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-   -   Stealing electricity through induction (http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=9291)

snopes 26 May 2007 05:54 PM

Stealing electricity through induction
 
Comment: i have heard a story that a farmer that had a barn under some
high power lines and was able to steal electricity by having an induction
coil under the roof. He was caught when the electric company noticed the
drain in power. i have also seen pictures of fluorescent bulbs placed
under the a high voltage power line with one end in the ground and are lit
up by the induced energy. Is this possible?

Doug4.7 26 May 2007 07:21 PM

Yes, it is possible. IN fact, my Dad's organization (BOR) prosecuted people for doing just that. It took a bit of work to get the conviction because the defense was., "We didn't touch those lines...".

Note, if you want to do this, it works best on the high voltage lines that come out of power plants and such.

Algae 26 May 2007 08:29 PM

IIRC, Mythbusters did this (it wasn't on one of their regular shows, but a re-cap show). They showed it was possible, but you would probably be trespassing and the set-up one would need would cost enough to not save you that much money.

RichardM 26 May 2007 09:41 PM

Given that lots of power lines use easements which is a permission to use the land and does not limit other uses of the land except for strict safety restrictions, trespass is not necessary to get to a position to install a coil. And depending on how much or little electricity you steal this way, the cost is low and the chance of detection also low. That is, light a 20 watt light and you probably won't be caught. Bigger and your chances increase. The power companies have very sophisticated measurments for the losses along a power line.

Troberg 26 May 2007 09:49 PM

Quote:

Comment: i have heard a story that a farmer that had a barn under some
high power lines and was able to steal electricity by having an induction
coil under the roof. He was caught when the electric company noticed the
drain in power. i have also seen pictures of fluorescent bulbs placed
under the a high voltage power line with one end in the ground and are lit
up by the induced energy. Is this possible?
It's very possible, although slightly dangerous as it's difficult to predict the voltage coming out of the coil. The chance of detection is minimal if it's a big powerline, the power taken being tiny compared to the current going through the line.

One can easily test this by putting light tubes in the snow under a big power line. They will glow nicely.

Eddylizard 26 May 2007 10:34 PM

This reminds me of one my physics teacher told us - apparently 'some chap' who lived near a military base in line of sight of their radar set up some coils in his attic, and generated electricity from the radar beam. They started noticing a strange shadow on the radar and that's how he was caught.

Sounds implausible, but any thoughts?

Troberg 27 May 2007 06:20 AM

Quote:

Sounds implausible, but any thoughts?
I don't think radar carries that much energy. I also doubt if it would show up on the radar, as it would be pretty much like the empty sky, radar wise. Sure, it might block radar directly behind it, but that's such a narrow path which is so close to the ground that I doubt they'll notice.

It's not that different from the coils they used to make ships invisible to German magnetic mines during WW2, detection wise.

Koshka 28 May 2007 01:34 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Algae (Post 187638)
IIRC, Mythbusters did this (it wasn't on one of their regular shows, but a re-cap show).

I think the clip is still up on the Discovery website for those with broadband connections.

... opens another tab to check ...

Yep, still up. http://dsc.discovery.com/beyond/inde...ryId=210014191 , click on MythBusters, then scroll down to "Equipment Extras".

Grand Illusion 28 May 2007 05:06 AM

I don't remember where I saw this, so chow me if I saw it here.

There was a marijuana growing operation where the owner basically built a house around a cavern entrance, and he grew pot in the cavern. It was very high tech, very well hidden, and very well executed. The thing that gave him away was that the power company noticed that there was an anomaly in that area drawing unauthorized power (lots of growning lamps plus rudamentary living quarters for the employees, including break room). They traced the source to the cave, and the guy got busted.

Eddylizard 28 May 2007 10:03 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Grand Illusion (Post 188724)
I don't remember where I saw this, so chow me if I saw it here.

There was a marijuana growing operation where the owner basically built a house around a cavern entrance, and he grew pot in the cavern. It was very high tech, very well hidden, and very well executed. The thing that gave him away was that the power company noticed that there was an anomaly in that area drawing unauthorized power (lots of growning lamps plus rudamentary living quarters for the employees, including break room). They traced the source to the cave, and the guy got busted.

It was discussed in this thread.

Robigus 06 June 2007 05:49 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Eddylizard (Post 187733)
This reminds me of one my physics teacher told us - apparently 'some chap' who lived near a military base in line of sight of their radar set up some coils in his attic, and generated electricity from the radar beam. They started noticing a strange shadow on the radar and that's how he was caught.

Sounds implausible, but any thoughts?

