Off the Shortwaves: Unhappy & Despondent

Guest Post by Troy Riedel

Every radio enthusiast or ham operator knows this definition – something we all dread.  Electromagnetic interference – also known as radio-frequency interference when in the radio frequency spectrum – is a disturbance generated by an external source that affects an electrical circuit by electromagnetic induction, electrostatic coupling, or conduction (Source: Wikipedia).

I’ve been “off the shortwaves” (in fact, off ALL bands!) for a few weeks (a reminder to those who do not remember – I’m an SWL’er, I’m not a ham operator so I’m a listener only).  Here’s my story:

My house was built in 2004 thus the home’s electrical is “modern era”.  I’ve never, ever had a significant problem with RFI … except when the dishwasher is running (if it’s running, I have ZERO reception).

I didn’t want this (I acquiesced only in an attempt to become grandfather of the year), but an in-ground (vinyl liner) pool has been installed in my backyard (yeah, I’ve probably lost everyone’s sympathy with this statement).  If it’s any consolation, construction started long before the summer and won’t be fully completed until [hopefully] next Spring (and what’s left of my yard is a disaster zone and something that will cost a fortune to mitigate – maybe I’ve gained back just a little bit of sympathy?).

Pools are required to be bonded (the process by which the electrical and metallic components of the pool are joined together with a wire to form a non-resistive path between the components. The goal of bonding is to connect, contain and prevent the transmission of any harmful electrical voltage to pool equipment, people and pets).

I’m not an electrician, but essentially the pool is grounded by a copper wire … and a copper wire “ring” encircles the pool (now covered by the concrete pool deck).  The copper wire runs underground and resurfaces where the pump & filter are installed.  That copper bonding/grounding connects to the remote master switch at the pump & filter (pictured here – note where the copper line connects to and grounds the unit):

Electrical power line(s) run underground from the pump/filter area until resurfacing just outside the garage wall where they enter my home’s main breaker box inside the garage.

There is an unfinished electrical component.  A conduit was installed to add a pool light when the project is completed next Spring (see below), but at this point there’s nothing connected thus a “pool light” is not yet present.

Throughout the dig, installation of the steel walls, pouring the concrete bottom & steps, liner installation, the bonding, and covering the bonding “ring” with the concrete pool deck – all of this had zero negative effects on my SWLing.

Once the pool electrician connected power (connected the pump/filter) to the house, ALL radio bands were knocked out due to very extreme RFI.  All bands – the complete spectrum (choose your letters … AM/MW, FM, SW, VHF, UHF – all bands).

I’ve easily spent double-digit hours trying to isolate the EMI.  This is what I’ve done & discovered:

(1) Disconnected the pool grounding: no effect.

(2) [Only] Powered-off the two main breakers for the pool pump & filter: no effect (the pool equipment was tested, then the pool was winterized so nothing has been running).

(3) We used a handheld EMI detector over every inch of the interior and exterior of the house.  Yes, there are sources but nothing to the level that should cause a radio blackout.

(4) Turned off the main breaker, all power to the house: this is the only thing that eliminated the EMI/RFI.

(5) Multiple times, I’ve painstakingly turned-on one breaker at a time (isolating each circuit, on/off then proceeding to the next breaker).  I’ve found that for whatever reason, extreme RFI returns (and is present) on these three circuits: (upstairs) Master Bedroom (my Listening Post), the other upstairs bedrooms (combined on another circuit), and the (downstairs) Family Room circuit.  Note: Even if everything is unplugged on one of these circuits, just turning on the breaker introduces the extreme RFI (thus it must be coming from the breaker & not introduced from a device plugged-in).  Ferrite chokes have been installed on nearly everything plugged-in to outlets on the three “trouble” circuits.  I’m not saying the house was an RFI-free zone before the pool – but these three circuits only produced light-to-manageable RFI prior to the pool equipment being connected to the house’s main breaker box.  After 6000+ days of living in this house with no significant RFI issues, I’ve been in a complete radio blackout with very extreme RFI since the moment the live electrical line was connected between my pool pump/filter and my main breaker box.

And before you ask: No, there have not been any new electronics, no new devices, no new appliances, no LED lights, and all big screen TVs and other notorious RFI unfriendly devices are unplugged – nothing new has been plugged-in or added to the household except for the pool equipment.  There have been no new utilities in my area that could have caused a coincidental problem (no DSL, no fiber optic – nothing).  I cannot see how this situ could be caused by a neighbor, because the problem ceases when my power is off.  And “no”, I can’t move my Listening Post because even though the majority of the RFI is introduced over those three circuits, the entire house is impacted and it’s a complete radio blackout.

To reiterate, I had no radio-related problems during the entire construction (I listened to my radios as I pleased) and the problem did not start until the pool’s electrical line was connected to the main breaker.

Could the new wiring – at/inside the breaker box – be improperly shielded?  Could something be touching(?) that shouldn’t be?  Could something be loose inside the breaker box?  The three circuit breakers that are introducing the extreme RFI are in close proximity to each other in the breaker box and in close proximity to the two new pool breakers – could there be contamination from one to another?

I don’t make it a habit to play with electricity.  The pool company could frankly care less about my radio woes (it’s my problem, not theirs).  My power company supposedly checked their utility line coming into my house (I didn’t see them here, but they said the problem is not on their end).   And local electricians all essentially say, “[from their prospective] EMI sources are hard – if not impossible – to find”.

