House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!

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Bob in St. Louis

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House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!
« on: 21 Aug 2009, 12:46 am »
Rant...........

This is a seven year old house, so you wouldn't think there'd be much in the way of electrical problems.
But alas.......  :roll: there is.

For the first time this year, we've had a real bad problem with voltage fluctuations. It was my assumption that the outside AC unit was the culprit since the house lighting dimmed badly when it engaged. The brown-out was bad enough that it would turn off my Harman Kardon AVR receiver and my projector.
That's bad. Very bad.  :o :nono:
This, despite the fact I've got a Belden UPS installed to save these components from just such a problem. As it turns out, I think the battery's  in the UPS are bad, so it's essentially just a large power strip. That's a problem for another day.

I had an HVAC buddy come over to check things out. He thought it was in my best interest to install a soda can sized cap on the outside compressor. For $45, I figured, "Sure. Why not".
Didn't help at all.

Drastic times call for drastic measures. Right?
I wired my Fluke 83 to an outlet and set it to record "Min/Max" voltage. When I installed it, the voltage was about 115. Ok, fine.
Within the first 24 hours the Min/Max ranged from the high teens to the low 120's.
Ok fine.
The next day though, I saw a reading of 98 volts.  :evil:

Thought it might be a good idea to check the breaker box inside. Hanging on the wall outside my house is a 200 amp breaker that will shut off the entire house. I tripped the breaker. Back inside at the main breaker box I ran a screwdriver down all of the bolts, on each and every breaker. They're all tight. Then I get an allen wrench to check the torque on the main lugs. They're a "little" loose, but not alarmingly so. With high hopes I turn the power back on to the house and reset the Fluke meter to record.

The next day I get a Min voltage of 80.4 volts.............  :o
Time to call the electric company. This isn't good.

The guy comes out, checks things over and says, "It all looks good. You should be fine now".
"What did you find" I ask.
"Nothing, it's all good. You've got 240 volts at the transformer, 240 volts in your box. It's split up on two legs, each carrying 120 volts".  :roll:

"No.....It's not". I tell him about the Fluke still plugged in, and still holding the 80.4 volt reading. I showed him the current reading of 116 volts. (good). I showed him the Max voltage of 124 (great). Then I show him the 80 volts.
He about shit himself.  :lol:
Good. Now we're getting somewhere.
He put in a work order to have a "recorder" installed. Basically the same thing I've got going on with the Fluke, but I understand they need to see it themselves with their equipment. That was yesterday. He said it would take a day or two for them to install the unit.

By the way, the transformer hanging on the utility pole was installed when my house was built. It only serves my house.

We'll see. Wish me luck.
Please pray for my equipment, that it doesn't fry.  :|
Bob

thunderbrick

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Re: House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!
« Reply #1 on: 21 Aug 2009, 01:24 am »
Hey, Bro, hang in there!  I'd be real curious about what they find out.

Too bad they charge by the watts and not the volts. :|

Bob in St. Louis

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Re: House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!
« Reply #2 on: 21 Aug 2009, 01:41 am »
Yea, too bad they don't refund based on damaged equipment either.  :duh:

Bob

S Clark

Re: House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!
« Reply #3 on: 21 Aug 2009, 01:55 am »
Wow.  Bad news.  It'll be interesting to see what they come up with for a cure.
My own personal cure is the Dodd Battery Pre, a battery powered Buffalo Dac. Now if only I could get enough watts out of a new Dodd battery amp to run my LS9's.

JoshK

Re: House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!
« Reply #4 on: 21 Aug 2009, 01:56 am »
The squeeky wheel gets greased.  Keep the pressure on and they are likely to do something.  It is not everyone that breaks out a fluke to prove their point.


markC

Re: House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!
« Reply #5 on: 21 Aug 2009, 01:59 am »
Man, that sucks. You'd think with your own transformer you'd be golden. It pisses me off when I drop down to 102 volts during peak A/C season-like now. But, I share my transformer, (as best I can tell), with about 5 or 6 other houses.
It hasn't happened to me this year, but last year, a couple of days my amps wouldn't turn on because of low voltage supply. It was around 98 volts at the time.

bpape

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Re: House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!
« Reply #6 on: 21 Aug 2009, 02:36 am »
Agreed.  If you're the only one tapping a transformer, you should be OK unless the big line in is really crap.

