My wife said she felt a small electric shock last night when she touched a
fluorescent clamp lamp and the new DVD recorder at the same time. Sure
enough, when I got my meter out, there was about 60VAC between the CATV
cable's center conductor and the metal frame of the lamp.
There was no voltage reading on the cable between center and shield, but
clearly there's something between both the cable's center and sheath
conductors (and therefore the DVDR) and the ground.
Where do I start looking for trouble? Is the incoming cable improperly
grounded? Is there normally a detectable voltage between the cable and
Thanks in advance for any pointers.
This is clearly a problem for the cable company. You shouldn't try to
repair it lest they say you caused the problem. Because there is a
shock potential, this is a danger and you should get priority service.
Robert Green wrote:
Thanks for you input, William.
I'd like to understand the problem as fully as I can before I call the cable
company. My experience has been that their "first responders" are incapable
of serious troubleshooting. I doubt Comcast would provide priority service
for anything, anyway. They're a monopoly and they know it and recently, I
believe JD Powers recently rated them *below* used car salesmen in
trustworthiness. Updating Lily Tomlin for the 00's:
"We don't care, we don't have to. We're the cable company!"
Knowing the exact load is far less important than you might think,
knowing what is on which circuit is far more important. If you
accidentally overload the generator you just pop a circuit breaker on it
or worst case stall it, annoying, but not a big deal.
The best thing you can do is map out every circuit in the panel and what
is on it normally. In my case I have a full CAD print of the house
layout with every outlet, appliance and fixture indicated along with the
circuit number it's on. Add in the data for the normal current draw on
that circuit and it will make load management very easy.
Generally you'll want to leave all of the lighting circuits on since
they typically represent very little load, particularly if you use a lot
of CF type lamps. The refrigerator and the circuit that covers your TV
would also typically be left on. Only large loads like well pumps,
furnaces and window A/C generally require load management.
I clearly said "my experience" so as not to tar cable installers across the
nation and to limit my observations to what's actually happened to me and
the people I know personally. I'm not sure how you can logically disagree
with *my* experience but let's assume you mean your experience has been
I have to twist Comcast's arm to send Comcast employees in Comcast trucks
instead of freelancers in beat up old station wagons with ladders tied to
the top with twine. Insisting on employees and not contractors has
eliminated the lower ladder rungs, at least for me, but that doesn't mean
the employees I get are their top troubleshooters. I know they exist
because I know several friends who have gotten to that level of service
(i.e. Here's my cell and home number, call me if the problem's not fixed).
But they had to use what I consider "the nuclear option" to get there.
From what I have read about its employees, Comcast's number one concern is
to keep them from joining unions . . . I believe they're currently operating
under a consent agreement to keep from witchhunting union organizers.
Well, that's the nature of averages, isn't it? Some will be above, some
will be below. I'm comparing them to Verizon phone techs, who at least seem
to have a coherent "ring" to them. I'm no fan of Verizon, but they usually
get it right the first time, are not inclined to take shortcuts and seem to
have a consistent level of training both in technical and customer relations
techniques. They also come when they say they will come. By comparison, my
own experience, in addition to the JD Powers study, has been that Comcast
sends people to work as fast as possible, who have little customer relations
training, who can barely speak English, who don't police their jobsites and
who are as likely NOT to show as they are for a given appointment time.
Hmm. Maybe in your area. Remember, Comcast is growing like crazy so
they've got a staffing problem trying to keep up. In my area, they plug
that hole with contract servicepeople who clearly have wildly variable
technical, language and people skills. Worse, still, they get paid by the
call, not by the quality of the repair. As for dishonesty, when I ask
whether their contractors were screened for criminal records, they declined
to answer. They now send Comcast employees without being asked, but I leave
it to you to wonder whether "Midnight Cable Contractors to Go" screens its
employees the way Comcast or Verizon might.
I've watched the contractors work. I downgraded my cable package the last
time they raised the rates and the idiot who put the notch filters didn't
tighten the connections completely so they had to come again and do it right
the second time. They didn't even come back to the house to check the
picture after the downgrade. Zip, zip, we're outta here. They leave trash
lying around the job site. And if they can get away with simply laying a
cable on the ground, they're happy to do it. Oh, and there was the time
they shut off my house by mistake because they read the address wrong on the
work order. Your local techs may be saints, but that's not been my
Here's what the Washington Post had to say a little while back:
"About 1,300 complaints were filed against Comcast last year, according to
Montgomery County's cable office, about a quarter of them involving Internet
service. They allege missed appointments, rude employees, long waits before
operators answer the phone, and lengthy periods of Internet downtime. But
many customers say they have no other options for high-speed Internet
As for leaving cables strung over the lawn, I understand that another crew
does the burial work, but it seems they should work together because the
current system just isn't working. It's easy to see that Comcast's profits
increase if they *never* have to bury the cable. Is that their motive? You
tell me. I guess the sense I have is that the people they send are happy to
do good work if you oversee them like the Pharaoh and can take three days
off to allow them to break the first two appointments without notice.
It shouldn't be that way - but it is. And it's the opinion of a number of
tech-smart neighbors who suffer with the same service because it's the ONLY
service. If cable companies had TRUE competition, they'd change their
business practices in a heartbeat. In one nearby county Comcast was forced
to agree to serious penalties for missing service appointments (their
specialty!) in order to retain the cable franchise. It's no wonder they're
fighting so hard to keep phone companies out of the TV business. They know
what competition will do to their bottom line. They'll actually have to hire
good techs, train them and pay them a living wage!
