What is stray voltage?
Stray voltage is an electric potential between two components when usually no voltage difference should exist. During the normal current flow, small voltages are present between two points. However, sometimes these voltages increase significantly.
According to IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), the stray voltage is the voltage (usually 10 volts or less) resulting from the regular electricity use that may develop between two conductive surfaces that the public or animals can contact.
The primary cause of stray voltage is primary/secondary or power system-induced currents. When a person or an animal connects to these two points/subjects, the stray electrical current starts to flow.
In simpler terms, stray voltage exists due to uncontrolled currents leaking from the power source. These stray currents can leak into public places, causing life hazards.
How does stray voltage happen?
Insulators are an essential part of high voltage power lines. They are produced in different forms depending on the voltage, pollution, and ambient humidity. The primary function of insulators is to insulate the connections between the grid phases and the ground-connected towers. Hence, they need to have high electrical resistance.
Many factors, including pollution, lightning, or mechanical damage, can severely reduce the insulation properties of insulators, and these factors can result in conductivity in insulators. This limited conductivity causes a low current to leak to the ground around the insulator. Moreover, pollution and humidity increase the leakage and eventually cause a short circuit to the tower body and the earth, leading to a severe power drop. If a person or an animal accidentally touches these surfaces, it may cause serious life threats.
This risk is not limited to power towers but bridges, buildings, metal sidewalks, street lights, swimming pools, airlines, etc. So, there must be a mechanism to detect and prevent it.
Furthermore, in dairy farms, one of the main reasons for the reduction in milk production of the animals is stray voltage happening in a nearby electric system or water pipelines. Stray voltage in animal farms typically occurs due to poor groundings or damaged neutrals. Therefore, it is crucial to detect and solve the issue. Some common causes of stray voltages are:
- Broken underground electricity lines
- Damaged transformer pads that cause power leakage
- Inadequate power supplies and improper ground wiring system
- Component corruption and insulation failure
How to measure stray voltage?
There are some standard solutions to detect stray voltage. For instance, some professionals use a reference rod to measure the voltage potential and the voltage difference between primary and secondary neutrals. The reference rod is installed about 100m from the primary or secondary panel to measure the additional voltage. Devices like electrical tester pens, digital/analog voltmeters, and multimeters with proper Ohm shunt resistance are used to measure the voltage and potential difference.
Some professionals also use electric field detectors to detect the leakage current. An electrical field detector looks like an antenna mounted at the back of a pickup truck that traverses the streets and saves the area’s location and condition by taking pictures. Later, investigations are made, and repairs are implemented.
Photo clicking and GPS tracking system ease the process of finding the troubled spot and repairing it conveniently. Although these methods work suitably, they require much time and effort. Therefore, experts came up with the idea of automating the system using technological devices.
For instance, sensitive devices can be installed on every tower, which measure current leakage or stray voltage. Aggregating these data to a gateway makes it possible to diagnose suspicious cases and warn the operator. Also, each tower has an LED indicator to show which tower/component needs a repair.
These high-tech devices we call Wireless Stray Voltage Detection System, with their long-lasting batteries, can work without needing a recharge or a battery replacement for a long time.
Electrical Distribution Management and city management faculty can monitor the process from their desktop computers or mobile phones and get alerted in case of an issue. After the repair, the fault is cleared from the server.
Dangers of stray voltage
Stray voltage can also have extremely high values, which causes serious life threats. However, the phenomenon occurs frequently and undetectably at animal farms. Since most business owners are unaware of this hidden fault, it is essential to highlight the possible symptoms of stray voltage-affected livestock.
Experts have observed stray voltage issues in animal farms like goats, swine, poultry, and horses. However, the most significantly affected are the dairy farms.
Stray voltage-affected animals manifest problems like pus in the milk, Bovine mastitis, and uneven milk-out. However, in most cases, the animal refuses to be milked.
The affected animals refuse to intake the water required for milk production and only drink to quench their thirst. Animals feel lower current levels like 0.001A or 0.002 Ampere in their bodies and produce less milk; higher levels of stray voltage kill the animals. Hence, forcing owners to shut down farms.
Similarly, humans can observe mild shocks while walking barefoot on a humid concrete pathway or touching a grounded or wet metal plate. In severe cases, the stray currents are fatal.
Finding a reliable IoT solution with Arshon
Many companies offer different methods to prevent these risky situations and save human and animal lives. As the problem consumes a lot of money, time, and work, it is more reasonable to help from IoT applications and use intelligent solutions using the internet of things to have more accurate and aggregated data.
Internet of things (IoT) refers to the network of physical objects with embedded IoT sensors and other technologies that exchange data with other devices via a network. IoT technology, when experimented with detecting stray voltage, gave efficient results. Similarly, IoT-based monitoring and detection systems provide timely warnings when stray voltage happens.
Although many companies express their legitimacy, Arshon has made a remarkable reputation in the field due to its performance and customer satisfaction. Arshon technology is one of the companies in the USA and Canada with competent experts in IoT development. They provide stray voltage detection tools like the mentioned gateways and named gamma gateways at a great cost to help HSE and management companies save lives.
Stray voltage is an extremely concerning issue that affects both humans and animals. A large amount of leaking currents has caused several hazards over the years. Usually, broken electric lines or poor insulations cause the current to leak. The most significant impacts of stray voltage are recorded in animal farms, particularly the dairy ones.
The current flow through the livestock’s body reduces milk production and causes other health issues. Large current values kill the animal, forcing owners to shut down their farms. Therefore, an effective and efficient monitoring and detection system was needed. Hence, IoT stepped in.
These latest devices are remotely operable and monitorable via PCs and mobile phones and are more synchronized and efficient in detecting current leaks. Arshon technology has made its mark in providing the best solutions for stray voltage issues.
Author: Eli(Elnaz) Sadafi, IoT design engineer @Arshon technology