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Author Topic: Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI's)  (Read 132735 times)
W4TL
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Posts: 94




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« Reply #345 on: August 22, 2014, 07:34:38 AM »

I'm eager to get answers on these questions.

1) Has Eaton produced and shipped any real 'ham' breakers (i.e. not mislabeled 'ham' breakers)?
2) If 1 is true, do they work as well as the prototype ARRL tested?
3) If 2 is true, when will Eaton start distribute the 'ham' breakers in retail channels?
4) Will the new 'ham' breakers become the only breaker Eaton sells?

73,
Jonathan W6GX

1. The only real "HAM" breakers that have been shipped are the ones that are going to neighborhoods and amateurs that have identified problematic tripping by amateur operators.

2. Eaton has had trouble with their intermittent production of HAM breakers. It appears that they have had assembly production problems and that the breakers that are labeled "HAM" may not in fact be HAM breakers but are the problematic labeled as HAM breakers. The boards and IC's for the HAM breakers are made in Korea and the breakers themselves are assembled in the Dominican Republic. The "bad breakers" are still in full production and they only stop the line to run a group of "HAM BREAKERS." In my opinion this is part of the manufacturing problem with breakers being mislabeled.

3. Eaton is still manufacturing the "bad breakers" and will continue to do so until they run out of materials (boards, IC's, etc.) that are specific for the "bad breakers." According to Eaton this should occur sometime around November of this year. As far as distributing to retail outlets and contractors that will depend on how long it takes to deplete their inventory of "bad breakers" nationwide. Who knows how many of these bad boys will be out there and how long it will take this transition to take.

4. I don't have an answer for that, you might contact Eaton's Product Manager for Residential Breakers, Lanson Relyea. He is the guy with Eaton who is really calling the shots on the manufacturing of this product.

Just got word this morning that Eaton's electrical contractor will be here in my neighborhood tomorrow morning to start changing out the breakers. Eaton is sending a new group of HAM breakers that have been verified in their PA location to be as such and not being mislabeled.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed. This whole process is almost 5 months processing for me. Entirely too long.

Terry, W4TL
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W4TL
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Posts: 94




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« Reply #346 on: August 22, 2014, 11:20:28 AM »


Just got word this morning that Eaton's electrical contractor will be here in my neighborhood tomorrow morning to start changing out the breakers. Eaton is sending a new group of HAM breakers that have been verified in their PA location to be as such and not being mislabeled.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed. This whole process is almost 5 months processing for me. Entirely too long.

Terry, W4TL


Well, another delay. Just got a call from the electrical contractor and they are rescheduling  the installation of the new breakers for Tuesday morning. Seems as though nothing is going right here. Bad breakers, rescheduling, what next?

Terry
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W6GX
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Posts: 2545




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« Reply #347 on: August 22, 2014, 03:17:36 PM »

1. The only real "HAM" breakers that have been shipped are the ones that are going to neighborhoods and amateurs that have identified problematic tripping by amateur operators.

Hi Terry,

Thanks for the update on your situation.  The reason why I asked the questions if any real 'ham breakers' were shipping is that how does one really know which type is which due to the mislabeling problem.  A ham may have a breaker that says 'ham' but it may in fact be a regular breaker.  So the mystery is still there.  Once you have gotten the replacement breakers it will be interesting to see if they work, and whether they work as well as the prototype ARRL tested.

73,
Jonathan W6GX
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W4TL
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Posts: 94




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« Reply #348 on: August 26, 2014, 11:43:26 AM »


Just got word this morning that Eaton's electrical contractor will be here in my neighborhood tomorrow morning to start changing out the breakers. Eaton is sending a new group of HAM breakers that have been verified in their PA location to be as such and not being mislabeled.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed. This whole process is almost 5 months processing for me. Entirely too long.

Terry, W4TL


Well, the electrical contractor arrived here this morning at 10:00 and changed out 2 of my HAM breakers that had consistently tripped operating on 20 and 17 meters (details in a previous post of mine). These newly installed breakers were personally tested by Eaton personnel in PA and verified that they were in fact HAM breakers.

The bad news is that the new verified breakers tripped just the same as the older HAM breakers, while using the autotuner function on the Yaesu FT 3000dx into my OCF dipole. I tried installing a common mode choke made up of five, 2.4 inch torroids in series with the RG213U passing through it 5 or 6 times at the point just before the coax enters the house and the breakers still tripped.

