I am an Interference Investigator for a large electric utility. I've been
reading this thread with interest as it directly relates to my profession.
One fellow early on in the thread inquired about striking poles with a
sledge hammer. Bad idea...period. Nothing like having shrapnel or debris
fall on your head. You simply cannot assume that everything up there is
solidly anchored or in good condition. Even if you are wearing a "hard hat"
you can still be injured by falling debris. I'm sure you would not
appreciate a power company employee coming to your house and banging on
your property with a big hammer. Power distribution facilities are not your
property and are strictly off limits. Never strike them with anything. You
might have to pay for the damage you cause...once you are released from the
hospital and/or jail!
If power line noise is a chronic problem for you, I encourage you to equip
yourself with something suitable with which to locate the source. The MFJ
product modified to allow use of a directional antenna and an attenuator is
a great idea. The attenuator is very important. When I'm out hunting I find
that 20 to 30 dB is plenty of attenuation for most situations. I like to
use an Icom T-90A which is a DC to light AM capable handheld. I can listen
and watch as I move the antenna. Listening is easier and faster. I start at
a fairly low frequency and go higher and higher as I get closer and closer
to the source. When I can hear the interference at 400+ MHz, I know I'm
very, very close.
If you do think you have located the source, make note of any numbers on
the pole and offer them to the customer service person who takes your call
for help. When the investigator finally gets around to calling or meeting
you, offer the information. Keep in mind, however, that the investigator is
obligated to confirm for him/herself where the source is located.
Most important is your attitude. Your patience will be tested. You must
remain polite, courteous and understanding. As I wrote here recently, most
power companies give interference complaints fairly low priority.
Income-producing work gets done first and the interference investigations
and resolutions get done "when there's time." Since most power companies
operate with minimal people, time to get interference issues completed is
scarce. Despite the unbelievable (and, frankly, unjustified) delays, you
must remain polite, courteous and understanding. If you get angry,
unpleasant or belligerent you risk suffering with your problem for a much
longer time. If you don't feel you are being treated properly, consider
getting help from the state public utility commission.
It can be very rewarding to develop the skill of DF'ing noise sources.
Don't be surprised to find that many devices produce interference. Many of
these sound like power line interference. Just about anything that consumes
electricity and has a switch or oscillator is capable of interfering with
your enjoyment of HF and VHF. When I visit a ham's home I often take my
T-90a for a walk around the house tuned to 80M in AM mode. The microwave
oven and other appliances equipped with a microprocessor often produce some
very interesting noises. Switching power supplies can be a real serious
source of interference. Being able to "clear" your own home first can save
time and aggravation. 50% of the interference sources I find are NOT power
line related or caused.
If you are convinced the problem is not caused by something in your home or
on your property, make the call to customer service and get the ball
rolling. Call your power company and ask for an interference investigation.
My employer does not charge customers for interference investigations...no
matter how long it takes...even if the problem ends up being something in
your home and not in any way related to the power lines. If the service is
free, take advantage of it. Your request should at least imply that the
power lines are causing interference to your equipment :-)
Please keep in mind: Interference investigators come in a wide variety of
effectiveness. Some are very skilled and highly motivated and care a great
deal about your issue. Some are just the opposite. You have to take what
you get. If you don't like it, there's little that can be done except
perhaps to ask for another investigator. You can usually tell very easily
who is skilled and cares. Ideally, your investigator will be an active
Amateur Radio Operator with an extensive background in RFI location.
More things to remember: The FCC is not your friend. Don't waste your time
calling the FCC about interference issues. Unless you are another
governmental agency, public safety agency, congressman or senator, the FCC
will do nothing to help you solve your interference issue. They will always
refer you to someone else. Their actions re: BPL should clearly show you
they care nothing about RF pollution. The ARRL is a good resource but
should be the third call you make after the power company and your state
Keep good records. Log your interference occurrences. Patterns can be very
helpful in locating the source. If you call in the pro's, get names and
phone numbers. Log their visits, phone calls and actions. If you need to
call in reinforcements, good records grease the skids.
Resolving interference usually tries one's patience. I wish there were some
magic incantation that could speed the resolution process. As a fellow ham
and power company employee I am both troubled and embarrassed by how long
it takes my employer to resolve these issues. Follow my advice and it will
get solved as quickly as is bureaucratically possible.
Back to lurking mode...
Frank N. Haas KB4T
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