This is something that I bring up In Our Members Area on a regular basis because it is extremely important. There are a lot of ways and reasons to use electricity in conjunction with the growing of plants. But you have to beware and be aware.
My goal with this post is to make you aware of how dangerous electricity really is when not done correctly.
As a child I played with electricity. A lot! It was my hobby. I loved seeing what I could do with electricity. I got shocked a lot, often with 120 volts of electricity.
I was lucky! I had no idea how dangerous 120 volts of electricity could be!
Knowing what I know now, I was really, really lucky!
Most of us with white hair remember when the GFI outlets started appearing in hour homes. A GFI outlet is designed to trip when shorted to ground. They are so sensitive that it is said that they will trip faster than the beat of a heart. They serve one purpose and one purpose only. To save lives.
The human body does serve as a grounding source, but not a very good one. The human body is actually a poor conductor of electricity. Unlike cooper which is a very efficient conductor of electricity, the human body creates a lot of resistance when energized with electricity. Resistance creates heat.
Keep that in mind as you continue reading.
Those little tiny coils in your toaster that heat up and turn bright red? Resistance is what makes them do that. When a human being is electrocuted a great deal of heat is generated because of the resistance. Burning occurs, but often the burns are deep, down below the skin and flesh, near the bone. The burns are severe and excruciatingly painful.
Most of us have been shocked by 120 volts of electricity at some point in our lives. Those of us who “played” with electricity as a child have been shocked many times. 120 volts is pretty harmless right?
As an adult I learned how dangerous and unpredictable 120 volts of electricity can be. The unpredictable part is the thing that’s difficult to explain. Right here in north eastern, Ohio I know of three cases of electrical shock.
From sources that you would never expect.
- A local man watched his 8 year old son being electrocuted at the county fair while waiting in line to get on a ride. A short in one of the light fixtures on the ride energized the handrail that the young boy grabbed a hold of. It was a handrail! It was there for riders to hold on to!
This was a terrible situation. The child lived for two or three weeks before finally succumbing to the internal burns from the electrocution. No family should ever have to go through that! You can read the news article here; http://www.news-herald.com/general-news/20080809/timeline-of-events-in-the-death-of-greyson-yoe
- A college professor, not a local idiot, a college professor at Cleveland State died in his lab. Apparently this had something to do with a grow light attached to some kind of a rack, I’m assuming the rack was metal.
- Six year old boy electrocuted when he touched the garage door in Geauga County Ohio. When they investigated this case the garage door was energized because of a short in the door opener. The amount of electricity that killed the boy was 109 volts.
109 volts of electricity running through a garage door took a child’s life!
I’ve told you these stories to make sure you know how dangerous relatively low amounts of electricity can be.
When growing plants we often uses electric heating mats to create bottom heat for rooting cuttings or electric heat cables and a lot of different light configurations for creating artificial lighting for seedlings and other plants being grown indoors.
Here are some simple guidlines to following when using anything electric in your growing area or anywhere in your house or yard for that matter.
Always, always, always make sure that the receptacle that you are plugging into is GFI Protected. A GFI receptacle has a test button and a reset button in the middle of the receptacle. However, it is possible to have a properly protected receptacle without the buttons because one GFI can protect other receptacles on the same circuit.
Don’t guess. If you don’t know for sure, find out.
Only use electric appliances that are designed to be used in the manor that you intend to use them. In other words, don’t . . .
Use a water bed heater in any kind of a growing operation.
Don’t use a string of lights to make heat in a growing operation.
Don’t use an electric heating pad in a growing operation.
There are products designed for these uses. Please, please, pleas take this seriously.
Questions, comments, mean things to say? Post them below and I will respond.
Thank you, Mike!
I heard of a guy with a PhD in physics, who was electrocuted in his back yard. He picked up and carried a metal pole, and it touched a low hanging power line. We all tend to drop guard at home.
I worked 14 years as a meter reader and another 11 in the same field. I saw so many dangerous situations where that could occur and to save my life I couldn’t find anybody that cared enough to make the repairs so a child swinging a curtain rod could be safe.
Mike what is not widely understood is how 120 volts travels far in water, The post about a shocking pond describes a sneaky way electricity kills. People get electrocuted swimming near yachts in marinas equipped with un-grounded 120 volt systems, Faulty wiring can leak 120 volts into water. An Arizona girl was killed when the mast of a small sailboat contacted a low wire over a boat ramp.. The child went into the water which was energized. by electricity traveling down the mast. It’s a painful memory. I knew the Mother and had launched my own sailboat there.
