Voltage in new house a bit on the high side

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  #1  
Old 04-15-06, 12:04 AM
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Unhappy Voltage in new house a bit on the high side

We moved into a new house last month and right away started hooking up some Casablanca ceiling fans we had brought with from the last house. I'm usually very careful and break out the fluke to make sure I know which wire is what and happened to notice that the voltage was up a bit higher (123-125) then what I had been getting at the old house (119-121). Besides making a mental note I really didn't think anything of it, so proceeded to hang up the first fan...

Well, neither the fan or light will turn on, so I go to the second fan thinking maybe it was damaged during the move. Same thing with the next one and again with finally the third one. Neither the light nor fan will function on either three. For those who aren't familiar with Casablanca, the wall units send a signal through the electrical wire to control the fan and light.

I end up calling a few certified service centers, one of the techs mentions that I may be running in to a high voltage situation. This rings a bell and I start to remember the difference in voltage between this new house and what I was used to seeing in the old. He tells me to leave the units on for a few hours and try later; needless to say this ends up working, although I don't understand why. We usually leave the fans on 24/7 anyway, but this could end up being a tad inconvenient, if anyone ever turns them off we have to wait an undetermined amount of time after powering them back on before something actually starts turning or lighting up. Kind of sucks but I figure at this point we can just live with it.

The past few weeks we've been unboxing the rest of our stuff, including a bunch of computer equipment, most of which I have running off a handful of UPS'. A few of these are high end APC units that have various sensors and of course as soon as I start plugging them in they start complaining about high voltage and the AVR Trim lights all come on. So, sorry for the long narrative, but now I'm online asking the following questions.

1. What is causing this?
2. Is this a common thing?
3. Should I be concerned in any way?
4. Is there anything the utility company can do?
5. Is there anything I can do?

Another strange thing that just came to mind is while we were looking to buy the house, during one of the walkthroughs a light bulb actually exploded, none of us thought anything of it, but maybe that was a sign that there is an issue. If anyone can shed some light on these questions I would appreciate it. Thanks in advance.

J
 
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  #2  
Old 04-15-06, 12:58 AM
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> happened to notice that the voltage was up a bit higher (123-125)

Up to 126V is normal.

> I end up calling a few certified service centers, one of the techs
> mentions that I may be running in to a high voltage situation.

Was he specific?


> He tells me to leave the units on for a few hours and try later;
> needless to say this ends up working, although I don't understand why.

I don't either.


> A few of these are high end APC units that have various sensors
> and of course as soon as I start plugging them in they start complaining
> about high voltage and the AVR Trim lights all come on.

Interesting. Make sure you have your AVR Trim set to at least 131V.
If it is set to 126V, that could be a problem for it.


> sorry for the long narrative

No problem, everything is relevant.

What's wrong is what you omitted.


> Another strange thing that just came to mind is while we were looking
> to buy the house, during one of the walkthroughs a light bulb actually exploded,
> none of us thought anything of it, but maybe that was a sign
> that there is an issue.

Oh, man.

Okay, what's the voltage between neutral and ground?

Somehow, your reading of 125V might be way wrong.
It's actually more like 180V to explode a lightbulb.

I would say "loose neutral", but your readings don't support this.

However, you might have a loose/corroded/damaged/broken/disconnected neutral somewhere.

It could be the neutral for the whole house or just one circuit.
Further investigation is warranted.

Are you comfortable removing the cover from the main electric panel of the house?

Was the service recently upgraded?
Was the house recently built or re-sided?
 
  #3  
Old 04-15-06, 06:29 AM
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The utility company is required to give you a nominal phase to ground voltage of 120V plus or minus 10%.
Your voltage readings, if accurate, are within the federal guidelines of acceptable voltage.
As bolide mentions, for a bulb to explode without touching it, or faulty bulb, would require significantly higher voltage than 125V. Your service panel has two hots, so verify that you are seeing 120V from each hot to neutral, with varying loads on in the home. It will help diagnose if there is a loose neutral upstream of the branch breakers in the panelboard.
 
  #4  
Old 04-15-06, 07:16 AM
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As others have mentioned, you may have a problem related to a bad neutral connection, either on the power company side, or within your house. If you are using a digital voltmeter, it can give you mis-leading readings in a situation like this. I dont say incorrect readings: the meter becomes part of the circuit, and the voltage is what it is. But this reading can be misleading because the circuit is not what you assume it is.

An analog meter will help, but again, it takes a little bit of insight to interpret meter readings when troubleshooting an open neutral situation.

