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Electricity monitoring / recording device

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  • Electricity monitoring / recording device

    I need a device to record the power fluctuations that I am still seeing at the house. The issue started in August with a lightening strike down the road. Ever since I have been getting all sorts of electrical interference and two local businesses have told me they had to buy new cash registers since then. Discussions with the local electrical distribution company have proved useless.

    Today I witnessed the first power surge that I have seen since moving here 11+ years ago. It nearly screwed up the computer even though I have a ups installed for the system. The ups kicked in and cut direct power to the system but the battery was too low (old) and allowed the computer to power cycle. After booting the install cd and running a few tools I was able to get the system running again. I feel lucky that I was in the bathroom where I saw the light bulbs get very bright all the sudden and then heard the ups screaming for me to hit the reset button.

    I realize that I have two issues today. First, I need to address the ups. I am doing that now. Second, I have now decided to record some data and take it to my local government, the electrical provider and the puco (not that they really care) and see if I can get the pot stirred up a bit.

    So what I need is a device to record the power fluctuations that are entering my house and shop. A place I once worked owned one and we used it to get the power company there to fix a surge issue. But I cant remember who the maker was.

    I can run an o-scope and diagnose different things but designing a recording device for this issue is a bit out of my league. I might be able to achieve the goal but it might take me quite a bit of time to do so.

    I can run a Google search and find all sorts of devices but I dont know what is good and what is worthless. Can anyone that has used such a device point me in the right direction? Thanks a million.

    Civil engineers build targets, Mechanical engineers build weapons.

  • #2
    Sounds like you lost your ground and have a 220V electric drier or well pump hooked up.

    Do you have 2 ground rods in and are the connections good?
    If they are good pull the meter from the base and check your ground lug on the inside(you might have to call your electric company to cut the seal)
    Look out on the poles with binoculars and verify the ground is intact.

    The scope will not do you any good, you will need power quality analyzer. These typicaly cost around $20,000 ++ new, you can get a used one for around $5k
    Dranetz makes a good system, Power Platform, its available from Graingers.
    Last edited by squirrel; 11-28-2010, 02:50 PM.


    • #3

      Do you have an instrument hire shop close by? As mentioned previously a quality power analyser is very expensive to purchase, but it may make sense to hire a unit for a couple of weeks. This will come with calibration, so you will have a definitive record to supply to your power company.


      • #4
        Should be able to get something like this

        Should be able to hire one.

        Steve Larner


        • #5
          Since you are already looking for a better UPS, may I suggest that you look for one with source power monitoring capability. Here is but one example, not particularly a recomendation but just the first one I found:

          It can be connected to a computer and the Voltage readings can be viewed with accompanying software. This essentially gives you the power monitoring ability. Two for one (UPS and power monitor).

          Other specs you may want to investigate is the speed with which it can switch to battery power and the degree that it can surpress spikes.
          Paul A.
          SE Texas

          Make it fit.
          You can't win and there is a penalty for trying!


          • #6
            I think with a few components and a bit of initative you could use your PC sound card to make a continuous recording of phase and voltage fluctuations.


            • #7
              If you can't determine the cause yourself, you might have to resort to an electrical firm which deals with utility power issues. For meaningful measurement and monitoring you want one of these: Buy one, maybe lease one or hire in a company to install one and interpret the results.


              • #8
                Better have someone check for an open neutrals on your whole neighborhood's string of 11KV fed distribution transformers.

                If you don't have a continuous current carryng path to the center tap of the pole transformer the load neutral can shift with the load unbalance as much as 40 volts. If lights dim on one side of your house and flare up on the other that's almost a sure sign on an open neutral. This kind of electrical fault aint just an annoyance. It can cause house fires.
                Last edited by Forrest Addy; 11-28-2010, 05:28 PM.


                • #9
                  There is a Simpson Electric recording voltmeter on ebay that records the voltage (and current) on a strip of paper. They are asking $30. This might do what you need, although it might not record fast transients.



                  • #10
                    There is a Simpson Electric recording voltmeter on ebay that records the voltage (and current) on a strip of paper. They are asking $30. This might do what you need, although it might not record fast transients.



