping that the company | will refund my money, even though the tub is 2 years old. I guess what | I am looking for is how unusual is this to happen? It seems like a | huge risk to me.
"Electrocution" was the wrong word (if you are still alive).
What probably happened is that some damage happened to some part while moving it around. The damage could be in the form of insulation on a wire getting worn off and that wire being a live wire contacting metal parts that are in contact with the water. Or the damage could be in the plumbing, allowing water to leak to where it can come in contact with live electrical terminals somewhere.
To have been shocked, you would have been part of the return path of the electrical circuit, which can typically be through ground itself, such as a wet concrete surface, or any wet surface where the water contacts any grounded equipment.
This is one of the reasons a ground fault circuit interruption device is a requirement for hot tubs. Was one being used when you were shocked?
It is possible that somehow the return path you formed with the water made it back to the neutral wire instead of the ground wire. In such a case, a GFCI device would not detect anything wrong, and not trip to open the circuit. But this is rare; most cases a fault path will be with ground somewhere, either the grounding wire (connected to equipment frames), or the earth ground itself (such as through wet concrete).
A seriously miswired electrical outlet or connection could also cause this without there being any damage to the hot tub. If a live wire was attached to the tub's ground wire, you could have this situation.
At this point, you should consider both the hot tub _and_ the outlet or connection or circuit it was connected to as unsafe until both are inspected by a competent electrician who has experience with hot tubs, and a cause is found and repaired, and the entire system tested over a long term.
The manufacturer could easily blame you for damage, since if the cause of the problem is in the tub, it most likely was damaged during moving.
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Tubs have motors, heaters, and sometime lights. When moving them sometimes electrical parts become twisted and cracked. Was the outlet that you plugged the tub into a GFCI? Or does the tub have a GFCI?
Electrocution is death, you do well for a person who is dead.
Time to call a pro
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First of all, unplug the unit immediately so no one else is at risk. If it were me, I'd cut the plug off the end of the cord so no one else plugged it in until the unit is repaired.
Okay, now that we've 'safed' the unit, we can talk about possible problems. First question, where were you standing, and what else were you holding/touching when you stuck your hand in? To receive a shock, you have to complete a circuit with your body.
If a metal fitting that is in contact with the water somehow becomes energized from a 'hot' wire, the water (a poor conductor) will also be energized. The water between the metal fitting and your hand acts like a poor conductor and is part of the circuit (your body, the earth and whatever else you were touching forms another part of the circuit back to the ground connection in your electrical service panel). It could be an obvious metal fitting such as the drain plug or light fixture, or something not so obvious like a broken heater element. Or if there is a short in the pump motor (or the thing is mis-wired) and it has a metal casing that is no longer connected to the equipment grounding conductor (green wire).
I'd give you one chance to fix it, and that is to go over all the installation instructions again (you do still have them don't you?) and double check that you've made up every connection correctly. If you find nothing wrong, then give in and call a repairman.
It is probably quite reparable. But it really does need an expert. This is not the sort of thing a 'handyman' should attempt (is you or a family member's life worth a few bucks?). I'd call a licensed electrician, I would *not* trust any store salesman or 'installation guy'.
daestrom
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Burn it boy.
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I Wonder if Matt's Ghost is still around ?
Electrocution: Death by Electricity.
I'm sure it must have been a scarey shock.I would not connect any kind of spa or hot tub without a gfi on the circuit. Troubleshooting the damn thing is not too hard, all suggestions having been made., get a qualified person to handle it.
Not a Total Lose: If you don't want to fix it you can Gut the electrical Works & Sell or Donate it "as is" Needs Electrical Hardware.
Roy Q.T. Urban Technician [I don't make em, I just fix em]
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