Open or loose neutral can cause serious problems, even more serious than you have already encountered. You should call the power company immediately. If their side checks out, you will need a good licensed electrician ( NOT a "certified service center")
 
  #5  
Old 04-19-06, 08:54 PM
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Good suggestions

Thanks guys, sorry for the late reply, I'll do my best to answer all of your questions.

The tech from the service center wasn't that specific, he just said that these fans were picky when it comes to the voltage being to high or too low and could cause the signal coming from the wall unit to not properly be interpreted by the fan. Regardless his suggestion of leaving the power on for a few hours works and at least I can use the fans and lights. Still Im clueless as to why

Im not sure the UPSs I have (Smart-UPS 1500) allow you to set the sensitivity of the AVR Trim, there is a sensitivity button on the back but when I press it nothing changes.

I cant explain the bulb exploding, but it was like a mini can light in a nook that takes a standard light bulb. This house was a model, so its been around for just over a year, but no ones lived in it. We replaced the bulb and its been ok since and no other bulbs have had any problems, although weve only been in the house for 4 weeks.

Voltage between neutral and ground is only like .02 volts, but maybe I'm doing it wrong.

Im not sure how the reading could be wrong, I have a digital fluke and tested quite a few of the receptacles, all are reading in the 123-126 range, plus one of the UPS is a trip lite which has a real time voltage readout right on it, and it constantly reads in the same range. My father and uncle, whos an electrician, put in the three boxes up in the ceiling of the second floor for the fans the day we moved in, he had an analog voltmeter and were coming up with the same numbers. He was unable to explain the fans not working, but was confident the conduit, wire and connections were all done correctly.

I have no problem removing the panels, I have two of them, a 200amp primary and a second 100amp sub-panel which runs most of the large appliances and the basement. I would just need some instruction on what youd like me to try.

The entire house is less then two years old and in a new subdivision.
 
  #6  
Old 04-19-06, 10:03 PM
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> Im not sure the UPSs I have (Smart-UPS 1500) allow you to set the sensitivity
> of the AVR Trim,

Might be in the help documentation or set up. Is it USB-connected?


> Voltage between neutral and ground is only like .02 volts

No problem.


> Im not sure how the reading could be wrong, I have a digital Fluke
> and tested quite a few of the receptacles, all are reading in the 123-126 range,
> plus one of the UPS is a trip lite which has a real time voltage readout right
> on it, and it constantly reads in the same range.

Okay.


> My father and uncle, whos an electrician, put in the three boxes up in the
> ceiling of the second floor for the fans the day we moved in, he had an
> analog voltmeter and were coming up with the same numbers.

Okay.
Do the fans work normally now?


Will your meter record peak voltage? If so, what is the peak voltage?

So if all the instruments say that your voltage is perfect, then the problem is the UPS that has its AVR trim set too low.

Because you haven't described an electrical problem from what I see.
 
  #7  
Old 04-20-06, 07:05 PM
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Things work somewhat

I've changed the high-transfer voltage from 127 to 130 and the avr trim light went away, according the the voltage graph in the UPS it's been floating around 127 with peaks around 128.

Well, the fans have always worked per say, however since they've been in the new house if they are turned off it takes a few hours after they are turned back on to actually make the fan or light come on. Do you consider that "working"?

I wouldn't say that my instruments are reading a perfect voltage, it may be within acceptable ranges, just a bit on the high side like my original post said. I wanted to make sure this wasn't a situation I needed to have resolved as soon as possible or if there was anything an electrician, the utility company or I could do about it. If the answer is no, then I guess this case is closed.
 
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Old 04-20-06, 08:46 PM
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> I've changed the high-transfer voltage from 127 to 130 and
> the avr trim light went away,
> according the the voltage graph in the UPS it's been floating
> around 127 with peaks around 128.

As long as its not over 131, I think you shouldn't complain.

I would expect steady to stay under 127V and transient to stay under 132V.


> the fans have always worked per se; however, since they've been in
> the new house, if they are turned off it takes a few hours after they are
> turned back on to actually make the fan or light come on.
> Do you consider that "working"?

No.


> I wouldn't say that my instruments are reading a perfect voltage,
> it may be within acceptable ranges,

It is acceptable.


> just a bit on the high side like my original post said.

It is at the upper end of the normal range outside of CA. In CA, that would be high.


> I wanted to make sure this wasn't a situation I needed to have resolved
> as soon as possible or if there was anything an electrician,
> the utility company or I could do about it.

There is nothing an electrician could do.

The poco can't really do anything either. You happen to be somewhere that there is little voltage drop this time of the year.

That's typical when people are neither heating nor cooling. See what you have on the hottest days this summer. It might drop quite a bit.

Depending on the substation serving you, that might be as close as they can regulate the voltage when demand is light.
 
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