I'll be sure to keep you posted as to the resolution. First, I want to
understand as much as I can about the problem. It could as easily be as
much my fault as it is theirs. But I won't know that until I take some
meter readings and do some inspection of the cable wiring in my house. That
can only serve to help whomever it is they eventually send if I can't manage
to fix the problem.
Since you're cable tech, got any suggestions where to start troubleshooting?
On Thu, 25 May 2006 16:11:19 -0400, "Robert Green"
In a calm and polite voice over the phone; just explain, MY WIFE GOT
SHOCKED AND MY LAWYER "SAID".....
"My doctor says I have a malformed public-duty gland
and a natural deficiency in moral fiber, and that I am therefore
excused from saving Universes."
In Maryland, Comcast put the governor's wife on their payroll as producer of
a little-watched anti-drug cable show for I believe $3K+ an episode. They
have similar deals in place for relatives of county council members and
other legislators. They know how to provide as little service as they
possible can for as much money as they can charge because they're basically
a monoply that has stacked the deck against the consumer. They act as if
they own the entire state government down to the city councilmen and fear no
legal threats whatseover. Don't take my word for it. Here's an excerpt from
a recent Washington Post piece:
"Exhibit A is Maryland first lady Kendel S. Ehrlich. Having worked for
Comcast as a lawyer (while her husband, then a member of Congress, was on
the House telecommunications subcommittee), Mrs. Ehrlich is now producer and
host of a little-seen, on-demand talk show on substance abuse. For 16 shows,
she is paid an annual salary of $55,000 by Comcast; that's more than $3,400
per half-hour show.
For example, Comcast hired then-Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell's two sons soon
after he pushed through a law that opened the door for cable companies to
collect millions of dollars in revenue. Mr. Bromwell, by the way, is under
indictment for corruption and fraud in a separate case. . . .
The list of others with the right access whom Comcast has placed on the
payroll seems to grow longer each day. They include Melanie Miller, daughter
of state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.; Wayne K. Curry, former
Prince George's county executive; and the wife of P. Michael Errico, a
senior official who worked for Mr. Curry's administration."
OK - rant over - Search for "Daddy Comcast" if you want to read more.
All the political reasons aside, I want to know, from my end, as much as I
can know about the technical details of the problem *before* I call and they
send God only knows who to crawl all over my house and my equipment. We can
live without cable for a few days. Maybe even forever.
When push comes to shove, have no fear. I know how to get their attention.
"MY WIFE GOT SHOCKED" will indeed be part of the conversation. Thanks for
your input, Oren.
I would suggest starting by re-measuring it with an older analog meter.
Modern digital meters tend to be very high resistance and will measure stray
You might also check where the cable comes into your home and the first
distribution block. It should be grounded there. Make sure it is.
Did you measure for voltage to ground from the lamp and likewise with
the DVD? (same advice about the meter types)
I'd dig out the old mirrored scale multimeter if I thought the digital meter
was lying. But both my wife and I felt a tingle from touching both the DVR
and the lamp. I'd rate it as below the voltage of a ringing telephone line
(been there, done that!) but there's definitely voltage present.
IIRC, they drove their own pipe into the ground for a ground connection. I
am going to take the meter out there and inspect that area next. I've
disconnected all the VCR's and TV's from the cable just to make sure that
current isn't leaking INTO the cable from some device in my house. So far,
there's still voltage on the cable.
No, but I will. I will also try to move all the equipment in question to a
different grounded outlet on a different branch circuit. Will advise upon
Dia is Muire duit
FWIW, you were right. I did dig out the very, very old "Electronics
Measurement Corp. # 103 [Analog] Multimeter (made in Noo Yawk City it's so
old - nothing's manufactured in the city (or the US) anymore) and it showed
only 8 volts of AC where the digital meter showed 60. So, I'd say there's
power on the line, but how much and what it means I can't say yet. It's
raining, so that precludes outdoor checking for the moment.
Such happened to me at one time with faulty neutral connection in power
Suggest you call cable company immediately, and do ask if there's a
problem with utility connections/wiring/whatever. If so, you might ask
that they contact utility immediately. The consequences can be severe.
If you have aluminum wiring in any part of the service drop, you'd do
well to contact utility now, and ask about intermittent connection of
neutral- that should get their attention.
No aluminum wires but I do have an older house whose wiring has clearly been
mucked about by amateurs. I'm going to try a little more diagnostic work
since the cable's been disconnected from the househole wiring and there's no
longer as much of a hazard. I'm also going to switch the DVR and lamp to a
different branch circuit close to the panel to see if anything changes.
Thanks for your advice, Barry. It's much appreciated.
60VAC is standard CATV line power. It's possible that one of their techs
improperly set or forgot to remove / cut power pass jumpers on a line
amp somewhere. Call the cable company and they should track it down and
Thanks, Pete. Since this started after I had complained about a poor signal
on channels 4 through 9 it's very likely a tech screwed up. I've been
having odd problems ever since then. If it's their fault, I should see that
voltage at the network demarcation point outside the building. I'm going to
measure the incoming cable disconnected from the house wiring to see if I
still see the 60VAC. Then I suppose I'll call Comcast. Or switch to
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