I have an electrician lined-up but we both thought it might be best to “put this out there” because someone may have an idea that he hasn’t thought of. Thus far, I’ve done almost everything myself that they stated they would do (minus opening-up the breaker box).  I’m hoping to solicit ideas from the SWLing Post Nation before I put the electrician on the clock.  And on the clock = $$$.

Thanks in advance for your input.  If I can’t get this mitigated, a liquidation event may be in my future.

Spread the radio love

70 thoughts on “Off the Shortwaves: Unhappy & Despondent

  1. Paul Mitchell

    G’day, Ken,

    Thank you for your comment. I do not know anything about USA electrical systems other than they are 110v AC. From your comment, I have a better idea now.

    If the circuit is a single-phase circuit. It would be easy to turn off the circuit breaker that feeds the pool equipment.

    Then:

    1. Disconnect the neutral at the main fuse box and see if that eliminates the noise.

    if not.

    2. Disconnect the earth wire at the switch that is associated with the pool circuit and see if that eliminates the noise.

    By doing this we can isolate neutral or ground signal loops.

    These are my thoughts for the moment as I still build a picture. I would recommend an electrical do this. Possibly from the pool installers if they employ their own electricians.

    Mitch.

    Reply
    1. Paul Mitchell

      Bloody auto-correct. There is no switch in the earth wire. I meant to say disconnect the earth wire that is associated with the circuit breaker that feeds the pool equipment in the fuse box.

      Mitch.

      Reply
  2. Steve

    Paul -you’re posting in the right place. There are several of your posts in the comments are. Either he has solved the problem or he may not be interested in further advice. His original post was in late November.

    I do find your comments interesting, though I have no pool, and all of my RFI is man made by neighbors and our own appliance. But I can still be an SWL and ham with no issues.

    Reply
    1. Ken English

      You know, Mitch asked about the breakers, and if they disconnect both the hot and neutral wires simultaneously. I never heard of that being done in the USA, at least on 120/240 single-phase circuits.
      My thought was, “Wouldn’t that play havoc with some thing like Ground-Fault Interrupters (GFI)?”
      A second later I thought, “What happens when there are stray currents, perhaps due to different ground paths between the pool grounding and the normal house ground (rod)? The current would not be flowing in a loop in every possible circumstance, so some circuits would likely cause different symptoms, like the three breakers that seem to affect the most.”
      I would assume your home was originally built with a few Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters. Putting in a pool and it’s associated equipment must have included a few more.
      An imbalance in the hot-to-neutral and ground currents could cause a GFI to start “complaining”, …right on the verge of tripping, but not quite. I had a neighbor leave town for a few days once, and his GFCI went weird. I could hear radio interference, and I could hear acoustical noise through the apartment wall between bathrooms. I had to call Maintenance to come fix it, while they were still on vacation.
      Maybe the bonding between the house ground and pool ground could be improved?
      Don’t let the pool company off the hook so easily. If there’s a problem with your installation, it will surely happen to another customer in the future. They need to realize that.

      Reply
    2. Paul Mitchell

      G’day, Steve,

      I have an RFI issue with our security system. I have used almost countless ferrites to eliminate noise generated by the UPS that supports the security system, plug packs and the like on the security system. In the end when I am on 10 metres or listening to 11 metres for ten-metre openings during the day or wish to chat to locals on 11 metres . I now turn the security system off. Though after 7 pm the neighbour’s security system kicks in and I am defeated again. Though no issues on the lower bands, thankfully

      Mitch..

      Reply
  3. Paul Mitchell

    Dear Troy,

    I have posted three times though obviously in the wrong area.

    Dear Troy,

    I read with interest about your unfortunate situation with RFI. I am an electrician in Australia was a radio technician in the Royal Australian Air Force and am an SWL and amateur radio operator. I do not wish to open old wounds and you may have put this situation to rest with all the pain and expense that it has caused you.

    Without calling an electrician. I am not about to place my finger on the fault and hopefully, I will after a few questions. I wish to build up in my mind a picture of your situation which you have washed your hands off. I too like astronomy though at 59 both my wife and I find it too cold and go to bed early these days except on a Friday and Saturday night which are Ham and SWL nights. Anyhow off-topic.

    If you wish to contact me off-list my email address is vk3tpm at bigpond dot net dot au

    Question 1: Could you please tell me if your electrical power circuit breakers are double poles. By this I mean when the circuit breaker is switched it disconnects both the active wire and the neutral wire at the same time. By this, I am trying to build a picture in mind of any earth (ground) neutral loops paths.

    I am not familiar with American or other country power systems and am trying to paint a picture in my mind of the situation. I think I gleaned from other posts that you made a twin active feed of two 110V AC out of phase with each other. This is fine if this is the case.

    I have posted a couple of other questions somewhere else and will try to remember.

    From the pictures you have taken. Can you please tell me what the black wire is?

    I notice that there is a bare Cooper conductor. Does this go to an earth stake or where please?

    I also see two steel conduits that are sticking up out of the ground in the photos that might be useful as earth stakes.

    I notice the use of plastic pvc conduit between the boxes. This maybe OK for the boxes that are individually earthed. Though I see one box all by it self with out an earth. In factories to prevent any noise radiating or infiltrating delicate control circuits we use pvc insulated flexible steel conduit. Though you would have to be careful of generating any earth loops.

