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Old 07-30-2013, 06:48 AM   #21
Confused about dryer sheets
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Originally Posted by SumDay View Post
Next, I can have them install a surge protector at the meter. The charge is $5 a month. There's a series of lights that indicate if it's active & working properly, so each month when the meter is read, they will look at the SP to make sure it's doing its job. If it isn't, they replace it.
Let's update some facts. 'Dirty electricity' is a term often used by scam artists to sell miracle boxes. Nothing averts all anomalies (all 'dirty'). So you must first define 'dirty'.

For example, do incandescent lamps dim or brighten especially when a major appliance power cycles? That voltage variation must not happen. Often indicate a minor wiring problem (ie a loose connection). But sometimes indicates a serious human safety threat. The incandescent bulb is superb for defining that one type of 'dirty electricity'.

Meanwhile, ideal power for all electronics is even when the bulb dims to less than 50% intensity. Because existing and standard protection from that 'dirt' is so robust.

Another is noise. Do all AV appliances make noise when some other appliance power cycles? Many will recommend filters or a UPS. Nonsense. The solution is to get that one defective appliance fixed.

Another may be an intermittently tripping GFCI. That 'dirt' is an appliance leaking too much current. Find and fix the offending appliance.

Blackouts are another 'dirt'. These are addressed by a UPS. The UPS only provides temporary and 'dirty' power during a blackout. How 'dirty'? Well, a utility provides an application note that demonstrates power from a UPS when in battery backup mode:
Tech Tip 03 -Duke Energy
Is that 'dirt' a problem? Of course not. Because electronic appliances are so robust as to make that 'dirt' (and many other anomalies) irrelevant. However that same UPS output may be harmful to motorized appliances and power strip protectors.

How long do your incandescent bulbs last? A slight increase in line voltage (120 VAC running at 127 VAC) can reduce light bulb life expectancy by one half. However that same voltage remains ideal for all electronics. Another example of 'dirt' that can adversely affect some devices (ie bulbs) while made completely irrelevant by protection already inside other devices (ie electronics).

In your case, I would suspect a bad earth ground. Not the safety ground found in wall receptacles. All incoming utiility wires (AC electric, phone, cable) must first connect to the same earthing electrode before entering. Many linemen cannot be bothered (especially satellite dish installers). Only you are responsible for that earth ground. Best to inspect it yourself.

Follow a quarter inch thick, bare copper wire from the breaker box to the electrode that must be outside in earth. If that does not exist, then either you or your agent (ie electrician) must upgrade / install that earth ground. A missing (floating) ground can create 'dirt' especially on appliances that share two utility wires (ie modem shares AC electric and phone / cable). This one is totally on you to fix.

So what makes the 'whole house' protector so effective? The lights do not report all protector failures. Light only reports when the protector was grossly undersized - a type of failure that must never exist. Even many electricians do not know this. The light says the protector was so grossly undersized as to disconnect as fast as possible - to avert a house fire. That same light is also on power strip protectors that are routinely undersized.

What makes that protector so effective is what you are responsible for - single point earth ground. So, if you follow the bare copper wire and find no earthing electrode (or only find a water pipe), then that protector still will not protect from the 'dirt' that concerns you.

Surges that do damage must connect low impedance (ie 'less than 10 feet') to earth ground - an electrode. If that connection is too long, has sharp wire bends, or does not share the earth ground with all other incoming utilities, then that 'dirt' is not averted. The same missing earth ground that could explain blown modems and fluorescent lamps would also make that utility rented 'whole house' protector ineffective.

Plenty of suggestions to inspect or ask so as to eliminate 'dirty' electricity. No magic box will address all or even most. Each 'dirt' is solved by specific solution only for that anomaly.

You are strongly advised to earth a 'whole house' protector. The utility offer one for $5 monthly. Or earth one from other manufacturers that costs about $1 per protected appliance. Not just install; it must be earthed. Even the refrigerator and bathroom GFCIs need that solution so that rare transients (maybe once every seven years) do not cause future failures.

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Old 07-30-2013, 10:17 AM   #22
Recycles dryer sheets
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Originally Posted by westom View Post
In your case, I would suspect a bad earth ground. Not the safety ground found in wall receptacles. All incoming utiility wires (AC electric, phone, cable) must first connect to the same earthing electrode before entering. Many linemen cannot be bothered (especially satellite dish installers). Only you are responsible for that earth ground. Best to inspect it yourself.
+1. Unreliable grounding rod connection can introduce "hot" spots in your wiring system. Normally, the AC current supply from the utility company should be pretty good in terms of voltage stability and waveform purity.

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Old 07-30-2013, 12:14 PM   #23
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Sometimes it is as simple as opening up the electrical box and tightening all the connections. They do loosen over time. Wear the extra thick rubber gloves.
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Old 07-30-2013, 02:26 PM   #24
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Talk about loose connections, my daughter recently told me about the light flickering in her townhome. Not good, I said, and I immediately went there to see for myself.

She turned on the dining room chandelier, then proceeded to open the refrigerator to show me that the additional electric draw of the fridge light caused the chandelier light flicker. Holy Cow!

I went to outside to open the electric box, expecting a bad breaker. Good Lord!

The townhome does not have the electric demand of a single home, so the electric box was different than any I have had. The meter outlet was connected to a subpanel by #6 AWG wire, and it was aluminum. Since it was upstream of the main breaker, there was nothing I could do without having electric turn off. I could not even get access to the wire connections at the meter terminals. Its case would have to be removed after a seal was broken. Heat could have weakened its terminals already. The loose connections at the meter outlet and the main breaker already charred the insulation, and started to melt the contacts of the main breaker. Holly Molly!

So, I switched off the water heater, and advised my daughter she should not turn anything on, and to hope that the fridge would be able to run until an electrician came. He would have to coordinate with the electric company to remove the meter to allow for repair. If it weren't for that, I would be able to replace those aluminum wires myself. It ended up costing her $500.

Recently, I added a 30A outlet for my parked motorhome. The next day, I lost power to a couple of inside outlets. Hmmm... When I was at the panel, I already tightened all the other breaker connections as a maintenance measure, so what would be the problem?

Turned out that I had disturbed a couple of breakers which had their contacts already weakened. Their clamp contacts grabbed the power bar, and metal fatigue and heat had weakened the clamp force (they are 26 year old). A few bucks at Home Depot, and everything was good as new.

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