I’d like to thank the SWLing Post Nation for their input re: my EMI/RFI issue (see: this previous post). It’s been a long 4-months and I’d like to share the results and outcome of my situation.
I will pick up where the last post ended and if anyone needs a review of the situation you can re-read the link to the original post in the previous paragraph.
At my expense, I hired an independent Master Electrician outside of the pool contractor. He and I reviewed everyone’s suggestions (I hope I’ve remembered to capture them all below but if not, rest assured it was fully explored and investigated). I have copied reader comments exactly as they left them back in October:
Remember, I’m not an electrician so I have to rely on the competence of the one I hired. I’ve tried to recount his findings as closely as possible but – this is my memory and not direct quotes from the electrician.
- Check to see the breakers are arc fault type. If they are, go to step 2.
- Either plug in a non-arc fault breaker and reconnect the wiring to the circuit, or temporarily use another non-arc fault breaker in the panel to feed the bedroom/family room circuit. If the interference goes away, then you know the arc fault breaker present that was disconnected is a problem.
- If the arc fault breaker is the problem, try contacting the manufacturer. There may have been hardware updates to address this issue. You could also switch to another breaker brand, but with electrical panels this is generally not a code compliant answer. The same manufacturer of the panel/breaker are what is needed to keep building code inspectors content, but ask your electrician what local codes are.
Outcome: I have a whole house generator. The breaker box that I have is the latest generation. All breakers were checked and there were no faults or malfunctions with anything that I have.
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
Outcome: The house grounding system was checked (more on the AC cable later).
I have great confidence that the issue is a poorly (or not at all) filtered switchmode power supply in the chlorinator … 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!
Outcome: The filter & chlorinator were checked – fully disconnected – and verified that nothing in the sytsem … incl. the power supply … is the culprit.
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.
Outcome: all power was disconnected – the RFI remained.
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 mis wired.
Outcome: as stated earlier, I have the latest generation of breaker box because of the whole house generator. With a whole house generator, the Master Electrician stated the hot & neutrals must be separated. He removed the front cover and checked everything (the generator has been here since 11/2012). He even checked the load on each breaker and everything was virtually uniform and well within standards.
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.
Outcome: this has been covered – hots, neutrals and grounds were checked – all separated – and nothing cross-wired where it shouldn’t be. My independent electrician double-checked the work done by the pool contractor electrician.
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.
Outcome: most of this has been covered in previous outcome summaries. He did check ALL of the connections in the breaker box. Approximately 2-3 screws may have had minimal turning, but everything was – and is – torqued VERY tight.
Robert Richmond (follow-up via original post Comments section: “doubtful bc the RFI was at the pump/filter”) https://forums.qrz.com/index.php?threads/rfi-from-pool-controller.719524/
His RFI originated from the cabling, and he ended up using multiple ferrites, an AC power filter, conduit, and improved grounding.
Outcome: this has pretty much been covered in previous outcome summaries – even with zero power to/from the pool equipment, ground checked, disconnected – et al, this wasn’t the source.
- … bonding system has been disconnected yet …
- 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 … 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?
Outcome: pool bond lead disconnected – checked – this isn’t the source.
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.
Outcome: I think I’ve covered this. Since this isn’t the source, there was no need to add equipment nor isolate the ground.
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.
Outcome: I’ve covered this in previous outcome summaries – absolutely nothing tested to be malfunctioning.
Barry Shapiro (I previously commented to his comments last October: light isn’t installed, but I assume it’s wired)
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.
Outcome: checked – this isn’t the source.
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.
Outcome: good suggestion. Even though my house isn’t that old (built in 2004), things can malfunction & breakdown. This was indeed tested and all checked-out fine and this wasn’t the source.
mangosman (continued): 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.
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.
Outcome: I think I’ve pretty much covered this … loads, resistance, et al, were checked. Since there was no detected problem – this could not be the source – I was advised that installation of a separate breaker box was unnecessary.
As you might tell my now, my Master Electrician could not mitigate the issue nor even find the cause [or potential cause] of the issue. At this point, I had over a hundred hours into this plus the expense of the pool installation AND the expense of hiring my own, independent Master Electrcian.
This leads to one last comment from the original post:
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.
Outcome: No, I’m not a Seattle City Light customer. But when all else failed, my wife contacted Dominion Energy (formerly Virginia Power).