    Do the earths go to one point (Star Point Earthing)?

    Back to the circuit breaker that powers these devices.

    You will require an electrician for this.

    Turn of the breaker (bare with me) I do not know if you have a two phase system of two feeds of 110V. In Australia we would have one feed of 240V AC.

    1. Back to the breaker. If it is a single phase breaker. Turn it off.

    Is the noise still present? From your posts I think it is.

    2. Have the electrician disconnect the neutral going to the pool equipment associated with this breaker.

    If it is a two phase system there will be no neutral.

    Is the noise still present?

    3. Have the electrician disconnect the earth going to the pool equipment associated with this breaker.

    Is the noise still present?

    It is safe to disconnect the earth as the power to the pool equipment is turned off by the breaker.

    Please let me know how you go.

    Kind regards,

    Mitch.

    Reply
  4. Paul Mitchell

    Dear Troy,

    I wish to ask what the black wires are in these photos. I enlarged the photos and it appears with all the good work in the metal cases to shield and RFI this is defeated with plastic PVC conduit connecting the two boxes. I also wonder where the bare copper earth wires are going as I see a steel conduit that appears embedded in the ground.

    Kind regards,

    Mitch.

    Reply
  5. Paul Mitchell

    G’day Troy,

    After a closer look a the picture with the two control boxes. I noticed that they are not only mounted on chipboard though are also on a plastic wall. My previous statement about earthing the steel panels does not stand. I am curious if the conduits used in the picture are PVC or steel with a plastic covering? For your installation, I would recommend a steel flexible conduit covered in PVC. This would mean that the steel conduits would have to be earthed. There are hexagonal locking nuts with a terminating earth screw attached which are available. Industrial electrical wholesalers will have these. Your electrician can obtain these.

    I would start with the ferrite ring on the incoming voltage supply at the load end where the two boxes in the photo are.

    Hopefully somebody can step in here. As I would also like to add a ferrite ring with the incoming mains looped through it as maximum possible of turns as possible. I do not know which ferrite ring to recommend.

    Warm regards,

    Mitch

    Reply
  6. Paul Mitchell

    Dear Troy,

    I read with interest about your unfortunate situation with RFI. I am an electrician in Australia was a radio technician in the Royal Australian Air Force and am an SWL and amateur radio operator. I do not wish to open old wounds and you may have put this situation to rest with all the pain and expense it has caused you.

    Without calling an electrician. I am not about to place my finger on the fault and hopefully, I will after a few questions. I wish to build up in my mind a picture of your situation which you have washed your hands off. I too like astronomy though at 59 both my wife and I find it too cold and go to bed early these days except on a Friday and Saturday night. Anyhow off-topic.

    If you wish to contact me off-list my email address is vk3tpm at bigpond dot net dot au

    Question 1: Could you please tell me if your electrical power circuit breakers are double poles. By this I mean when the circuit breaker is switched it disconnects both the active wire and the neutral wire at the same time. By this, I am trying to build a picture in mind of any earth (ground) neutral loops paths.

    Could you please tell me which country you are in also?

    Also, I noticed that the pool filter and other active components are mounted on chipboard and not on the actual steel panels of the shed. This is OK in itself. Though in Australia all the steel panels would have to be bonded together via an earth wire from one panel to the next panel and the earthed to the main earth going back to the switch box. Or an earth stake at the shed. The installers have bypassed this by using chipboard to mount the controls for the pool filter. As far as I can see.

    Kind regards,

    Mitch.

    Reply
  7. Mike

    The ground in your entire area in saturated with salt water from the Atlantic Ocean. Was your inground pool constructed with a huge cage of rebar? Maybe the power from your house and all the underground wires cause the pool rebar to start conducting electricity with the ground salts, which then causes the interference.

    Reply
  8. Steve

    Troy-

    I did not see a comments box at the end of your second posting, so I came back to your original post.

    I’m a ham radio operator as well as a SWL. Maybe I’m missing something, but there were no RFI issues until you had the pool installed (though it may still be in process). Once the pool was put in, you had those problems. I’m not sure what you mean by whole house generator – are you generating all your own power or using Dominion? I wasn’t quite clear about that as you said you asked them for help.

    I also live in VA, no generator, but we do have Dominion underground utilities. That does not stop power outages as the lines resurface at the end of our development and are connected to poles that are connected to a transformer farm near the 250/500 kiliovolt lines. We have lived in the same house since 1982 and have added tons of electronics and new appliances. RFI has become higher over the years, but is still tolerable. I did lead a revolt over an initiative to install sodium vapor street lights in our area as they are huge RFI emitters. From what you said, it’s unlikely that you have an issue like that as it sounds like you are still in a relatively uncrowded area. During the winter, when radio propagation is better, I used to have night noise levels about S2 or 3 on 3.5 MHz and above. Now, at night, it’s between 5 and 7 S units. But modern ham radios have a lot of filtering available. Usually, I can still communicate and listen to the SWL frequencies pretty clearly. Our neighbors are also heavy with electronics. One even has a lit hockey rink in his backyard. I have trees and antennas.

    Have you tried carrying a portable SWL radio around the outside of your house to see how far away you can get before the RFI goes away? How about a long wire antenna running from the side of the house that’s farthest from the pool? I don’t have pool and never will, but I have managed to operate ham radio from many different locations. The best way to at least mitigate the problem so that you can hear your SW is an antenna that has some gain.

