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Surge protectors?

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#1 LoveChina61

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Posted 22 September 2013 - 09:32 AM

Can anyone recommend a solid surge protector that can protect my equipment well? My power needs can go up to as much as 650w momentary consumption but usually run steady at about 550W.

The electric company had a transformer blow out that fried my UPS and also the PowerUSB switch that plugs into my computer's USB port and enables me to turn everything on/off in the observatory. I need to come up with a solid Plan B.

I was thinking about using the CPS Power Unit found HERE but I want to make sure I can put it on the other side of a solid surge protector. Any recommendations?

#2 jazle

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Posted 23 September 2013 - 06:06 PM

I'll be interested in responses to this thread. Some events just can't be protected against. Even a nearby lightning strike (i.e. to a house housing the electronics) can generate the equivalent of a small EMP and damage anything with coiled wiring even if it isn't plugged in. And I've seen videos on you tube where a higher-voltage primary line was accidentally dropped onto a "low"-voltage residential primary line that sent tens of thousands of volts into the breaker panels, caused gutters to arc, and fry every piece of electronics in the house.

In these extreme circumstances, the "surge-protection" components designed to handle small transients on the AC line don't stand a chance (10kV will arc across just about any physical gap switch).

Not sure what happened when the transformer blew, but you might have been out-of-luck regardless of the scenario unless the equipment was actually unplugged -- there is usually at least 7.2kV on the primary to the pole-mounted transformer that could have been shorted to your secondary feed.

The CPS Power Unit probably uses relays or SCRs/Triacs to switch the voltage. Relays would provide a small amount of protection, but the gap is still on the order of 1/16" or smaller and easy to arc with a high-voltage transient. SCRs/Triacs are semiconductors that are usually only rated for 400 or 600V.

#3 LoveChina61

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Posted 24 September 2013 - 12:14 AM

Thanks, Jason. This was the kind of feedback I was hoping for :)

#4 Raginar

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Posted 24 September 2013 - 01:01 PM

So us there anything you can do besides good homeowners insurance?

#5 Midnight Dan

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Posted 24 September 2013 - 01:22 PM

If you run the observatory remotely, there's not a ton you can do.

If not, you can run all the critical (expensive) stuff through one power cord and unplug it when you're done. You may need to leave some things up and running like a fan, dehumidifier, etc. which may blow out in a near-strike surge. But at least if you unplug the power to your mount, computer, etc., you'll go a long way toward protecting against anything but a direct hit.

-Dan

#6 TimN

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Posted 24 September 2013 - 03:01 PM

I've given up on depending on separate surge protectors. Over the last couple of years I've lost too much stuff due to electrical surges. An electrician friend recommended getting a Whole House Surge Protector. I had one installed about 6 months ago and haven't had a problem since. I'm not at home so I'm not sure which one he put in my place but it was something like this: http://www.homedepot...HSPT2MICRO/2...

#7 rimcrazy

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Posted 24 September 2013 - 03:42 PM

I was buying new routers and switches at sometimes two a year in my place in Overgaard AZ where my Observatory is located. I then installed UPS systems made by Tripp Lite and virtually all of my problems went away. The models I purchased are their more expensive versions (Smart Online Model series). These versions don't just filter they completely isolate you from your source AC by regenerating the AC sine wave and synchronizing it to the source. Maybe it's overkill but the proof is in the pudding as they say. Since I've been running these I've yet to have a switch, router, DSL modem fail. They were dropping like flies before. I suspect that this issue is related to the quality, or lack there-of of the AC supplied by our local Co-Op Utility.

My area is also highly susceptible to lightning strikes. We've had numerous trees on my property get hit. When my Observatory went up I got lightning rods put on my home and there is now one protecting my observatory.

Posted Image

Posted Image

Note the skies the day this shot was taken, which was the day the tower/rod were put up. It was a huge downpour about an hour after this shot was taken.

The rod does block a small window to the north of my observatory. Turns out that there are also some high Ponderosa pines in the same area so it really does not block something that is already not blocked a little. Push comes to shove it's location is programmed into my SkyX data and I can program imaging such that I quit before I hit the rod and pick up after I pass.

The contractor who installed all of my lighting rods put surge protectors on all of my AC boxes, including the observatory. I have surge protectors on all of my CAT5 lines that go from the house to the observatory. These lines are all buried but they are still susceptible to EMI from a ground strike.

In the end you do what you can for lightning but it's still a bit of a roll of the dice. For "dirty" AC from your power company, nothing beat a good UPS. By good, however, I would only recommend a model that regenerates the AC and truly isolates you from your power company. Cheaper UPS's do not do this, and while they will keep your electronics running for a short while on a power loss, they will not properly filter your AC for surge spikes.

#8 LoveChina61

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Posted 24 September 2013 - 10:29 PM

Do you think that a UPS like your Tripp Lite would be able to filter out a spike as large as a transformer blowout, or is it primarily for leveling off much smaller variations in electrical output?

That being said, the electrical surges that were coming into your observatory before you installed the Tripp Lite must have been quite significant to have been blowing out your routers and such!