The electrician installed the new HAM breakers in the 3 houses across the street from me and we tested again and NONE of the neighbors new breakers tripped. This is good news Smiley We installed the older generation CHCAFA breakers in my two problematic circuits and they do not trip at all. I will be ramping up my operation in the next few days (I haven't been able to operate at all because tripping my neighbors close by) and we will see how things go from here. I feel confident that they will be others here in the neighborhood that will be affected by my radio transmissions and I will learn of them as time goes along.

My conclusion is as I have said all along that these HAM breakers may work 75 to 100 feet away but will not work in a close field environment such as I have where the radiating antenna is no more that 8 to 10 feet away from the electrical wiring.  I now feel that they just won't work when the antenna is as close as mine is even with low power 10 watts.

I have sent the tripping breakers back to Joe Fello for him to evaluate, he should have them on Thursday.  I am anxious to hear what he has to say when he tests them.

Personally I think the jury is still out on their HAM breakers and they are not a guaranteed fix.

BTW The electrical contractor for Eaton that changed these breaker out, Electrical Pro's of Dacula, GA, did a very professional job in working this situation.

73

Terry, W4TL



Well, another delay. Just got a call from the electrical contractor and they are rescheduling  the installation of the new breakers for Tuesday morning. Seems as though nothing is going right here. Bad breakers, rescheduling, what next?

Terry
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W5YZ
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Posts: 64




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« Reply #349 on: August 26, 2014, 04:04:40 PM »

EGAD!  I can't wait until we get all the CBs changed on my street.  Hope it doesn't make the situation worse.
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W4TL
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Posts: 94




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« Reply #350 on: August 26, 2014, 05:48:52 PM »

Somehow my last post got mixed in to a previous post. Below is what happened today.


Well, the electrical contractor arrived here this morning at 10:00 and changed out 2 of my HAM breakers that had consistently tripped operating on 20 and 17 meters (details in a previous post of mine). These newly installed breakers were personally tested by Eaton personnel in PA and verified that they were in fact HAM breakers.

The bad news is that the new verified breakers tripped just the same as the older HAM breakers, while using the autotuner function on the Yaesu FT 3000dx into my OCF dipole. I tried installing a common mode choke made up of five, 2.4 inch torroids in series with the RG213U passing through it 5 or 6 times at the point just before the coax enters the house and the breakers still tripped.

The electrician installed the new HAM breakers in the 3 houses across the street from me and we tested again and NONE of the neighbors new breakers tripped. This is good news Smiley We installed the older generation CHCAFA breakers in my two problematic circuits and they do not trip at all. I will be ramping up my operation in the next few days (I haven't been able to operate at all because tripping my neighbors close by) and we will see how things go from here. I feel confident that they will be others here in the neighborhood that will be affected by my radio transmissions and I will learn of them as time goes along.

My conclusion is as I have said all along that these HAM breakers may work 75 to 100 feet away but will not work in a close field environment such as I have where the radiating antenna is no more that 8 to 10 feet away from the electrical wiring.  I now feel that they just won't work when the antenna is as close as mine is even with low power 10 watts.

I have sent the tripping breakers back to Joe Fello for him to evaluate, he should have them on Thursday.  I am anxious to hear what he has to say when he tests them.

Personally I think the jury is still out on their HAM breakers and they are not a guaranteed fix. As we all know every amateur station is different and sometimes things work and sometimes they don't. I am relieved to know that I can now operate without fear of tripping MOST of my neighbors AFCI's and am OK with using the Eaton CH115CAFA breaker in lieu of the Eaton HAM breaker in my house.

BTW The electrical contractor for Eaton that changed these breaker out, Electrical Pro's of Dacula, GA, did a very professional job in working this situation. They found a safety infraction at one of my neighbors in an external sub panel that had been installed by another contractor and they called it to the owners attention and repaired it for him for free.

73

Terry, W4TL  Smiley
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W6GX
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Posts: 2545




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« Reply #351 on: August 26, 2014, 09:07:04 PM »

Thanks for the update Terry.  That's great news.  I suspect we won't see you come here anymore since you'll be operating your radio.  We'll miss you here Smiley

From your post we could make the following conclusion.

