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  1. #1

    Join Date
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    Central Maryland
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    Kubota BX 2200

    Default Rural Electricity

    One observation, now being rural for 12 years (totally citified before). When we first moved into our home, I noticed the lights would occasionally dim, electronic devices failed one after another, there were numerous power outages. Now, having researched years ago (saw a great article Popular Mechanics back about '89), I understand the blips (substation switching). I also immediately (after reading the article) armed my house with many surge protectors (at sensitive devices), including a whole-house surge. Often, quite often, I look at generators.

    Question. Is there anything else I should consider (besides surges and lack of electricity). I haven't researched in so long that I may of missed recent studies.



  2. #2
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    Default Re: Rural Electricity

    Roy, I know exactly what you're talking about. It sounds like the brownouts you're experiencing will be the most likely to destroy motors and the surges are the ones that get the electronics. We live out a ways in the country and are usually the last to go back on line after a storm. Its a trade-off for the other finer aspects of country life. I too purchased a generator awhile back, just large enough to run a few lights, the tv, and the fridge.


  3. #3
    Epic Contributor Bird's Avatar
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    Texas

    Default Re: Rural Electricity

    That's so common for us that I bought a Tripp Lite Internet Office UPS for this computer. The battery backup is only good for a few minutes, but the software will do an orderly shut down instead of the power just going off and on to the computer. Usually our power is back on in a few minutes, frequently just flickering problems, and once in the past 5 years it was off for 8 hours.

    Bird

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Apr 2000
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    Ontario
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    Ford 1710: Loader, Hoe, Snowblower, Box scrapper & 3ph Forks

    Default Re: Rural Electricity

    There's a fix for almost everything, but some of them get expensive, especially if there are big power requirements. Many things can go wrong with AC: over/undervoltages, sags & surges, transient impulses, dropouts, frequency variations & RF noise are the main problems. It's a complicated subject, and I'll avoid my tendency to post a book. However, the main fixes are line filters, line conditioners and voltage regulators.

    Many of the fixes are pretty expensive for general use, and a professional diagnosis of power problems should be taken before throwing money at an expensive solution. On the other hand, power utility companies often keep statistics on power problems, and a utility customer service rep might be able to tell you what you're dealing with.

    Some things to think about are: Cheap surge protectors don't do much. They clamp high voltages such as lightening strikes and that's about it. Some of them aren't fast enough to stop short transients. Large electronics distributors usually have more expensive surge protectors that also contain line filters. Line filters stop various AC noise components and RF interference.

    Surge protectors work by shunting AC components to ground. To work, the AC grounding system has to be good, and many rural residential grounds aren't great. Grounding rods or plates in sandy soil aren't very effective, and grounding rods don't last indefinitely anyway. Drilled well casings can be better grounds but may not be code approved for the primary service ground. Anyway, poor grounds can produce AC problems, and grounds can be checked or just replaced if they're old.

    There is fix for over/undervoltages such as brown outs that may not break the bank. Mechanical autotransformer regulators can handle sizable power and are fairly inexpensive. They do require maintenance, however. Brown outs usually occur because utilities cut voltages to limit power consumption. An autotransformer can raise your voltage back up. Of course if everybody did this, then the power grids would just shut down. Mechanical autotransformers handle only long-term voltage fluctuations. Other types of problems take other solutions. Uninterruptible power supplies are best at most things, and can protect against various problems in addition to outages. Some inverter/battery types can protect a number of circuits and are expensive, but in the ball park. At least some parks.



  5. #5
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    Default Re: Rural Electricity

    Surge suppressors are a good thing to have, but keep in mind that surge protectors, usually utilizing varistors, can beak down over time from suppressing surges. One good surge can do it. To know if you suppressor is still working properly, check it with with a curve tracer (I'm sure everyone has one of these in their back pocket). Don't assume they work forever. The only indication you may get of a faulty suppressor is damaged equipment.


  6. #6

    Join Date
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    SW MI
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    TC33D 7308 loader 757C backhoe

    Default Re: Rural Electricity

    Roy, I too have lived in the "country" for a dozen years. Every year we have several power outages (longer than a few minutes). Causes fall into 3 categories (for my situation). 1. Squirrel in the transformer. 2. Ice/Hail accumulation 3. Tornado/Wind/Thunderstorm. I've only been able to solve one of these (no more squirrels!). 4 years ago, my wife said the next time we lose power for more than 8 hrs, we're getting a generator. We got one and I'll offer that we waited 8 years too long. An ice storm 2 years ago left us without electricity for 5 days - life was much more pleasant with the generator.