Bryan

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Re: House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!
« Reply #7 on: 21 Aug 2009, 03:03 am »
Quote
This is a seven year old house, so you wouldn't think there'd be much in the way of electrical problems.

You'd be surprised at some of the workmanship(or lack thereof) that makes a typical modern house.

But this looks like a utility company supply problem. If they can duplicate your findings, its their responsibility to correct.
Good luck man.

Frank S.

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Re: House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!
« Reply #8 on: 21 Aug 2009, 03:11 am »
I've had my ups and downs with my electricity over the years always looking for the best power for my system as possible. I recently discovered a fantastic solution that makes me "immune" from the power company and any electrical problems.  I installed a Liebert GXT2-3000 3 kVA on-line "double conversion" UPS. Liebert has an excellent reputation for making some of the best UPS systems around.

In any event, I have rock steady 24/7 pure sine wave 120 volt output that is regenerated from the "double conversion" process. I added two additional battery cabinets giving me about 12 hours of "standby time" in the event of a power outage and probably about 2-3 hours of running my system at normal playback levels. The Liebert will do a user programmable battery self test every 7, 14, 21, or 28 days to make sure they are functioning and charged. 

It's part of an overall system. 240 volts feeds a MGE/Topaz Power-Supress 100 5 kVA isolation transformer. 30 amp 120 volt output feeds the Liebert UPS. The 30 amp output on the Liebert feeds my Furman IT-Reference 20i which distributes the power to my components. All wiring is JPS In-Wall AC cable.

This is by far the best sounding set up I have heard in my system and I've tried a lot of "power conditioners" over the years.

At some point I plan on posting my process with the Liebert. It's not for everyone and requires some "modifications" but the results are amazing.

Speedskater

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Re: House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!
« Reply #9 on: 21 Aug 2009, 02:05 pm »
Bob, when you measured the Line Voltage using your Fluke 83 min/max mode. Was the time period 100ms or 1 second. The 1 second mode is probably a more realistic selection.  Do you have anyway to measure AC current (10Amps) ?  A Kill-a-watt or a current probe.  Then you could measure the source impedance of the AC line to your house.

JoshK

Re: House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!
« Reply #10 on: 21 Aug 2009, 02:27 pm »
Frank,

Sounds like a good solution.  But why use the Furman? 


BPT

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Re: House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!
« Reply #11 on: 21 Aug 2009, 02:31 pm »
Bob:
Like Josh says: "Keep the pressure on....". If they reproduce your findings, it is likely they will replace the pole transformer with a new one or give you your own, if it is shared.
Chris H.

Speedskater

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Re: House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!
« Reply #12 on: 21 Aug 2009, 03:21 pm »
Also have the power company check the neutral wire from your main breaker box to their transformer. I never realized how often the neutral wire gets flaky. Then the voltage hot to hot stays at 240V. But the voltage on each leg changes with the load on either leg. That is one leg could be 110V and the other 130V. Then when the loads change the leg voltages change also.

Frank S.

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Re: House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!
« Reply #13 on: 21 Aug 2009, 03:24 pm »
Frank,

Sounds like a good solution.  But why use the Furman?

Logical question.........to take advantage of the 3 kVA rating of the Liebert I wanted to use the 30 amp output. The 30 amp output is on a fixed 12 inch 10 gauge cord terminated with a 30 amp female plug, hence there are no outlets to plug any gear into. I already owned the Furman and can distribute my equipment very nicely with the outlets designated for amplifiers and the balanced power outlets for source components. I simply made my own cord using Oyaide EE/F-S 2.6 bulk AC cable terminated with a 30 amp male plug for the Liebert and an Oyaide C-246 20 amp IEC end for the Furman.

When listening to two channel even at high volumes, the Liebert load level indicator is between 25%-50% (never seen it go higher) indicating there is plenty of headroom left.  When my full home theater is going the load level indicator is between 50%-75%. 

Frank S.

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Re: House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!
« Reply #14 on: 21 Aug 2009, 03:31 pm »
Bob- I'm sure you'll get it resolved after they review the readings on their recorder. I'm fairly certain the utility companies are mandated and required to deliver voltage that is within a certain +/- % of the 120 volt standard. Your readings are way off so they will be required to do what is necessary to correct them.