#9 rimcrazy

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 07:41 AM

Do you think that a UPS like your Tripp Lite would be able to filter out a spike as large as a transformer blowout, or is it primarily for leveling off much smaller variations in electrical output?

That being said, the electrical surges that were coming into your observatory before you installed the Tripp Lite must have been quite significant to have been blowing out your routers and such!


Well, let me tell you a little about Overgaard AZ. I really do love the location and the city. That being said, the "fringe" elements tend to stand out a bit. About 5 years ago, on new years day, some "rocket scientist" shot out one of the main power transformers that fed the entire city. This was not some small pole transformers. This was one of those huge bad boys you usually see in a fenced in switching station. Who know's the reason but power was out for about 36 hours because this was not a part that Navopache Electric had in their back lot. A new one had to be special ordered and delivered from California. Just about a year ago some other bunch of idiots did the same thing. This time a much smaller transformer. Did not take out the whole city but a bunch of streets. The perpetrators did this with the intent of then robbing the homes where the power was knocked out. I believe they were caught. My point is I was on my Tripp Lite UPS's during both blackouts. Never lost a single device.

As I said, before UPS's I was buying at least one Linksys router a year and sometimes two. I had some smaller 8 port switches get blown too. After putting in the UPS's I have not had an issue.

I have a rather complicated network setup at my location in Overgaard (as I also have at my residence in Phoenix). I do 3D animation for a living and I have LOTS of computers for rendering and data servers. I have a server up in Overgaard that I use to remote back up my servers in Phoenix. I have cron jobs that open SSH Tunnels at night and run rsync to back up critical files. It is obviously very important that the connections and systems be robust. I have Ethernet controlled AC switches, like I'm sure you also use. The AC switch that feeds my DSL modem and my Tomato Router is a special switch that also is connected to my land line. I can call my residence via my cell phone and reboot my DSL modem and my router when necessary. I set things up to keep running on power outages up to a 50% drain on the UPS. At that time the USP sends out signals, via USB, to shut everything down.

My Observatory has been up for only a year but the network and UPS system at my residence has been set up for about 7years. The main system UPS keeps a log of brownouts, drops, etc. Since it has been up and running Navopache Electric has been averaging about 5-7 hard drops per year with numerous more "glitches". It is what it is and all I can do is just try to deal with it as best as I can.

#10 wormstar

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 08:08 AM

I unplug all my gear when I leave the obs for the night, mostly because I am scared I will do something stupid like let the scope track into the pier :)
Obviously I'm not running remotely

#11 Starman27

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 08:18 AM

I have a UPS/Power conditioner at each pier and my desk in the observatory. Of course all circuits ground fault. I have not had a power related problem in over 20 years.

#12 Achernar

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 08:46 AM

They must contain an isolation transformer to accomplish that. Isolation transformers do not step up or step down the voltage because the primary and secondary has the same number of turns in them. What they do is block surges, spikes and noise in the incoming power from getting into sensitive electronics.

Taras

#13 rimcrazy

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 09:07 AM

TrippLite Smart Online series UPS systems do a double conversion of AC to DC then back to AC for a totally isolated pure sine wave. While I've not looked at it, I'm sure other manufactures such as APC make a similar product. This is the type of UPS system I'm talking about. A UPS that does not do this type of conversion and isolation will be susceptible to spikes and surges.

#14 rimcrazy

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 09:13 AM

Can anyone recommend a solid surge protector that can protect my equipment well? My power needs can go up to as much as 650w momentary consumption but usually run steady at about 550W.


I just happened to see your number. Are your really at 550W continuous? Good grief what are you running? I have 2 switches, all of my USB, etc plus a PC and my mount and I'm running only 70W. Granted, I constructed my own PC and built it from a netbook style motherboard with SSD drives so it's total power while running for everything in the box is only 35W. Everything else takes the other 35W. I've not measured it but my dome most likely requires a surge of about 50W I'm guessing when it runs, which is not often. I've not measured my new AP1600 mount but I'm guessing short of slewing the power consumption is less than 10W.

Have you checked with either DVM or powermeters what your consumption is? I'm just curious as 550W is a lot of power.

#15 LoveChina61

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 10:22 AM

Yes, I should not have said "550W continuous power consumption". When I have all equipment running and am using a garage door opener to roll off the roof, my previous Tiger UPS that can handle up to 900w was telling me that I was using about 550W to 650W to do it. After the motor was done opening the roof, typical usage went down much lower. I was running the test to see if I had enough available watts to continue running everything and shut down the roof all while using the UPS's backup power.

Speaking of that, if running all my gear and than using the garage door motor to close the roof can use up to 650W, would your Tripp Lite UPS be able to handle that kind of power usage long enough to close the roof? I see it is rated up to 600W. How much variable output can be tolerated and for approximately what length of time? If my usage can temporarily surge up to 650W at a time for short intervals, will I need to get a heavier duty UPS than the Tripp Lite UPS unit you posted a link to just above?