  7. #7

    Join Date
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    Kubota BX 2200

    Default Re: Rural Electricity

    Thanks for the info, guys. It sounds like there has been no inexpensive magic-bullet put on the market the last few years (it has been a while since I addressed the problem). Guess I can only continue what I'm doing, protecting sensitive electronic devices at the outlet, and continue looking at generators.

    KCB mentioned a curve tracer. I regularly check the indicator lights on my suppressors to see if they are still working. Does everyone feel that these built-in indicators are sufficient and reliable, or is a separate test required?

    I will add that the problem has improved over the years as the area has grown, as the power company has upgraded to provide for the increased demand. Guess that is a good-news bad news situation. As people move in, we get services that we never had before. Since moving here, they have brought in Cable TV (no thanks, not for me) and laid down natural gas lines last year. Talking about bring sewer and water in. Bad news: Traffic and property taxes go up. It becomes what you originally were trying to get away from. You no longer actually know everyone in the 'hood. Gotta take the good with the bad.



  8. #8

    Join Date
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    Ontario
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    Ford 1710: Loader, Hoe, Snowblower, Box scrapper & 3ph Forks

    Default Re: Rural Electricity

    It's a little difficult to say. Surge suppressors have become a consumer good, and they vary widely in quality and what they do. There may be some organizations that certify suppressors for particular applications and a little looking on the web and computer magazines may turn up something. I have some confidence in the protection fault indicators on my suppressors since there was a lot of literature with them, and I know how much I paid. I'd have less confidence if they were hardware store types.

    Like KCB says, nothing electronic lasts for ever, but if you don't have some test equipment, the testing probably would cost more than new suppressors.

    I'll add a couple of notes about grounding and generators. When I upgraded our electric service, I bought a long line for the service ground. One ground rod is installed near a corner of the house, and the ground line runs around the house to the opposite corner to the second rod. That's a fairly standard technique for installing radio transmission equipment and serves to increase protection from lightening.

    The idea is that in event of a strike, huge amounts of current flows from the surrounding ground to a low resistance point (tree, utility pole etc.) and then jumps to the cloud. If the strike is near a house, the current flow can result in lightening jumps inside a house. By supplying a high current, low resistance path around the house, the potentials within the house stay much the same, even though there are huge voltages all around. That's also a reason to make sure your inside copper plumbing, metal drains and well casings are bonded to your electric service panel. I think that's required almost everywhere.

    Anyway, I thought it was worth buying the extra line since I already had to install two ground rods. I wouldn't have done it if I lived in a city. City houses tend to be almost surrounded by well-grounded utility equipment anyway. My Brother-in-law did see and feel plasma inside his house couple of summers ago. Maybe he wishes he had my type of grounding.

    I installed a backup generator last summer. It's worth checking local codes before you start. Here, backup generators can be hooked into the house wiring only through a transfer switch that has 3 point main breakers. Three point breakers disconnect both hot as well as the neutral service lines. Most service panels have two point main breakers, and the utility neutral can be back fed by improperly connected generators.

    My set up is a 60-amp sub-panel fed from an ordinary 60A breaker in my main 200A panel. Most of the house is wired on the 60A(240V) panel. The panel has one main for the utility feed from my main panel and another for the generator feed. Both mains can't be on at the same time. In a power outage, I start the generator, and then throw the transfer switch. Most of the house is then powered. My generator can't supply 60A(240V), but I can pick and choose which circuits are on.

    Near as I can figure, that's the best type of code approved generator backup system. Back feeding a stove or dryer outlet works, but is dangerous and illegal here. Before checking the codes, I was looking at some equipment that wouldn't have been approved.



  9. #9

    Join Date
    Apr 2000
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    Central Maryland
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    Kubota BX 2200

    Default Re: Rural Electricity

    TomG; I think I got the lesson, correct hookup is not to be left to the hobbyist, like me. If I get a generator, I will make sure it's connected by someone who is experienced.

    Question; What is the "plasma" that was mentioned?



  10. #10

    Join Date
    Apr 2000
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    Location
    North Carolina
    Tractor
    L2500DT & T1700X

    Default Re: Rural Electricity

    Power out for only 8 hrs in 5 years!!!!!...thats great..lets see, we had about 2 days this past jan with the large snow storm...5 days in sept 99 after Hurricane Floyd...almost 3 weeks in 96 after Hurricane Fran. Needless to say I bought a generator a LONG LONG time ago...
    I did see an ad in the local auto trader magazine a few weeks ago from an individual that had 2 PTO gensets for sale. One worked the other needed repair (rewinding?) for $1000 for both. Sounded like a great deal too bad no extra cash around.
    jeff in nc


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