Robin Jade Conde

Grounding, Bonding, Shocks, and Electrocution

Today’s episode digs into the topic of electricity. Tessa leads the technical talk about the difference between grounding and bonding: “why we have it,” “what it means, ” and “what it does.”

At the same time, Reuben explains the distinction between being electrocuted from being shocked. He also explains the difference between Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter and Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. These are important to reduce the risk of electrocution and to keep a safe home.


The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.

Bill Oelrich: So on today’s episode, we’re gonna dig into some technical talk, and specifically, we’re gonna dig into the topic of electricity. Welcome, everyone. You’re listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman. As always, your three-legged stool coming to you from the Northland, talking about all things, houses, home inspections, and any other topics that might tickle our fancy on a given day. Exhale. Okay, just go “hoo”. We have spent the last four episodes talking about things like business and the market, and we haven’t really gotten into any technical conversation, I think Reuben’s breaking out in the hives, I think he needs to have some technical talk.

Reuben Saltzman: We do! We gotta have a good mix of that.

BO: Yeah, so in today’s episode, we’re gonna dig into some technical talk, and specifically, we’re gonna dig into the topic of electricity, because we all understand electricity, it’s like super simple words like grounding and bonding and earth and what’s the difference between the Earth and the ground, and all these kinds of things And Tessa has volunteered to explain it succinctly for anybody who’s listening to this podcast.

Tessa Murry: Gosh, no pressure.

BO: Tell everybody why we’re talking about electricity here right now.

TM: Well, we were trying to think about technical topics to discuss, and Reuben was like, “is there anything that’s fresh in your mind that you’ve been working with the recent group of trainees with”, and we just covered electricity this week, and we’re focusing on one system at a time, and I think that out of all the different systems we cover, the electrical system is probably the most confusing and I think the most intimidating for people. Sometimes it’s plumbing, sometimes it’s HVAC, but everybody can agree, electricity can be a little confusing and it can also be just downright scary. It’s the one area that if you’re not being careful, it could kill you, so there’s reason for people to have a little bit of trepidation around the electricity.

BO: So, have either of you ever been shocked, like really hit hard.

TM: I’m knocking on wood right now. No, I’ve had a really close call, but I have not been shocked, I’ve had little shocks here and there, but nothing that threw me across the room or anything like that.

RS: Yeah, I’ve never been shocked where I got thrown across the room, but getting shocked, painful shocks probably at least a dozen times. I mean, that might tell you something.

TM: That explains a lot!

RS: I think the first one was probably five or six years old, just plugging in a lamp where I had my finger on the prong, I remember there was another one where I don’t remember if I got shocked or not, but I like to mess around and my dad being a carpenter, he always had a garage full of miscellaneous stuff. It’s like, Oh, there’s the electrical box Wires and plugs and all this, and I took one of the plugs and I don’t know how I knew how to do this, but it was a plug and it was an extension cord, and I cut the end off and I stripped the wires back and then I connected the two wires to each other. So you just got the hot and the neutral connected, and I connected them with a wire nut, and then I went and plugged it in.

TM: Oh my gosh. You would do this Reuben. Oh my gosh!

RS: Yeah, I just wanted to know what would happen. It was just a huge flash. I remember I had soot, it was like a carbon flash and I had black soot all over my hands. It scared the heck out of me, and I very worried about how much trouble I would be in, and I had to wash my hands really good, not tell anybody and put it all back. I’m sure my dad is like “why’d this circuit breaker trip?” I’ve done a lot of tinkering.

BO: I’m sure you’ve seen your share of odd set-ups in basements of old houses and probably Minneapolis, not St. Paul, ’cause we don’t do weird things like that, but mostly Minneapolis, I remember one day I walked in our oldest son’s room and he had a tendency to take things apart and strip back wires in there was an extension cord that he must have wanted to use that he just peeled it back, he took the ends off and he jammed it in the outlet and it worked fine. You have two computers and something else plugged into it. Oh my God surprisingly.

RS: That’s the thing about electricity is you can get it so horribly wrong, but it’ll still work.