#16 rimcrazy

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 12:14 PM

Actually that model I linked to was not exactly the model I bought. I purchased one that can supply 1000W

I was concerned, like you, about the inrush current on a motor under heavy load, plus, I wanted some significant margin to run the observatory off batteries for a while if need be before I shut everything down. I've not set it up yet (one of many on my long, long list of to-do's) but I want to set up a separate controller, most likely a slick little Ardunio board, that will shut things down in a timed manner depending upon what events have happened. (weather, power, time of day, etc.) Given that my wonderful power company likes to drop power so frequent, if I have sufficient battery backup, I should, for a reasonable amount of time, continue to run the building on battery power alone. After a set amount of time we gracefully stop cameras, park the scope, close the dome and wait for a little while more. If power still does not come up then we shut other things down and lastly power down the computer. Everything is set now to turn on when AC is restored so, "theoretically" it should all come up. I'm guessing you have something similar.

#17 frolinmod

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 01:38 AM

I have surge protectors on all of my CAT5 lines that go from the house to the observatory.

Dude, think about replacing any of those CAT5 links that are used for Ethernet with fibre links. They're not that expensive.

#18 ErikB

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Posted 03 October 2013 - 10:45 PM

The steps to take depend a lot on the electromagnetic threats that are likely for the location. Spikes from the power company are one thing, lightning is another.

Where lightning is a big concern, it helps to have multiple ground rods around the building, connected by a ring of copper, in addition to lightning rods. Dr Clay has long had good information posted at http://www.arksky.org/surge.htm

The OP's observatory like many seems to have modest power consumption, probably provided by a single electrical circuit. Then it is somewhat straightforward to deploy some kind of protective unit such as a protective power strip at the low end or something better. Nothing is completely safe from damage, and knowledge of what tends to happen at the particular location is crucial. However, some people may for one reason or another have more than one circuit involved with the astronomy equipment. That adds a new dimension to the problem. Briefly, in a situation where a strong voltage spike hits the location, great currents will flow in the safety ground wiring within power cords and wall wiring, as well as ground and chassis connections set up casually by hooking up signal cables between various pieces of equipment. These currents can be so high that large potential differences develop between what is "ground" in, say, your computer, vs the "ground" in another piece of electronic equipment. You may have installed an excellent protective unit on each of the separate wall outlets fed by separate circuits, but due to the ground current problems, you may nevertheless get electronics burned out. You may buy a protector that comes with a guarantee to reimburse you if your equipment is damaged, but if you dig into the fine print, you may find that this promise is void if you have equipment powered by different wall circuits, that are somehow tied together by even a tiny signal cable.

Many of the protective products you can buy contain varistors connected across the A/C voltage, and are designed to conduct high currents once the instantaneous voltage reaches a certain level, "shorting out" the transient. This is a "parallel" approach to protection. A problem with this, whether it is a small protected power strip or a whole house unit, is that those varistors wear out, and will stop working after they have accumulated enough hits. This is something to look out for. A better approach in general may be "series" protectors, made by SurgeX and Brick Wall. For more general information on ground issues and surge protection, the OP might want to dig into a paper by professional Audio Engineer and Radio Amateur Jim Brown (This may tell you more than you want to know): http://audiosystemsg...PowerGround.pdf

The "whole house" protectors I have seen have all used the "parallel" approach, and anyway, if multiple circuits are used for your equipment, the "ground" type of problems can still occur at the equipment if the equipment is not right next to the panel. Multiple series-type protectors near the equipment would be a better approach for equipment fed by multiple circuits.

#19 ErikB

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 12:11 AM

To clarify: If possible I would try to use only only one circuit for the astronomy equipment, using one local protective device near that equipment, and do the same for other unrelated equipment such as an entertainment system. Ideally the protective devices would be of the series type. This avoids the problems resulting from having multiple circuits involved with each set of interrelated equipment. Also, by avoiding significant distances between protective devices and related equipment, it reduces the risk of damage from transients that may not be adequately suppressed due to long wiring runs between say, a whole-house protector, and the protected equipment.

#20 mattw

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 08:03 AM

Hello Eric, thanks for the very interesting post. I have a
quick question about the single and double circuit: My observatory has a single 110 volt outlet,
connected to a breaker box, which is connected to the main breaker box in the house.
From the observatory outlet, I have 2 Tripp Lite surge protectors connected, which in turn
I connect my astro gear. I use 2 simply because of equipment location.
Is this a single or double circuit? I'm guessing single.

Matt

#21 ErikB

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 09:58 AM

Matt, you are correct; that is still a single circuit as I used the term. If you have the two Tripp Lite's located side by side, both connected directly to that one wall outlet (i.e. not one chained through the other) then I believe it should work the same as one single Tripp Lite with more outputs, and you should be fine. However, if you chain the protection devices you may be in trouble, and the manufacturer may not honor their insurance for your protected equipment. Also, when you refer to different equipment locations, that means some danger resulting from the length of wires involved. Example: If you run both protectors from the same outlet but place one at the telescope and one in the warm room, and have camera cables running from telescope to warm room, you are setting up ground paths that might be long enough to create trouble with a big transient. Whether you should worry about it would depend on the distances involved, and the size/frequency of transients at your location. I suggest you contact the manufacturer's support and check whenever you go beyond the simplest configuration (i.e. a single breaker circuit with a single wall outlet connecting to a single protective device serving all your protected equipment).






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