    I really sympathize with your situation. I don’t understand why the only way to eliminate the RFI is to totally turn off the power. No matter what anyone else says, if you can turn off the pool power and the RFI is still there (which I’m pretty sure you said) I can’t grasp the idea that the pool is the problem. If turning off the main power box is the only way to stop the RFI, it may be time to replace the main breaker box with all new equipment. It’s a lot cheaper than moving, which is what I would have to do if I was suddenly totally unable to operate ham radio due to RFI. To me, it seems that you’ve eliminated everything else. If the box is on, you have RFI, whether or not the pool is connected. No matter how you look at it, it something the pool is connected to.

    Best of luck.

    Reply
  9. Andrew (grayhat)

    Troy, ask the electrician to check the house grounding system and the ground stake, also ask him to install an AC line filter on the AC cable powering the pool control unit

    Reply
      1. Paul Mitchell

        Dear Troy,

        I read with interest about your unfortunate situation with RFI. I am an electrician in Australia was a radio technician in the Royal Australian Air Force and am an SWL and amateur radio operator. I do not wish to open old wounds and you have put this situation to rest with all the pain and expense it has caused you.

        Without calling an electrical. I am not about to place my finger on the fault and hopefully, I will after a few questions. I wish to build up in my mind a picture of your situation which you have washed your hands off. I too like astronomy though at 59 both my wife and I find it too cold and go to bed early these days except on a Friday and Saturday night. Anyhow off-topic.

        If you wish to contact me off-list my email address is vk3 at bigpond dot net dot au

        Question 1: Could you please tell me if your electrical power circuit breakers are double poles. By this I mean when the circuit breaker is switched to disconnects both the active wire and the neutral wire at the same time. By this, I am trying to build a picture in mind of any earth (ground) neutral loops paths.

        Kind regards,

        Mitch.

        Reply
        1. Paul Mitchell

          There are a couple of typos.

          First para, third line should read you may have put this situation to rest.

          Second para, first line should “Electrician”.

          Kind regards,

          Mitch.

          Reply
          1. Paul Mitchell

            Sorry Troy,

            I am a dopy bugger. I must still be waking up.

            email address should read

            vk3tpm at bigpond dot net dot au

            Warm regards,

            Mitch.

  10. Neil

    Troy,
    I have great confidence that the issue is a poorly (or not at all) filtered switchmode power supply in the chlorinator. These are common in cheaply made electronic devices. Unfortunately, looking at your photos, the power supply is built in (the power cord seems to go in to it)… It will be “on” all the time to run timers, but if you pull the Circuit breaker and the noise stays then it is wired to the AC back to front.
    You MUST work on fixing this, because it IS in your power.. Imagine if your neighbour was a ham or SWL (or he was a foreign spy who had to listen to the numbers stations each day!) and you just gave up? – Now imagine if your neighbour was the one with the new pool, and did nothing about it…
    If the power supply in the chlorinator is not filtered then then it is cheap rubbish and your should get rid of it anyway…
    It doesn’t NEED to be a super “smart” device, nor “online” like the one they have sold you.. go for simple! Seriously all it does is apply a high voltage to the saltwater and creates Chlorine by electrolysis 🙂 The whole thing prob runs on 12 or 9 volts, and If it had a “wall wart” type of power supply, you could buy a properly filtered one for just a few dollars.
    As it stands, you will find that while that Chlorinator has power (the active line of you AC) connected, then you will be blasting cr*p over the RF for quite a distance!

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      Hi Neil,

      Though the radio noise/RFI is bad at the filter/pump, it seems worse on the other end of the power line – at the breaker box.

      Thanks for the input. I’ll share this with the Master Electrician I’m hiring.

      Reply
      1. Ken English

        First of all, if the problems started when power was first applied to the new pool system, the installers are wrong to say they have no obligation to help. The FCC would also disagree.
        Have you contacted the FCC for assistance?
        Also, I’d be curious what this interference looks like on an analyzer. You might get some assistance from the local ham radio club, or broadcast engineers. It would be very nice to see if the RFI is power-line related (like sparking “gap noise”), or is actual RF, such as a data signal.
        I see on Google Street View that there is a power transformer and a couple of telephone or cable TV boxes in your front yard. What is that big green box in the shrubbery, at the side property line in your rear yard? Looks like a Cable TV node, perhaps with an amplifier and power supply. Those would power the neighborhood CATV feeds, providing a 70-volt square-wave, and carrying downstream video and data, as well as return-path signals back to the CATV headend, through a nearby fiber optic node.
        Did the pool company have the yard staked by a one-call utility locator before digging? They might have nicked an underground line.
        Are any of your neighbors having interference?

        Reply
      2. Kevin W8KJ

        Troy
        Im an electrical contractor in the Cincinnati Area. Also an avid swl and ham.
        Do you by chance happen to have any landscape lighting around the home ?
        If so please try disconnecting the low voltage transformer or otherwise turn it off…If the lighting is low voltage. Im so sorry for your issues…
        73 Kevin

        Reply
    2. William

      Neil, “quite a distance”? How far exactly? My neighbor is in the process of getting a pool constructed in his back yard right now.

