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[RFI] A valid look at line conditioners!

To: rfi@contesting.com
Subject: [RFI] A valid look at line conditioners!
From: "Roger (K8RI)" <k8ri@rogerhalstead.com>
Date: Wed, 22 Oct 2014 02:37:59 -0400
List-post: <rfi@contesting.com">mailto:rfi@contesting.com>
Before every one lumps line conditioners in with the Audio phools, "The professional computing industry has used them for years," because we have a need for them. THEY ARE FOR PROTECTION not quality! Where wave form, PF, and voltage are important, they are used. Most of us hams would never know the difference and unless someone is in the computing industry, I'd be surprised if they knew the difference.

THERE ARE GOOD ONES! But like power supplies and UPSs there are good ones and bad ones. There are also some in between ones. You truly get what you pay for...sometimes. It would be more accurate to say that a good one will be expensive. Conversely, It doesn't mean an expensive one is a good one. OTOH You are highly unlikely to get a good one, cheap. Purchase name brand equipment from reputable dealers!

Forget the fancy names they are being called. A true line conditioner is a "regulated" AC source that runs off the battery all the time and provides a true sin wave output. The proper name is "Line conditioner". Put a scope on a cheap UPS. That is what is going into your equipment. Some inexpensive UPSs have a really ratty wave form. With most tube type equipment it makes no difference.

A UPS that runs all the time is a supposedly a line conditioner! Originally, computing centers, or servers ran off line conditioners. They did not use the Standard UPS we think of today. Most still run off line conditioners.

Ever visit a large computing center? I had the chance to take a tour of the computing center for one of the largest multinational corporations in existence. It was impressive to see the large overhead monitors that displayed the condition of the entire, world wide corporate network, but that was the pretty stuff. The floors were raised by about 3 feet and consisted of panels on a frame. The many columns were covered with panels. Under the floor and mounted on the columns was a mass of wire that would put any ham station to shame.

For these centers they need a very clean voltage. A single spike can show up as a wayward bit that the system can correct, but noisy AC? In A-synchronous communications, you can tollerate X number of collisions or failed bits. After X + 1, they snowball very fast.

However, what could a ham get from using one? In most cases, not much, BUT they do provide a REGULATED output AC voltage that is a real sine wave as good or better than the power mains. That will not increase the quality of your signal on receive or transmit, nor will it improve the output of a stereo.

What it will do is provide protection from voltage variations on the mains. It will protect your equipment from noisy mains. It will protect from over voltages and brownouts and it will add isolation from spikes on the power line. There are no dropped cycles when the power fails and it switches to back up like a UPS because it runs on the battery at all times. The good ones are expensive because they are a UPS and much, much more.

So, like the UPS they are for protection of your equipment. If you find some on e-bay, make sure they are of brand names and try to find out why they were taken out of service. There are many reasons for replacing good line conditioners and there are reasons why you might not want one. I'd expect to have to replace the battery(S) at the least. OTOH they may have upgraded to newer systems and they were pulled as is.

I have two stations with two computers each. A 30A line conditioner, installed properly will handle both computers, The HF rig and the VHF/UHF rigs for about an hour. However, I can fire up the big generator, warm it up and throw the transfer switch without worry. No, I do not run the amps off these. I plan on installing a 20KW natural gas/LP gas powered whole house generator with an auto transfer switch

So don't write them off, the good ones are a worthwhile investment, but $800 is about as cheap as you will gind a 30A 120VAC unit new.


Roger (K8RI)

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