Test for Electrical Current in Water

Test for Electrical Current in Water
At this point, most of our readers should know about the dangers of electrical shock in water. We’ve written about the dangers of electric shock drowning in the past. That said, is there a way to test for electrical current in the water?

In today’s post, we’ll talk about how a live electrical current can get into the water… and how you can detect and avoid it.

How Does an Electrical Current Affect the Water?

If there’s one thing we all know, it is that water and electricity should not mix. Of course, “should” is the optimal word here. There is always a potential risk, so it pays to understand the danger.

At a basic level, any electrical current over 0.5 volts can be felt by people and animals (Remember, animals love to break into pools, so make sure to install a pool fence!). The voltage can also quickly climb much higher, which can be dangerous and even fatal. The goal when you test for electrical current in water is to get that voltage down to zero.

Water is highly conductive for electricity. If AC current or stray voltage is present, then a swimmer could accidentally close a circuit by touching a handrail and be electrocuted.

Protect Swimmers from Shocking Situations

Put simply, electric shock drowning is a catchall phrase for any situation in which an electric shock injures or kills a swimmer. In a great deal of these situations, the first jolt can easily be fatal. However, this is not always the case. Other times, the person being shocked by the current will simply be incapacitated, losing control of their body. People who find themselves in this dangerous situation can drown.

Drowning can often be silent. Electric shock drowning is even stealthier. In most situations, if the incident doesn’t have any witnesses, it may be difficult to know that electricity was even involved in the incident. This is because electric shock drowning resembles any other form of drowning.

Typical Causes of Stray AC Currents in Water:

It is important to test for electrical current in water because the culprit can be any number of things.  This voltage can be caused by: 

  • Poorly wired lights or equipment
  • Improper grounds or bonds
  • Damaged wiring
  • Using the wrong type of lights near or under the water. To learn more, see our article on lighting safety.

How to Test for Electrical Current in Water

So now that we know how stray voltage attacks, how can we test for electrical current in water? For this situation, there is a wide array of voltage testing devices that consumers can purchase.

These are relatively simple to use and are designed to be placed in the water before anyone tries to take a dip. Much like a pool alarm, the device should sound a warning alarm if something is amiss. In this case, stray voltage will set off the alarm.

To better illustrate this, here’s an informative video from the TODAY show:


Of course, it’s also better to be safe rather than sorry. For this reason, it may be smart to consult an expert. Professional electricians and safety experts will always be best suited for the job than the average person. When it comes to potential life and death situations, some expert advice might be just the ticket you need for a safe swim.

Don’t take the risk. Instead, find a local professional to test for electrical current in water where you’ll be swimming. This can be especially useful during the beginning and end of the pool seasons.