Just make sure if they change your transformer you ask them to cryo it for a least 72 hours and use some contact enhancer on reinstall  :lol:

Bob in St. Louis

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Re: House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!
« Reply #15 on: 21 Aug 2009, 11:12 pm »
Good words, and good advice men. Thank you.
Still no contact from the electric company. Being a Friday night, I have my doubts I'll hear from them until next week.

Seconds ago (literally), we got another brown out. The boy was playing PS3 online and the receiver and projector went off. The "thump" from the speaker doesn't make me very happy either.

It's possible the main line from the transformer was nicked during installation and has taken 7 years to corrode to the point where it's starting t break down. (I have underground service) I am the only house on this transformer, so I'm "all alone", but I do think a person should be entitled to decent and stable power. So if I need a new transformer, I think that's what they should do. I'll talk to them about giving it a cryo bath. I'll let you know how that works out.  :lol:

Most of Franks solution is over my head as I haven't heard of, or researched any of the model numbers he's listed. Sounds very interesting though.
I've got some pretty radical ideas to provide my entire room with stable power. Might have to get serious about those someday.

Speedskater, I had the meter on 1ms.
I don't think the power drops out for that long of a time period, which is why I chose the 1ms setting. Granted, that's a fairly quite "sample" of time, but the big question is.....is it quick enough for the H'K receiver and the projector to power down?
I know the legs in the main breaker box will sum to 240V. But what scares me most, is that if one leg went to 80volts, that means the other leg (momentary as it may be) went to 160Volts.  :o

I'd be willing to change the meter setting to a longer time period, but I've still got the 80Volt reading captured. I'd like to keep it if case they want to see it.

Bob

Speedskater

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Re: House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!
« Reply #16 on: 21 Aug 2009, 11:54 pm »
I think that any piece of audio equipment that's worth it's salt should be able to deal with a graceful voltage sag for the better part of a second.  I mean you payed extra for units with big power supply capacitors, right?  20  years ago, a UPS design engineer told me about neutral problems at his neighbors house that routed all his neighbors neutral current over to his house through the water pipe.  I thought that was a rare event, how in the electrical forum, I read about events like this all the time.

JoshK

Re: House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!
« Reply #17 on: 22 Aug 2009, 12:02 am »
Frank's Liebert goes for around $2k retail from poking around on the net.  But, ebay has some used ones for under $200 shipped.  Its tempting to give it a try. 

Do the units come with the batteries or is that all seperate?

Frank S.

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Re: House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!
« Reply #18 on: 22 Aug 2009, 12:14 am »
I got mine on Ebay for $249. It was a steal. Needed a little cleaning and compressed air, but the internals were excellent. The internal batteries were also in perfect operating condition and tested 100%. I changed the three internal 80mm PC fans to ultra, ultra quiet 16 dbA fans and they are undetectable from my listening position.

There is a set of internal batteries in each Liebert and one can add as many external battery cabinets as you want. Through Ebay I got two brand new external battery cabinets for $250 each. Another good deal. They are just a big heavy (105 lbs each) black cabinet that are the same size as the UPS and look exactly the same minus the user controls on the front panel. They connect to each other with a heavy 10 gauge proprietary connector.

A Liebert "confguration program" software communicate with your PC and you can change parameters and tell the UPS how many external battery cabinets are connected.

With a 10% load (probably my system in standby) I'm theoretically good for 764 minutes on battery power.  :thumb:

Bob in St. Louis

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Re: House voltage ranges from 124VAC down to 80!
« Reply #19 on: 22 Aug 2009, 01:00 am »
I think that any piece of audio equipment that's worth it's salt should be able to deal with a graceful voltage sag for the better part of a second.
Umm....Yea, but..... I wouldn't call 80 volts "graceful". And I wouldn't call a full second of time a reasonable amount of time to ask an electronic device to stay active. Maybe a tube amp, sure....But solid state, I wouldn't think so.

Frank, thank you VERY much for the heads-up. It'll be a while before I can seriously explore those options, but I've moved it up my "to-do" list.

Bob