Ghosts in the wires


Old 04-16-10, 10:42 PM
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Ghosts in the wires

Hi all,

I seem to have a very active deamon living in the electrical wiring of my business.
I took over ownership of a store 2 months ago. Since then I have had to replace computer power supplies, a UPS and, I even had one computer go up in smoke.
The former owner owned it from 2006 and the store was built in 2003. The former owner said he had replaced the power supplies in each of the 5 computers at least once. The fax went out. When I took over, all 18 spot lights were burned out. The former owner said he stoped replacing them because they burned out so fast. PAR 20's are rated at 2000 hours but, the ones in this store almost never last 500 hours.
I measured the voltage and it was 122 volts.

I'm thinking that there is a problem with a lot of voltage spikes in the area.

What would you start with.

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Old 04-16-10, 11:07 PM
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Originally Posted by chris150 View Post
I'm thinking that there is a problem with a lot of voltage spikes in the area.
Very likely, especially in the commercial or industrial districts. Sags or brownouts can also ruin the computers.

What would you start with.
Identifying the type of service and type of building, checking the service neutral(s) for good connection, then perhaps move to a data-logging meter to see if you can capture power quality issues. If you have a three-phase service you'll need to measure multiple voltages to get an accurate picture.

Can you pin down the trouble to specific circuits or areas of the building or is the whole place? If it's localized, perhaps look for an installation error like a neutral shared with the wrong circuits; or a design problem like HVAC or refrigeration on the same panels as sensitive electronics.
Old 04-17-10, 02:34 AM
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When I was a Nortel PBX tech., we used to ALWAYS base every measurement on a ground/neutral wire connected directly to the xformer, straight line/wire with no taps or splices. In this case, I don't have such a wire that I know of yet.

The problem is all over the store, not based on one area/phase.

I'm thinking that a data-logger is my best bet. However, I have yet to check the quality of the ground.

The area is the south east area of the Phoenix, Arizona area. I've been told that this area is known for bad grounding.

What is a good data-logger?
Old 04-17-10, 05:00 AM
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The demon chaser you may need is a stripchart recorder from your power co. measuring your service over an extended period. This will establish any surges happening, when and how much.
Old 04-17-10, 05:53 AM
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Grounding should not be your issue. Grounding conductors should only carry voltage during a fault.

Contact your power company and ask them to monitor your power quality. Is this a stand-alone building or is it shared with another business? Do they have the same issues?
Old 04-17-10, 07:26 PM
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Yes, I would also suggest contacting your power company. They usually have a department who only works on power quality issues and will set up a recording meter to analyze the problem. I would also suggest buying 130 volt rated PAR 20 lamps for premature burnouts. Also, consider investing in a good surge protection device installed at your main service panel. I like and have had good results with those from Intermatic and Leviton.

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