Originally Posted By: Dennis Bozek
This post was automatically imported from our archived forum.
The only way you will get a zing off of a live electrical panel enclosure is if you somehow provide a path for the voltage to go…or in other words you ground yourself in some way. Now as crazy at it may sound and as absurd as some of you might want to tell me about, it is possible to hold on to a single line of ac voltage without getting shocked…if you DO NOT ground yourself. There is no place for the voltage to go…therefore current cannot be produced using your body as a resistor…nor can you get shocked.
Now dipping the cover and hitting the main lugs of the panel will not shock you but it will scare the bajeebies out of ya as I am certain Jerry found out. By doing that you cause the phase A line to be shorted to the phase B line and you make a nice fireworks display that will definitely scare you half to death. The voltage does nothing to you but the current can kill. Do not complete a path for the voltage to go....and you have no current. If you suspect a panel to be live, where protective glove and a good pair of insulated boots.
A tic tracer may or may not be the way to go in determining a live panel. My suggestion would be to take a multimeter set on voltage. Touch one lead to the panel and the other lead to some sort of ground, like a water pipe or even your finger. If there is any potential on the panel the meter will read it. If so, take the proper precautions and remove the panel cover, being very sure you do not ground yourself, giving that voltage a place to go. When touching the panel with the voltmeter lead, touch it someplace that is not painted, such as the panel cover screw. If you touch it in a area that is painted, you might not read a thing because of the paint.
Once you determine the metal parts of the panel are not HOT, remove the panel cover by pulling it straight back. Dipping it or tilting it is dangerous for it can be dipped or tilted into the main lugs of the panel thus causing you and the panel to go BOOM. Moving the cover left or right as you pull it off can also open up breakers and if there are people in the house, perhaps on the computer, you can shut them down before they have a chance to save anything....that is a sure fire way to piss off a client.
Although they are not insulated against electrical shock, I as a sparky wear leather gloves. I work on live services and reconnect the loop wires to the service wires while wearing leather gloves. You can buy a reasonably priced pair of leather gloves from Walmart or Sears for about $10. Wear these gloves when removing the panel cover. They will help insulate you against any potential shock hazard. If you want to get extreme, for about $500 you can buy a pair of HOT gloves which are rubber insulated and protected to 20,000 volts. They have a rubber glove insert and then a outer glove which is typically leather or cowhide. They are quite bulky and very difficult to work in.
In regards to a recent response to me....I am not out to fry you guys. Lookie here...I've been doing sparky stuff forever....I touch live electrical lines every day.....and as long as I do not ground myself and allow a path for voltage to go....I will not get shocked. I am not telling you to try it or even asking you to, I am just stating the facts. Do not ground yourself and you won't get zapped. If you are holding on to some sort of conductive material when you put the back of your hand to the panel...WHAM.....you have just grounded yourself!! Stand away from the panel and secure the hand that you are not using by placing it in your pocket or behind your back and then touch the panel. However, you still would not know the panel is live for the voltage that might be present there is now in your body, but because it has no place to go..no path to follow....you feel nothing. The best and most efficeint way to determine if a panel is hot....is to measure it...to a grounded source, such as a water pipe. If you have to add 10 feet of wire to one lead to get back to a ground....do it. Touch one lead to ground the other lead to the panel cover screw and if you read zero....there is no voltage on that enclosure to make your hair curly.
This information has been edited and reviewed for errors by your favorite resident sparky.