      Reply
  11. jonm

    I’d ask the Master Electrician to try to isolate the problem by completely disconnecting the power line running from the house breaker box to the pool. If RFI disappears, then try replacing the pool breakers at the house, checking all breaker connections, and reconnecting the original power cable. If the RFI returns after new breakers are installed, see if a temporary power cable can be run from the house breaker box to the pool equipment to see if there’s a fault in the original pool power cable running from the pool to the house. Good luck!

    Reply
  12. Tad Cook

    I saw this on the PSRG forum (Seattle based). Are you a customer of Seattle City Light? They have a team of engineers that will come out to your house and hunt down RFI from any source, and they are very good at this.

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      Tad,

      I’m in Virginia & have Dominion Power as my supplier. They aren’t concerned b/c they stated they checked their line off the pole and it was “fine”.

      Reply
  13. Jordan

    IANA electrician, but it seems to me that if turning off the main house breaker is the only thing that eliminates the RFI, the culprit is likely to be a component immediately downstream of that breaker — likely another breaker that is faulty or has been miswired.

    Hopefully your electrician will be able to isolate the breakers one by one to find which one is the problem.

    Reply
  14. Steve Kulewicz

    Thank you for a very well written & detailed explanation. A very interesting read. Could there be a swapped ground & neutral wire in the circuit? Either at the main breaker panel or at the pump location? Check the continuity of your ground bus at the pump.

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      Steve,

      Yes, definitely. As I’ve repeated in these comments I lean towards the breaker box being the issue … until an electrician proves me wrong. This hasn’t been a pleasant experience with the pool contractor (and it seems everyone in this region with various different contractors all say the same thing). I don’t have full confidence in their electrician thus I’m hiring a Master Electrician above and beyond what I’ve already paid for.

      Thanks for the input.

      Reply
  15. blues dude

    If the master electrician finds that the pool contractor did something wrong, make sure he gives you a written report along with his bill. Then you should demand that the contractor reimburse you for the electrician’s bill.

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      blues dude,

      Preaching to the choir, mate. Frankly, I’ll be lucky IF they complete this project in the Spring (I’ve hired a landscaper at great expense to come here in two weeks to “fix” their poor grading).

      But yes – I will definitely get a report and document any issues they did improperly.

      Reply
  16. Jon Huneault

    Troy:
    Don’t give up! These problems are complicated but not unsolvable.
    I’d like to suggest something a bit out of the ordinary. Years ago, I installed ethernet-over-powerline adapters for a home computer network. These are small boxes you plug into the wall sockets and have a RJ-45 plug for your ethernet cables going to your various computers. The companies that make home switches and routers also make these. Your ethernet signals ride on the AC wiring for your house. They work well for networking but are spectacular broadband noise generators and knocked me completely off the air. I removed them all and ran CAT-5 cable throughout the house instead, solving the problem.
    The idea is the network is confined to your house because the pole transformer’s high inductive reactance at the high frequencies involved in computer networking will isolate your network from the lines running down your street. However, where I live, up to four dwellings are connected to one pole transformer (on the low voltage three phase output side) so any noise generated by this networking scheme in a neighbour’s house will be superimposed on your house’s power. I suggest if you are on friendly terms with your neighbours, ask them if they installed any new networking gear those few weeks ago. The pool thing may just be a coincidence, and the fact that turning on your bedroom breakers activates the noise may be because you are loading the power phase which the interference is coming into the house from.

    Best of luck,
    Jon VE1FTL

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      Jon,

      I love your enthusiasm & confidence (that it’s solvable). I haven’t spoken to my neighbors b/c I thought/assumed the work here is causing this. But you’re correct, I really should.

      Thanks for the input.

      Reply
  17. Rob L

    Troy, You certainly have my sympathies because I have witnessed my next door neighbor’s trials & tribulations with his pool. It is simply a money pit. I think you are wise to have a good electrician inspect the installation, especially your circuit breakers. My neighbor’s pool installer wasn’t going to ground everything per code until I had the county inspector come out & require it. I didn’t want to get fried in wet grass on my side of the fence. Maybe your pool guy wired something wrong as well. Best of luck to you! 73

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      Rob L,

      Thanks for your sympathies. Believe me, this wasn’t my idea.

      The County Inspector did “pass” the electrical through an inspection, but I have only slightly more confidence in the County than I do with the pool contractor. Thanks for the input.

      Reply
  18. Bob

    I agree with one poster that suggested the MFJ1026. WIMO & DX Engr also make similar products. I bought my non working 1026 at a ham swap for $20. It had a burnt out 100uH chip in the 12VDC feed section . After I replaced that part, viola! It took a untenable situation & made it very tolerable. It removed 90% of the noise. Frankly I had no hope that the 1026 would work. The controls are very interactive & it takes a bit of patience, but it may work for you.
    Good luck. I feel your pain.
    -Bob

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      Bob,

      I haven’t discounted buying the 1026, but first I need to take a deeper dive on this before I try to cover or “cancel” it. And as I responded to another comment, I’m not convinced my noise is at a level where it can be canceled. If bad RFI is analogous to the Rocky Mountains, my RFI is Mount Everest.

      Thanks for the input.

      Reply
  19. Graynerd

    If the pool circuit breaker is a GFCI, I would have the electrician bring out a replacement. Disconnect the wires from the breaker and see if the problem disappears. If it doesn’t, remove the breaker and check again. If the noise is gone (hopefully), then try it with the new breaker.

