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

Mar 3rd 2016, 15:25

smecca

Joined: Oct 27th 2014, 03:17
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I concur with K4WFM. I received my replacement breakers from Eaton this January and finally installed them this Sunday. About 80% of the issue was resolved. However last nights operations began tripping the Arc Fault breakers again. This occurred mostly on 40m.

My grounding is excellent. I work the entire US with 50W on a vertical with no radials. My SWR is less than 1.5 on the General bands. With these results, I suspect that I have a pretty high Q and most of the RF energy is getting transmitted. Probably too good. Could proximity of the antenna and XMTR to the utility transformer, AC meter base, and breaker panel be "saturating" my AC utility system and causing the RFI that is tripping my breakers?
Mar 4th 2016, 20:04

W1MG

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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I have heard that Eaton recently came out with a newer version AFCI. Perhaps you don't have the latest version? I think it came out only a few months ago.

With regard to your antenna, I note that you say it is a vertical with no radials. This could suggest that your safety ground system is acting as an RF ground. I could see where excessive RF current flowing in the safety ground system might contribute to tripping AFCI's.
Mar 16th 2016, 22:35

smecca

Joined: Oct 27th 2014, 03:17
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Thanks. I will install some ground radials as soon as the ground thaws.
I have since placed a W2DU current balun near my XMTR. I also added a few 6" loops at this location. This weekend I will be placing a decoupling coil near the antenna consisting of 10 wraps of transmission line on a 6" PVC cylinder. I am using LMR400.

Finally, my neighbor called this weekend and stated that my transmissions are "showing up" in his stereo. Is all of this related? I have ordered some ferrite beads to give him for his speaker cables. What else can I do to get my "voice" out of his stereo? BTW... his house was built at the same time as mine by the same contractor. I have been tripping his AFCIs as well. I am paying for an electrician to replace his AFCIs as well. Just the labor, Eaton sent me enough breakers to put in his panel as well.
Mar 17th 2016, 19:00

W1MG

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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Assuming that you are operating at HF, ferrite beads are unlikely to fix the problem. I might suggest using ferrite toroids on the speaker leads, especially if this problem can occur even when the stereo is not on. Install the cores as close to the amplifier as practical. A good mix might be type 31 ferrite, but if you can't get it, try type 43. I'd start by wrapping about ten turns or so around the toroid to see what happens. You may also need to add similar chokes and an ac line filter to the power cord of the stereo. I would not think that this problem is directly related to the tripping AFCIs.
Jun 7th 2016, 00:23

WD0BCT

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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These breakers were rushed thru the regulatory procedure (National Electrical Code) prior to any manufacturer actually testing and putting them on the market. There are many today still questioning whether these devices actually work as intended...i.e.; sensing an arcing fault and interrupting the circuit. An arcing fault results in a very unpredictable current pattern which the device is supposed to recognize.
Jun 12th 2016, 02:16

nk7z

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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Quote by W1MG
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.

Any idea how much this faux pas cost Eaton?
Jul 16th 2016, 06:46

WH6FCZ

Joined: Jun 1st 2016, 04:41
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I am so glad this topic was on line. I had called my electrician because several circuit breakers were tripping, over and over. I was concerned. Today I heard two breakers trip almost simultaneous with me hitting the antenna tuner. Another try on the tuner after resetting the breakers and viola, I then understood the cause. I am using a QRP rig, max 15 watts. Interesting the Eaton breakers will trip with such little power.
Jul 24th 2016, 21:48

W5YZ

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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It is clear to me that this problem hasn't been solved. On our blog (almost 600,000 views) we have 28 Hams who have been affected in 17 states and 2 Canadian provinces. Some have just given up because they live in apartments and the landlords refuse to let them be replaced. Eaton replaced over 20,000 of these breakers in The Villages in Florida before this was brought to light of the ARRL. I went to Home Depot a week ago and they still have the bad AFCIs on sale. There are many, many bad ones our there that are installed and many more just sitting on the shelf. To say that this is a "bad batch" as suggested by one of the ARRL staff is just plain wrong. It is time to republish the AFCI problem in QST because there are new hams being licensed every day and they need to be informed of this
problem!!
George, W5YZ
Aug 4th 2016, 16:26

W1MG

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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Here is an update on this situation as of today for 2016. We have received a total of five AFCI complaints here at the ARRL since January.

