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HF RF Tripping Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI's)

Jun 11th, 15:44

W4TL

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 0
Up until around the first of April this year I had never heard of a Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI). After moving into a new home in a 55 and older Del Webb Community (which incidentally restricts antennas) in November of last year I began to assemble a modest station (100 watts with a small vertical antenna). Well I got everything in place and began to check out the antenna, etc. and my wife advised me that some of the electrical circuits in the house went off. Well I went to the breaker box to reset the breakers and try again with power reduced to about 20 watts. They still tripped. At this point I realized I had a problem. I did a Google search and discovered that there is a problem with Eaton AFCI's (which I had) and the ARRL Lab had assisted them in determining that they indeed had a problem with HF RF tripping them. http://www.arrl.org/news/arrl-helps-manufacturer-to-resolve-arc-fault-circuit-interrupter-rfi-problems With the help of the ARRL Lab they developed a new breaker with "HAM" included in the product code that was supposed to be immune from RF at the W1AW station running 1 to 1.5KW on all bands. Eaton supplied me with the new AFCI's, 18 of them and once they were installed I thought things were going to be OK. Well, I was surprised to find out that six (6) were still tripping. I tried several different antenna types a stealth vertical located about 20 feet from the house and a Buddipole located about the same distance, both of these antennas had the same results. I contacted Eaton and they provided me with 6 more AFCI's of a different generation and they have worked perfectly no tripping. I realize this is a work in progress with both Eaton and the ARRL Lab and I can assure you that Eaton has been more than cooperative and is trying to resolve the situation of their AFCI's tripping with RF from HF amateur radio transmissions. I am wondering if there are others who might have had problems with these devices and how a resolution was or is being handled.

Thanks in advance for your input.

73

Terry Jones, W4TL
Jul 5th, 17:25

pdlpsher

Joined: Jul 12th 2010, 05:23
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Hi All,

I want to share my success story. I moved into a newly built home in 2012. While running 600W on RTTY it tripped my AFCI breakers. My electrician was stumped. He spoke to Eaton and Eaton asked us to send one of the AFCI to them for analysis. We did that. One of their engineers called me and requested some basic info. such as power level and frequency in operation. At that time a google search turned back very few useful info.

One day I was at the breaker box and I noticed that I had two types of AFCI breakers. I did extensive testing and I wasn't able to trip one type. At the same time I was able to trip the other type consistently and repeatedly. I shared this info. with my electrician. It turned out that the 'good' type of AFCI breakers (Eaton) is an older model. The newer and 'bad' type AFCI breakers (also Eaton) always tripped at higher power (600w). My electrician purchased more of the 'good' type AFCI breakers and my problem was completely solved. Since then I've upgraded my amp. to a legal limit amp. A brief test at a power level higher than legal limit produced no false trips. It's been more than two years since the fix and I have not experienced one false trip. The 'good' type AFCI is model BRC115CAFA. Perhaps some of you could try to locate this model and give it a try. Please report back if this breaker solves your problem. GL.

73,
Jonathan W6GX
Jul 20th, 14:09

mkatz

Joined: Dec 10th 2010, 11:42
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I am having the same problem:

Moved into a new apartment with Eaton AFCI's
Trip two of them (15A) with HF signal on 20m and 15m
VHF/UHF seem unaffected (5W HT)
Cell Phones, remotes etc seem OK
Even my neighbors get their breakers tripped
Even if rig is on battery (FT897d) and power cranked down to 20w

Called Eaton and they were very nice. They wanted to come in and replace the breakers in my and my neighbors apartments.

I gave them the contact info for my landlord since these are rentals. Am still waiting.

Question: If landlord doesn't cooperate with Eaton is it true that I can transmit without repercussions since I am a licensed ham? Obviously, this won't earn me any friends. What are the laws regarding this? So far, I am handling matters quietly and cautiously.

Thanks, Marc WB2MSC
Jul 24th, 13:52

W4TL

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 0
It appears that the problem with the Eaton AFCI's is going to continue for a long time and may never be resolved. The reason I say this is that the troublesome AFCI's are still to this day being manufactured and installed in neighborhoods all across the United States.

I just moments ago got off the phone with Joe Fello (8:37 AM today) and he affirmed that Eaton is still manufacturing and electrical contractors are installing these troublesome breakers all over the US. They are only using the "HAM" breakers and replacing the faulty breakers on an "as need" basis. In my opinion this is making it more difficult to correct the problem if the manufacturer is still producing the product that is causing the problem and electrical contractors are still installing them.

I pity the poor ham 10 years down the road that moves into a neighborhood loaded with these breakers and tries to get an HF station on the air.

W4TL
Jul 31st, 14:12

W1MG

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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Total Posts: 0
I can confirm that the troublesome RF susceptible breakers will no longer be manufactured by Eaton. They are now being phased out in favor of the new “Ham Friendly” breaker. After this transition, Eaton does not intend to manufacture both versions of their AFCI breaker.
Aug 1st, 13:37

W4TL

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 0
The new "Ham Breakers" are still troublesome and tripping in some cases. This is a post yesterday on the E-ham forum regarding this.