TM: Right. Yeah, scary.

BO: So how are the trainees feeling about electricity?

TM: Well, some of them are more comfortable than others, I think coming into, it kind of just different experience levels, but there was one topic which I think seems to confuse people across the board, and I’ll even say, I still get confused about it too, and having to put the training curriculum together, I really spend a lot of time reading about this subject because I didn’t understand it is what I found out. And what I’m talking about is grounding versus bonding and why we have it, what it means, what it does, and the difference between it.

BO: Okay. Can you expand on your new found knowledge.

TM: Well, disclaimer here, I am not an electrician, I am just a home inspector. So I’m gonna give this my best shot, and I’m sure we’ll have much more knowledgeable people listing to this than I am on the topic, and please feel free to write in, let us know how we’re wrong, how I’m wrong in this area. But I’ll give it my best shot. So one thing I think that’s really interesting is that electricity will take all available pathways to get back to its source. And I think a lot of people think that the earth is its source, but that’s not necessarily true. That could be true if we’re talking about lightning, but in a lot of other situations, source means the electrical panel, which is then connected back to the transformer where the electricity comes from and then gets distributed into your house, and so just understanding that electricity will take all available pathways, however, it’ll have the most voltage on the path of least resistance, if that makes sense.

RS: Yeah.

TM: If there’s a lot of good conduction, you’ll get a lot more electricity out of it.

RS: In direct proportion to how much resistance that path has.

TM: Thank you. Yes, exactly. Yeah, so we’ve got bonding and we’ve got grounding, and they do two different things, these two different systems. And really grounding is talking about a pathway to the ground, which means to the earth. Those terms can be used interchangeably. And why you would want that is so that if there is, let’s say if lightning strikes your house and there’s all this electricity, it’s gotta go somewhere, and it wants to go back to source. You need to have a pathway to the Earth for that, to dissipate all that electricity so that you don’t cause fires and fry everything in your house. But what’s really, really important is that all the metal components in your house are connected together, so that if there’s any extra electricity or stray electricity like static or a surge in voltage or something like that, the electricity can find a pathway back to source like the electrical panel. And the electrical panel has safety measures built in to protect people and appliances from… People from being electrocuted and appliances from being just blown up. And so we’ve got circuit breakers or fuses that will trip or blow if there’s extra voltage going through a pathway that shouldn’t have that. Does that make sense? Was what I’m saying, making sense.

RS: Yeah. And so why do we have that third prong on outlets? Brings us to the ground plug, we always call it, really shouldn’t be ground plug.

TM: That ground pathway… We use the term ground, but really the purpose of that is if there is stray voltage either through like let’s say you have a hot wire in a circuit and that wire comes loose and it comes in contact with metal housing and a light fixture you wanna have a ground wire so that that stray electricity has a pathway back to the source, back to the panel, so that breaker will trip. If you don’t have that ground pathway back to the panel and you don’t have a breaker that will trip, then that light fixture could just be silently energized carrying that current and no one would know and they can touch that light fixture and someone could get electrocuted depending on what they’re touching and if they’re an easy pathway or not.

BO: So that was my question. They become a pathway, and if they as a person are a better pathway than the housing, let’s just say there is a wire hooked to the housing, but it’s not hooked well, if they’re a better path then they could potentially get shocked.

TM: Yeah. And this was interesting. Reuben, I remember listening in-to a class you were teaching to real estate agents about the difference between electrocution versus shock. That was something that was new to me. I didn’t understand the difference. Do you wanna explain that?

RS: Sure. To make it really simple, you don’t ever get to tell someone that you got electrocuted because you’re dead. [laughter] That’s it. Anyone who tells you I got electrocuted, you don’t need to correct them. You mean you got shocked. That’s really what it means. A shock, you don’t die. That’s it, plain and simple. I suppose there can be an exception if you get resuscitated.

TM: So in that example, for instance, one location we always check for is to make sure that light fixtures are grounded is above like sinks, like in a bathroom or in a kitchen.

RS: Exactly.

TM: Because explain why, Reuben, why that’s so important.

