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Dirty electricity
Old 07-28-2013, 05:58 PM   #1
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Dirty electricity

Just when you think you've heard of everything.

We have been using an IT guy for computer & TV issues in our home for the past ~5 years. He's good, very reasonable, and I trust him.

He was here last week to help me with a Windows 8 wireless printer issue (that's a whole other story ) and I mentioned to him that Comcast had just been here to install a new router, as ours was going out. He looked at me funny, and said "do you realize this is about your 5th router since I've been coming here?" I didn't. I asked him what could cause them to fail so quickly, and he said "dirty electricity". DH and I rolled our eyes and went on with the issue at hand.

Today, I'm in the kitchen (which is on the same corner of the house as the router), and the fluorescent light starts flickering, and I tell DH. He curses, and says he replaces those suckers about every 6 months, which seems pretty frequent for a fluorescent.

We looked at one another and said at the same time "Dirty electricity"?

Our TVs and sound systems are all on surge protection strips because we had a lightning strike years ago which was very expensive. So, we don't seem to have issues with those, but this one area of the house seems to burn up routers and fluorescent tubes.

Are we nuts? And who would you call to have this addressed? My father (now deceased) was an electrician, and if someone had called & told him this story, he'd have hung up on them.

I did find this but this doesn't seem like it would be helpful for a kitchen ceiling light fixture, just for something that plugs in at the wall.

Signed,

Crazy
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Old 07-28-2013, 06:08 PM   #2
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There is such a thing as "dirty electricity". What it means is that the electric supply to your house (or business) is not as stable as it should be. The current has spikes and lows, and is not a smooth sine wave as it would be in a perfect world. It has been causing computers problems for decades and large data centers install equipment to "smooth out" the sine wave.

It can be caused by old wiring, tree branches contacting overhead lines, a large elevator motor in an industrial plant or perhaps an apartment building if you live in one. Very often the exact cause is hard to pin down and drives engineers to pull out what hair they have remaining. RV'rs have to sometimes deal with it too as the wiring in RV campgrounds is not always kept up to date or given the best maintenance.

You can buy the equipment to deal with it for a residence. It isn't exactly cheap but it won't break you either. I'm guessing in $500 range, installed by an electrician.
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Old 07-28-2013, 06:11 PM   #3
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You may want to contact neighbors to see if they are experiencing same. Together approach the power company to update service lines.
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Old 07-28-2013, 06:13 PM   #4
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Dirty electricity is reserved for computers that people used to surf for porn.
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Old 07-28-2013, 06:49 PM   #5
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I guess the "greens" have distorted the original meaning to having something to do with pollution. Those greenwave filters are for reducing EMF pollution.

What you have is unstable frequency on your electrical signal. You could bad house wiring, overloaded circuits. Yes five routers in that short of time is way to many, something is killing them. You can get a power conditioning UPS to use with your computer equipment that will help. An electrician can probably scope it out to see if it something inside ( grounding, breaker panel issue ) or if it coming from the power company.
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Old 07-28-2013, 07:16 PM   #6
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ohmic heating or thermal noise?
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Old 07-28-2013, 07:39 PM   #7
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Dranetz. A well established name in the power line monitoring equipment.

There are places that rent thes machines, and will give an excrutiatingly detailed printout of the pwer line gremlins.

A cheaper version is APC a UPS which has software with it. Wil give a good overview of sags, hits, etc.

A quicker solution (operative word: solution) might be to call the power company who bills you and transports the electricity.

Often the meter box connections are crappy. Break the seal, tighten the connections. No not you, the power company folks. The power company will often help out by putting the aforementioned Dranetz on your line for a few days to identify the problem, Call them.
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Old 07-28-2013, 07:44 PM   #8
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Dirty electricity is reserved for computers that people used to surf for porn.
Uh oh...I better get a couple surge protectors then......
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Old 07-28-2013, 07:57 PM   #9
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About 5 yrs ago, I had Com Edison come out to install an AC throttling monitor. About 1 month later, the AC was try to start and wouldn't turn on. Called my AC guy and he found the 2nd 110 v line was connected w/cheap wire nuts and wasn't getting power. This shoddy work was done by the electric company! So it could be something as simple as cheap wire nuts causing the problem.
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Old 07-28-2013, 08:03 PM   #10
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One question how far along the line from the substation to the end of the distribution line are you located. Second if the line is above ground do you see many capacitors hanging from the poles nearby (these would be cans with two high voltage lines out the top and no low voltage lines from the side.). As noted the issue could be that there are some large motors nearby which affect the power factor on the line. (This is because voltage over a coil of wire lags voltage over a resistor by 90%) With modern switching power supplies and the like power factor problems could make power supplies work harder and fail. You might ask the electric utility if they can measure the power factor on your lines, or bring in an electrician who should have such devices. By any chance is the area where the problem near (electrically) where an outdoor AC unit might be?
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Old 07-28-2013, 11:21 PM   #11
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Bad electricity...

Years ago I purchased a plasma TV. Spending good money on a TV had me wanting a perfect picture. I kept noticing that the image had some kind of ghosting noise whenever the image was dark or black. After ruling out my equipment, I called the cable TV company and their tech looked things over and concluded I had "bad electricity" and that I should call the power company.