"Update 4: Tonight one of the NEW "HAM" BREAKERS TRIPPED TWICE.

I was using 50 Watts with PSK on 20 Meters.

I have notified Joe Fello at Eaton and can't wait to see what Eaton's response will be.

VERY UNHAPPY.

AK2L"

I too had one of the new "Ham Breakers" trip on 20 meters at 14.015 Mhz CW yesterday morning. Mine tripped when I pressed the auto tuner on my Yaesu FTdx3000 with an output of 5 to 10 watts for it to complete the tuning cycle. Mine tripped before the tuning cycle completed.

Aug 1st, 15:00

mkatz

Joined: Dec 10th 2010, 11:42
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Total Posts: 0
Still waiting to see if Eaton will contact my landlord and replace the breakers in question. My landlord hasn't responded to my email and Joe Fello is on vacation until next week. According to Terry, there is still a problem with the new breakers. I wonder what could be done short of actual replacement. Because I am effecting my neighbors, I can't experiment. Marc WB2MSC
Aug 1st, 22:05

W4TL

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 0
Quote by W4TL


I too had one of the new "Ham Breakers" trip on 20 meters at 14.015 Mhz CW yesterday morning. Mine tripped when I pressed the auto tuner on my Yaesu FTdx3000 with an output of 5 to 10 watts for it to complete the tuning cycle. Mine tripped before the tuning cycle completed.



I just learned this afternoon that I am tripping at least three of my neighbors directly across the street. I was hoping that they had the older AFCI's that didn't cause any trouble but they don't. My 20 meter signal is tripping the majority of the AFCI's in their panels. I wonder how many million of the faulty devices Eaton manufactured and put on the market from November of last year when the ARRL Lab helped them identify and correct their problem until now? The problem only get worse. I moved into a retirement community and wanted to enjoy amateur radio but dealing with this AFCI mess has really taken the enjoyment away. These so called "Safety Devices" are in my opinion "Junk."

Once you learn of a situation of tripping breakers it takes at least a month to go through the process to get them replaced. What a "PITA" this whole thing is.

W4TL
Aug 4th, 13:35

W4TL

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 0
I communicated with my three neighbors across the street and explained the situation to them. They were are very amiable to seeking a resolution from Eaton and having their breakers replaced. I provided them with phone numbers and e-mails of Eaton (Joe Fello & Bob Hedrick) in Pittsburg and Eatons local rep in the Atlanta area (Stephen Byl) who has yet to respond to my e-mails or phone calls to him about the problems. He is ultimately the one who has to be a liaison between Eaton in Pittsburg and the electrical contractor who will change out the breakers. I also provided them Mike Gruber's contact info at the ARRL Lab so that he can be kept in the loop too. I advised them to contact all of these individuals via e-mail and phone and advise them of the problem with breakers tripping with my HF transmissions.

This whole process takes too long to complete. Once a problem is detected we are basically off the air to keep good will with our neighbors until the breakers are fixed (4 to 6 weeks at best). You get back on the air and a week later you find another problem and the cycle starts over. I am still waiting for resolution on the house to my left that was brought to Eaton's attention the first of June. In my opinion that is entirely too long to wait for action.

Maybe this is what they meant when the comment was made that the problems will "self correct." They may be waiting for the amateurs who are affected to give up and "go away."

Terry, W4TL
Aug 4th, 13:38

W4TL

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 0
I communicated with my three neighbors across the street and explained the situation to them. They were are very amiable to seeking a resolution from Eaton and having their breakers replaced. I provided them with phone numbers and e-mails of Eaton (Joe Fello & Bob Hedrick) in Pittsburg and Eatons local rep in the Atlanta area (Stephen Byl) who has yet to respond to my e-mails or phone calls to him about the problems. He is ultimately the one who has to be a liaison between Eaton in Pittsburg and the electrical contractor who will change out the breakers. I also provided them Mike Gruber's contact info at the ARRL Lab so that he can be kept in the loop too. I advised them to contact all of these individuals via e-mail and phone and advise them of the problem with breakers tripping with my HF transmissions.

This whole process takes too long to complete. Once a problem is detected we are basically off the air to keep good will with our neighbors until the breakers are fixed (4 to 6 weeks at best). You get back on the air and a week later you find another problem and the cycle starts over. I am still waiting for resolution on the house to my left that was brought to Eaton's attention the first of June. In my opinion that is entirely too long to wait for action.

Maybe this is what they meant when the comment was made that the problems will "self correct." They may be waiting for the amateurs who are affected to give up and "go away."

Terry, W4TL
Nov 12th, 14:47

AA3SI

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 0
I too have tripping Eaton afci's. One trips with 5 watts while tuning on 40. More trip with 5 watts while tuning on 30. It seems to me that some other regulatory agency with clout should be involved to put pressure on Eaton to get a more organized solution to get these defective units out of our service panels.

Fred AA3SI

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