Solved Mains Electricity (U.K.) Noise disrupting everything?

August 31, 2013 at 09:15:45
Specs: Windows 7 Pro 64bit, AMD Phenom II 1055T, 8Gb DDR2 800Mhz
Hey folks, I've had this weird problem for the longest time and it "seems like it's getting worse", but it's not, it's actually just because of new hardware being affected and I need to find a solution to the mysterious problem.

Basically, certain PC actions or certain actions performed on the Mains supply (UK 230vac @ 50Hz) in the house is disrupting connectivity of PC devices.

All my USB Hard Drives can sometimes be interrupted by turning my 20Watt Halogen Desk Lamp on. The USB HDD's have even been interrupted by someone ringing the Doorbell downstairs once. It could just be the PSU for the USB Hub falling fowl to this Mains "noise", because I don't believe my second PSU driven USB Hub is fluctuating (The devices on it don't appear to be interrupted).

Another example, I just unplugged my Mouse & Keyboard a moment ago to clean them, and it managed to cause some kind of fluctuation which temporarily destabilised my Netgear 500 AV homeplugs - and this is very annoying; constantly knocking out Network connectivity.

I used to have a pair of cheap 85Mbps White Box Homeplugs from Ebuyer, which worked flawlessly for their several year lifetime, but the Netgear Homeplugs don't appear to be immune to this Electrical "noise" anomaly.

You probably think I'm crazy and that I'm connecting coincidental events, but the amount of times I turn on my Desk Lamp or Desk Fan, and it disconnects and reconnects all my Hard Drives, it's basically a Sigma 5 science rating, it's definitely the correct correlation.

I don't overly suspect my Corsair 1050W HX PSU to be the cause of matters, simply because no internal HDD's suffer at all; my system is very stable and operate without any BSOD's whatsoever (Lucky me).

It might be worth noting I have a 10 Way Surge Tower, and a 7 Way Surge Block both connected off a 4 Way regular Mains block (Yes, bad etiquette), but my Current draw is only 2.5Amps and I'm far below the 13 Amp Rating of all the cabling and connectors, and no part of it gets warm.

It might also be worth noting although we are 230vac in the UK, my Mains Monitor reports approximately 244vac at the moment, but I believe there is a tolerance either way and that should be fine, since everything tends to be... rated up to 250vac. I wonder if that's worth checking my PSU's for all my external equipment actually - I shall check to ensure they are rated suitably.

I know it's a long winded post, but just laying the information down. I also realise it's more a Mains Supply issue by the looks of things, as opposed to strictly PC related, but if anyone is experienced in both fields your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

~ NinjaKirby


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✔ Best Answer
August 31, 2013 at 16:31:30
OK fine now, I misunderstood and thought you meant the PC was not earthed.

It's not uncommon for some domestic items, such as your desk fan, to not be earthed - they are double insulated for safety instead. Adding an earth might help but it really shouldn't be necessary.

I've never tried HomePlugs (PowerLine) but by chance I was thinking of doing so. It does make me wonder if they have a bearing on some of this but with no experience I can't really comment.

The UK mains voltage used to be 240 + or - 6%. We changed to 230 +10% -6% to comply with Europe but in practice voltages generally remain nearer the old spec. My guess is nothing really changed except we have now given ourselves a wider margin. Either way your 244V is well within spec and quite typical in the UK. Most modern equipment, including computers, use switched-mode power supplies and run internally at quite low voltages. They can usually well cope with our domestic voltage spec.

So, as you say, all a bit weird and to my mind there could be various possible causes. If the PSU in your computer is faulty and not controlling the internal output voltages properly then I suppose all sorts of strange things could start happening - although I've not knowingly run into this. It's very unusual for UK folk to use a UPS.

You mentioned ferrite beads - nothing lost experimenting with them I suppose, although it obviously means splitting cable cores which is a bit of a pain. I did manage to reduce TV break-through (strong local transmitter) on amplifiers by using them on speaker leads but simply wrapping the cables back and forth seemed to work just as well. Hmm, are your speaker leads long and draping around everywhere (just wondering if they could be picking anything up)?

