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New house, can our electricity be too strong?

Posted by brookelizabeth (My Page) on
Wed, Oct 20, 10 at 23:12

I understand paint and color, not electricity so please excuse my terms etc.

We moved into a new house end of June. We are the only house on the street. It seems that our current is too strong. The toaster had to go from the 5 setting to 2 here. The lightbulbs burn out faster than they should. The hairdryer does a super fast job of drying hair. The cable guy had to do something to the cable box because of our electricity.

We called the builder and he said that it might be a bit more powerful because we are the only house on the street but isn't 110 110 and 220 220??

Is this possible?

And if so is it hard on appliances etc? What would you do if this was your house?

Thank you!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

In the United States the nominal voltage is 120 volts with the average around 117 volts. The actual voltage can vary based on local conditions and I think power companies shoot for +/-10%.

You might want to talk to your builder and have his electrician measure the actual voltage in your house.

Until you resolve the problem or more houses are built, you can reduce burned out light bulbs by using bulbs rated for 130v. Some home centers sell them, although the choice in watts is usually limited. Or try an electrical supply house.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

Your voltage should be right around 120v/120v 240v. The voltage could possibly be too high but should have been checked when the meter was installed. You should be able to make a call to the utility and voice your concerns and have it checked which might not be a bad idea.

The old place could have had bad wiring and caused part of the issue. Do you remember lights dimming much or any thing like that in the old house when toasters or ovens were turned on at the old place?

The old wiring or possible overloaded circuit (utility side) might explain the toaster but still doesn't help the lightbulb issue.

If the bulbs are no name incandescent this could be a rash of junk bulbs going out unless the new ones you replaced are failing also. If they are CFL's and mounted in recessed lights... they will not have a very good lifespan usually, sometimes less than a regular bulb.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

Attached below is a curve that shows the desired power quality voltage range.

If you are a single house on a transformer the taps may have been set higher than they should be to avoid the POCO having to return to further adjust the taps when the loading increases from other houses.

A complaint to the POCO is in order.

Excessive voltage will damage all just about anything you plug in.

Here is a link that might be useful: CBEMA Curve


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

My voltage varies between 109 and 124, with a regular drop around meal times.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

Thanks for all of the information.

The old house did have dimming lights. The lightbulbs are the kind recessed can light bulbs likely GE.

I am glad that I didn't wait for my husband to do something, been waiting too long. I called the electric company and they are coming to check the level.

Thanks for your help!


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

The electric company is here and they are cutting our power and switching the big box in the yard. It's faulty and we are dangerously high.

Thank you for the help and telling me what to do!

My IT geek husband is on my list right now. I could use more handy, less Apple stuff in the house.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

If you want to monitor your voltage, tell your IT geeky husband to get a UPS that displays the current line voltage. I bought one at Costco (Tripp-Lite) for $99 and change.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

Did the electric company say what the voltage was?


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

in july, my house had in the 130's i didnt measure it since. there was also a window a/c on that circut.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

They said that it was in the 140's. We lowered the watts in the lightbulbs and now I need to raise them again, it's dim in here.

How much damage might have occurred to appliances, laptops etc?

My IT geek husband wouldn't know how to plug the meter in much less use it! ha ha


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

I would make a note of the date and any information you can think of or get a hold of for your records and do not lose it for at least the next couple years.

I would also talk to the utility and first see what their plan is if something burns up in the near future. I would think 140's for any period of time would reduce the life of almost everything.

I know voltages fluctuate but 140's even in a momentary spike every now and again would have me calling my utility.

I am not trying to scare you as everything might be fine and you might not have any issues from this. I would just be prepared in case things start happening you have some documentation.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

if i had 140, i would complain to ppl and demand a new transformer. i prefer 115-120v. in my old house, i could see the lights on my plant dim slightly at about 22:00.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

Your laptops will almost certainly be fine. Most have power pucks rated for 100-250 volts. Mobile phone chargers are usually universal voltage so they should be OK.

Other electronics with well-regulated switchmode power supplies (ask the manufacturer) will probably be OK too. In general (though not universally), the cheaper the product, the more likely it is to be damaged by excessive voltage.

Damage is also more likely with electronic devices which have unregulated power supplies, such as the little cube "wall wart" adapters that plug into the wall. Excessive voltage can degrade electrolytic capacitors, semiconductors, and other voltage-sensitive components in these devices.