RS: Well, if you had one of the wires just accidentally short out with the housing of that metallic fixture, it’s exactly what you said, Tess. It would be silently energized. And if you’re standing in your kitchen, you’ve got wood floors and you’ve got shoes on and socks on and all that, and you touch that energized fixture, it’s gonna give you a shock. You’re gonna feel it, it’s gonna hurt. But if you think about where that current is going, it’s gonna travel through your body and then your socks and your shoes, and the wood flooring and all this other stuff in the house. It doesn’t have an easy time traveling through all these things. Those are all pretty good insulators, and even with all that, you’ll still get a painful shock, but it won’t be enough to kill you.

RS: You won’t get electrocuted. But let’s say you’re standing at the kitchen sink, you touch that same light fixture and you happen to be holding your metal faucet at the same time. Well, what’s the pathway there? Let’s think about it. Your metal faucet is gonna be connected to metal pipes, and those get directly bonded, those are connected directly to the electrical panel. So they have a very good path back to the earth and you touch that same light, you probably get electrocuted. Traditional 120-volt wiring is a very deadly current. People talk about 240 being super deadly, but it’s not more deadly than 120. 120 is very disruptive to the human heart. So that’s why it’s so much more dangerous to have ungrounded fixtures right next to plumbing fixtures. And especially if your hands are wet, it makes it a even better conductor.

BO: Can I ask this question. You mentioned a specific thing in that explanation, Reuben. You said that metal pipe will be bonded. What if it’s not bonded… Well, that current will go probably to the earth. It’ll eventually maybe connect up to the earth, that’s below house or something like that. Maybe it doesn’t get back to the panel, it just goes to the Earth. Is that a more dangerous situation than sending it back to the panel?

TM: Yes. Sorry, Reuben. I’m gonna jump in here. You want that electricity to go back to the current and complete the circuit, so that the circuit breaker can trip and do its job so that you don’t get electrocuted.

RS: In the situation you’re describing, Bill, if it wasn’t properly bonded and someone accidentally had an energized wire come in contact with that metal piping, you could quietly energize all of the metallic fixtures in your house. All of your faucets, all that stuff could all be energized, which would be extremely dangerous. We can’t have that. And the way you prevent it from happening is you connect it to your panel. So if a hot wire touches it, there’s such a good path going back that’s gonna overload the circuit breaker. That’s the whole idea.

BO: It pops in an instant, and hopefully that instant is a short enough period of time that you don’t take enough of a shock to…

TM: You’ll be shocked but you won’t be electrocuted. So bonding… I mean, the importance of bonding is so that all of these metal components in your house that could carry a current, will carry that current back to the panel so that you don’t potentially get electrocuted if something were to short out or a wire came in contact with that. So our metal water piping our metal gas piping… Phone service, phone lines, all these things, water softeners, any time there’s metal components. They need to be bonded.

RS: If you want an example of what that looks like, a really common one would be, you go down to your water meter down in the basement, wherever your main water shut off is, someone should be able to remove that water meter and you’d still have all of your metal water piping, assuming you’ve got an older house, newer houses we got a lot of plastic piping, but older homes, you’ve got a lot of metallic water piping, you should be able to remove that meter and still have everything connected, and they do that by running a wire from one side of the meter over to the other, and they got these big metal clamps and then make sure that it’s all at the same electrical potential. And that’s why we’re doing it.

TM: Jumper wires is another name for that, you hear a lot of the times…

RS: Yeah, exactly.

BO: Is a newer house less dangerous because there’s less metal in the plumbing system?

TM: That’s a good question Bill, I guess you don’t have to worry about your water piping being silently energized, potentially if it packs.

BO: But if the water that were in those pipes was in contact with electricity it could potentially.

TM: Yeah, potentially.

BO: I’m asking questions. Kind of looking with my browses.

TM: I was just thinking, there’s another thing. Think about ductwork in houses, it’s all metal and actually, we have an inspector in our team too, we won’t mention names, but that very thing happened where there was a, wasn’t there a wire that shorted out and came in contact with some metal ductwork in the basement? And it silently energized it because it wasn’t bonded, our inspector was walking through touch the ductwork and got a really good shock, right?