You’re right, electricity is really dangerous when water is involved.
Mike. I bought a heating pad for my seedlings this year but it’s not plugged into a GFI receptacle, it’s plugged into a power cord along with a laptop.
Are you saying that’s not safe for me?
I know the kind of outlet you mean, I have one in my bathroom but the power cord isn’t plugged into one.
The short answer is that it would be better plugged into a gfi outlet. Should that heating pad develop a crack and water get in there it could be an issue. I’m curious if the directions suggested a GFI outlet.
My dad had the he’ll shocked out of him when I was a freshman in high school. He never got over it. He took 12000 wolts!!!$
Is it safe to use an electric roto-tiller in my garden;;;;;;;
I would assume that it is. I’m sure the machine has been tested and rated as safe to use. However, you must always know where the cord is and be careful to not cut it with the tiller.
Thank you for this life saving reminder I have quite a few grow lights going at the moment I will be buying GFI outlets on all my fixtures.
We have two garden ponds. Every time I went to change the filter in one of them I was getting a shock where my arm touched the side of the pond. These were plastic ponds so what was going on? My husband didn’t believe me until he also got one. I couldn’t tell you what the problem was but he fixed it and I was once again comfortable putting my hands into the water. Last year at the other pond I tried to unplug something from an adapter that was probably for indoor use only and the cord sparked near the plug. I put on long rubber gloves and pulled it out quickly. It melted a spot on the finger of the glove. Now that I’m a widow, I have to figure out all this stuff on my own. After reading this article I will have an electrician check out both ponds’ electrical systems to be sure they are safe and have GFIs. Thanks for posting this..
Thank you for the article! I just started using grow lights indoors and have them plugged into a multi outlet power strip and that plugged into a GFI strip. One of my lights is clipped onto a metal stand with the same plug set up. Is it still safe since it is plugged up in that manner? Thanks again!
I don’t know, you need to consult with an expert. I’m not sure what a GFI strip is but how that is connected is really important.
I recommend using sheet rubber to wrap around whatever you are clipping your lights to… to eliminate any transfer of voltage. there are materials that do no conduct electricity. rubber and ceramic materials.
Decent article Mike, BUT, it is not the voltage that will kill you, it’s the amperage. 24 or 40 volts will kill you under the right circumstances.
Robert – Retired Master General Electrician – Maryland State.
You need to get rid of that speak and spell, or start editing what it writes.
I have no idea what you are talking about.
Mike is a plant master, not an English professor. We appreciate his knowledge and love him for sharing it. If the spelling is perfect or he ends a sentence in a preposition or not doesn’t matter to us at all. Learn some respect and manners.
Dirt Boy Dave says
Hey there Mike…great article! Standing water is a huge issue to lookout for when running cords outside. As a small nick in a wire and a puddle is definitely a killer! That’s a sad story about the young child that grabbed a hand rail!!! Just terrible!!! Yes mama…. the clamp on your light base isn’t hot….it probably got a little black rubber coating on it to help it hold onto what you are clamped to… if it doesn’t you can get liquid electric tape in a small bottle and then you can paint several coats on it or you can wrap some grip tape or gaffer tape around it’s clapping areas to make it very secure. The power strip and the GFI are fine…. I would definitely recommend that you be very careful with watering around it….I have cut a while trash bag and then made a couple wraps around my strip and plugs and then added a couple wraps of well placed tape…kinda top,middle and bottom..,, then I know that it’s relatively splash proof. I also always use a gallon zip lock cut down it’s side a wrapped a dozen times around an extension cord if I need to join one in the yard.,, I wrap my plastic around and around then I tape over that with gaffer tape… like black duct tape.,,, or silver duct tape…. by wrapping it up good it’s way more splash proof Never leave a cord plugged in when it’s raining.,,,never ever…,
Mike, I was your alter ego over in Williams County Ohio. I got shocked playing with electricity many times. Lucky to be alive.. With recognition of the medicinal value of cannabis and legalization in some states, many are setting up indoor grows. Potential for danger in grow lights should be better publicized.
You’re right, people need to be more away regardless of what they are growing.