power concerns

Recording Techniques, People Skills, Gear, Recording Spaces, Computers, and DIY

Moderators: drumsound, tomb

endertak
alignin' 24-trk
Posts: 72
Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2008 3:24 pm

power concerns

Post by endertak » Sun Jan 03, 2016 5:42 pm

Hi,

I'm looking to manage my power situation for my home studio.
FWIW, I have everything running through power conditioners that go into a backups unit.

The building that I live in doesn't seem to have clean power, to say the least. On one of the breakers, the fridge will dim the lights when it cycles. Thankfully I am at least plugged into another breaker... It's not clear to me whether or not this is legal, but super clear that the landlord doesn't seem excited to address it in any way. I'm willing to put my own line in from the ground if need be, but I'm wondering if someone could point me to information regarding the following:

1. how can I assess whether the power is shady? I'd like to have a good reference for tests and/or info surrounding them

2. other than a power failure, how can I assess whether audio equipment that has been plugged into "shady" power has been affected? Is there even a clear way to do this, does it depend on the equipment, etc. ...other than the equipment basically working? In my personal studio, there are a couple of pieces that are older and hard to find someone to service. I'm happy to replace components if I can, or take it to someone else.

3. if "shady" power is the gist of the matter that I should be concerned with, what sort of components in electronic systems are/can be affected by this? Mainly PSUs? Rare active components?

Thank you,
e
Last edited by endertak on Sun Jan 03, 2016 8:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
e.n.d.e.r.t.a.k.

User avatar
vvv
zen recordist
Posts: 9009
Joined: Tue May 13, 2003 8:08 am
Location: Chi
Contact:

Post by vvv » Sun Jan 03, 2016 5:52 pm

I am no expert, just a a guy with some equipment and experience and a reading jones. Definitely await some more educated guys to post!

That said, I don't think that anything made in the last 25 years or so is going to have a problem with "dirty" power.

If you have brownouts or cut-offs or lightning-strike type spikes, those could be a concern.

I use a UPS for that reason, in the summer, because I'll record right through thunderstorms and sometimes the power goes out and so I can shut down a little more gradually ... that's most important for the computer.

That said, I notice zero difference in sound off a suburban Chicago wall socket with or without the UPS, and I'm just inna tract house with refrigerators and freezers and AC and forced air. (But I had the same experience in Chicago apartment buildings, and a cuppla other tract houses over the years.)

To paraphrase Joe Meek, if it sounds good it is good, and if you ain't hear a problem, (or if you can't measure it) it ain't there.
bandcamp; vlayman;
THD; Geronimo Cowboys;
blog.
I mix with olive juice.

kslight
moves faders with mind
Posts: 2693
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2009 7:40 pm

Post by kslight » Sun Jan 03, 2016 6:30 pm

Er..define 'shady'? Some kind of moonshine, black market, counterfeit power? Something someone has strung together with extension cords between units and power strips behind the walls? Missing grounds? I'm going to assume you probably don't have that. If you have that, then...yes you might have something that is not up to code and a fire hazard.

If you're not having problems now, I wouldn't worry about it. A UPS is a good solution for your computer, highly recommended in the event of power outages. Most power conditioners and UPS are not going to do much for 'shady' power unless you spent a lot of money on them. Most are glorified power strips. Some of them give you a readout to tell you what your current coming in looks like. It's probably not perfectly 120v all day all night, but I imagine it's within + or - 5% ish, and just about any gear is going to be designed to accommodate that and then some because perfect power is pretty uncommon...

You can also get a cheap little outlet tester that will say if the outlet is wired backwards or missing ground or has some kind of other similar fault. But it doesn't really tell you if the power is 'shady.' If you found outlets wired wrong you may potentially have some leverage to get the outlets looked at by your landlord...or maybe not, depending on your landlord..


But as stated above, lightning strikes and other obstructions have the potential to cause damage. As long as your power was installed to code it's probably 'safe' to plug your gear in to.

endertak
alignin' 24-trk
Posts: 72
Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2008 3:24 pm

Post by endertak » Sun Jan 03, 2016 7:55 pm

@vvv

Thanks. Good advice about the way things are built nowadays.
I agree w/ you about the measurement thing.

@kslight - ghosts :)

...at this moment I can hear a 60 cycle hum in the speakers, and the fridge is idle.
e.n.d.e.r.t.a.k.

