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Author Topic: Power leaks  (Read 1523 times)

Posts: 12


« on: March 13, 2008, 04:47:28 AM »

A couple months ago I contacted our local power company
(Westar) about electrical interference trouble I was having. S9 + on radios, massive sparklies on analog TV, and even wondering if this could be why my (now 3rd)wireless router is flakey.  

I had never bothered in the past to call figuring it would be a lost cause. There were so many trees hanging in the lines around here you could set on the deck in the evening and watch the fireworks, but as they recently made an effort to go through and remove all the limbs (it looks like a huricane came through here!) I thought I would give it a shot.

I was ammazed when they came out the next week and left a note that they had found arcing to ground on
a close pole.

This fixed the problem for that evening. So when the arc welding sound to my radios returned I thought
I would try again. The utility crew has yet to
come back and this is what I would have expected and
why I had never bothered in the past.

With that close power leak removed I think that there are so many other problems I am hearing now that in any given day I may be receiving one loud one or a combination of many leaks and this is what I notice when I turn the antenna.

The questions I have not been able to
"google" and find an answer to:

What are the utilities responsibility
regarding electrical noise or interference?
and in a bigger picture here...
I wonder what the percentage might be of the amount
of electricity produced lost to power leaks throughout the country. Considering that in this one instance there may be so many in this neighborhood on any given day. Is it substantial.

So, who pays for this "lost electricity"? (I think I know this answer)


Posts: 188

« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2008, 05:03:01 AM »

The utilities are responsible for all of their noise.
A arcing power circuit is called an unintentional radiator, and is under the FCC. They have to fix it, if you look under the enforcment actions you will see several utilities have been fined for not correcting the problems. Faulty connections not only are a pain for us but they introduce "noise" in to the power it self causing a ripple on the voltage. When bad enough this can be seen on a scope. This ripple is one symptom that results in a low power factor. When the power factor is low, you pay more for power. This is regulated by your states DPU. Most power line noise is from faulty or worn cutouts on the poles other times it is from bad lightining arrestors or cracked insulators. Have you ever seen a pole on fire at the top of the cross arms? 73 Paul

Posts: 1054

« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2008, 05:28:11 AM »

Go the FCC web site at and scroll down to the electrical interference section. Right beneath it is information on how to file complaints. FCC encourages the utility companies to resolve interference problems, issuing hefty fines if they don't, and the companies know this.

Yes, much power is lost in getting from the fuel to the user. Just consider the power lost to heat and EM radiation in the power lines and inefficiencies in transformers alone. The user always pays for it, one way or another.

Posts: 1041

« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2008, 06:25:55 AM »

Noise can come from a number of different sources.
An example is the high voltage power line poles/towers
that criss cross the land. At certain points, there
are switch arms, usually located near power
substations. If the switch arms are not fully
seated, arcing occurs, creating noise.

Power transformers themselves do not cause power
line noise. The connections to them or the lightning
arrestor on the pole can be a source of power line

As wire pass next to and is held against the small
insulators on top of the pole, the wire holding
the power line against the insulator can be a source
for noise.

Before you contact the power company about any power
line noise, it is best that you make sure your home
appliances, electrical wiring, or other electronic
devices are not the source of the noise. This will
require you to turn the main break switch OFF in
your home. Turn UPS systems, clocks, alarms, etc,
OFF. If the noise is still present you can be sure
the noise is not coming from you home. Make sure
ALL electric, electronic, and computers, including
laptops, UPS systems, etc, are turned OFF when
performing this check. If you call the power company
about power line noise, one of the first things the
trained technician will do is pull power at the pole
for your house to see if the noise disappears. Do this
BEFORE he arrives.

Always work with the power company, be friendly,
let them hear the noise on your ham station's
receiver, and show them what you have done to
locate the source of the noise.

The ARRL website has links to websites that can
help you with power line noise.

Build yourself an Ultrasonic Power Line Noise Detector.
Arcing produces a low level audio sound that an
Ultrasonic detector can hear. The link below shows
how to make one. I built one and it does work!

Power line noise may disappear on a rainy day,
when fog is present, or when ice covers power
lines. Moisture from rain, ice, or high humidity
completes the circuit, eliminating the arcing and
hence, the noise disappears. However, when the
moisture dries up, fog disappears, or ice melts,
the noise returns.

The power company's are required to keep their power
line noise to a minimum. Power lines fall under the
FCC's part 15 rules and regulations and must not
cause interference (power line noise). Power
companies can and have been fined heavily if they
refuse to fix or eliminate sources of power line
noise. Therefore, never think there's nothing you
can do eliminate the source of power line noise.
Having said that, don't think every case of power
line noise will be fixed in one visit by the
power company. Know that a power company may send
the wrong, unqualified, person to your house.
Describe the problem as a "noise" problem, not
an electrical failure in your home etc. This will
let them know they need to send a qualified person
who is trained in power line noise detection. I've
had this same thing happen to me, they sent the
wrong guy who was not trained. However, the power
company was quick to dispatch the properly trained



Posts: 3189

« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2008, 06:34:14 AM »

As a sidenote, I wouldn't entirely dismiss the possibility the noise you are experincing at S9+ levels may also be caused or actually generated from another local nearby source.

A heading using a yagi antenna may be helpful in determining the direction of the source if isn't being generated in your own home. To rule out my  home as the cause I typically find this is where the radio backup power and electrical mains cutoff switch might come in handy.

Once you rule that possibility out of the equasion, it's time to look up your tower at the direction the yagi is pointed and go fox hunting with a portable AM reciever in hand.

Good Luck.