Even there though it's not a sure thing. The newer style wall warts which weigh less are actually switching supplies and probably regulated, so these are less of a concern.

Your main concern would be with appliances with motors and heating elements. Many will probably be unharmed, but some could have had their lives shortened. Sorry to say I can't suggest any way to tell. Perhaps others will have ideas.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

If your IT geek husband can't plug in a UPS, he needs to find a new career. IMHO.

Here is a link that might be useful: UPS


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

"i prefer 115-120v."

The standard for long term voltage level is 90-110 V steady state, with even 120 being only allowed for up to 0.5 seconds.

140 V is acceptable for no more than 3 milliseconds (0...3 seconds).

The damage is caused by excessive heating, especially in motors (like refrigerators, central air, HVAC blower motors, etc. than run long term).

There is no real practical way to asses if any insulation damage has been done since the are are no 'before' readings to compare a new reading against.

You can try and keep records, but proving years down the road that THIS incident (as opposed to anything else that occurred) caused a failure is very difficult.

Newer switch mode power supplies should be fine, but older ones and non-switch mode supplies (AKA 'linear supplies) can have their front end transformers, filter, and/or rectifiers damaged. Again with no simple way to tell.
Even a damaged part very often still falls within the manufacture's data sheet variation.

Effectively some life, and resistance to further surges, is reduced.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

how would a ups reduce the voltage to connected equipment?


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

a true ONLINE UPS will by its very nature, smithy123, since the load is always on the inverter, and always fed what the UPS electronics decide it should be.

A basic "line conditioner" is basically a multi-tap autotransformer with some means of automatically switching taps to 'regulate' output voltage. Some UPS's have line conditioners built in.

You can also wire the secondary side of a transformer in series with the AC line and vary the phase and magnitude on the primary side to add or subtract voltage to/from the output.


The last UPS I had that did anything about overvoltage did so by switching entirely to battery whenever overvoltage occurred. This wouldn't be a great scenario with a CONTINUOUS overvoltage, as once the battery is drained you're out of luck, but it would achieve the goal of protecting the connected equipment.


That answers your question, smithy123. Now how about mine: Who ever said a UPS WOULD fix the overvoltage? I think someone just suggested buying a decent UPS that has a voltmeter built in.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

Online UPS units do NOT feed the incoming AC to the output under any condition.

They change incoming power to DC, then change the DC back to AC to produce the output.
They cost more than simple UPS units that often provide only some filtering to the incoming AC if it is 'in spec' and then pass it straight to the output.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

thanks, guys.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

"Online UPS units do NOT feed the incoming AC to the output under any condition."

Almost universally true today. However, a few high end UPS systems feed the mains input to the output under normal (mains on) operating conditions.

These UPS systems use ferroresonant transformers, which have two benefits. First, they provide some measure of voltage regulation; and second, they allow a few ms of time for the UPS to start the inverter and transfer the output when the mains power fails.

Here is a link that might be useful: Best Ferrups (now made by Eaton)


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

"However, a few high end UPS systems feed the mains input to the output under normal (mains on) operating conditions. "

Then they no longer meet the definition of 'online' (advertising claims to the contrary).


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

Thank you all.

I am going to print this and take it to my electrician who can explain it!

I read this to my IT husband and he said thanks and that he does know what a UPS is. His excuse, too busy at work. My answer, we could have had a fire! Oh well, thanks to you all we have a new big box in the back yard.

We didn't have A/C, just window units until next spring when we add the air.

My main concern would be the TV, computer, stove and fridge. The stove is new, and gas. Hopefully because it is gas it may not have been damaged because just the starter and clock are electric. The fridge is 1 yr old. The TV is 2 years old.

Does a good surge protector help protect the TV and computer? We do have good strips.

Thanks


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

You mean like these?

Here is a link that might be useful: The Truth about MOVs


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

Scary but no, not like those. Wouldn't hurt to invest in some new surge protectors though. I have the urge to take ours apart now just to see what is inside. Thanks


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

"Scary but no, not like those."

If you have any type opf power strips with transient protection they are going to be using MOVs (Metal Oxide Varistors).

Other types of transient protection equipment covers even higher clamp voltages (gas tubes) ot lower clamp voltage (TSS diodes, zener diodes, etc).