Here is a brief run down on each:

1) Ham was referred to Eaton in February. No further issues were reported.
2) Ham was referred to Eaton in February. No further issues were reported.
3) Complaint involved a non-Eaton breaker. I believe the ham added chokes to mitigate the problem.
4) Ham was referred to Eaton in April. No further issues were reported.
5) Ham was referred to Eaton in June. No further issues were reported.

In summary, each of the four Eaton breaker complaints that we received this year were referred to Eaton for free replacements. After that referral, none of them has reported any further issues. Please also be assured that we are still monitoring the situation.

Thanks,
Mike, W1MG
ARRL Lab

Aug 12th 2016, 22:37

W5YZ

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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Anybody that has this problem needs to check with their neighbors. I was tripping AFCIs over 400 feet away. I was upfront with mine and Eaton finally solved our (14 houses worth) problem. This is tough when you live in a neighborhood that has CC&Rs.
Dec 7th 2016, 07:02

RobHill

Joined: Aug 22nd 2016, 20:09
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My wife and I recently moved into a subdivision with 1/7 acre lots. We have the bad Eaton breakers. Eaton has sent me replacement breakers. There are eight houses within 100 feet of where I would place an antenna. There are 21 houses within 200 feet of me. When I go to 300 feet, there are about fifty houses. At 400 feet, there are close to 100 houses.

I am concerned about reports that 20 watts or so can be a problem, with W5YZ having a problem within 400 feet, although he did not post band or power. I hesitate to transmit with the potential of tripping breakers all over the subdivision.

Do we have any reports which include band, power level, and antenna combinations that are popping breakers?

My initial band of interest is 20 meters, followed by 40 meters with dipoles less than 1/2 wavelength high.

Rob KE5TM
Dec 7th 2016, 19:17

W5YZ

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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Hi Rob, Well it was on 17 meters with power as low as 5 watts. I have a flagpole vertical. I would check with the neighbors to see if they are having any problems. The worst seems to be 17 meters but others have reported problems on 20 and 15 meters. Be sure to specify that Eaton replaces these breakers for free. That includes your neighbors that are affected also. Good luck and happy holidays.
George, W5YZ

BTW, ARRL has said they are going to bring this subject up again because it is a widespread one. Have been looking in QST but nothing yet.
Dec 8th 2016, 00:53

RobHill

Joined: Aug 22nd 2016, 20:09
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Thanks for the response, W5YZ, I asked Eaton about sensitive frequencies and power levels, told them about the small lot sizes, and all they would say is transmit and see what happens. As many houses as there are close by, I hesitate to see how unpopular I can make myself, especially with my HOA rules.

Rob, KE5TM
Dec 8th 2016, 01:44

W5YZ

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 0
I am also in a CC&R community. I was upfront with my neighbors about the problem. Here is my letter to my neighbors:
Dear neighbor,
As you may know, I've been working to resolve a problem of defective Arc Fault Circuit Interrupts (AFCIs) that were installed in your power box when your house was built. These AFCIs are vulnerable to Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) from various sources including my amateur radio transmissions. Eaton Corporation, AFCI manufacturer, has agreed to replace these at no charge to you. These new breakers should also reduce the incidence of nuisance tripping that is also associated with vacuum cleaners, treadmills and other appliances.
Eaton has tasked XXXX Electric to replace the ones in your box. They will come by at your convenience. You will need to contact them to schedule the replacement. Their phone number is 555-555-5555.
If possible, please let me know when they complete the installation. The AFCIs should have the word "HAM" on the side.
This changeout will take about 45 minutes and you will be without power for that time.

If your neighbors have a problem, you have to chose between not operating or getting Eaton to correct the problem that THEY created.

George, W5YZ
Dec 8th 2016, 05:36

RobHill

Joined: Aug 22nd 2016, 20:09
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Thank you very much for the letter and information about your experience, George. Would you be willing to send me an email so that we could compare notes more specifically? My email user id is hillrb and my email service is at earthlink dot net.

Thanks again. Rob KE5TM

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