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Author Topic: Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI's)  (Read 180289 times)
WX7G
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Posts: 6146




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« Reply #15 on: May 22, 2014, 08:04:27 AM »

I'm wondering if they installed standard ACFI devices thinking they were the RFI immune devices? A threshold test performed before and after installation would tell the story. Do you have one of the original devices to reinstall?

To threshold the problem the RF power is increased until an RFI fault occurs. This is repeated several times with the results recorded. This is to find the mean and the variation in fault trip points. The results can be plotted. Then after a potential RFI fix is installed the threshold test is run again to see what the improvement, if any, is. Simply testing at one power level (100 watts for example) obscures valuable troubleshooting data.

I would threshold the present installation and there will be one ACFI device that trips first. I would replace this with another brand of ACFI in the hope that it has more RF immunity. If it does not trip at full RF power I would replace the other ACFI devices with the same. Or, Eaton can send out a fresh RFI immune ACFI and that can be tried. Or one of the original devices can be installed in place of the most sensitive ACFI to see if the new batch is significantly different than the original batch. For something to be considered improved I would expect a 10 dB improvement. Note that I would add nothing to the AC wiring. That means no capacitors, no ferrite chokes, nothing.

Now, if the threshold test shows a reasonable RF power being under the ACFI trip point, operating at this reduced power is certainly a solution. Are you ready for QRP? This is how I solved what looked to be a nearly intractable RFI issue at a good neighbor's home. Forty meters became my QRP band.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2014, 08:11:20 AM by WX7G » Logged
KB4QAA
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« Reply #16 on: May 22, 2014, 11:14:17 AM »

Buy another brand of AFCI.  There are many stories posted of how one brand is less affected than another.
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WB4SPT
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« Reply #17 on: May 23, 2014, 05:46:29 AM »

The interface for Load center breakers are brand specific.   They do no interchange.  It's unlikely anyone else makes a replacement Eaton AFCI now.
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W4TL
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Posts: 105




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« Reply #18 on: May 23, 2014, 07:13:36 AM »

I just reached out to our ARRL Officials via e-mail, asking them to join in on seeking a resolution to the AFCI situation. Let's see what their response is. Smiley
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KD0REQ
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« Reply #19 on: May 23, 2014, 09:32:32 AM »

Eaton promised to work with ARRL on future issues, so going to the League is probably the right move at this point, unless you have a local Eaton engineering rep in the area.  you could call an electrical supply house to find that out.

I have a little concern about ferrites in the entrance panel for, as you know, they are conductive.  I doubt your local inspector will issue a waiver to use standard breakers while this is sorted out.  the interim solution I'd think about is ferrites outside the panel at the wire clamps, as well as ginning up a Q&D field-strength meter and running along the grounds and such to see if they are REALLY ground.  working on that might get you to a solution faster.  just get a sensitive meter, a diode, and a .001 or .005, a little open coil, and start sweeping.
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W4TL
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« Reply #20 on: May 23, 2014, 10:31:32 AM »

I just moved everything to the outside patio, the transceiver, erected my Buddipole, in a dipole configuration, resonant on 14.100 1:1 SWR with 49 ohm measured impedance and all of the feedline outside. The antenna was about 25 to 30 feet from the house. The electrical circuit I used for this experiment was a GFCI. I had the transmitter set to 45 watts. I keyed up sent out a few T E S T DE W4TL's. When I went back inside to check the AFCI breakers they had tripped again. The GFCI used for the power supply did not trip. This leads me to believe that the problem is with the Eaton breakers not being able to withstand a near field RF environment. I did hear back from Mike Gruber, K1MG at the ARRL Lab and he said he was looking into this and would get back to me next week (Memorial Day Weekend) Smiley
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KL7CW
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« Reply #21 on: May 24, 2014, 06:50:58 PM »

It sounds like the breaker is at fault, but I would carefully check to see that all ground screws, netural(white wire) screws, and the (usually) black hot lead screws are tight in the breaker box.  You could also buy one of the plug in outlet testers (cost $10 ? at a box store) with 3 lights which indicate correct ground, neutral, and hot hook ups and verify that all outlets are OK. This...a good thing to do even if not an RFI issue.  I would also verify with my own eyes that the breakers you(they ?) installed were in fact the RFI immune model.  Strange things can happen (and be dangerous) if outlets are not properly wired.  Also the main neutral (and ground) connections need to be solid in the breaker panel....NO loose screws or bolts...check the big cables coming into the panel.  Were all the tripped AFCI's on one side of the panel (the same 120 volt half of the box??) might be a clue.  I have had no problem with AFCI RFI, but several times I have identified various strange problems in AC circuits caused by less than a very good solid low resistance to the neutral main. Also check the AC voltage on a few circuits on each 120 volt side of the box.  I do not know what the spec is, but would be suspicious of a possible system fault if the phases are more than a very few volts apart.  I am not a licensed electrician, so these are just some of my observations after 60 years in the electronics field.
               Rick  KL7CW   Palmer,  Alaska
   
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KL7CW
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« Reply #22 on: May 24, 2014, 07:56:55 PM »

You may want to go to the Home Depot internet site and read their AFCI installation hints.  It is important that each black wire is traced back and paired with its white partner wire where in comes into the box and is then connected to the AFCI.  I am sure strange things would happen if the wires were not properly "paired".  Also the white wire from the AFCI must be properly terminated in the box.  In the old days all white wires were the same and just tied down to the neutral terminal strip in any order......NOT NOW.  I have fixed many strange electrical problems, even in new construction, which was supposedly wired by licensed electricians and inspected by the proper authorities.  Do not assume anything just because.........
        KL7CW
           
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K1CJS
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« Reply #23 on: May 25, 2014, 06:59:16 AM »

Not to change the subject, but quite a lot of these type problems are from a faulted ground installation.  Check the house ground for the electrical system and make sure the ground rod for the circuit breaker box is a good ground point  and is properly connected!  Make sure also that the antenna ground system is bonded to the house electrical ground system.  You may have to install or get installed extra length ground rods to get a good ground.