I live in a neighborhood of underground power lines. But I live just inside the entrance to the development. The only power lines near me are the old poles and lines that run parallel to the secondary road that supplies power to the houses that are original to the area and along the road. Last July I had my wife contact Dominion because the pole nearest my house had a loud “buzzing/arcing noise” emanating from the top of the pole. Dominion Energy came out and whatever they did, the disconcerting sound ceased.
So my wife contacted Dominion again. They opened a ticket, but after 3-4 weeks of not hearing back we discovered upon following-up the ticket was closed.
The case was reopened and reassigned to an investigator. He came out to our street, used his handheld meter – and bingo! – he found excess EMI from the power pole! He submitted a work order to have the line filter replaced (as well as some … “resistors”?? or whatever – I can’t recall exactly what he said).
Dominion Energy came out a few days later (now over a month after the original ticket was submitted in mid-December).
Outcome: Dominion “did their thing” – and unfortunately there was no “bingo” as I had hoped – this didn’t end my RFI!
My wife texted the investigator (it was great to now have a direct contact and his work cellular number). He came back out on Monday, 24 January, with another line crew ready to go up on the pole and mitigate whatever was necessary.
Outcome: alas, he tested the pole – the filter & other equipment that had been replaced eliminated the EMI – and he verified the source is not from the power utility (Dominion is “clear”). He said even drove the neighborhood 1 – 1.5 miles out from my house to determine if there was a foreign source (outside of Dominion & my house) that he c ould detect – but he found nothing.
So, after 4-months there is no resolution and frankly there will never be a resolution for me. My outcome: I’m about to have an eBay sell-off of my $3500 of gear … antennas, portables incl. my prized SONY SW7600GR, AN-LP1 – even my compete collection of Passport books from the very 1st to the very last.
I’ll keep my YB-400 for nostalgia (a pre-order portable that got me back into SWLing in late-1994 after a hiatus) and my Tecsun PL-368 (it’s the perfect travel-size), but otherwise it’ll be a complete liquidation with a donation or two along the way.
There was one temporary bright side to my situ: over the last 4-months, I’ve reconnected to being an amateur astronomer. There was no “it’s too cold” … there was no excuse to be lazy and grab a shortwave radio instead of setting up my astro gear. Key word: “temporary”.
Within the last two weeks, our local Planning Commission announced approval a truck stop, a 650-unit apartment complex, and hundreds of new homes (expansion of a current development plus an entire new development) a mere 1.5-miles from my house. My semi-rural area will no longer be semi-rural and I’m 2-3 years away from terrible light pollution (don’t get me started on light pollution – I think very few people actually realize the extent of light pollution).
Why is this happening? Unfortunately, the heirs of a farmer with a very, very, very large tract of land has sold out to developers and another developer purchased land for a truck stop & restaurant. I can only imagine what else will be developed now that the domino has started to roll.
I can’t help but think of one of my favorite songs … with the lyrics:
Subdivision’s creeping on in
Neighborhood kids keep jumping his fence
He could double his money
But that’d be the end of a promise he’ll never break
Cause he looked his daddy in the eye
And he’s got that stubborn pride
He’ll be here ’til the day he dies
No, he wouldn’t have it any other way
Here’s to the farmer that plants the fields in the spring
That turn from green to that harvest honey …
Amen. Here’s a cold one to you, Luke Bryan. “Here’s to the farmer”!
Yeah, sure, I could grab a radio and drive somewhere. But that’s not really in my DNA: too cold in the winter, too humid & buggy in the summer.
One solution I might explore is to try to find a piece of someone’s property to lease – stick a shed on it – and use it to provide shelter for astronomy … and just maybe an hour here or there on the shortwaves? It may come to this if I intend to keep any of my hobbies (my radio collection may be $3500, but my astronomy equipment collection is likely 10x that).
Thanks again to my friend Thomas and to the entire SWLing Post Nation. I’ve had fun reading & learning everything and I feel lucky to have contributed a very tiny bit as an occasional guest poster.
In closing: Au Revoir. Thomas and I will remain friends, but I have my doubts my name will ever show up on this Blog after today. If I ever move and have the good fortune to have a low EMR/RFI environment, I could be back? Never say never. But it surely isn’t going to happen any time soon. And it’ll be limited to a YB-400 and a PL-368.