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Old 01-31-2009, 09:19 AM   #1
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HELP - with my breaker box. Interesting issue.


Hey all, this is my first post here on this forum, so greetings.

I have an odd issue.

I use a Denon Amplifier in my home theater setup, and I have noticed that when power hungry devices in my home start (Like the furnace (which is the biggest problem) and the AC, and previously the washer and dryer), the audio hiccups.

There is not distortion, the audio just simply goes away for a fraction of a second, and then immediately comes back. Sometimes we are talking maybe 1/10th of a second.

However, this is extremely annoying when watching a loud action packed scene during a movie, and going from 100db to ZERO and then right back to 100..

Now, to address this issue, I simply replaced every breaker in my box (20 year old house, some original breakers, it was time anyway). (Also note that the Home Theater system is on a DEDICATED 15amp breaker).

This actually FIXED the Washer/Dryer from causing issues with the Amp!

It also made the furnace issue BETTER, but it still hiccups every now and then when the furnace comes on.

Since replacing the breakers made the issue better, I am convinced that this is an electrical problem. However, I just don't know what the heck to do now!

The amp is on an APC 1500 server level Battery Backup with AVR, and also a Monster Power Filter 1100. I tried each device independently, and also plugging the amp directly into the wall to see if one of these devices was causing issues, but the amp did the same thing regardless of where it was plugged in, so I do not believe those two items are causing problems.

ALSO - In the breaker box, on the screw strips where the white/ground wires go (sorry I dont know the proper terms!), someone said that all the grounds should go in one of them, and all the whites in the other (e.g. all grounds on the left strip, all whites on the right strip). I have ALSO heard that it doesn't matter. I would love to know which is right.

One FINAL idea - In Car audio, people buy large capacitors to help with power dips from the battery/alternator. Is there a Home Audio version of this? Where I could plug the cap into the power bar, then the amp into the cap, so when power dips in the home from the furnace/ac, the cap just makes up for the fraction of a second drain? I tried google searching this and it was a pain (all car audio stuff).

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Old 01-31-2009, 09:43 AM   #2
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HELP - with my breaker box. Interesting issue.


You might try tightening the lugs on the service conductors coming into the box. Or better yet, have an electrician tighten them since this could be super dangerous to someone not familiar with the live panel.

Tighten all the neutrals too. The grounds and neutrals can be on the same bar if this panel is your main service equipment. But overall, your equipment just sounds as if it is sensitive to small voltage fluctuations. The capacitor you talk about adding would only work on the DC side of the power supply in your electronics. In other words, to use the capacitor, you would have to take your audio equipment apart and wire the capacitor to the power supply, not to the AC line.

You may also try a bigger UPS, perhaps the AVR isn't fast enough to catch the dip. Or, use two UPSes in series.

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Old 01-31-2009, 09:46 AM   #3
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HELP - with my breaker box. Interesting issue.


Good morning; welcome to the forum! I am sure you will get lots of good advice here.
I would like to offer my thoughts and suggestions on this issue:

First, I would think that if the audio equipment is connected to a UPS, this issue would never occur, since the UPS would kick in immediately when the AC drops out. Perhaps your UPS does not have sufficient VA rating for the equipment, or maybe the battery needs replacement.

Now to the real issue:
You replaced your breakers. What is your panel brand?
Have you checked all of the neutral wires on the neutral bus? a loose wire can cause a problem.

Since you said this problem occurrs when heavy equipment starts in other parts of the house, it could be possible that you have a loose connection on your Service Entrance conductors, either in your panel, or somewhere outside.
WARNING! DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FIX A PROBLEM WITH THE SE CONDUCTORS YOURSELF! DO NOT WORK ON A LIVE PANEL!!
SE CONDUCTORS ARE UNFUSED AND CAN CAUSE ARC-FLASH (an extremely dangerous, and destructive condition) IF A SHORT OCCURS.

When you changed out your breakers, did you notice any corrosion on the buses?