RS: Yeah, it had happened like twice, I think it happened once where he did the initial home inspection and he found that there was a problem with it, and then… And he had touched it and he got a little tingle, he’s like, “There’s a problem here,” and then when he went back, I can’t remember all the details, but somehow he had accidentally touched it or purposefully touched it and he had socks on this time.

TM: Instead of his shoes?

RS: Instead of his shoes and you know, hot summer day or whatever, you might have some sweaty socks, you’re standing on the concrete floor, all of a sudden that same shock was way different because he had a very good path back to the earth. Wow. And that was a nasty shock, it all depends on what else you’re touching that affects the severity of your shock and whether you live or not… That brings us to GFCI devices, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters, they’ve been around for, I think, almost 50 years now, maybe even older.

TM: Yeah, since the ’70s, right.

RS: Yeah, and its those devices that it’s an outlet that has a test button and a reset button, the whole idea there is to keep people from getting electrocuted, the life safety devices, and those sense when the current isn’t going back to the panel through the wire, if it takes some other path like using the building or using you, whatever it is, they sense that there’s some current leaking out and they cut it off, and it doesn’t mean you don’t get shocked, you will still get shocked. That’s what it takes to set these things off, but hopefully, it’s gonna cut that circuit off before you get electrocuted. And what’s the threshold there Tessa?

TM: Oh gosh…

RS: I’m testing you here now.

TM: I have no idea. I wish I could answer that and I probably should be able to answer that, but I can’t [chuckle]..

RS: I thought it was… Not like the number really matters, but I thought it was like.05 milliamps or something.

TM: Okay, so it’s really sensitive.

RS: And I can’t remember where I saw this, I thought it was somewhere on the training material that you had put together, but I found it interesting that there was different thresholds for electrocution for men and women…

TM: Oh yeah, that was interesting that actually, I know what you’re referring to, Reuben, and as I was doing my research, I came across something on the internet from Mike Holt. Yeah there are different limits for men versus women on that electrocution threshold, but really it came from a study that was done a long time ago, I don’t know the exact year, but before the 1950s, and apparently they had a bunch of men in one room and hooked them up and basically gave them little shocks and increased it until they couldn’t hold on to something anymore and they had to let go and they were measuring that threshold, and they did the same thing to women, but what was interesting, as he was talking about in this study is that the men’s limit was higher, probably because of the peer pressure of being able to hold on to that longer because all the men are standing there watching you and they’re gonna be laughing at you if you let go versus the women were like, “This hurts, I’m gonna let go.” And there was no pressure.

RS: Yeah, this is… Okay, so this is junk.

TM: So yeah, I mean… Yeah, take it with a grain of salt. If we re-did that study today, I bet it’s very similar I’m sure, in all humans.

RS: It reminds me, MythBusters did something on who can tolerate pain better men or women, and the study they did was they’d have people hold their hand in a bucket of ice water and see how long they could do it for, and it was the women… The women had a much higher pain threshold, I found that interesting. I tried it just to see how well I could do and I could… Like a few seconds, everybody beat me on that one, and I thought… And I thought I had a pretty high pain threshold but then I thought well, I’ve had frostbite in the past that might make a difference too, so who knows? It’s like there’s so many variables.

TM: Yeah, well, I think there is some biology behind women’s pain threshold being greater than men, obviously to help us…

BO: I think this has been solved for hundreds of years… Yes, because of the childbirth, but I mean, I know some people in the medical industry and they deal with men and they laugh ’cause they’re ladies in there, they laugh because he was such a wimp about pain, and we go through childbirth and it’s just… It’s part of everyday life for us.

RS: My wife is an ER nurse, and she says the same thing, the men are the worst.

BO: They’re worse because they’re trying to outsmart their buddies or out tough their buddies, but if the smarter species drops the electric wire first, I mean… I can take it longer than you can. You win for being the biggest dummy.

