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EMF Glossary Definition

Stray Voltage

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“Stray voltage” is a term frequently used in the fields of electrical engineering and power distribution, referring to the presence of unwanted or unintended electrical voltage in a location where it is not expected. This phenomenon, often encountered in agricultural settings, urban infrastructure, and in homes, can arise from various sources and lead to several problems, ranging from minor nuisances to serious safety hazards.

Origin and Causes:
Stray voltage typically originates from the electrical distribution system, but it can also be produced by other sources. It is often the result of a difference in potential between two points that should ideally be at the same electrical potential. Common causes include:

  1. Grounding and Neutral System Issues: Inadequate or improper grounding in the electrical distribution system is a frequent source of stray voltage. This can occur when the grounding and neutral systems are not correctly configured or maintained, leading to voltage differences.
  2. Faulty Wiring and Equipment: Damaged or aged wiring, malfunctioning equipment, and poor electrical connections can lead to the leakage of electrical current into surrounding areas.
  3. Inductive Coupling: Stray voltage can be induced in conductive objects located near power lines or electrical equipment due to electromagnetic induction.
  4. Capacitive Coupling: This occurs when there is an electric field between two adjacent conductors, leading to voltage being transferred from one conductor to another.

Impact and Concerns:
The presence of stray voltage, even at low levels, can have various impacts and concerns:

  1. Agricultural Settings: It is a well-documented issue in dairy farms, where it can affect the health and productivity of livestock. Cows are particularly sensitive to stray voltage, and even low levels can lead to reduced milk production, changes in behavior, and increased stress.
  2. Human Safety: Stray voltage can pose a safety hazard to humans, particularly in urban environments where it can be encountered on metal structures, sidewalks, and streetlamps. While the voltage levels are often low, they can be perceptible and unpleasant, and higher levels can pose serious risks of electric shock.
  3. Equipment Performance: In industrial and residential settings, stray voltage can interfere with the proper functioning of electrical equipment, leading to erratic operation or damage.

Detection and Measurement:
Detecting and measuring stray voltage requires specialized equipment and expertise. Measurements are typically made between two points, such as between a metal object and the ground. The process often involves tracking the voltage source through systematic testing and observation.

Mitigation and Prevention:
Addressing stray voltage involves a combination of proper system design, regular maintenance, and corrective measures:

  1. Improved Grounding and Bonding: Ensuring that all components of the electrical system are properly grounded and bonded is crucial in preventing stray voltage.
  2. Regular Inspection and Maintenance: Periodic checking of electrical systems, including wiring and equipment, helps in early detection and rectification of issues that could lead to stray voltage.
  3. Infrastructure Upgrades: In some cases, upgrading the electrical infrastructure, such as replacing old wiring and equipment, is necessary to eliminate stray voltage.
  4. Community Awareness and Education: Educating the public, especially in urban and agricultural communities, about stray voltage, its potential impacts, and safety measures is important for community safety.

In summary, stray voltage represents a complex challenge in the realm of electrical distribution and usage. It requires careful consideration in the design and maintenance of electrical systems, as well as proactive measures to mitigate its potential impacts on public safety, animal welfare, and equipment functionality.

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About the Author

R Blank is the CEO of Shield Your Body, which he founded in 2012. With hundreds of thousands of customers in over 30 countries, and having been interviewed on platforms including Dr. Phil, ABC news television and ElectricSense, R is an internationally followed expert on issues of EMF, health and safety. He also hosts “The Healthier Tech Podcast”, available Apple, Spotify and all major podcasting platforms. In the past, he served on the faculty at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering as well as the University of California, Santa Cruz. Previously, R ran a software engineering firm in Los Angeles, producing enterprise-level solutions for blue chip clients including Medtronic, Apple, NBC, Toyota, Disney, Microsoft, the NFL, Ford, IKEA and Mattel. He has spoken at conferences around the world, including in the US, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands, and he is the co-author, along with his father Dr. Martin Blank, of ‘Overpowered‘ from Seven Stories Press about the science of health effects of EMF radiation. He has an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and received his bachelor’s degree, with honors, from Columbia University. He has also studied at Cambridge University in the UK; the University of Salamanca in Spain; and the Institute of Foreign Languages in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. Read more about R and SYB or connect with R on LinkedIn.

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