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Need an Electrician's Opinion


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#1 WedgeHG

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 04:53 AM

Ok, a while back we had some problems with the electricity (I live in southern California :P ). The power kinda..... fluctuated. It didn't go out immediately. All the lights dimmed, then it came back up, dimmed, came back up, dimmed, came back up, went out completely, came back on, dimmed, came back on, then finally quit for about 3 hours. This of course kicked off the TV and computer with the first dim.

About a week later, we were watching the TV and it started acting like it did when the power was dimming. The picture got small, then came back, got small, then finally went out. But the power to the house was just fine. Nothing else was affected. The TV wouldn't come back on. But after unplugging it and then plugging it back in it worked just fine. A few days or a week later it did it again. Same thing with the same cure.

Then it seemed to behave fine for the better part of a month. But a few days ago our computer suddenly kicked off for no apparent reason. It wouldn't turn back on but when I disconnected the power and then pluged it back in it worked fine..... for a while. Then kicked off again. It does this fairly consistantly now. Sometimes it'll only stay on for 5 minutes, sometimes it's fine for 20. I at first suspected the power supply in the comp but then the TV did it's thing again. They are plugged into different outlets but are on the same circuit.

The wierd thing though is that other things plugged into the same power strip are not affected. For instince, when the computer goes off, the monitor stays on. When the TV goes off, the display on the VCR and sterio stay on.


Any ideas guys?
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#2 Alba|SF

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 05:21 AM

The power supply on the inside of the computer is probably screwed, but that is assuming your problem is actually related to the crappy California electricity. It could be an entirely seperate problem.

Check to make sure the fans on the computer are working. When the processor overheats, the computer will shut off no matter what in order to save it.
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#3 Malone|SF

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 07:17 AM

California is notorious for fluctuating voltages and "brownouts". Ideal voltage for US appliances is 120 volts with +/- 10% variance. Chances are you are dropping well below the 108 volts that most appliances require. This is dangerous for two reasons.

1) Complex or major appliances are designed for a certain voltage. When volts go down, you are straining the guts and risk damaging your computer, TV, etc.

2) When volts go down, amperes go up. The wires and outlets in your house have a limited number of amps they can safely handle. Most wire (in a residence) can handle 15 amps. The wire for kitchens and bathrooms is rated for 20 amps. (a single blowdryer can draw as many amps as 15 TVs) So, you are probably nearing that threshold. When you go significantly over that threshold, thats when fires start.

Some questions about your house.

1) Do you have fuses or breakers?

2) How old is your main panel? Was it the original one in the house?

3) What type of wire was used to wire your house? Aluminum was used for quite a while in the 50s and 60s until many houses had electrical fires. Aluminum is no longer used in permanant houses but is often seen in trailer homes and premanufactured homes, which are held to a lower standard than a permanant residence. In my city, we are not allowed to use aluminum wiring under any circumstances. Aluminum is 1/10 the cost of copper.

Solution: Get a nice UPS (Uninteruptible Power Supply). In a good UPS, there is no direct link between the wiring in your house and your computer. You plug it in, your house charges the batteries, and your computer is run off the batteries 24/7. The batteries have a constant, regulated output of 120v/60htz. My UPS was around $50.

Solution2: This might sound a little unrealistic, but this is what many countries are going with, and with power being so expensive and/or unreliable, (how long was Iam out of power last year?) I would give it a shot. Get your neighborhood together, purchace a medium sized generator, and you can run a dozen houses off of it. It can fit in a shed, can run off of diesel or natural gas, no power fluctuations, just quiet, cheap power. I have heard most of Brazil and much of South America is powered this way.

Solution3: Call Arnold and tell him to get some power plants going! We just built one here (I was a foreman :) ) and everywhere I go, the power is very strong. Factories run off of a 480/277v system and I usually see 485v or so and houses usually getting around 125/250v. Plus I have heard they are making so much money from this power plant that they want to build a third one right next to it. (Wisconsin is a net exporter of power, some goes to Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota)

Wedge, see if you can borrow or buy a good electrical meter, see what kind of voltage you are getting during one of these power dips, it will help you decide if the situation is just bad (105v) or dangerous (90v). The reason some things in your house work and some don't is directly related to the type of appliance, how many watts is draws, and how well it handles power fluctuations. A light bulb can probably run on 50v. A non running VCR that is just telling what time it is might only be drawing 1 watt. A running TV is probably taking 100 watts and it needs 120 volts to fire up that screen. Your computer probably has some kind of safety built into the power supply and will shut down either when it gets too hot or it doesn't have enough volts to do its job properly.