TM: Back to GFCI. So, I was just gonna say, Reuben, you talked about the outlets that have the test reset button on them. But for a lot of homeowners that we’re doing inspections for, there’s other ways circuits can be protected with a GFCI that’s not just the outlet that has the test reset button on it, right? Talk about those other methods.

RS: Well, you could have… This is what you typically have in kitchens, is where you’re gonna have one or two outlets that are GFCI outlets. And then you wire all the rest of the outlets downstream from those, so you have the equivalent level of protection in all those outlets. But they’re not actually GFCI outlets. To verify that, most home inspectors carry around these cheap little $70 testers, stick it in the receptacle, you press the button on top, it’s a GFCI tester and it will remotely trip that outlet. So it’s a way of verifying that the outlet is wired downstream from a GFCI outlet. It’s GFCI protected, we call it… Another way to do it is you can have a GFCI breaker. Same principle, the breaker protects everything on the circuit. However, if you have an older home and you’ve got a bunch of two prong outlets throughout your house and you wanna upgrade those to three prong outlets of course, the best way to do that is to run a wire from the panel all the way to the outlet. Or if you have metal conduit that could serve as a good conductor, you could rely on that and you actually have a good path going all the way back. But if that’s not available, it’s actually acceptable to just have GFCI protection for that outlet. You can install a three-prong outlet. That third prong connects to nothing, and it’s still acceptable to do this. You just need to make sure that it’s GFCI protected, so that’s a way of kind of getting around doing a lot of actual work.

RS: The one caveat here is that if I, as the home inspector, go up to this outlet, I stick my tester in, it’s gonna tell me the outlet’s not grounded. I can figure that out. Then if I press my GFCI test button, it’s not going to trip that remote GFCI because all it’s doing is, it’s touching the neutral and the ground circuit wires together. And that’s what trips it remotely. If you don’t have a ground wire, they can’t trip that other thing remotely. So a home inspector might incorrectly say: “It’s not GFCI protected. This is a defect, it’s a hazard, fix it.” When in reality, it’s not. And in those cases, the only way a home inspector is gonna know it for sure is they track down that GFCI outlet and who knows where it’s gonna be. But you gotta track it down, press the test button on there and then go back and check the outlet again, to make sure the power is off. So it’s kind of a pain in the butt.

BO: Have you taken GFCIs apart to see what the actual mechanism inside that outlet is?

RS: No, but I’ve looked at pictures and diagrams. If I remember right, it’s just something… I think it’s a little magnet in there or something… No, Bill, I have no idea what…

BO: I’m surprised you take everything apart. Right, I was gonna ask you if you took that cheap outlet tester or inexpensive outlet the tester apart to see what makes that thing happen or what makes…

TM: I sense an upcoming video blog…

RS: Oh no, I’ve got pictures. I’ll show you I can pull… Yes, I’ve done that.

TM: Well, so what’s the difference then, Reuben, between an AFCI and a GFCI?

RS: Well, the AFCIs are designed to prevent fires, that’s essentially it. A ground fault prevents people from getting electrocuted, arc fault prevents fires. It’s gonna sense when you have current that has this irregular signature, if it’s gonna be arching or glowing, causing a wire to really heat up. It’s got this black magic inside the breaker that senses that, and it prevents fires. That’s as much as I know.

TM: So for instance, if someone was hanging a picture on the wall and the nail nipped a wire, that breaker would sense kind of that leak in the current and it would trip the breaker…

RS: That’s right, that’s right. And I mean, if you just had a complete dead short where the hot wire and the neutral wire just touched each other, any old breaker is gonna get overloaded instantaneously and trip. But it’s where it’s just touching a little bit, it’s kind of a high resistance connection, not enough to overload the breaker, but enough to make something get really hot and started on fire. That’s where the arc fault breakers come in.

TM: So are arc fault breakers an acceptable safety measure when you’ve got a house that has knob-and-tube wiring? Because we have a lot of knob-and-tube wiring here in the Twin Cities.