If all of your breakers and branch circuit wiring is tightly connected, I would call your power company and have them check the connections outside. They are responsible for everything up to the point where the service drop (wires from the pole) connect to your service entrance conductors (the wires going into your house).

If you get POCO to temporarily disconnect your line then you can safely check the SE conductors at the main breaker in your panel, or better yet, have an electrician come by on the same day the POCO comes.

As for a capacitor to absorb voltage dropouts, as is done in automobile installations; I am afraid not. Capacitors on AC circuits will not store the energy as they do on DC circuits. AC caps are only used for filtering.
Your UPS should correct the problem. I am really surprised that you are even having the problem with the UPS. You should run its self-test to make sure it is functioning properly.

Finally, as for the ground and neutral buses; In your MAIN panel, it doesn't make any difference which bus your grounds and neutrals are connected to. They are bonded together in the MAIN panel. That is not the case however, for Sub-Panels. In a Sub-Panel, the ground bus is bonded to the panel, and to the ground conductor, and the neutral bus is isolated from the panel and the ground conductor, and only connected to the Neutral conductor from the Main panel.

Hope this helps.

FW
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Old 01-31-2009, 09:47 AM   #4
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HELP - with my breaker box. Interesting issue.


Quote:
Originally Posted by InPhase277 View Post
You might try tightening the lugs on the service conductors coming into the box. Or better yet, have an electrician tighten them since this could be super dangerous to someone not familiar with the live panel.

Tighten all the neutrals too. The grounds and neutrals can be on the same bar if this panel is your main service equipment. But overall, your equipment just sounds as if it is sensitive to small voltage fluctuations. The capacitor you talk about adding would only work on the DC side of the power supply in your electronics. In other words, to use the capacitor, you would have to take your audio equipment apart and wire the capacitor to the power supply, not to the AC line.

You may also try a bigger UPS, perhaps the AVR isn't fast enough to catch the dip. Or, use two UPSes in series.
In-Phase; Looks like we both posted the same info at the same time<g> At least we agree on this issue!

FW
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Old 01-31-2009, 09:52 AM   #5
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HELP - with my breaker box. Interesting issue.


One more note: If I were going to be touching the SE conductors in the panel while POCO has the meter pulled, I would want a lock-out which I have the key for, just in case the POCO guy doesn't understand that I am inside working on the potentially live conductors.
Maybe take the meter inside with you while you are working on the panel. Then you are guaranteed (unless POCO guy has a second meter) that your power will not suddenly come back on while you are working.

Perhaps the POCO guy would even make a "house call" and come into your house to check the SE conductors himself?? Not likely I guess<g>

If a lock-out is not possible, I would then use an insulated tool on the lugs.
Never trust another person, especially if you cannot see him while you are doing the work!!

FW
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Old 01-31-2009, 02:03 PM   #6
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HELP - with my breaker box. Interesting issue.


The UPS works and I replaced the batteries on it myself.

I have tested it multiple times (while everything is running at full blast, just pulled out the plug). It kicks on right away and there is actually no glitch on my amp at that point. odd... Perhaps the battery is not designed to kick on until voltage drops to a certain point?

Also, when I replaced all the breakers, there WAS some brown stuff on the metal, and I used emory cloth to sand it all away. So the breakers are on smooth and shiny metal.

All breakers are tightened, and all grounds/whites are tightened in their place.
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Old 01-31-2009, 02:25 PM   #7
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HELP - with my breaker box. Interesting issue.


Can you follow the bare copper ground? It probably goes to where your cold water is fed into the house. See how the connection looks. If its loose and or green, clean it up and the copper pipe and maybe put on a new pipe clamp connector.
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Old 01-31-2009, 03:41 PM   #8
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HELP - with my breaker box. Interesting issue.