    I would also have him tighten all the connections in the panel, especially the high amp circuits. They may loosen over time, or were never tightened properly to begin with. When the electrical inspector checked my wiring I did when I built my workshop, the first thing he did was pull out a big screwdriver, put it on the 60amp breaker and used both hands to tighten it more.

    Good luck and please let us know how it turns out.

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      Graynerd,

      Yes, I will definitely update. I’m not sure when I will get the Master Electrician out here – with next week being a Holiday Week, I told him to take care of others and work me in when whenever.

      Thanks for the input.

      Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      Thanks Robert,

      This is great info … very interesting and worth a much deeper dive (which I’ll share with the Master Electrician).

      I’m not 100% sure it’s the same problem as this person could “see” the RFI begin when the equipment was turned on. My EMI is present when the equipment is off & the two breakers to that equipment are off. But it is good information and I will digest that thread for many hours if not days.

      Thanks again.

      Reply
      1. Robert Richmond

        Missed that earlier. Thanks for the clarification. 🙂 I suspect you could have an improperly wired ground configuration, as the ground is there even if the breakers are shutoff. Even if it turns out to be properly wired, perhaps disconnect the equipment ground with the breakers turned off and see the issue resolves. If so, the ground system itself could be acting as an antenna and might need additional EMI/RFI choking.

        I have not have any notable RF noise issues with my pools over the years, but they were traditional chlorinated pools with single-speed pumps, mechanical timers, etc. AFAIK, modern equipment, and especially salt pool equipment, tend to be more troublesome for potential RFI issues.

        That said, I think you will get it resolved once a good electrician sorts out any wiring issues. 🙂

        Reply
        1. Troy Riedel Post author

          Robert,

          Yes … I liked your phrase – or rather one word – “good” electrician. An electrician *not* affiliated with the pool company should fall in that category.

          I’ll update this post with a new post once there is an outcome.

          Reply
  20. Bret Tschacher

    You mentioned a conductor ring around the pool imbedded in concrete. First off let me say that concrete is a very poor conductor of ground current so basically it is insulating the ring around the pool. If that ring is close to the surface under the slab or in it, it will not be shielded by earth. Since nothing was a problem before electrical connection, I would have to say this ring is acting like an antenna. Remember there is a phrase in radio communications that states the best amplifier is a good antenna! Once all the electrical connections were completed, IMOP, I’m thinking that each and every source of RFI is being picked up by this copper ring ground which seems to not be grounded anywhere but right at the breaker panel, which is how code specifies bonding to be done. A complete radio black out is going to be caused by RFI that is strong enough in about all the frequencies including harmonics. The RFI is being radiated with enough intensity that it will jam your reception. I don’t know if you can do this and get away from it but, since I haven’t read each and every one of the comments, I haven’t seen if the bonding system has been disconnected yet. Bonding at the panel is not going to blank out RFI and new GFCI and such all have electronics in them and are or should be certified for RFI emissions but that doesn’t mean they will affect reception, so lets leave them out for now. Now as for any controls that work with the pool equipment, there are likely embedded micro controllers which we are or should be aware of these systems contain components like MCU’s that operate at HF and if they are not shielded which many are not, as in a metal shield connected to the grounding circuit of the equipment. Look inside a TV or any other appliance with a remote control or tuning circuit and you will see these little boxes on the boards usually with holes for venting. I’m going to take a guess and say there is an MCU based circuit like an ATmega or a PIC, something that is loaded with a C++ code. These little embedded systems are finding there way into about everything with push buttons on the control panel and they will emit RFI in the range of say 4 to 400+ mHz, maybe even in the ~5gHz or less range depending on if there is a Blue Tooth or Wifi system so you can monitor stuff on your smartphone anywhere on the planet. Either way I going to lean toward the copper wire ring around your pool picking these emissions, from everything and sending it right to your break box and since that is a big metal box where those GFCI and whatever is installed in there and sending right into all the power leads in the house and now lets look at that dishwasher. I would bet there is a front LED display on it and LED or even OLED displays are making some of us Ham guys clench fists and do all kinds of stuff. I’m not an old Ham but I have been working with electronics for most of my life, I have been an electrician a long time too, working with autos, we all know these are electronic nightmares anymore, all my life, retired now because it too much! Ever since a New Caddy came out with LED displays on the radio and dash and all the stuff put into a Caddy since around 1976 or so, there were lines of code written into one of those cars than it would take to keep a 747 on autopilot! I think I got off topic somewhere about the pool bond/grounding so lets get back there. See if you can get an electrician to disconnect the bond lead from the breaker box and see if the jamming goes away, and if it does, see if you can have the bond/ground connected directly to an isolated grounding rod 8 ft. in the ground away from the breaker panel? I’m going to head to my grave with the Opinion that ring is an antenna just like a magnetic loop for a Ham radio! A BIG one outside your housing where all the magnetic waves are being collected and fed right into the main source of power in the house.

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      Bret,

      Thanks so very much for taking the time to reply in such detail. You made some great points & raised good questions.

      The [bonding] “ring” was constructed a couple of months ago (August – September). it was exposed for at least 6-weeks. I had zero radio issues, no EMI/RFI.

      The concrete deck was poured around 1 Oct (covering the bonding). The bonding (copper ring) was then connected (grounded) to the pump & filter control panel. Then the power line (from the pump/filter) was trenched about 40′ across the yard where the power line resurfaces to go through the garage wall to connect to the main breaker box. This happened over 2-days and I wasn’t using any radio during that 2-day time period. If I had, I would know EXACTLY when the interference was introduced. Was it when the bonding was grounded to the equipment control panel? Or when the control power was wired/connected to the home’s breaker box?