Since radiated energy drops off at the square of the distance (i.e., double the distance = 1/4 the power) the coil would have to be very close to the dish. Also, the majority of radar systems are pulsed. The individual pulses are extremely powerful, but are of extremely short duration. The average output power of even a large radar is usually quite a bit less than even a small microwave oven. Plus, the transmitted frequency would normally be in the neighborhood of 4 to 7 Gigahertz, making it slightly difficult to convert to 60 Hertz power for household appliances.

Victoria J 07 June 2007 08:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Eddylizard (Post 187733)
This reminds me of one my physics teacher told us - apparently 'some chap' who lived near a military base in line of sight of their radar set up some coils in his attic, and generated electricity from the radar beam. They started noticing a strange shadow on the radar and that's how he was caught.

Sounds implausible, but any thoughts?

Had he actually done anything wrong though ?

Electricity lines are used to transport electricity but radar just bounces the energy out. It doesn't seem like it is stealing exactly.

I guess there is probably some offense regarding interfering with military activity - but as he didn't interact with them or go onto their property that also seems odd. I shouldn't have to not put things in the way of radar - that seems to be more like being required to actively assist than to not impede their work.

Victoria J

Penguin 07 June 2007 08:40 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Doug4.7 (Post 187596)
Yes, it is possible. IN fact, my Dad's organization (BOR) prosecuted people for doing just that. It took a bit of work to get the conviction because the defense was., "We didn't touch those lines...".

that ^ is an interesting counterpoint to this V
Quote:

Originally Posted by Doug4.7 (Post 187596)
Note, if you want to do this, it works best on the high voltage lines that come out of power plants and such.

Dad know you're giving this advice?

Rehcsif 07 June 2007 08:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Doug4.7 (Post 187596)
Yes, it is possible. IN fact, my Dad's organization (BOR) prosecuted people for doing just that. It took a bit of work to get the conviction because the defense was., "We didn't touch those lines...".

So out of sheer curiosity, what grounds CAN they be convicted? If they put up a huge coil in their attic, completely isolated from the lines, and it just happened to pick up power, what exactly was being done illegally? That's sort of like someone setting up a "pay" radio station at FM 103.3 and telling people not to tune in there unless they've paid... (terrible analogy, but you get my drift-- nobody tresspassed or touched unauthorized property to "steal" the effects)

-Tim

Doug4.7 07 June 2007 09:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Rehcsif (Post 202462)
If they put up a huge coil in their attic, completely isolated from the lines, and it just happened to pick up power, what exactly was being done illegally?

That is exactly what a transformer does. The wires in your house are (DC) electrically isolated from the wires on the power lines in front of your house. A transformer takes the powerline wires and induces a current/voltage in your house lines. So your lines are not "touching" those of the power company, but you still have to pay.

They were able to show that there was a power loss from the lines that the person was using to power their house. So he was "stealing power" form the lines.

Doug4.7 07 June 2007 09:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Penguin (Post 202447)
Dad know you're giving this advice?

He's retired. Besides, it's not really "advice", right? :fish:

Hero_Mike 07 June 2007 09:37 PM

One of my professors, an English fellow, described that the "letter of the law" had to be adapted when the national electric grid was developed in England. People would connect to the grid illegally, and would, cleverly, in their defence say that the exact number of electrons flowing *in* to their electrical load, would also flow *out*. Strictly speaking, nothing was being stolen. The term, I believe, that he used to describe the theft of electrical power, was "absconding with electricity".

bugeye 08 June 2007 04:34 AM

I know an electrical engineer who had a problem with a local television station. They erected one of their transmitter antennas very close to his property. He was unable to watch any television channels because of its power and proximity. It was also causing electrical problems with some appliances and other kinds of interference.

He complained to the station and they claimed that it was not their antenna causing the problem. So, he set up a "christmas tree" in his backyard with an induction coil and 100 watt bulbs. It lit up nicely, and within a couple of days, the television station employees came to apologise and set up some kind of shielding for him.

Troberg 08 June 2007 07:33 AM

Quote:

So out of sheer curiosity, what grounds CAN they be convicted? If they put up a huge coil in their attic, completely isolated from the lines, and it just happened to pick up power, what exactly was being done illegally?
Probably not for stealing power, but they are most likely violating a bunch of safety codes.

Doug4.7 08 June 2007 03:29 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Troberg (Post 203178)
Probably not for stealing power, but they are most likely violating a bunch of safety codes.

In the cases my Dad talks about, they did get them for stealing power. Something about getting electricity from the power company without a meter.


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