Remember, resistance (ohms) is constant. As voltage goes down, amperes go up. This stresses the wiring and the appliance and causes heat, which causes failure.

Malone out.
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#4 Airwave|SF

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 10:18 AM

I never knew aluminium was used for electrical wiring before copper became the standard. Unless aluminium was never used in the UK..... hmmm I'll have to find out about that.

I think we can say the first solution is his only realistic option :P though it does look like a good solution as you'll only need 2 UPSs.

#5 Alba|SF

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 02:56 PM

So Malone, is a laptop that is plugged in basically one of these UPS's? I always worry about my laptop messing up because I always have it plugged in while at home so I don't have to worry about batteries.
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#6 Malone|SF

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 04:15 PM

Airwave - I think aluminum was being used after WW2 because of a severe shortage of copper. There was a huge building boom at the time. For a couple years American pennies were made of steel instead of copper. We are back to that point now where you can almost break even if you take a bunch of pennies to the recycling center and turn them in for scrap copper. I believe scrap copper is somewhere around $2/pound. Maybe someone can weigh 100 pennies and see how close we are. I don't know if aluminum was ever used in Europe but their shortage of copper was probably worse than ours was.

Alba - You could be right about notebooks, it just depends on how they are set up. When you plug it in, does it recharge the batteries and the comp runs off the batteries? Or does it just bypass the batteries and run the comp? I don't have a notebook so I don't know much about the power supplies for them.

Malone out.
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The capacity to learn is a gift.
The ability to learn is a skill.
The willingness to learn is a choice.


The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

A world is supported by four things:
The learning of the wise,
The justice of the great,
The prayers of the righteous, and
The valor of the brave.
But all these are nothing without
The ruler who knows the art of ruling.


#7 Splitstar|SF

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 06:11 PM

Malone brings some brain food to this thread.

Yum.
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#8 FiirkslSF

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 06:13 PM

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#9 WedgeHG

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 07:03 PM

1. Breakers

2. Original panel. House was built around 1962

3. No aluminum wires :)




The thing that trips me out though is that the appliance won't work again until you physically unplug it and plug it back in. Once you do that it works like a champ.... until the next time - which could be hours or weeks away. On the comp all i have to do is flick the switch on the powersupply off then back on and it works again.

I test the outlets and it reads 119 and change volts. I can't really test it when it happens. There doesn't seem to be anything wierd with the power when it happens.... just that one appliance will die. And it only happens on that one circuit. My new computer in my bedroom has never had this sort of problem. And it is much more powerful than the old one so I'm sure it pulls more juice.

It's just wierd.
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#10 Splitstar|SF

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 09:48 PM

Ghost?
"It's too bad she won't live! But then again, who does?"
-Gaff from Bladerunner
"'Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'"
-O'Brien from 1984 by George Orwell
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#11 EvilTesla-RG

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 10:39 PM

U must be a herritic of the Hyper god!!!!!!
(look in archives)
We must bow in revercne before he destroyes us all!!!!!!
And repent for your Hyperjumping sins!!!
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#12 Zero|SF

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Posted 22 August 2006 - 01:03 AM

Only thing I could think of would be bad connection somewhere in your Fuse Box. Try replacing the fuse to that area of the house as it may resolve the problem.

Btw... what ever happened to Malones Random Question Topic back in the days of EZBoard? The one where I won a date with lizzy... Iam's daughter (btw shes getting married)
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#13 Guest_MogwaPSA_*

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Posted 22 August 2006 - 02:26 AM

wedge just stick a fork (not plastic) in any socket and that will solve any problems

if that don't work you might need to pay your bill

if it's not your bill then it might b Schwarzenegger clogging your connection, I'll b bock




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