Power surges

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valid snipped-for-privacy@invalid.address.net (Valid User) says...

Perhaps you should buy a book on basic house wiring. The pictures will be a big help.
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In the fine newsgroup "alt.home.repair", Larry Caldwell
< on 03 Jun 2004:

Ok, you're scaring me so point received! I've checked the circuit breaker box and don't smell anything, it isn't hot, not even warm. The problem is that I can only tell this is happening when it is dark, because other than the refrigerator, I don't notice anything with other appliances. Mostly just the lights. I won't let this go, and I'll call the power company. I've never had any circuit breakers pop at all, but an air purifier has blown internal fuses (1 amp IIRC) at times, but that was before I moved the humidifier (which I only run in the summer). The air conditioner wasn't even on last night.
--
Cheryl

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You should be.
Loose main neutrals are _very_ dangerous. Don't bother with an electrician unless they're already there. Call your power company immediately. Say "lights brightening" and "I suspect a loose main neutral connection" and they will be there fast.
--
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It's not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
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If it is everything then there a plethora of places to start. Neighbors would be first in my list. Especially if they are on the same transformer or line. Not if they are on a different transformer or line. Next would be to check all of the connections in the panel. Not a good place to play unless your comfortable working around an invisible servant that wants to kill you. Some humor. It would be handy if you had a voltage meter that had a scale that you could measure the voltage. Can you borrow one. Needs to have a zero to 300 VAC scale. Radio Shack has some that are less than 100 bucks.
If it persists then try the utility. Now your heading into a mess. There are standards that they must provide. It is plus 10% to minus 7% of nominal. That means that the average plug could read any thing from 132 to 111.6 volts. The sad part of IEEE 519 is the next paragraph says except for short periods of time. No definition on this one. Is a day a short period of time compared to a year, you bet.
If you do not want to borrow or buy a meter then it is probably time to call someone to come over and check it out. Plan on the problem going away when they arrive. It usually does, my experience anyway. This might need a recording meter left on the service for at least 24 hours, I would want a weeks worth of data.
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I had a thought - Cheryl obviously has a PC and is at least PC literate enough to find and post to this NG. Most would agree a surge protector is a must have on her PC setup. We all have them somewhere.
Why not do this.
I have installed and used in business un-interruptible power supplies (UPS) that have power monitors in them and will even 'smooth out' the levels automatically. In other words maintain a constant 115V when the line varies the +- 7 % it usually does. Well, I am not recommending this as a long term solution BUT they also have serial outputs a logging of events with configurable thresholds. So, you can see where your voltage is and record every time it exceeds a predefined threshold. This one may do this http://www.apcc.com/products/family/index.cfm?id  for <$70. Worthwhile even w/o the issues she is having.
Just a thought.
-B

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An informed computer user knows that anything effective at a computer is already inside the computer. But that internal PC protection can be overwhelmed IF the incoming transient is not earthed before entering a building. Effective protection is about earthing.
PCs have internal protection that assumes a building has a properly earthed 'whole house' protector. Protectors are not protection. Protectors are only effective when connected 'less than 10 fee' to protection - earth ground. Earthing is why household electric must be upgraded or exceed post 1990 National Electrical Code (NEC) requirements.
So what does that adjacent protector do? It can even contribute to damage of an adjacent computer when that computer is powered off. Again, this is about first learning what that protector actually does. Many who recommend plug-in protectors don't even have a clue as to what it does. They actually think it stops, blocks, or absorbs a destructive transient. 3 miles of non-conductive air could not stop that transient. Is a silly little plug-in protector going to do what three miles of air could not? Of course not. Myths promote plug-in protectors.
Effective protection is about earthing. So what does the plug-in protector avoid mentioning to sell their overpriced and ineffective product? Earthing. No discussion about earthing means others will recommend the plug-in protector only on 'word association'. If it is a protector, then it must be protection? Wrong. Protector and protection are two different components of a protection 'system'. So that myth purveyors don't know this, the plug-in protector manufacturer must avoid all mention of earthing. No earth ground means no effective protection. The manufacturer forgets to mention that part because plug-in protectors with grossly insufficient joules are so profitable. Profitable especially when so often recommended by myths.
Any protection effective at the computer is already inside that computer. The plug-in protector is promoted by myths - as demonstrated by no mention of the most critical component - earth ground.
Brikp wrote:

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In the fine newsgroup "alt.home.repair", "Brikp"
< on 03 Jun 2004: > I had a thought - Cheryl obviously has a PC and is at least PC

Ah, you give me too much credit. I only discovered Usenet so I could learn how to hack hotmail. JUST KIDDING! :)

Way above my comprehension. I think I'm going to need to call an electrician for this one. Now that my suspicions are confirmed that this isn't something to ignore. Thank you!
--
Cheryl