- The 'ham' breakers you received are indeed different since they are now working in your neighbor's homes.  However they still aren't as good as the older CH115CAFA breakers which are immune to RF.
- I don't see the CH115CAFA solution as a permanent fix as Eaton has stopped manufacturing them for unknown reasons.

Now that we know Eaton has produced some 'ham' breakers (as opposed to mis-labeled 'ham' breakers) it would be helpful if Mike Gruber could get one for testing.

Lastly where did you get the CH115CAFA breakers?  Why not just install those in your neighbor's homes?

73,
Jonathan W6GX

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W4TL
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Posts: 94




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« Reply #352 on: August 27, 2014, 05:35:23 AM »

Thanks for the update Terry.  That's great news.  I suspect we won't see you come here anymore since you'll be operating your radio.  We'll miss you here Smiley

From your post we could make the following conclusion.

- The 'ham' breakers you received are indeed different since they are now working in your neighbor's homes.  However they still aren't as good as the older CH115CAFA breakers which are immune to RF.
- I don't see the CH115CAFA solution as a permanent fix as Eaton has stopped manufacturing them for unknown reasons.

Now that we know Eaton has produced some 'ham' breakers (as opposed to mis-labeled 'ham' breakers) it would be helpful if Mike Gruber could get one for testing.

Lastly where did you get the CH115CAFA breakers?  Why not just install those in your neighbor's homes?

73,
Jonathan W6GX



I will still be around as this continues to be a "Work In Progress" as the issue has not been totally resolved because Eaton has not made a "HAM" breaker that will work in every situation.

I have a total of 18 AFCI's in my panels. 12 regular "HAM" breakers and 6 of the CH115CAFA's. They first installed all 18 "HAM" breakers and 6 of them tripped right off under varying conditions. Joe Fello of Eaton sent me the CAFA's to replace the 6 that were tripping. Once I installed them my tripping stopped and I was able to operate without tripping. When I sent the 6 tripping "HAM" breakers back to Eaton they advised after checking them that they had been mislabeled in manufacturing.  Then I began tripping the neighbors AFCI's and that is where the delay came in. I opted to not operate to keep peace and harmony with my neighbors. They have finally sent out some good "HAM" breakers and now they are not having tripping issues. 

Mike Gruber has a "HAM" breaker that I sent him last week and he advised that they had tested it at the lab and W1AW and had no tripping with it (it did trip at my location continuously). Mike wanted me to try a common mode choke at the end of my feedline where it enters the house to capture any RF that may be traveling on the outside of the coax. I tried that and it had no effect at all. This leads me to believe that tripping is unique to each installation. I have no idea as to the length of wire in each circuit of mine that was causing the problems. Two things I know for sure and that is the feedpoint of my antenna system is about 8 to 10 feet from some of the electrical wiring in my house and that the tripping stopped completely with the installation of the CAFA's. The "HAM" breakers may work but the closer you get to the feedpoint of the antenna the more likely they "WILL NOT WORK," which I feel is what is happening in my case.

The CH115CAFA breaker as you say are not readily available and were phased out when they started making the "BAD" breakers. The CAFA's had problems with tread mills and older vacuum cleaners. This problem can be eliminated with the CAFA by placing a small 'surge protector" at the end of the appliance cord. If I have any problem with the CAFA's that is exactly what I will do.  Lanson Relyea, Product Manager, Residential Breakers and Surge Protection for Eaton is the guy that "calls the shots" on the Eaton breakers and he does not want to use the CAFA's for replacements because of their tripping tread mills and vacuums. I'm willing to take my chances on that.

I think Eaton needs to tweak their "HAM" breaker a bit more to make it immune to RF just as the CAFA is. What's everyone else's thoughts on this??

Terry, W4TL
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W6GX
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« Reply #353 on: August 27, 2014, 07:42:56 AM »

Hi Terry,

Agreed on your post.  Eaton still has work to do.  Using an older breaker is only a workaround.

73,
Jonathan W6GX
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W4TL
Member

Posts: 94




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« Reply #354 on: August 27, 2014, 08:19:58 AM »

Hi Terry,

Agreed on your post.  Eaton still has work to do.  Using an older breaker is only a workaround.