      I know the equipment does emit EMI, but this isn’t the [sole] cause as “something” is intensifying (amplifying) & transmitting the interference into the home’s power line.

      I would think if the bonding were the cause, I would have had RFI when it was exposed for 6-weeks. Maybe not? I’m not an expert.

      Also, *why* are only 3 of about two dozen breakers transmitting the [majority of] extreme EMI? If this is a cross-contamination of signals/interference, wouldn’t ALL of the circuits be equally impacted? This is why I keep going back to “it’s gotta be something in the breaker box”, right?

      I’ll share your thoughts with the Master Electrician. He encouraged me to post the issue because, as he told me, “I’m sure there are a lot of radio operator engineers out there who might think of something … have advice or experience with something that I haven’t thought of”.

      Thanks again, very much, for your time & thoughts.

      Reply
    2. JD

      FWIW, I tend to agree with a grounding issue.

      Would be telling to pull the breakers AND disconnect the ground. If I’ve followed the problem flow accurately, that combination has not been tried.

      And if things can’t be resolved within the existing scenario, I wonder if adding a separate meter and ground and isolating the entire pool electrics from the house supply/circuit.

      Looking forward to what turns out to be the culprit… 🙂

      Reply
  21. KPC

    Could a circuit breaker(s) be creating RFI ?

    Modern ones can contain electronics and maybe one witha fault, or otherwise, could be an issue in generating RFI ?

    By ‘circuit breaker’ I include GFCIs (RCDs elsewhere) , AFCIs etc

    Was anything else changed during electrical work – such as the electricity meter to a smart meter ???

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      KPC,

      No, nothing else was added, nothing changed, nothing had to be upgraded (same meter, same breaker box). I know cutting the main breaker off there is still “power” (through the neutral – I’m not an expert). I swear the problem is at/in the breaker box. I’ll have the electrician check (he said it’s very doubtful the installing electrician made a mistake there, but he said it’s not impossible).

      Thanks for the input.

      Reply
  22. Barry Shapiro

    Troy, I hope you find the source of the noise. Looking at the picture of the source for the pool light, it appears to be connected. Although I can’t “see” that wiring, I can guess that the pool light circuit is already connected to the AC. Pool lights are typically required to be low voltage lamp circuits, maybe like 12v DC. My point is that you could possibly have this low voltage source pumping out its prescribed voltage without being terminated to a load. Without the circuit being loaded, it might cause radiation (and RFI) of that circuit. Good luck sir.

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      Barry,

      Maybe the light is indeed wired? But it definitely isn’t installed (that’ll be part of the finishing touches in the Spring). The open conduit might be “for future use” – if something else were to be added?

      Thanks for the input and I’ll discuss this with the electrician.

      Reply
  23. Mark

    When I moved to new QTH I had to eliminate a lot of sources of noise, one really bad one was a satellite TV receiver power supply, luckily it was an external 12v so I just binned it and replaced it with a linear one. Next, I binned no name hardware store led bulbs for Philips and Osram and Binned some non Apple Chargers for proper Apple ones and I binned a Samsung Tab S5e Charger and just use the Apple one we have for an Ipad.

    So many things today cause so much interference and one of the latest things I had to get replaced was a Zappi Electric car charge point. The company wouldn’t believe it was their device causing the issue even though I had video evidence, when I turned off their device and on again you could clearly hear the noise come and go but they disputed this and said it must be my QTH, so then we tested another charge point on video with a meanwell PSU and it did not cause this issue and they still wouldn’t believe it, or rather denied it even though they knew about it which is very disturbing that they are not willing in any way to do the right thing and admit it’s their product and do something to ensure future products do not cause this issue.

    The issue with the Zappi charge point was that the noise was conductive which travelled along the mains withes and even back as far as the electric meter meaning it was going back on the grid!

    Unfortunately this situation is getting worse and won’t get better because no one cares about radio reception least of all AM or Shortwave. Very few people I know even know what shortwave is which is really sad. Today People are only interested in screens and not much else.

    I am very fortunate to live in the country and the greatest issue I have now is arching electric pole that I have been trying to get the power company to fix for over 4 years and simply won’t even bother call out. But at least I get good opportunity to hear some great DX with a really low noise floor.

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      Mark,

      It’s nice to have a “really low noise floor”. I had one until a month or so ago.

      I’ve had the occasional AC adapter/power supply that spit out EMI, but whatever is going on here is VERY extreme. This is why I don’t think it’s any “thing” – it’s something with the electrical line (how it’s installed, connected, grounded, [not] shielded, etc.). Hopefully a Master Electrician can mitigate.

      Thanks for the reply …

      Reply
  24. Abigail

    At least it’s your own junk, so you can do something about it. Many thousands of us are in similar situations but with recalcitrant neighbours who have installed cheap junk (e.g. PLT internet “plugs” or bad quality PSUs), caused hash across all MF and HF bands, and are never going to do jack about it.

    I listen via online SDRs now, including a private one at my parents’ rural house, but the thrill of receiving something from another continent on my own equipment, through my own antenna, on my own land, is gone presumably for good.

    Reply
  25. mangosman

    The wiring in your home has a fault and is potentially deadly.