RS: I would defer to the insurance company and say: “Hey, you guys have a problem with this house, what if we have arc fault breakers?” I’ve never asked of this, but I’m pretty sure that the answer is gonna be: “You got what? Yeah, whatever, don’t care.” And as far as actual safety goes, we know there’s nothing inherently unsafe about knob-and-tube wiring. I mean, the wire itself is okay, as long as it’s all properly installed and nobody’s messed with it and it hasn’t been damaged. But if it’s been damaged and people have messed with it, it’s like… I don’t care if you had arc fault, that’s not an excuse for all these other defects. So our arc faults will surely make it safer. I’m not saying don’t add arc faults, but that’s not gonna make an unsafe situation safe.

BO: Tessa when everybody left to your class for that day that kind of deep dive in electricity… Were they feeling pretty confident?

TM: I wish I could say that. You know, there’s a lot of ground that we cover at this point when we focus on one system and we cover it all in one day. So that they can get out into the field and see these things with our field trainer, Neil. I think some people probably had a little bit more experience than others with just electrical systems. But one thing is true, I think just the idea of grounding and bonding was something that even if they thought they understood it, once we kind of talked through it, they realized: “Oh, maybe I didn’t really understand it.”

BO: That’s the way I felt when I picked up the book, the greatest book of all time, when you wanna learn about electricity in a short time…

TM: Inspections of existing dwellings…

BO: Yes. Electrical inspections of existing dwellings. It’s a fascinating book. I mean technical. And you gotta take it in very small bites or at least I had to, but… Fantastic book.

TM: Yeah, yeah, for sure. One thing that is still to this day, I don’t know if I could explain it very well, Reuben, I’m putting you on the spot, but… So on your standard 120, 240 volt service to a house, you’ll have three wires and you’ll have two hots and a neutral, right?

RS: I’m with you so far, I understand that, yes.

TM: Yes. Part of the inspection process is, if we’ve got an overhead service to a house, is making sure those wires are in okay condition and the masthead is okay, and there’s a drip loop and we’ve got insulation over the clamps, where we’ve got the transition from the utility-owned portion of that line to mast head to a home owner portion. How come the two hot wires need to have the insulation over the clamps, but the neutral wire doesn’t need that if neutral wires can carry a current back to the transformer in this situation, they can carry current.

RS: Yeah, the neutral wire surely will carry current… I mean, the only time that neutral wire doesn’t have current on it is when you have the exact same load on the two ungrounded or the two hot conductors, or you have zero load on those two. Any time there’s any kind of imbalance that neutral picks up, picks up the rest of it, and it’s safe to say there’s an imbalance pretty much 100% of the time. So there’s always current going back on that. But if you were to just reach up and touch that bare neutral, you’re not gonna get a shock because it’s at the same potential as the earth, it’s grounded.

TM: I’m just processing that.

BO: Tessa is looking out her window, with a very thoughtful look on her face.

TM: Okay, and it makes sense because when you say grounded, that overhead service goes into the main panel, then we’ve got our grounding electro-conductor, which is a bare metal wire that goes from the panel into the earth, basically, and it’s tied to either maybe some rebar coming up through the foundation, or metal water piping or metal rod outside the house or two of those options, most likely. So that’s the pathway back to the earth, you’re saying. That’s why it’s the same potential as the earth?

RS: That’s right, that’s right.

TM: Because of that whole connection?

RS: I mean, hot wires are only dangerous to us because that neutral wire is connected to the ground, and so we’re always kind of completing that circuit. If we didn’t do that, then you could actually touch a hot wire and you wouldn’t get shocked.

TM: Okay. Yeah. See, electricity is confusing. [chuckle]

RS: Yes, yes. Now one thing that is scary, and we found this on a couple of home inspections is where you have that neutral wire disconnected or broken or cut. However you wanna say it, it’s not completing the circuit. We’ve found that on a few houses. And in that case, if you were to grab one end of the neutral in one hand and one in the other, you would get electrocuted. So that would be dangerous. If you’re in a house and you’ve got some of your lights that are flickering and they’re getting really bright or really dim, and you’re seeing all this crazy stuff in your house, there’s a good chance you’ve got a problem with your neutral wire. Either it’s damaged or it’s completely cut because that whole circuit will get completed with those two hots, that’s all it’s got to return back to the circuit. That’s a scary situation.