MOVs have a decent corner on the transient suppression market from a few hundred to low thousand volt range with power handling ability that can be tailored to the expected surge current bu the physical size of the device.

Their main weakness is the gradual damage that occurs from every transient the 'break over' and conduct (thus clamping the voltage) if high current is present.
While the break over voltage can be checked without damage, the current carrying capacity cannot effectively be checked outside of a lab setup and the devices are generally damaged by the measurement.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

Zero Surge units are fundamentally different in the way they operate, and do not degrade from use.

From http://www.zerosurge.com/aboutus.cfm:

Today, customers like Aramark, Merck, NASA, the FBI, Georgetown University Hospital, Princeton University, NIST, the U.S. Marine Corps, and thousands more businesses and consumers are realizing the benefits and cost savings by using Zero Surge products.

Here is a link that might be useful: Zero Surge superior, USA made, patented series mode power quality filters


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

Brickeyee, I think you are telling me to get new strips. I see the inox has left a link but can quality strips be purchased at local stores, best buy etc? Thanks


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

I understand that it takes a long time to go through the Zero Surge site to understand what they have accomplished. (The president of the company invented some of the first integrated circuits at RCA Laboratories, and has 40 patents related just to surge suppression.) It is very difficult to explain that one's competitors are selling inherently inferior products without getting into some kind of trouble. What you want is a suppressor that is Grade A, Class A, Mode 1. That is what people serious about surge suppression, such as NASA, Boeing, The Fermi National Accelerator Lab, and Apple are using. Many other people are learning the hard way that anything involving MOVs may already be partly degraded by a series of small surges before the big one arrives.

Here is a link that might be useful: NLSI Recommendations for Surge Protection Devices


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

A few years ago, a lineman doing work in our area dropped a HV line onto an LV line. Quite a lot of damage resulted, including one house fire. However, in my house, MOV-based surge strips protected the vast majority of our appliances, computers, and electronic devices. I lost only one pair of computer speakers that weren't plugged into a surge strip.

Understand, every one of those surge strips had to be replaced. Some of the MOVs literally blew apart, as you see in one of the photos referenced above.

But they did their jobs, giving their $20 to $40 lives to protect a few thousand dollars' worth of gear.

I don't know what Inox's relationship is with Zero Surge - whether he works for them, sells them, or is just a satisfied customer. Maybe he'll tell us. And I'm sure the Zero Surge products are outstanding.

But I have to say that Zero Surge's products are on the pricey side. One I saw reviewed was priced at $420 and the review said the cheapest one was "under $200" (which I suspect is $199.99).

That kind of green would buy between 4 pretty good $50 MOV-based surge strips and and 21 marginally decent $20 MOV-based surge strips. If you replace your MOV-based surge strips every 5 years (which seems reasonable to me), it would thus take your Zero Surge between 20 and 105 years to pay for itself (depending on models of each).

Of course, the ZS device may be giving your equipment better protection during that time. Their literature certainly tries to give that impression, and it may be so. Still, as I say, I'm really pleased with the protection I've gotten from my MOV-based gear.

My recommendation: combine good quality MOV surge strips (not the $5 dollar store garbage!) with a secondary TVSS at the main panel and, if you're really worried, a primary TVSS at the meter. That will give you something pretty close to bulletproof surge protection.

Maybe if you're really worried, or you have very expensive electronic gear, or you just have big bucks burning holes in your pocket, a $420 surge strip is for you. It might be just the ticket for a $20k home theatre setup. But I don't think it's in my budget.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

A first glance at the patents shows some apparent shortcomings if the devices are implemented directly from the patents.

There is an overall neglect of ground surges, and the patents show the safety grounds running through the proposed device with no protection of any type.

The entire patent is strictly concerned with conducted surges between hot and neutral.

Lightning also produces coupled surges on the ground line, and the goal of effective suppression is to limit the allowed voltages between both hot, neutral, AND ground.

If the ground is not effectively clamped to the hot and neutral surges can appear on the equipment through the safety ground and produce damage.

It is going to take more review to come to a final analysis of the patents, but the cavalier treatment of the safety ground is a serious shortcoming.


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reRE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

The patent numbers are 07068487 & 07184252.

You need a tiff viewer to see the full patent images.

Here is a link that might be useful: US Patent & Trademark Office


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

Lightning also produces coupled surges on the ground line ...