If the ground is not good, the ground system will 'feed back' through the ground wire on the street drop to the electrical company ground forming a sort of antenna and a 'back door' for RF to get to those breakers.

Added:  You may have to get an electrician or the electric company to come down and measure the ground installation at your house to make sure it is giving you a good ground.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2014, 07:02:08 AM by K1CJS » Logged
W4TL
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« Reply #24 on: May 28, 2014, 12:11:04 PM »

I did verify that all 18 of the Eaton AFCI's are indeed the HAM type.

After talking with Joe Fello from Eaton yesterday (May 27) I performed a series of tests today on the HAM AFCI's installed in my home on May 2.

On the tests I did today, May 28, there were 6 breakers that tripped no matter what the power level.


The experiment today was with my Buddipole antenna in a dipole configuration with a SWR of 1:1.1 about 25 feet from my house. Using a Kenwood TS-2000S transceiver and using the frequency for all tests today was 14.100 Mhz. All emissions from the radio were CW (morse). The first test was with my equipment inside and 100 watts output. Three TEST DE W4TL's were transmitted and the six breakers tripped. I reduced power to 45 watts transmitted again and the 6 breakers tripped. I reduced power to 20 watts and all 6 breakers tripped. The second test was made outside with the radio and feedline outside. The same three series of transmissions with the same power levels and all 6 breakers consistently tripped. The third test was also made outside and using auxiliary power from my Honda 2 KW power generator and in no way connected to the house wiring. The same three series of transmissions were made and all six breakers consistently tripped with all three power levels. In my opinion this eliminates the possibility of RF feeding back through a common power source and narrows it down to the AFCI's being intolerant to a strong RF field. A residence next door (with the HAM AFCI's installed) experienced no tripping. The house on my other side without the HAM AFCI's experienced numerous trips with the series of tests.


When we first installed the HAM AFCI's on May 2 it was a few days before I could get back on the air to try things out and there were other breakers in both of my panels that tripped on testing on other frequencies, but I failed to note which ones they were.


I truly believe that the devices are susceptible to a strong RF field. They may work well for neighbors of hams but not for the ham home. If I had been transmitting 500-600 watts I feel the residence next door with the HAM AFCI's would have tripped too.

Joe Fello with Eaton has been a true professional in trying to resolve this issue and I am in hopes that a solution will be forthcoming. What concerns me is that down the road amateur radio is going to suffer immensely if the AFCI issue is not resolved. As the next generation of hams come along and build new homes (the 2014 NEC requires AFCI's on all interior living areas in a residence, including appliances) they will not be able to put a station on the air because of the AFCI's being intolerant to a strong RF field.
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W4TL
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« Reply #25 on: May 28, 2014, 01:00:34 PM »

Just got off the phone with Joe F. from Eaton.  He is sending me six HAM breakers with additional filtering to replace the ones that were tripping today. More on this when we get the new ones installed.
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KI6LZ
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« Reply #26 on: May 28, 2014, 01:07:50 PM »

 I would expect them to be responsive due to the serious nature of this problem. If these AFCIs which are somehow designed to recognize a small arc in the line can't operate in RF fields then they must not be passing some kind of EMI susceptibility test.

Not sure who I would alert, maybe the FCC or some other accepting agency. Hope someone can pipe in here with suggestions.
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AA4PB
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« Reply #27 on: May 28, 2014, 01:15:22 PM »

This thing sounds really bad. Consider a police vehicle driving down the road talking on his radio while breakers in all the houses are tripping as he passes by! Consider things like food in the frig or freezer that goes bad because the homeowner doesn't know that the breaker has been tripped. This thing could get really ugly. It is probably not as sensitive to VHF as it is on 20M, but who knows until it's tested.
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KI6LZ
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« Reply #28 on: May 28, 2014, 01:26:16 PM »

This is ridiculous that a wireless phone can trip these breakers. I would not send them all the breakers. Find the most sensitive breaker and don't send it to them. Send it to ARRL. This really ticks me off.......That there could be another thing we hams have to deal with. Who bears the cost of the electrician to replace these HAM AFCIs?

« Last Edit: May 28, 2014, 01:29:40 PM by KI6LZ » Logged
WX7G
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Posts: 6146




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« Reply #29 on: May 28, 2014, 01:39:08 PM »

AFCI devices in the U.S. adhere to UL 1699. IEC 61000-4-3 is used for radiated immunity and IEC 61000-4-6 is used for conducted immunity.

I don't know what immunity level AFCI devices must pass at. The four possible radiated field levels are 1, 2, 10, and 30 V/m. The three possible conducted open circuit levels are 120, 130, and 140 dBuV. Even the highest levels listed can be exceeded in the vicinity of a 100 watt HF transmitter. An AFCI device might comply with the appropriate standards yet nuisance trip.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2014, 01:54:30 PM by WX7G » Logged
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