You could probably prove whether this is radiated interference or mains borne by running your fan (or whatever) on an extension lead and getting someone to switch it off and on from another room while you watch the computer.

It would be interesting to see if anyone else comes along with some fresh ideas on this oddity. I've been treading the boards on this forum since mid-1999 and never seen anything of this sort mentioned by anyone.

Always pop back and let us know the outcome - thanks

message edited by Derek



#1
August 31, 2013 at 12:22:18
In my experience as an engineer, these sort of things are often down to "radiated" interference rather than being mains borne. After all, adding a 20W lamp load would not even get noticed unless your house is wired up with fairy light cable. For example, the small spark inside the switch can radiate. Try positioning some of these objects further away just to see if that makes any difference.

Use a multi-meter on the low ohms range to check that your PC case is earthed. Measure between the plug on the mains cable (unplugged) and some screw on the case. If this connection is absent, or very high resistance, then the case will be unscreened and therefore let in radiated interference.

I don't know where you live in the UK but the mains itself is usually pretty stable compared to some other countries.

Always pop back and let us know the outcome - thanks

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#2
August 31, 2013 at 13:18:59
Hello Derek, thanks for your thoughts and suggestions!

I measured the resistance from the Earth Pin to a Case Screw, read about 50-1000 Ohms fluctuating within those figures, pretty small resistance I suppose.

What sort of Radiating distance can you expect with these Low wattage devices? There's not a great deal of cable on the devices, maximum 6-7 foot, but at full stretch I was still able to interrupt the USB connections with just a couple of fan on/off operations to begin with. Managed to "trip" them 3 times in the space of a few minutes.

I dunno if it accounts for anything, but the Cabling for both these desktop devices are only Two Core Mains cable - would the lack of earthing have any bearing? These devices are attached to the same 10 Way Surge Tower as the HDD PSU's.

Is it worth investing in a Mains Conditioner, like the one produced by Tacima on Amazon? Or just slapping Ferrite rings on any AC/DC power cables lacking them?

I'm native the UK, indeed it's quite rare we get a blackout/brownout in the modern city I'm in.

Edit: I might also mention that my Homeplug upstairs is about 12 foot away from my PC & equipment. In attempt to stop the interruptions to the Network I moved it directly onto the Mains wall outlet, instead of on my Surge Towers (Recommended practice anyway). Unfortunately the trouble persists.

After investigating, a lot of my Switched Mode PSU's for Hard Drives etc. are clearly stated as being 100-240VAC. I know it's only 4 Volts more what I'm receiving into the House and I'd expect the stuff to be tolerant, but it's worth noting...

message edited by Ninja_Kirby


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#3
August 31, 2013 at 13:42:37
I'm from the UK too (Kent - SE England). Our mains were better when I lived in the suburbs of London but mainly because we now have a lot of overhead power distribution so weather can cause interruptions.

Are you quite sure about those resistance measurements? I would have only expected an ohm or two. Sometimes you can be mislead by poor screw contact etc. Try shorting the multi-meter leads together to make sure your readings are about zilch. Then try between the earth pins at each end of the power cable. If that gives a low reading then go between the computer earth pin and the case - maybe try some other screws in case the were not making good contact.

Surprised to hear that you have no earth wiring - rather unusual in the UK. Are you in a rural location, Scotland maybe? Perhaps you can hook up an earth somehow - usually it is provided at the main fuse box but you might be able to find one elsewhere. It all depends on your situation. Yes, I definitely think lack of earth (ground for USA folk) could have a bearing on your issues.

Always pop back and let us know the outcome - thanks

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Related Solutions

#4
August 31, 2013 at 15:08:20
You are right in suspecting the measurements, I tried again on a few area's on the case to the Plugs Earth Pin: getting 1-2 ohms, much better.