73 de Charles - KC8VWM

Posts: 58

« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2008, 06:42:51 AM »

Power line noise can be hard to find, and getting the power company to find and fix problems can be even harder. After calling and getting the runaround for almost a year, I said the 3 MAGIC words  " PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION "  That will get their attention a lot quicker than anything else. When they ask for a raise, the PSC will look at all their complaints.  Try it---It worked for me, my noise went from 20 over nine to about a s-2.

Posts: 6642

« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2008, 07:01:01 AM »

Be advised there can be multiple noise sources in an area.
After getting multiple bearings that did not make sense, I finally was able to plot them on a very localized map.  Sure enough, triangulation showed 3 intersecting points.  At each point was a power pole!
Once contacted, the power company resolved all problems!


Posts: 1041

« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2008, 07:27:54 AM »

Although using public service commission and the FCC
can produce results, it must be understood that this
is the "last resort". Fixing power line noise,
if the noise is actually power line noise and not
caused by some other source, is not an easy task
and quite often is not fixed in the first visit.

Never assume the noise you hear is caused by the
power lines and not some other noise source such
as your neighbor, a farmer's field electric fence,
or your own home. Do your homework and research
first before contacting the electric company for
help. Always be friendly and willing to work with
the power company, neighbor, etc in eliminating the
source of the noise. It can take a couple of days,
a week, or even a month or more to track down the
source of the noise. Again, only use the public
service commission, ARRL, and the FCC as a last


Posts: 182

« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2008, 08:16:56 AM »

I went the rounds with FP&L down here in south FL after hurricnae Wilma ripped the place up a few years ago.  Power llne noise was incredible due to the amount of damage incurred.  I have had to work with them a few times since they repaired the major problems and they are slow but effective and will get the issues resolved if you keep on them.  It helps that the local troubleshooter for RFI is also an active ham.  The other guys have mentioned all the correct things to do and I certainly concur;  one thing I found in my home was the noise being produced by a DTV satellite receiver.  The noise is present whether or not the unit is turned on.  The switching power supply in the thing is a noise maker and it re radiates along your ac lines.  Unplug it and it cleaned up everything from the broadcast band through six meters!

Posts: 9749


« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2008, 08:22:00 AM »

Power line arcs and leaks are far too insignificant as a percentage of total power to measurably affect power factor or cost.

Power factor is mostly caused by inductive loads that result in a shift between voltage and current crests.

The only real effect of power line leaks is noise. They also indicate the system might be ready for a failure.

It's illegal for them to bother radios. I'd be sure it was them, and then go after it through proper channels. They will eventually have to fix the problem.

73 Tom

Posts: 340


« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2008, 08:57:33 AM »

Good work~!

   Contrary to popular opinion, power companies do have a vested interest in running clean lines.  Arcing power lines cause lost power...and revenue!  I live on a corner lot, with 14kv lines running along two borders....I never even know they're there.

Posts: 188

« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2008, 03:40:36 PM »

Although this is slightly off topic:
I agree with most of what you said but, they do contribute to the overall efficiency of the system.
Two or three probably not but think of all the connections. From all of the cutouts to airbreaks to dirty or cracked insulators, thats a whole lot of little arcs and pops adding up. It decreases the efficiency of the total system. Every arc drops a minut amount of voltage and raises the total system current. If the voltage drops and your current draw goes up that means your going to use more watt hours. That in turn does affect the power factor. Which the state DPU's do regulate. A poor power factor can also be caused by non-linear loads such as in an industrial setting, this is usualy corrected by capacitor banks.

Posts: 144

« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2008, 04:53:41 PM »

Some utility companies do a good job addressing noise issues.  See the article at:

for my success story.  Since that problem the same folks have expeditiously resolved two other noise sources as well.


73 -- Dino KL0S/4

Posts: 9749


« Reply #13 on: March 14, 2008, 03:24:02 AM »

Watt/hours is totally unrelated to power factor. Watt hours is a measure of energy used over time. Power factor is a measure of apparent power to actual power.

Power factor comes from two issues, the percentage of the AC cycle current is drawn over and the phase relationship between current at any instant of time and voltage at the same instant of time. For example a compact flourescent lamp has terrible power factor, as does a capacitor input power supply. This is because peak current is high compared to average current. A choke input power supply or standard bulb can have a nearly unity power factor. An electric motor can have a poor power factor. This is because of phase shift caused by the inductive load.

The point most people miss is while an arc certainly consumes SOME power and can cause a "spikey" load, that load is very very small. Even a few watts of power loss, insignificant compared to line losses from conductor resistance heating and insignificant compared to the power demand on a typical distribution line, will cause terrible noise.

I did some work with a utility company in the 70's to quantify noise and power, and a broadband noise that covered approximately one mile was about 50 watts avarage power. The normal conductor loss in that area at normal load was over 300kW at peak!

Of course losses could be higher, but losses over a few watts will generally cause a line failure.

If all of the losses cause by arcs are compared to the effect on overall power factor or load they are insignificant. Go ahead and use that argument if it helps get a problem fixed, but repairing a leak that covers a mile with noise almost never pays back the cost even with many years of operation. What reairing a leak or noise DOES do more often is improve reliability and safety.

73 Tom


Posts: 188

« Reply #14 on: March 14, 2008, 05:35:23 AM »

If you line power is lower than what it should be it does increase your consumption. Increased consumption
equals more watt hours. You know the old saying lower voltage more amps higher voltage less amps. This is what I still do for a living. If it does not make a difference then why is power factors regulated by the DPU? Your meter does not care if it is real or apparent power it will read what ever amount of power you are drawing. If it didn't cost us more money nobody would bother to fix it. It costs us all money. Thats enough of this issue. Beleive what you want thats how I stay in business...
73 Paul
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