AFCI problem solved

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Hello,

 

We just moved to a new QTH and I found we had AFCI, arc fault circuit interrupters, as is now required by the electrical code. I found on some bands I could trip almost all of them shutting down the house. After doing some research, I contacted Joe Fello at Eaton. He was very nice and very friendly. He asked me to take a picture of the electrical panel, the amperage of the breakers, and the code they flashed when reset. In my case, it was six flashes. He quickly shipped out replacement breakers by UPS. Because I am disabled, I had an electrician replace the old breakers with the new one sent. The new breakers solved almost all my problems. On two of the HF bands, 30 and 17 meters, I could trip one or two of the breakers. On those bands, I have a very high SWR. I am sure once I can get help to tune the vertical on those two bands they will also be okay.

 

I suggest you contact Joe. He told me they make many different brands of breakers, so it is worth a call to him. His phone number is 412-893-3745. It’s probably best to call, but his email address is josephpfello@eaton.com I was very pleasantly surprised by all his help.

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KC0EM

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Posted 3 years ago

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Jim Gilliam

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What type of vertical antenna are you using? My guess is you have a very poor radial system and too much RF is not radiated from the antenna. Many of today's vertical manufactuers that say you don't need radials are misguiding unsuspecting users.



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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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it's not an antenna issue.. there is a design fault with some AFCI breakers.
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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I had the same issue with AFCI breakers when we renovated the house a couple of years ago. It is NOT an issue caused by poor vertical grounds but rather it is a well known issue with AFCI breakers. QST had a warning as to which brands to avoid.

TNX for the contact.
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Dave - W6OVP

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Did you have to replace ALL the breakers with AFCI or just selected circuits? TNX.
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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Every AFCI breaker was replaced...
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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They are part of the most recent National Electric Code.  I recall that we needed to have them for ceiling lighting and a few other circuits.... we also needed GFI breakers as well...'

Suggest you search QST.. IIRC they had some warnings about them a couple of years ago...
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Jim Gilliam

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Dave - W6OVP

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TNX Howard. I did some homework and here are some links for others interested: 

"As of the 2014 version of the NEC, combination type AFCI circuit breakers are required on all branch circuits supplying outlets or devices installed in dwelling unit kitchens, family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, bedrooms, sunrooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways, laundry areas, or ..."

http://www.arrl.org/news/arrl-helps-manufacturer-to-resolve-arc-fault-circuit-interrupter-rfi-proble...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arc-fault_circuit_interrupter

Maybe someone else can address when these have to be installed --- new construction only, renovation, simple replacement of a single breaker at existing hamshacks, etc...
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Jim Gilliam

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One of the things that bothers me about the ARRL article is it didn't specify the test conditions that were set up to ascertain the RF vulnerability. Could it be possible that their conditions of an RF environment might be different than those of another operator? Perhaps the RF energy might be much higher at a different location and cause the breakers to fail.


Jim, K6QE

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Dave - W6OVP

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But it was sufficient to get the attention and cooperation of breaker mfgrs. Other conditions can be added later as the need develops.
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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We had to do it in 2013 on all renovated circuits.
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Jim Gilliam

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My point is that maybe it could be a concerted process. Perhaps one with a cleaner RF station would have less susceptibility than on who doesn't.


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k3Tim

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Agree with you Jim, keep the RF outside.  That cured most of my RFI problems.

The ACFI appear to be pretty bad news in RF.   There is a long thread over at eham.net under the RFI/EMI forum (328,000 reads!) 

Just wait until every LED light has a MAC and is addressable via the internet.   It's actually here. 
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Dave - W6OVP

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Here is the comments link at eham.net
  http://www.eham.net/ehamforum/smf/index.php/topic,96949.0.html

158 printed pages!
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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Jim

I disagree with you somewhat

I have an extremely clean station....if anything I have gone to almost insane limits to lock down every possible source and sink for RFI...

The ACFI design flaw were clearly the problem.. I could even trigger them with a 1W HT across the street...
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Jim Gilliam

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You are probably correct. My point is give it your best shot before you put blame on something else. My experience with most hams, especially the new comers, is they want to get on the air fast and do little to educate themselves on good RF practices. I can't blame them. I got my license at 11 years old and it's amazing to me at this time in my life how I could have made a QSO. Ignorance is bliss until it bites  you in the ass.


Jim , K6QE

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KC0EM

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Hi,

I started this thread so I thought I would add a few comments. First, someone asked what vertical I was using. It's a Gap Titan DX. I have always had good luck with their antennas.

Returning to the AFCI problems, everyone including the people who write the electrical codes are well aware of the problems they create. They feel the lifesaving potential of the circuit breakers outweighs their problems. I am not in 100% agreement with that idea. The idea is a good one, but requires either some filtering or filtering by software. I understand these breakers do have some sort of software in them. It must work to some degree since it's solved most of my problems. The fix would seem to be a simple one as arcs do not produce regular waveforms. It should be possible to tell the breakers to ignore any pure sinusoidal waveform. However, many years ago I worked in an electrical engineering research lab and I know there are no simple problems. One scary fact I learned from Joe at Eaton was it is possible to shut down breakers in other people's homes up to 500 feet away! Luckily, I live on the farm. I can imagine buying a house in a new development in a city or suburbs and putting up an antenna and shutting down the neighbor's electrical systems all around me. They would not be very happy with me. It's clear it will take more effort on the part of the engineering designers of what are called "miniature circuit breakers" to solve the problems associated with AFCI's.
(Edited)
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Jim Gilliam

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Sometimes I think the world of RF as hams know it is slowly dying. AM radio is passé, FM radio is passé, and more and more entities are migrating to the new technology of the Internet. Frequently people ask me why I would go to all the trouble to spend thousands of dollars on antennas and equipment when I could effect a QSO with a hundred dollar smartphone on many of the social networks.


Because of this migration, RF immunity becomes less and less important to manufacturers as well as the FCC. It is an unfortunate circumstance for hams but we are a dying breed also. Like it or not.


Jim, K6QE

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k3Tim

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Hi Jim,

No need no wonder as your words are true. 

A major difference between a QSO and the cellphones is we've setup the  station and understand the principle involved whereas cellphone users don't have a clue  Also, one should ask how the cellphone coverage will be during an emergency or getting in touch with family / friends in a different part of the world when they are hit with a disaster (Nepal comes to mind).  

 I have read recently some car mfgs are dumping the AM radio band from their line ups to 'save weight'. 

Other hobbies are going the same route.  Film photography (large format color film is down to few choice, albeit good ones are left) and Astronomy (finding truly dark skies - good luck)
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k3Tim

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To reduce EMI / RFI in the home, I wonder if a complete Engineered solution would be helpful:

  A/C power lines run in BX-Cable instead of Romex
  Metallic electrical junction boxes metal
  Plastic Wall / switch plates - conductive paint on the interior surface.
  Shielded power cords  
  Shielded Ethernet cables
 
   and in the ham shack
     complete Faraday cage with wire screen embedded in walls / ceiling / floor.

all this could be done w/o aesthetic  impact and not a big cost delta.

Tim
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Jim Gilliam

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Remoting from an isolated location is also a solution. But this is like a cat chasing it's tail. Seems stupid (to a normal individual) to remote a radio over the Internet when you could just talk to the person directly over the Internet.