Yikes, I think of ground as the great equipotential plane (even thought it really isn't). Does this mean that you really can't effectively shunt induced lightning surges to ground? If not, what CAN you safely do with them?


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

"Does this mean that you really can't effectively shunt induced lightning surges to ground?"

They will shunt to earth ground just fine.

The idea that the earth is a uniform zero volts is not correct though.

When a charged clod travels overhead a displacement current occurs in the earth as earth charge is attracted to the clouds charge.
If you drive stakes into the ground a decent distance apart you can often measure a voltage between them, and a very high voltage if a charged thunder cloud is around.

The charge in the cloud is trying to get to earth, and if the air breaks down a bolt of lightning ensues.

Dry pure air is worth ~30,000 V/cm.

Add water vapor and dust and it goes down, but is still a very large number.

When lightning does strike the earth the currents are huge and change quickly.
This can induce a current on ANY nearby conductor that is in the magnetic field of the bolt of lightning.
These induced currents then create high voltage in the conductors as they seek to move.

You need to keep ALL THREE of the AC power lines (four for a 240 V circuit) within a safe level of each other.

That is why the 'standard' surge protection is placed from hot-to-neutral, from neutral-to-ground, and from hot-to-ground.

By not allowing the voltage to rise to a dangerous level between the conductors damage is prevented.

One of the problems (and the one that destroys MOVs) is the additional current that flows from the AC power lines when the MOV device starts conducting.

That current together with any current from the surge itself heats up the device.
If it get high enough (or lasts long enough) the device overheats and fails.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

I think what weedmeister was implying about the UPS, is for monitoring. Most come with software that monitors and records input voltages, frequency, date, time, etc. in a printable format and also real time on screen. They will also kick into the battery backup mode if the incoming voltages are too high. The tip off is everything is operating but the UPS is in the backup mode and won't return to normal. The print outs can come in quite handy when trying to prove your case with the POCO.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

brickeye,

I suggest that you call Zero Surge. If the people who answer the phone cannot answer your concerns, they will have you speak with Mr. Harford himself. He is very generous with his time, and you will probably have quite a time talking with him, given your background.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

Inox,

May I ask, exactly what IS your relationship with Zero Surge? Just curious.

Thanks.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

"I suggest that you call Zero Surge. If the people who answer the phone cannot answer your concerns, they will have you speak with Mr. Harford himself. He is very generous with his time, and you will probably have quite a time talking with him, given your background."

I get paid over $1,000 an hour to consult on electronic and electrical issue.

I am not about to offer free advice to a money making enterprise.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

I am just a typical girl who might walk into Home Depot or Lowes and buy a MOD or as I call them, power strip for $5. I will go and get new power strips and make sure that they are priced above $20 if price is an indicator of quality. I am not $200 or $400 worried!

Now if any of you have paint color questions, I am your girl but you are way above my head with the electric stuff!

Thanks for all of your help. I would not have called the day that I did if you hadn't raised the alarm.

xoxo


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

brickeye,

I am just a customer who never believed that MOV-based surge suppressors could work. I am not an electrician or an electrical engineer, I just have an undergraduate physics degree and took a few courses in electronics (mostly audio equipment).

I spent a lot of time trying to find an alternative to surge suppressors designed to protect mainframes at the expense of peripherals such as printers, and designed in the 1970s. After reading the entire Zero Surge site some time in the early 2000's, I had a few questions. Mr. Harford gave me answers, and I ran them by a physicist who had worked at RCA Laboratories, though not when Mr. Harford was there. The physicist agreed that the Zero Surge concept of dumping the surge into a large box full of capacitors and then letting them slowly drain over the neutral wire was far superior to MOVs.

About six years ago, there was a direct lightning hit at the apartment next door to mine (verified by the fire department). My neighbor lost her TV. My answering machine was damaged, but nothing plugged into either of the two Zero Surge boxes I had at the time was damaged, even though one of them was on the same circuit as the answering machine.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

MOV based supressin works fine.

The MOVs need to have a large enough power handling capability, and the small disk units in inexpensive power strips simply cannot dissipate enough power.

While the concept of dumping charge into capacitors might work, you need to protect EVERY POWER CONDUCTOR relative to each other.

Lightning is not always the same polarity either.