The Scum
resurrected
Posts: 2480
Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2003 11:26 pm
Location: Denver, CO
Contact:

Post by The Scum » Mon Jan 04, 2016 1:18 pm

In my experience, there are a handful of things that go wrong. Some are easier and less expensive to detect and/or fix.

Also, without knowing a lot more details about what you're experiencing, it could just as easily be something that's broken or improperly connected, instead of the power system.

First off, if you don't know what you're doing, please don't go poking around in the wiring. Use external test tools, and find someone knowledgeable to go any deeper.

Jensen Transformer have a good whitepaper about hum and buzz in audio systems, but they've unfortunately moved to a login system so I can't just include a link to it...

The most likely problem is that the underlying wiring and stuff is good, but the outlet isn't wired right. The 3-light tester usually detects this, and it's not too hard to fix.

In older houses, there are times that 3-prong plugs have been put on old 2-wire runs...and the ground may have been cheated in some way. They make a tool to test for cheated grounds, but it's expensive. It might be easiest to tell by opening an outlet and looking at the wiring. It's also harder to fix - new wire has to be run.

Sometimes the drops on a wire run are daisychained in funny ways. One outlet in a circuit might be 20' of wire from the panel, and another 250', passing through that other outlet on the way. If you put something heavy (like a drill or vacuum) on the end of that run, you might see voltage rise or drop at the other outlet.

Sometimes the panel ground stops working - oxidation on the nut that joins the ground to the ground rod.

Another common problem in older houses is that the overall service is under-rated. The panel is too small, and the wire coming into the house is too light. This is expensive, because it means calling the utility company to redo the service.
"What fer?"
"Cat fur, to make kitten britches."

The Scum
resurrected
Posts: 2480
Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2003 11:26 pm
Location: Denver, CO
Contact:

Post by The Scum » Mon Jan 04, 2016 1:19 pm

In my experience, there are a handful of things that go wrong. Some are easier and less expensive to detect and/or fix.

Also, without knowing a lot more details about what you're experiencing, it could just as easily be something that's broken or improperly connected, instead of the power system.

First off, if you don't know what you're doing, please don't go poking around in the wiring. Use external test tools, and find someone knowledgeable to go any deeper.

Jensen Transformer have a good whitepaper about hum and buzz in audio systems, but they've unfortunately moved to a login system so I can't just include a link to it...

The most likely problem is that the underlying wiring and stuff is good, but the outlet isn't wired right. The 3-light tester usually detects this, and it's not too hard to fix.

In older houses, there are times that 3-prong plugs have been put on old 2-wire runs...and the ground may have been cheated in some way. They make a tool to test for cheated grounds, but it's expensive. It might be easiest to tell by opening an outlet and looking at the wiring. It's also harder to fix - new wire has to be run.

Sometimes the drops on a wire run are daisychained in funny ways. One outlet in a circuit might be 20' of wire from the panel, and another 250', passing through that other outlet on the way. If you put something heavy (like a drill or vacuum) on the end of that run, you might see voltage rise or drop at the other outlet.

Sometimes the panel ground stops working - oxidation on the nut that joins the ground to the ground rod.

Another common problem in older houses is that the overall service is under-rated. The panel is too small, and the wire coming into the house is too light. This is expensive, because it means calling the utility company to redo the service.
"What fer?"
"Cat fur, to make kitten britches."

endertak
alignin' 24-trk
Posts: 72
Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2008 3:24 pm

Post by endertak » Mon Jan 04, 2016 1:29 pm

This is great info - thank you.
I'll try to assess which one of these situations mine falls into. I'll start by talking to the building owners of the apartment.

Thanks again very much!
e
e.n.d.e.r.t.a.k.