BO: It’s not ghosts?

RS: Well it could be, I’m not saying it’s not. But it’s more likely a problem with your neutral.

TM: Well, so now here’s a question for you, does metal siding have to be bonded?

RS: Depends on what part of the country you’re in, I think.

TM: Actually, I remember an inspection I did a while ago where there was an overhead service, the masthead was on the side of the house, and the hot wires actually passed behind the siding. They had sided over it, and it was metal siding and I mean, just think about the dangers of that if the siding were to damage the wiring and then you’ve got these hot wires in contact. I mean it could energize the whole house, right?

RS: Yeah, I know that I’ve taken some home inspector training on more like of a national level, and they’ve talked about the importance of bonding your metal siding, and I’ve never seen it done in my life. I’ve never heard of anybody in Minnesota enforcing that. I mean if it was done, I don’t know what it would look like.

TM: I was just trying to picture that. You’d probably have to have an actual bare metal wire connected to all the different components that would be separated and then connected to a ground broad or connected back to the panel somehow, I don’t know how you’d do that…

RS: I have no idea how you’d do that. Good question. No guessing.

TM: I’m sure there’s listeners out there who know the answer to this, and they can tell us… I’m thinking like probably Charles Buell. He probably knows, right?

RS: Oh, I’m sure.

TM: Shout out to Charles if you’re listening.

RS: We could have him on the podcast sometime.

TM: We should.

RS: We should.

BO: That would be fun. Now, I don’t understand potential, electrical potential. This to me, I’ve read about it, tried to understand it, I can’t wrap my head around it. Call me silly or just thick-headed, but this it’s just something that’s so hard for me to wrap my head around.

RS: Well that sounds like a wrap Bill.


BO: Where do we go from here? I’ve bared my soul about electricity. Awesome.

TM: You know what, Bill? I would need to Google that. Here it is! So the electrical potential, the amount of work needed to move a unit charge from a reference point to a specific point against an electric field.

RS: Well that clears it up, thank you.

TM: Typically the reference point is earth, although any point beyond the influence of the electrical field charge can be used. Yeah, that’s clear as mud right?

RS: If I was gonna sum it up, I mean, I think what my high school physics teacher may have taught me… I think it’s the ability to do work.

TM: Wow, I’m impressed. You remembered that from high school physics Reuben?

RS: I had a good physics teacher. He was awesome.

TM: You also remember every single thing that you’ve ever read or listened to.


RS: I have forgotten way more than I’ve ever learned.

BO: Ladies and gentleman, that is not true. And so whatever he says, we call him something else, but…

TM: Can we say that on air, do people know that we call you the savant?


RS: Nobody’s ever called me that.

BO: Only everybody who works here does so… Well I’m off the hook because apparently electrical potential is more complicated than just the simple explanation, so.

RS: Oh, and by the way, as long as I mentioned my high school physics teacher, I should just put a shout out… It was Mr. Ruzek, there.

TM: Wow.

RS: That’s who it was, awesome.

BO: Do you think he’s still teaching?

RS: Pretty sure, pretty sure. I don’t know what else he’d be doing. He enjoyed his work. He had fun doing it.

BO: Well, I’m… The only reason I ask is you’re like 72 years old and…


TM: Hopefully he’s retired.

BO: Well, how do you guys feel? This was a more technical conversation… I see more pep in your step, in your voices today.

RS: Oh, for sure. We might have to get electrical expert on our next show to set the record straight on some of this.

TM: Yeah, for sure…

RS: I think we got at least 95% of this right, Tess.

TM: Yeah, and if not I am ashamed because I was just teaching this to our trainees on Monday, so my apologies. [laughter]

RS: I’d say for the part we need to know as home inspectors, you got it all 100% correct.

TM: There we go, yeah.

RS: I’m pretty confident of that.

BO: Close enough, close enough. 220, 221 whatever it takes.

RS: Whatever it takes.


BO: Thank you everybody. You’ve been listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman. Thank you very much for listening and we will catch you next time