About the lack of Earth wiring, I only meant the small Desk Fan lacks it, possibly the Lamp too. My PC obviously uses a regular "Kettle Lead", all 3 conductors utilised. I live in a house that was freshly built only 4 years ago btw, so it's "up-to-date" and earthing shouldn't be an issue.

I'm not sure what to do at this point.

I dunno if I should be suspecting the Mains Voltage coming in (It's apparently 14 volts higher than the official rating, but perhaps that's normal).
Or maybe I should look into Mains Conditioning, perhaps even a suitable UPS with built in AVR and stuff, perhaps that could help quell matters.

Unless you might have any other thoughts or tests? Any thing welcome, appreciate the help so far!


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#5
August 31, 2013 at 16:31:30
✔ Best Answer
OK fine now, I misunderstood and thought you meant the PC was not earthed.

It's not uncommon for some domestic items, such as your desk fan, to not be earthed - they are double insulated for safety instead. Adding an earth might help but it really shouldn't be necessary.

I've never tried HomePlugs (PowerLine) but by chance I was thinking of doing so. It does make me wonder if they have a bearing on some of this but with no experience I can't really comment.

The UK mains voltage used to be 240 + or - 6%. We changed to 230 +10% -6% to comply with Europe but in practice voltages generally remain nearer the old spec. My guess is nothing really changed except we have now given ourselves a wider margin. Either way your 244V is well within spec and quite typical in the UK. Most modern equipment, including computers, use switched-mode power supplies and run internally at quite low voltages. They can usually well cope with our domestic voltage spec.

So, as you say, all a bit weird and to my mind there could be various possible causes. If the PSU in your computer is faulty and not controlling the internal output voltages properly then I suppose all sorts of strange things could start happening - although I've not knowingly run into this. It's very unusual for UK folk to use a UPS.

You mentioned ferrite beads - nothing lost experimenting with them I suppose, although it obviously means splitting cable cores which is a bit of a pain. I did manage to reduce TV break-through (strong local transmitter) on amplifiers by using them on speaker leads but simply wrapping the cables back and forth seemed to work just as well. Hmm, are your speaker leads long and draping around everywhere (just wondering if they could be picking anything up)?

You could probably prove whether this is radiated interference or mains borne by running your fan (or whatever) on an extension lead and getting someone to switch it off and on from another room while you watch the computer.

It would be interesting to see if anyone else comes along with some fresh ideas on this oddity. I've been treading the boards on this forum since mid-1999 and never seen anything of this sort mentioned by anyone.

Always pop back and let us know the outcome - thanks

message edited by Derek


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#6
September 1, 2013 at 15:12:34
I know you said the house was fairly new, but you could have a house or room wiring problem such as a bad ground (earth), a reverse of the neutral and hot, or simply a poorly tightened connectors (or screws) at the outlets or breaker panel. In the US, your ground (earth) would be a bare copper wire going from the electrical panel to a clamp around the water pipe where it comes into the building. Some of this you might be able to investigate yourself, but some may need a master electrician to be sure. In the US you can purchase a plug in tester that (using colored LED's) can tell you if there is a ground fault, polarity, or other issue. Testing multiple rooms can tell you if a problem is local to that room or more serious. If it is this, it may be that the contractor used a non-electrician for some of the work, or the electrician let their worker do the job without the proper supervision.

You have to be a little bit crazy to keep you from going insane.


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#7
September 1, 2013 at 15:30:35
In the UK a sound earth is provided at the fuse box by the electrical company. We have strict rules requiring bonding of this earth to water pipes and gas pipes (for very good safety reasons) but neither of these are allowed to be used as your actual electrical earth connection - again for very good reasons.

Clearly this earth connection should be fed around all wall sockets on the ring main (and to lighting circuits these days too).

Things were a lot more happy-go-lucky some 50 years ago but most ancient houses would have been rewired since then. Nowadays you are not even supposed to fit a wall socket unless you are a qualified electrician.

The UK electrical rules and regulations are very much different to that of the US - probably partly due to population density - we have no wide open spaces LOL.