73,
Jonathan W6GX

I am going to offer up my two circuits that trip consistently with the "GOOD HAM BREAKERS" to try any improvement Eaton makes to their AFCI. We know they can make one that works, such as the CH115CAFA. If they can make that model work here why can't they make a "HAM" breaker that works here on these two circuits.

Terry, W4TL
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AA4PB
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« Reply #355 on: August 27, 2014, 08:24:51 AM »

Terry, your report also indicates to me that the ARRL has to come up with a more realistic test for the breakers. If they are testing with the W1AW antennas, I expect that those are much farther away from the breakers and wiring than the "typical" ham's installation. In addition, they may not have long runs of electric wire connected to the breakers as the typical home would have. They might also want to test with various lengths of wire attached to the breakers to see if near resonant lengths have any effect.
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AK2L
Member

Posts: 15




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« Reply #356 on: August 27, 2014, 09:28:15 AM »

Terry, W4TL et al,

Here is an update on my situation.

I have 7 of the Eaton BR units.  I had received replacements from Joe Fello and paid a licensed electrician to install them.  Joe was upset that I had not waited for Eaton to install them.  I don't know if he was upset that I had not retrieved the trip codes -- this should still be possible -- or simply that I did not wait for Eaton's contractor to do it.  I asked him how long I was supposed to wait for Eaton.  (There was no answer to that.)  Also, I had agreed to send the old units back for analysis and told Joe that I would still be happy to -- as soon as Eaton reimbursed me for the electrician.  (That hasn't happened yet.)

Subsequent use of my station on 17 meters easily tripped one of the new units.  I have temporarily replaced it with a standard (non-AFCI) breaker.  So far the other 6 are holding up when transmitting 200W with SSB and 50W with PSK31 on both 17 meters and 20 meters.

My station is new and I just finished the grounding for the inside of the shack.  I hope to have the exterior grounding completed in the next week.  After that, I am planning to borrow a linear to "test" the breakers properly.

73 de AK2L


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W4TL
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« Reply #357 on: August 27, 2014, 09:38:55 AM »

Terry, your report also indicates to me that the ARRL has to come up with a more realistic test for the breakers. If they are testing with the W1AW antennas, I expect that those are much farther away from the breakers and wiring than the "typical" ham's installation. In addition, they may not have long runs of electric wire connected to the breakers as the typical home would have. They might also want to test with various lengths of wire attached to the breakers to see if near resonant lengths have any effect.


Mike Gruber and Ed Hare at the ARRL Lab are working on a different setup to emulate a typical setup. They tested the HAM breaker I sent them and it did not trip with their setup at W1AW. They wanted me to try the common mode choke, which I did with no improvement.  I think they, the ARRL Lab folks, are working to help solve this mystery and I think Eaton want to solve it too and develop a breaker that will function under all circumstances.  Copy of part of Mike Gruber's response back to me after he tested the breaker is below:
*******************************************************************************
Terry,
 
So far, we have used an antenna that is right over the roof with a load in the attic.  The distance from the load to the antenna is about what you report, and we are running at or near full legal power.  We’ve done this on all HF bands, and it does not trip.  We’ve tried a variety of loads, and also used the normal W1AW antennas.  We ran the breaker during the practice bulletins, which pretty much involves all bands – all at once - at maximum station power.  We also ran the transmitters at max power for 20 seconds continuous key down with no issues.
 
At this point, we are going to be making some changes to our set-up, but it would be helpful to know what happens when you try the common mode choke(s).
 
73,
 
Mike Gruber, W1MG
ARRL EMC Engineer

*****************************************************************************

I agree with your comment about trying varying lengths of wire on the circuit to see if a resonant length makes any difference. I am now beginning to see very positive responses and interest from both Eaton and the ARRL Lab on solving this.

Terry, W4TL
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AK2L
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« Reply #358 on: August 27, 2014, 10:54:36 AM »

Perhaps the difference is the AC lines.  In most residences it would be Romex or something similar that is not shielded.  In a commercial building conduit or some other shielding would be used.

Is the ARRL lab testing with shielded or unshielded cable?

AK2L
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KD0REQ
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« Reply #359 on: August 27, 2014, 11:44:40 AM »

being as W1AW is a commercial building open to the public, building codes may prohibit the use of Romex for line wiring.

I suspect the League could get a testing waiver from local authorities if they needed to.  might involve some nonsense and would be a limited time thing.
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