User avatar
Randyman...
takin' a dinner break
Posts: 184
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2012 8:30 pm

Post by Randyman... » Wed Jan 06, 2016 12:36 pm

The Scum wrote: Jensen Transformer have a good whitepaper about hum and buzz in audio systems, but they've unfortunately moved to a login system so I can't just include a link to it...
This one?:

http://www.jensen-transformers.com/wp-c ... /an004.pdf

And this one on Unbalanced<>Balanced interfacing:

http://www.jhbrandt.net/wp-content/uplo ... ipment.pdf

Indeed a good read if you haven't read it yet :)

Another good related read from Rane:

http://www.rane.com/note110.html

As you were! :cool:
Randy V.
Audio-Dude / Musician / PC Guru / Crazy Guy

endertak
alignin' 24-trk
Posts: 72
Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2008 3:24 pm

Post by endertak » Tue Feb 23, 2016 3:56 pm

kslight wrote:As long as your power was installed to code it's probably 'safe' to plug your gear in to.
Seriously doubt it was installed to code.
Nothing in this place seems up to code. I'll purchase an outlet tester and post back. At this point I'm suspecting a bad neutral.
Last edited by endertak on Tue Mar 29, 2016 7:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
e.n.d.e.r.t.a.k.

User avatar
floid
buyin' a studio
Posts: 907
Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2006 1:39 pm
Location: in exile

Post by floid » Tue Feb 23, 2016 10:07 pm

Re: fridge dimming other stuff. Fridges, window ac units, etc typically need their own dedicated breaker, mainly for inrush on startup.
I've seen houses with 12/2 grounded runs throughout, but ground cut off too short to be usable in every single outlet box...
It might help to figure out what is on each breaker, exactly, and get a qualified electrician to determine how well balanced the panel is, if it's sized right, that runs are gauged properly, etc. If it's an older house, repeatedly and haphazardly tying in more and more stuff might have created an issue. Which comes back to mapping the panel: is it logical? Or does one breaker control a bedroom, a porch light, an outlet in the laundry room, and the coffeemaker?
Village Idiot.

User avatar
A.David.MacKinnon
ghost haunting audio students
Posts: 3413
Joined: Wed May 07, 2003 5:57 am
Location: Toronto
Contact:

Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Wed Feb 24, 2016 6:26 am

floid wrote:Which comes back to mapping the panel: is it logical? Or does one breaker control a bedroom, a porch light, an outlet in the laundry room, and the coffeemaker?
I used to own a 120 year old row house that had probably been a rental property for at least 90 years. Every repair that had ever been done was DIY and shoddy. Fixing the place up quickly spiralled out of control because the simplest jobs would quickly turn into a massive unrelated repair. Tripping one breaker would shut down half of the house. It was a fucking nightmare.
I hate to say it but old rental houses are usually a can of worms and landlords typically don't care and won't address things until they are required to by law or system failure. The cheapest and easiest fix might be to move.

User avatar
floid
buyin' a studio
Posts: 907
Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2006 1:39 pm
Location: in exile

Post by floid » Wed Feb 24, 2016 8:47 am

Yep, not too long ago an electrician was showing me pictures of rats nest wiring he'd found hidden in walls w/ no access.
Village Idiot.

User avatar
Drone
re-cappin' neve
Posts: 664
Joined: Fri Dec 18, 2009 4:01 pm
Location: Uranus

Post by Drone » Wed Feb 24, 2016 10:23 am

I'd like to posit something, knowing nada about various codes etc.

I have a backup generator, and it has it's own breaker box. There is a large breaker in the main breaker box, that feeds this breaker box.

Could this chap, basically create his own wiring loop for the studio, taking a feed from the original breaker box, to a new one, and putting in a ground spike at the new panel for solid grounding.
The previous statement is from a guy who records his own, and other projects for fun. No money is made.

endertak
alignin' 24-trk
Posts: 72
Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2008 3:24 pm

Post by endertak » Tue Mar 29, 2016 7:29 pm

OK, I finally have some follow up information to post. I purchased a gardner bender outlet tester and the thing reads out as having an open ground.

Is this dangerous?
As I mentioned before, I have my entire studio plugged in to this, so it's my understanding that nothing is grounded at this point... :oops:

Would you ppl move because of this, or is there something I can require the landlord do based on a law that exists, etc.?
e.n.d.e.r.t.a.k.

User avatar
Snarl 12/8
ghost haunting audio students
Posts: 3403
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:01 pm
Location: Right Cheer
Contact:

Post by Snarl 12/8 » Tue Mar 29, 2016 9:20 pm

Are there any grounded outlets anywhere? If so, it might be a pretty easy fix. If not, then the whole place might need a new service panel, etc. Figuring that out might help with the "bug the landlord" decision.
Carl Keil

Almost forgot: Please steal my drum tracks. and more.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 45 guests