Always pop back and let us know the outcome - thanks

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#8
September 1, 2013 at 16:57:43
The plug test that Fingers mentioned can also be purchased in the UK. Get yourself down to your local B&Q and they will have one at a reasonable price.

http://www.diy.com/nav/fix/electric...

Stuart


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#9
September 2, 2013 at 14:03:57
I haven't abandoned you kind folks, thanks for your continued support; great information!

Where I work, we sell the same 6 Way Mains Conditioner that I found on Amazon (That's how I knew of it's existence), the Tacima one. Now this isn't a completely fair test, because I have reshuffled equipment - but only because the new Mains Conditioner allows such a manoeuvre, with an additional 6 sockets.

So I have all my PC equipment on the Mains Conditioner, cables tidied up too. The Lamp & Fan are now on a different Mains Block, so if it is somehow creating anomalies on the mains, they are now hopefully being filtered.
So I activated my Desk lamp about 6 times, and switching my fan on/off about 20 times (including right next to the HDD's to check for the airborne possibility), and it's not caused a single hiccup! No USB HDD's reconnecting, no Homeplug failures.

So either;
1) I'm very lucky at the moment
2) The Mains conditioner is doing something good
3) It's merely because I was able to relocate the Fan/Lamp - onto the second Wall socket in fact, off a separate standard Mains Block.

I could further test, by swapping the Mains Conditioner with another regular 6-way block, but it's still not identical conditions compared to before since the Lamp/Fan is moved.
With this new set-up, I would still expect my Homeplugs to fail though because I've kept it off of the Conditioner (under the presumption the Condition will hamper/destroy data connectivity), connected to the block with the Lamp & Fan in fact.

If this set-up ultimately works... I'm wondering if it could just be Mains Interference from the Lamp/Fan being turned on? The cables running past, possibly along side, the PC equipment DC/AC power leads, if that's even possible.

I might still pick up the Mains Wiring tester, it's cheap and can check that all is well; why not. (In fact we always used to sell that as well, but just of recent we have ceased stocking it in store, typical!)

Thanks for all your help Derek, StuartS and Fingers, if I notice the interruptions occurring at all in the next week, I'll be back. (Not so much to trouble you more, more-so to share this mysterious quest for knowledge, hehe).

Edit: Gave you a "Best Answer" Derek, hopefully it's solved and ya deserve it :D

message edited by Ninja_Kirby


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#10
September 2, 2013 at 14:09:38
Sounds better for whatever reason(s). Sure, keep us posted, it's an interesting one.

Always pop back and let us know the outcome - thanks


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#11
September 5, 2013 at 06:45:27
It's now a few days along, and it's all working even better then expected. Problems have been solved by the actions stated before.

It's even fixed a problem I've had since forever with my NAS (I never even thought to correlate it with this problem, despite it's potential for being a power related issue).

I thought I had a bad PSU or NAS Enclosure, sometimes my Synology DS410 would run for only 12-24 hours, then apparently die, even the PSU light would go out. If I'm lucky, it'd run for up to a week. When I unplugged the PSU block from the mains, and plugged it in again, it would all come back to life as expected.
BUT, the NAS would report an improper shutdown at the time of Mains disconnection, despite being apparently completely dead (Silent unit, Stone cold/no heat present, no HDD's spinning, no activity on LED's), and like I said, even the PSU light would be unlit.

Such a weird case, I'm just glad all the torment is over. First world problems up in this.

I don't feel like I have to buy a new USB Hub, new USB Enclosure, new Homeplugs and a new NAS - the likes of which aren't cheap! Christ.

If it is the source of the actual fix, the Tacima Mains Conditioner is the way to go. Alternatively, just try replacing each of your Mains splitters one at a time, could be a bad connection somehow on the old one I have. It seems the Fan & Lamp were not at all direct culprits, they just destabilised the existing precarious problem, much like the Doorbell managed to do. Crazy.

Thanks again guys! :D


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#12
September 5, 2013 at 07:32:57
Thanks for the feedback. I guess we'll never know what fixed this one.

Always pop back and let us know the outcome - thanks


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