Quote:
Originally Posted by II Weeks View Post
Can you follow the bare copper ground? It probably goes to where your cold water is fed into the house. See how the connection looks. If its loose and or green, clean it up and the copper pipe and maybe put on a new pipe clamp connector.
What would this accomplish?
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Old 01-31-2009, 06:13 PM   #9
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HELP - with my breaker box. Interesting issue.


Have you had a chance to measure the voltage being fed to your amp?

Some UPS's pass unmodified (or high frequency contamination filtered) AC complete with voltage fluctuations directly to their load, and the battery and inverter circuits are switched in only when AC power is lost or goes too low. Some UPS's actually have the battery powering the inverter circuits and therefore the load at all times with rectified power from the line AC charging the battery at the same time.

Some amps have a relay that connects the speakers only after the internal DC power supply (capacitors, etc) has charged up after turn-on. Such a relay might be disconnecting the speakers at random times if power supply voltage dropped for a moment. The purpose of this relay is to suppress hum or thumps that may be heard as the power supply charges up.
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Last edited by AllanJ; 01-31-2009 at 06:27 PM.
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Old 01-31-2009, 06:29 PM   #10
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HELP - with my breaker box. Interesting issue.


I wonder if your theater system is more sensitive than your UPS.

I know some UPS don't handle minor fluctuations in voltage. Had this type of problem in Panama, where the typical voltage could fluctuate from about 105 to 135 during the day. Ended up with a Belkin UPS that cleaned up everything.
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Old 01-31-2009, 07:03 PM   #11
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HELP - with my breaker box. Interesting issue.


AllanJ:

So what you are saying in a nutshell is that the UPS could be allowing unfiltered power through because it has not dipped to that magical point where the battery kicks in?

I have a Monster Powerbar 1100 power filter unit between the UPS and the equipment. But I do not think this modifies the voltage in any way.

So, what are my options?
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Old 01-31-2009, 07:12 PM   #12
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HELP - with my breaker box. Interesting issue.


Quote:
Originally Posted by II Weeks View Post
Can you follow the bare copper ground? It probably goes to where your cold water is fed into the house. See how the connection looks. If its loose and or green, clean it up and the copper pipe and maybe put on a new pipe clamp connector.
Careful there! If you remove the ground from the water pipe to replace the clamp, make sure your MAIn is SHUT OFF first. Just in case you've got current flowing through that ground, you can be ELECTROCUTED if you put yourself in its path, even though this is a ground conductor!!

FW
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Old 01-31-2009, 07:18 PM   #13
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HELP - with my breaker box. Interesting issue.


Your UPS threshold may be set too low. If you can connect the UPS to your computer (via the USB cable) and install its software, you can change the threshold for switching to battery. Once this is done, you can disconnect it from the computer. The settings are stored in non-volatile memory in the UPS.

As for unfiltered power, I think the meaning was that voltage swings are passed through the UPS until the battery takes over. Noise, EMI, etc will NOT be passed through, as it is filtered either by the UPS, or your additional filters.

The type of UPS that delivers a re-generated sine-wave all time time, and uses line voltage only to recharge batteries is the best one to have for sensitive equipment, but they are very expensive.

FW
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Old 01-31-2009, 08:03 PM   #14
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HELP - with my breaker box. Interesting issue.


I am using an APC 1500 Battery Back-up unit.

These are server level professional UPS's.

These are the ones that DO provide the sine wave power, as opposed to the 'fake' cheaper ones.

These units used to retail at $1000+ if not $1400.

Found a quick unofficial link @ http://www.buyupsonline.com/products...0-rackmount-2u

Do I still need to set the threshold level on this? If I do, then what level should I try?
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Old 02-01-2009, 09:03 AM   #15
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HELP - with my breaker box. Interesting issue.


Well, it appears that the lower threshold tops out at 106 volts. I can not set it any higher than that. So it has already been set this way the whole time.

So now I am back to making the voltage droop in the house less.

The problem got a lot better when I re-did the breakers, so they were obviously part of the issue.

What other steps can be taken to reduce overall voltage droop?

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