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Author Topic: Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI's)  (Read 741822 times)
W4TL
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Posts: 130




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« on: May 20, 2014, 07:57:49 AM »

I am just wondering if others are experiencing problems with the new Eaton AFCI's? I recently moved into a new home in a 55 and older Del Webb Community (which incidentally restricts antennas) and began to assemble a modest station (100 watts with a small vertical antenna). Well I got everything in place and began to check out the antenna, etc. and my wife advised me that some of the electrical circuits in the house went off. Well i went to the breaker box to reset the breakers and try again with power reduced to about 20 watts. They still tripped. At this point I realized I had EATON AFCI's, so I did a Google search and discovered that there is a problem with their AFCI's and the ARRL Lab had assisted them in determining that they indeed had a problem. They developed a new breaker with "HAM" included in the product code that was supposed to be immune from RF at the W1AW station running 1 to 1.5KW on all bands. Eaton supplied me with the new AFCI's, 18 of them and once they were installed I thought things were going to be OK. Well, I was surprised to find out that they are still tripping. I have tried several different antenna types a stealth vertical located about 20 feet from the house and a Buddipole located about the same distance, both of these antennas have the same results. About half of the breakers trip no matter what power level 10 watts or 100 watts. I am looking for solutions and or suggestions as to how to approach this problem. I really hate to give up my hobby of 50 years because of the AFCI tripping.

Any suggestions or help would be immensely appreciated.

73

Terry Jones, W4TL
« Last Edit: May 20, 2014, 07:59:50 AM by W4TL » Logged
WB4SPT
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Posts: 483




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« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2014, 11:00:21 AM »

Hi Terry;   do you own this home?  If you do, I would try snap on ferrite on the hot and neutral to the breakers, trying one of the most sensitive ones first.  I have had experience only with GE and Square D AFCI, and short of close lighning strikes, they seem to be pretty solid. 

As one who has done inspected service entrance installs, seeing ferrite inside a load center is certainly unusual, but I don't recall any particular rule against it.
You might also do a quick check using a dummy load first, to insure you have a radiated issue, which seems more likely than RF conducted out the AC of your rig.  Is this a 12V powered radio with a separate power supply?
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W4TL
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Posts: 130




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« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2014, 01:21:56 PM »

I do own this home. I had given a thought to snap on ferite beads but haven't gotten around to trying one of those (quite expensive for 18 AFCI's). I did try a dummy load and no problem, so the problem is definitely RF radiation coupling to the house wiring. The radio(s) in question are 12V powered be a separate power supply. I think the EATON (Cutler-Hammer) AFCI's are the problem. I wish I could try a GE or Square D AFCI and see if that would help but can't do that.  Here is a link to the tests and results that were done at the ARRL Lab http://www.arrl.org/news/arrl-helps-manufacturer-to-resolve-arc-fault-circuit-interrupter-rfi-problems. My AFCI's are the newest ones on the market that are supposedly immune to RF but are not.
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WB4SPT
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« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2014, 01:58:12 PM »

The NEC started to mandate the use of AFCI early in the 2000's, starting with just bedrooms.  In later years, they increased the scope to all "living areas".  So at this point, most 120V general use circuits will be protected by either a GFCI or an AFCI.  It should be noted that it is not illegal for you, the homeowner, to replace the AFCI's with standard 15 or 20A breakers. 
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W4TL
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Posts: 130




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« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2014, 05:05:53 PM »

I realize I can do just that. My worry with that would be if I should have an electrical fire that during the course of investigating the cause of the fire they realized that I was in violation of code because I did not have AFCI'S that the insurance company would deny payment for that reason.  This is a solution that I don't want to take.  There has to be other practical solutions available.
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KH6AQ
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« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2014, 05:52:20 PM »

Replacing the devices is a solution.
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W4TL
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Posts: 130




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« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2014, 07:37:51 AM »

What do you suggest replacing them with. Eaton has already replaced all of the AFCI's with their new ones that the ARRL lab says are immune to RF and they are still tripping. Smiley
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AA4PB
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« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2014, 10:11:04 AM »

Do you have a good radial system on the vertical? If not, you may have common mode RF feeding back into the house via the coax shield.
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Bob  AA4PB
Garrisonville, VA
KI6LZ
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Posts: 739




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« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2014, 10:20:52 AM »

I suspect a faulty antenna installation which includes coax isolation along with improper grounding. Easiest is to relocate Buddipole with some ferrites and baluns to see if you can mitigate the situation. Also try rearranging the grounds in your station. 100 watts is too low power to be having the problem with the breakers.
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AA4PB
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« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2014, 11:31:32 AM »

10W is way too low a power to be tripping breakers. How is your coax routed into the house? Not laying next to a bunch of wires running to the panel box, I hope. One test might be to place the radio outside next to the antenna and connected with a short piece of coax. If the breakers still trip then you know it is RF directly radiated from the antenna. If not then you know it is RF following the coax into the house. If its the coax then try an "ugly balun" in the coax line before it enters the house.

How is your power getting into the house? Underground? Is your antenna or coax directly over the underground power feed?

A more complete description of your antenna and feed line installation may be helpful to get some more ideas.
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Bob  AA4PB
Garrisonville, VA
W4TL
Member

Posts: 130




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« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2014, 02:29:00 PM »

I'm going to, in the next few days to do a little additional grounding on the vertical and station ground. The power coming into the house is underground but is no where close to the coax coming into the shack. I am also going to try a ferrite choke on the Buddipole and try both of these with the radio and feedline both outside of the house and see if that helps any.

These AFCI's are so sensitive that we have a cordless phone in the basement and one of them have actually tripped when my wife answered the phone. Smiley
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KI6LZ
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« Reply #11 on: May 21, 2014, 03:01:08 PM »

If the AFCIs are really tripping by cordless phone which is in the 2.4 Ghz range you got a serious defect problem with them. I would either have company replace them with RF immune ones or have them pay for replacing them with another product.
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W4TL
Member

Posts: 130




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« Reply #12 on: May 21, 2014, 03:28:57 PM »

Eaton did replace all of my AFCI's (18 of them) with the supposedly RF immune ones and they still trip.
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KI6LZ
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Posts: 739




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« Reply #13 on: May 21, 2014, 04:16:44 PM »

Oh well. More phone calls to them, get them out and show them the problem. After they replaced them you didn't test them while they were there?
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AA4PB
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Posts: 14332




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« Reply #14 on: May 21, 2014, 06:10:54 PM »

Tripping from a cordless phone - that is sensitive. I wonder if you have an issue with the electric service panel like a missing ground or open neutral. Who replaced all the breakers? If it was a licensed electrician maybe you should get him back to check the grounds and neutrals. If the breakers were really that sensitive Eaton would be flooded with complaints and neighbors in your community (which I assume were all built with the same breakers) would be screaming pretty loud. If a cordless phone was tripping them the so would wireless routers and cell phones.
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Bob  AA4PB
Garrisonville, VA
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