                    • #11
                      You should be able to have your power comp. install a monitor for a week or 2 that will record for 24 / 7. Growing up we would get low power every afternoon , power comp. put on a monitor and it showed low power about 4 PM everyday , it was tire retreading co. 3 miles away turning on his tire cookers , they installed some new transformers problem went away.


                      • #12
                        Go as far as you can with your own system first. Make sure all your neutrals in the panel are tight, including the incoming neutral. That won't help if it's a neighborhood-wide problem, but there is a good possibility that it will help. It's not uncommon for all those connections to become a bit loose. I hesitate to recommend that you tighten the incoming hot leads simply for your own safety, but it's something I would do.

                        If you're bent on recording the variations, you'll need a chart recorder of some type. An option might be to try to find an 'event' recorder, which in some configurations would simply give a count for each time an 'event' occurred. In this case, the event would be any time the voltage on either hot exceeded the norm. A simple electronic circuit would pulse the counter each time the voltage rose above, say 170 peak, something like that. All you'll get from that is a count, showing how many times the limit was exceeded. I don't know if there's much value to that, or if you can use it against the power company. They would probably only trust their own equipment, and it's unlikely they would want to install a chart recorder even temporarily.

                        If you're in an area where there are frequent damaging voltage surges, you might be better off to see about getting a proper surge protector installed in your panel. I'm not sure what the configuration it, but it could well be a custom main breaker, designed for a fast cutout in case of a surge. I don't really trust the surge protectors available to the consumer, but sometimes they do offer an equipment replacement guarantee with the better ( and more expensive ) ones.
                        I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-


                        • #13
                          I have worked in the electric utility industry for more years than I want to admit. Your best bet is to call your Electric provider and insist on a recording volt meter placed at your house. This is not a house meter this will record voltage fluctuations over a period of time & plot it against current draw the old ones had paper graph wheels but the newer ones are computer based.

                          If they refuse to do this let them know you are filling a PUC complaint I am sure you will get one. They will leave it up for anywhere from 1 day to a month. Ask to see the results when they have downloaded it. Voltage is allowed to fluctuate +- 5% so for 120v 114v to 126v I believe this is the industry standard at least it has been for both companies I have worked for.

                          Good luck Mike


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by gundog
                            Your best bet is to call your Electric provider and insist on a recording volt meter placed at your house.
                            X 2. I worked for 16 years as a District Operator for the provincial electric utility and we did this quite often when we had a customer with an electrical problem. Sometimes it was our problem but much more often it was a customers wiring problem. Since you have two neighours who have experienced problems after the lightning strike, that tells me it's a pretty good chance there's a problem on the source side. More than likely the lightning strike has resulted in a neutral connection becoming compromised somewhere in the system. Your utility has a duty to provide "quality control" and there are standards that have to be met by the utility...maximum outages per month, maximum voltage high/low limits, maximum number of time voltage can be outside that. If your utility doesn't want to get off their collective butts, do as gundog said and don't take no for an answer.
                            Location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada


                            • #15
                              First thing I would do, before anything else, is to go to the grounding electrode conductor (the one going to the rod or water pipe etc), and hang a clamp meter on it.

                              If that reads "zero", I'd probably not believe it, and suspect a problem somewhere.

                              if it reads a LOT of current, you may have a neutral issue in your drop or in the service box in the house. I'd be very careful of unbalanced loads in the meantime, until that gets fixed.

                              A windstorm knocked a tree onto our drop a few years ago. Severed the neutral, and we were inadvertantly using the neighbor's neutrals for a week or two until they got the big problems fixed and came around to us. I saw 5A to 8A in the ground wire and water pipes (our ground IS the pipes) until it was fixed. Now it is no more than an amp or so when I last checked after the fix.

                              A lightning strike could have damaged the neutral connection for your local transformer, and voltages may be fluctuating as the load balance changes. We also had a neutral problem in the drop when we moved in here, and we had all sorts of blinking and dimming until we called up the powerco..... they had it fixed within 12 hours, they didn't want the liability for a bad neutral in the drop.
                              Last edited by J Tiers; 11-28-2010, 07:45 PM.

                              Keep eye on ball.
                              Hashim Khan