A week or so later, the power company guy comes over in the late afternoon and starts looking around. At some point he turns off the power and says I have a dangerous situation involving my house and 4 neighbors. They had a utility repair truck out that afternoon/evening and dug some holes to get to the underground lines to fix the problem.

I don't remember the details, but the problem was something about a floating ground. The proper ground connection had failed (was failing) and so the home's electrical protections were not functioning. All 5 homes had electrocution potential. I knew it was serious given the quick arrival of the repair crew.

I was amazed that something so minor (bad TV image) was the only symptom of a serious problem.
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Old 07-28-2013, 11:33 PM   #12
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Bad electricity...

Years ago I purchased a plasma TV. Spending good money on a TV had me wanting a perfect picture. I kept noticing that the image had some kind of ghosting noise whenever the image was dark or black. After ruling out my equipment, I called the cable TV company and their tech looked things over and concluded I had "bad electricity" and that I should call the power company.

A week or so later, the power company guy comes over in the late afternoon and starts looking around. At some point he turns off the power and says I have a dangerous situation involving my house and 4 neighbors. They had a utility repair truck out that afternoon/evening and dug some holes to get to the underground lines to fix the problem.

I don't remember the details, but the problem was something about a floating ground. The proper ground connection had failed (was failing) and so the home's electrical protections were not functioning. All 5 homes had electrocution potential. I knew it was serious given the quick arrival of the repair crew.

I was amazed that something so minor (bad TV image) was the only symptom of a serious problem.

Underground feeders, esp. direct burial, don't work trouble-free forever.
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Old 07-28-2013, 11:43 PM   #13
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You hear about dogs and people without shoes getting shocked on the storm grates in big cities all the time. Some of the electrical equipment is very old. [after all, Muddy Waters invented electricity]

All of the above post have good info. But for now, just move your router out of the kitchen. Plug it into the TV's surge protection.
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Old 07-28-2013, 11:44 PM   #14
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We had a problem years ago where power would flicker in the afternoon.
DW got in touch with managers and finally a VP at the power company and they finally admitted there was a problem with an aging trunk line at a substation. They told us that they would replace it and the problem went away.
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Old 07-28-2013, 11:54 PM   #15
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I was in the computer services business for many years.

We regularly used a Dranetz unit to determine if the line was 'clean', ie if the power was good. More often than not it was not in a large urban area. We would monitor the power for a week, two weeks, whatever was needed to catch/record any irregularities.

Poor power can indeed cause issues for computer systems. We used this to prove that excessive computer downtime or communication issue were caused by the power and not the responsibility of the computer vendor.

Not certain about home appliances, lights, etc. though.
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Old 07-29-2013, 09:52 AM   #16
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DS in Tanzania has units on all his electrical appliance to clean it up. Otherwise nothing would last. Also has battery backup and inverter for the 1-2 times a day it just...goes off.
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Old 07-29-2013, 10:17 AM   #17
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Thanks everyone for the input - lots of knowledge on this board!

Thought I'd close the loop on this one: I just got off the phone with our power company. He didn't laugh at me when I told him the story. They are sending out someone to run tests on our lines (which are buried in our yard, but lines leading up aren't).

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. And there is an insurance policy through the manufacturer if it fails and we suffer a loss. Sounds almost too good to be true.

Even if we do have this installed, he suggested we still use a UPS with our more delicate equipment like TV's, sound systems, computer, ROUTERS, etc.

Anyway, I'll report back if anything worth sharing happens.

Again, thanks!
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Old 07-29-2013, 10:34 AM   #18
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I lost two PC motherboards due to spikes from the bathroom vent fan motor when the latter was switched off. Actually, the MBs were still working but their audio outputs were dead.

Connected to the audio output was an amplified speaker with its own AC adapter. Both the AC adapter and the PC were plugged into a surge suppressor. The surge suppressor was plugged into an outlet that was on the same circuit as the bathroom fan.

I should have taken it seriously when I kept hearing a "pop" coming from the speakers when the bathroom fan was turned off. Even being an electrical/electronic engineer, I did not take it seriously until the 2nd MB died! Then, I figured out that the spikes went through the suppressor, then the AC adapter of the external speaker, and got to zap the MB audio output.
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Old 07-29-2013, 11:29 AM   #19
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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. And there is an insurance policy through the manufacturer if it fails and we suffer a loss. Sounds almost too good to be true.
Ordinary surge protectors catch only what is far out of norm. If you have regular but small voltage blips, the surge protector will send them through. The same is true of typical UPS units. To seriously clean dirty electricity you need a power conditioner, which usually is more expensive and noisy.
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Old 07-29-2013, 11:45 AM   #20
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I would not rent a surge protector, don't let them install it. If you really want one, buy one at the big box hardware stores. Instructions for install ere included. Even paying electrician to install is cheaper in long run.

As noted by Gray Hare they only catch gross stuff. Let the power co clean up their problems first.

By the way surges are not as much of a problem as sags of line voltage. Them's the stuff that fries electric motors, fridge compressors etc..
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