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Me again....
C > > I had a thought - Cheryl obviously has a PC and is at least PC C > > literate enough to find and post to this NG. Most would agree a C > > surge protector is a must have on her PC setup. We all have them C > > somewhere. C > > C > Ah, you give me too much credit. I only discovered Usenet so I C > could learn how to hack hotmail. JUST KIDDING! :)
So that explains why ZoneAlarm was having a fit this morning! <g>
C > > I have installed and used in business un-interruptible power C > > supplies (UPS) that have power monitors in them and will even C > > 'smooth out' the levels automatically. In other words maintain a C > > constant 115V when the line varies the +- 7 % it usually does. C > > Well, I am not recommending this as a long term solution BUT C > > they also have serial outputs a logging of events with C > > configurable thresholds. So, you can see where your voltage is C > > and record every time it exceeds a predefined threshold. This C > > one may do this C > > http://www.apcc.com/products/family/index.cfm?id  for <$70. C > > Worthwhile even w/o the issues she is having. C > > C > > Just a thought. C > > C > Way above my comprehension. I think I'm going to need to call an C > electrician for this one. Now that my suspicions are confirmed that C > this isn't something to ignore. Thank you!
A UPS is an Uninterruptible Power Supply. Plugs into the wall outlet and the computer/whatever plugs in to it. Has a battery inside so when the power goes out or dips below a certain level it kicks in. Here I also have the desk lamp plugged in to one of the UPSs (I have multiple computers -- why should I be in the dark?!
As you are using a laptop it's battery acts like a UPS.
If/when you decide to get a UPS get a good one. Bigger is better (up to a point). The more capacity a UPS has the longer run time it has. (I've got a 900W UPS in the basement which backs up most of the VCRs and provides some emergency lighting -- the power goes off enough from the birds/squirrels playing with the pole transformer out back. 'Bout ready to get a generator!
- barry.martinATthesafebbs.zeppole.com
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JG> Cheryl, A problem that I have seen occasionally in New Jersey is that the JG> power companies installed underground services using aluminum wire buried JG> directly in the ground without conduit. Although the wire is approved for
Reminds me of what happened while I was working years ago. Power to the building was underground, from a dedicated substation. Feed between the substation and the headquarters building failed, blowing the substation and also overloading other circuits in the city, causing them to trip. Was told there was something like 60 volt-amps running through bare earth.
(The site was shut down for a few days until the substation and wiring was replaced.)
- barry.martinATthesafebbs.zeppole.com
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W > BTW, to give you some kind of idea how totally ignorant some W > 'experts' can be - look at the ridiculous nonsense from some W > idiot who thinks the utility surges power to burn off W > branches. Far too often, these types pose as knowledgeable.
I would suspect this is a misinterpretation of facts. The branch is across a power line. At some point it becomes conductive and catches fire. At the same time a brightening of the lights is noted. The increase is really due to the branch conducting but misinterpreted as someone at the power company cranking up the voltage to get rid of the branch.
(Seems like the fire department would get mad at the power company for causing all those fires! <g>)
- barry.martinATthesafebbs.zeppole.com
* He doesn't buy toothpaste because his teeth aren't loose!
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If a tree branch is shorting a power line to ground, then lights either remain unaffected or get dimmer; not brighter. A reduced AC line voltage (ie. a short to ground) does not cause lights to get brighter.
barry martin wrote:

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It's unlikely from you description that the power company is instantaneously increasing the voltage to your house. What may be happening is that someone else is loading down the transformer that supplies your house and when the unload it the voltage increases. If this load were on just one side (120 volts) that would explain why only some circuits are not affected.
The best solution is to get a recording voltmeter and put it on each side of the line for a day or so each to see exactly what is happening.
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RB
Cheryl wrote:

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<SNIP>
I would have an electrician check for a bad neutral connection in the breaker box or further upstream. If it is upstream of the electric meter, depending on your jurisdiction you may get the electric company to fix this or pay for fixing it.
Symptoms of a bad neutral connection or an open neutral are some lights and appliances receiving excessive voltage, often others getting low voltage, and voltage changing noticeably when some heavier loads or sometimes even lights are turned on or off. If you mix loads of different power factors in a house with an open neutral, it is possible to have all circuits have excessive voltage or the two sides of your incoming power line to have voltages adding up to more than 240 volts. But I think usually you will find some loads undervoltaged and some loads overvoltaged if you have an open neutral.
If you have an open neutral, it is a fire hazard because overvoltaged appliances may catch fire.
If the breaker box has lose screws that are not holding wires properly, you can tighten them. Be careful and use a screwdriver with a good plastic handle and don't touch the metal part, and you increase your safety from electric shock if you stand on a plastic plastic milk crate or a piece of known good very dry non-decayed wood. Do not stand on anything unstable - you may grab something live if you start to fall! The incoming wires are not shut off by the main breaker, and one of these may be loose. The neutral bus may have voltage on it if the incoming neutral wire is loose or not connected. Call an electrician if you do not feel up to checking that screws in your breaker box are tight.
- Don Klipstein ( snipped-for-privacy@misty.com)
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I would consider a whole house Electric Panel Surge Protector...which is available in Menards for $59. It is wired into the 240v. in your electric panel and monitors voltage spikes, etc...and adjusts them accordingly to prevent damage to things in the house.
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