    Electricians should have a tong ammeter which can measure current flow without disconnection to insert the meter. They also have an insulation resistance meter so you can measure if the wiring is connected to earth. This device will also measure the resistance to earth to measure how good the earth connection is. The actual connection to the ground should also be checked. It should be a piece of uncorroded pipe usually around a metre long.

    Motors can be a common cause of RFI either from the electronic motor speed controller or from arcing from within the motor due to the use of slip rings and carbon rod brushers. This depends on the type of motor. Regardless of the type, there should be high voltage capacitors used to short out the interference but not the mains power.
    In North America, the customer is fed with a single phase power from a centre tapped transformer. So you can get 115 V and the centre tap which is connected to ground. If you connect between the two ends of the transformer you get 230 V which is used by higher powered devices. I wonder if the active and ground have been swapped. You need to get an electrician to check because particularly with pools this reversal can be lethal!
    In the rest of the world the supply is 400V three phase /230 V across one phase. High powered devices are all 3 phase and have a capacitor from the motor terminal of each phase to ground.

    To detect the source I would tune your AM radio to the lowest frequency with no broadcasts, increase the volume and move around listening to the highest volume. The direction of the radio may also be useful. This radio direction finding is made less effective because the receiver contains an automatic gain control (AGC) circuit.

    If your electrician cannot solve it I would contact the supply company and if that fails the energy regulator who certifies electricians. This problem is solvable.

    Reply
    1. Peter L

      #NotAnExpert but wanted to highlight mangosman’s first sentence.

      The OP’s description was helpfully thorough. All I could think of was that when panel work was done that something changed. Note again my hashtag but also mangosman’s first sentence. Something is wrong here and it seems like the panel is the place for someone who *is* an expert to start their investigation.

      Reply
    2. Troy Riedel Post author

      mangosman,

      I appreciate your last words: “This problem is solvable”.

      I don’t trust the pool contractor (nobody should EVER have a pool installed but I digress) – but I’ve got a Master Electrician on standby who will come out next week.

      Re: using my portable radio as a “metal detector” or “range direction finder”
      I tried that. The interference/noise is so bad (imagine the worst possible static that sounds like the needle of a record player being VERY violently scratched across a record – constantly) … there is no increase or decrease anywhere in the house. The handheld EMI meter does go crazy as I near the main breaker box (another reason I feel the installer may have done something wrong and this is the source).

      Thank you for the input.

      Reply
  26. TomL

    Smart of you to NOT open the main breaker box, you could get electrocuted if you don’t know what you are doing.

    Electricity will want to flow through the least resistance always. Something at that breaker box is allowing current to flow even if the pool pump/filter is turned off. Perhaps install a separate breaker BOX (with its own ground) just for the pool which you can turn off?

    I don’t know much, so take it with a grain of salt. It seems like the “hot” or the “neutral” connection is connected wrongly, allowing current to flow right into the main house circuits, perhaps bypassing the pool circuit breaker, somehow.

    Ground (green wire) should never carry current (it just keeps “electrical balance” with all devices connected), so that could also be a problem that could be measured with a volt meter.

    Current MUST be flowing because current creates an electromagnetic field, which is picked up by a radio. If there is an improper ground or neutral connection, it seems like the offending circuits are acting like a broadcast antenna, making all of that wire in the house act like a transmitter. Voltage should only be flowing on the “hot” and “neutral” wires, any short-circuit to “ground” would have thrown a GFI interrupt by now, so it is something a little more convoluted.

    Just a few thoughts, I am not an expert.

    Reply
  27. Broadwing

    Troy, I really feel bad for you as I know your a big radio enthusiast/DXer. I sent in a reception report to your radio broadcast on Astronomy you did many years ago as a birthday present from your son I believe. You sent me a neat QSL Card. Got me started in another hobby. Thanks!

    Anyway, my only suggestion is to do what I ended up doing when RFI got to bad at my QTH. I put together a portable radio kit jumped in the car when I needed a fix and did a mini DXpedition up in the state game lands or a secluded park. Even-in the winter I could do it. Just needed to string the antenna up through the Sun roof. It’s not a solution but a thought if you need a fix. Actually I’ve picked up some neat stations doing this. I wish you luck I figuring out what to do.

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      Broadwing,

      Thanks for the kind words (and great memory … it was a Christmas gift and my broadcast was a few days before New Years).

      All of my radios minus one is actually in a “go kit”. I was going to do a follow-up to a guest post last month about “How do you store your radios”, but I’ve been dealing with this RFI issue.

      Thanks for the reply.

      Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      Paul,

      I’ve thought about this, but I feel the noise would have to be at a point where it could be “canceled”. My current situ is so extreme, I think I’m beyond noise canceling. Thanks for the input … I am open to trying this if I cannot find a solution.

      Reply
  28. Woody

    Troy,
    We used to have a hot tub on its own breaker far away from the house. When it was “off” (still circulating water) I had no RFI. But if it was “running” (someone was in there) I could not hear a thing. Never solved that puzzle.

    Reply
    1. Troy Riedel Post author

      Woody,

      I’m told these pool electronics are mini-computers … and create RFI. But I’m not totally convinced it is the new equipment as I feel “how” it was wired, grounded, connected is my issue. But what do I know? That’s why I will pay a Master Electrician separate from the contractor to come out. Thanks for your input.

      Reply

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