There are both positive and negative strikes.
Depressing one conductor by hundreds of volts (occasionally thousands) will do just as much damage as raising the voltage.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

I've been reading this post on/off during the week and only today had a rainy day to sit down and read it over again and look into some of the claims regarding Zero Surge - would love to comment.

I think however that brookelizabeth (the OP) may be getting a little tired of all the follow-up posts about Zero Surge pinging her email.

In short: brookelizabeth, you had an over-voltage situation which has been identified and corrected. Surge protectors alone would not have prevented or been able to resolve the problem.

Going forward, MOV protected power strips are always a worthwhile investment, as well as a better quality online UPS for computer equipment which provides for proper shut down and DSL/Broadband/VOIP service for a few hours.

Maybe a new thread on Zero Surge and surge suppression...?


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

do not ever buy a cheapie china plu7g strip. i had 2 and they both started arching and almost burned rhe house down. ripped the cord and circut breaker switches out and chucked them.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

Thanks Yosemitebill, that I could make sense of.

Oh, you all want to know the hot color right now? If I must, it's gray.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

quetion: what is you guys's obsession with zero surge? remember i mentioned the cheapie plug strip, my dad just bought a $30 belkin with 12 outlets. it has the same contacts a the $3 one from walmart. another one for about $15 there had the contacts of a resi grade receptacle. from now on, i will stick to metal plug strips with all replaceable parts. when one part goes, i will replace it with hubbell spec grade. never a fire hazard again.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

Same as your obsession with QO breakers.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

I am interested in Zero Surge because their products have had no failures and no fires since the company started in 1989. I am not interested in plugging a $5,000 audio system into a $30 anything. I live in a state where people who work for the power company have dropped lines carrying more than 400 volts onto the lines that feed houses (everyone got all new appliances for free, and I was so pleased that it happened in the poorest part of the town).

Here is a link that might be useful: What $30 cannot accomplish


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

"I am interested in Zero Surge because their products have had no failures and no fires since the company started in 1989. "

I would bet that comes from an reliable unimpeachable source... like Zero Surge.

The UL standard is so bad as to be ineffective.

"people who work for the power company have dropped lines carrying more than 400 volts onto the lines that feed houses"

400 volt lines are nothing.

The POCO considers that 'low voltage' in the same class as your 120/240 V service.

The loest distribution voltage used in the US is generally up to 7.2 kV, 7,200 V.

Some areas use even higher distribution, even in residential areas since the housing density is so high.

Over 20,000 volts.

You should see what happens when one of those drops onto the 7.2 kV or a low voltage line set.

"ground wire contamination" is just BS.

Pure and simple.

ALL the wires must be held within a controlled voltage of each other.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

my area uses 12,000 volts. my boiler igniter uses 14,000. it jumps about an inch.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

I do not believe that Mr. Harford is a liar, nor do I believe that Apple, Boeing, Con Edison, Detroit Edison, Louisiana Power & Light, Cornell, Princeton, MIT, Yale, the FBI, the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Fermi National Accelerator Lab, Grumman Aerospace, FedEx, Northern Telecom, and Phillips Medical Systems were all duped.

Here is a link that might be useful: Multiforce Systems Corporation


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

"...were all duped."

Being duped would not surprise me at all.

The IT departments are rarely staffed with electrical engineers with any experience outside of computers.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

Did you read the case study about Multiforce Systems Corporation?


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

"Did you read the case study about Multiforce Systems Corporation?"

Performed by Zero Surge.

Not credible or worth the time.
Does anyone every report their product did not work as advertised?

Independent studies are required.

I would also have a sneaking suspicion that Zero Surge participated in writing the standard.

'Industry experts' you know.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

The problem with requiring independent studies is that in some cases, the people who know the most about a topic are the people who make their living from providing successful solutions to satisfied clients.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

"The problem with requiring independent studies is that in some cases, the people who know the most about a topic are the people who make their living from providing successful solutions to satisfied clients."

There are still almost always independent experts that CAN (and DO) evaluate solutions.

I find fault withtheh enitre standard since it does not ensure the ground line remains within acceptable voltage of the hot and neutral.

This is EMI/Lightning protection 101.

All the supply lines MUST be clamped to each other (at a low enough voltage to prevent equipment damage).

The idea of 'contaminating' a ground by shunting current to it is simply ludicrous.


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RE: New house, can our electricity be too strong?

what i do not get is the filtering part.


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