[CQ-Contest] Line noise GONE!

Milt, N5IA n5ia at zia-connection.com
Fri May 28 12:16:00 PDT 2010

Jim's method is good.  I use a similar MO to hunt power line noise sources.

Pasted below is a post I made to the Topband reflector in February due to 
the problem affecting 160 Meter operations.  Anyone wanting a JPEG image of 
the Google Earth shot showing a view of the area and the distance to the 
noise source can E-mail me direct.

Hopefully these posts will be of help to some of you that are plagued with 
RFI from power line problems.

Milt, N5IA

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jim George" <n3bb at mindspring.com>
To: "Ralph Bellas" <k9zo at hotmail.com>; <nf4l at nf4l.com>; "Contest Reflector" 
<cq-contest at contesting.com>
Sent: Friday, May 28, 2010 6:30 AM
Subject: Re: [CQ-Contest] Line noise GONE!

> Wow!  I need to congratulate my utility, Pedernales Electric Company 
> (PEC),
> which serves the rural areas to the west of Austin, TX. They will send a
> man and a bucket truck out here within a day or two if I call. But the
> critical fact is that they cannot find a noise source as a rule. It's 
> hard,
> and usually it depends on me finding it, and then them correcting the 
> problem.
> I own the MFJ noise yagi/receiver and it is NOT effective. The frequency 
> is
> too low (136 MHz of so). It is too sensitive and shows up RFI being
> radiated down the line from other sources. Over the years I have found 
> that
> a combination of things is needed. I start with an HF mobile setup (I use
> twenty meters AM) to isolate the general area. From there, I use a small
> short wave radio (Sony in my case) with a loop antenna. Swiveling the
> antenna to nulls and maximums allows me to get to the direction of the 
> pole
> or poles. Follow that direction until you get to a very loud spot. At that
> point it requires a 440 MHz HT and a 6 element yagi to zero in on the
> actual pole. You must use AM for all data.
> There are plenty of poles that are noisy to some extent, but the real
> trouble makers, the ones that have an arc, are either intermittent or
> continuous. I maintain a simple Excel spreadsheet with data such as the
> pole numbers and the receiving data and send it electronically to the 
> Chief
> Engineer of PEC when I locate a bad pole. He now takes my data seriously
> and they have a truck check it out within a day.
> It's hard to believe that some utilities are so crass and unresponsive.
> Jim N3BB

This is a followup to the report in our 3830 posting for the CQ 160 CW 
contest.  It is intended as a help for others that might be plagued with a 
long term, or suddenly appearing, power line noise source.  With proper 
tools and a knowledge of what you are looking for, most often positive 
results can be achieved.

Here is how N5BG and I approached this GIGANTIC noise problem which pretty 
much wiped out all the first night western direction contacts.  The 2nd 
night we used a work around noise cancelling configuration which helped a 
lot, but still kept us from a number of contacts and multipliers.

To set the stage, here are the factors involved.  1.  We have never had any 
significant noise on the Beverages over the past 10 years.  2.  The noise 
was BIG, and Broad band.  3.  It was the strongest on the JA Beverages, 
which from our station location is ~315 degrees.  4.  From the Beverage farm 
it is four (4) miles to the nearest power lines in the JA direction.  5.  I 
retired in January 2009 after 40 years of service at the local power 
company.  I know the circuits and all of the things to look for that might 
cause RF interference

N5BG and I spent some time the week after the contest, searching for the 
general source of the noise generator.  This past Tuesday Larry and I spent 
a couple of hours narrowing down the area.

I hooked up the K-3 to a VHF mag mount antenna and set it at 1.810 mHz AM. 
We also had the AM broadcast radio set to 1710 kHz and the Yaesu FT-8800 
dual band mobile set on 123.5 mHz AM aircraft band on the VHF side.  The 
intent here was not to be super sensitive.  We knew that when we got close 
to the source, that these radio setups would give us a definitive indication 
of our proximity to the noise generator.

With the S meter on the K-3 we were able to narrow the area down to one 
particular 3 phase lateral line on the a distribution circuit headed away 
from our area.  This circuit originates at the a substation about 5 miles 
from our location, goes north across the river, and then down the valley 
northwesterly for about 15 miles.  This location is about 3 miles from where 
we had previously thought the strongest noise was located, just from 
listening on the AM broadcast radio.  All of this area is in the direction 
of JA from our station location.

The S meter on the K-3 did its job.  With one trip down the valley it was 
determined that the strongest signal was closer towards our area and the 
substation than previously suspected.

The S Meter on the FT-8800 confirmed we were near the source, because it 
actually came up and registered 2 segments when we were right under the line 
as it crossed the highway we were traveling.  It had never registered 
anywhere before, even though we could hear the noise quite often, and 
strong, in the aircraft band.

We inspected the poles on the lateral line and zeroed in on the last pole. 
It has mounted on it a three phase transformer cluster for powering an 
irrigation pump.  In daylight I saw a suspect pole ground wire in close 
proximity to one of the two steel X-arm braces supporting the top two 
crossarms where the lines are dead ended.

This still didn't compute as the noise is so broad banded, and so strong 
over such a wide area, that I didn't think it could be generated by a simple 
hardware/ground wire situation.

It was just at sundown, and we both agreed that if there was an arc of the 
magnitude I expected, we could see it after dark.  We returned to the site 
at near dark and sure enough, it was quickly spotted by Larry while I was 
trying to listen for an arcing sound.

The hot line clamp which connects the lead from the top of the lightning 
arrester/cutout combo to one of the phase conductors was arcing.  It was 
VERY visible.  The irrigation pump was not operating, and probably hasn't 
since last fall some time.  However, the excitation current required for 
energizing the primary coil and core of the transformer is just enough to 
create a constant arc at 7.2 kV.

It makes sense now.  The arc is on a primary phase line, which in turn is 
VERY long antenna.  You just have to LOVE those spark gap transmitters. 
This one is probably in the nanoWatts of PO, but the ERP is a whole lot 
more.  So, with the lengths of multiple lateral taps and the main circuit 
added together, there are perhaps 40 miles of antenna wire attached directly 
to the transmitter.

I have a jpeg shot off Google Earth which shows the relationship of Larry's 
place, the Beverage farm and the noise source location.  It is 6.5 miles at 
300 degrees from the Bevs to the noise source.

The two JA Bevs, at 315 degrees, always had the strongest noise signal level 
(about S-5 average).  They consistenly told us the noise was in that 
direction.  I will send the jpeg shot to anyone who contacts me directly.

We prepared a letter describing the problem, suspect location and equipment. 
Larry submitted the letter to the power company people this morning.

In less than 3 hours, the BIG NOISE went away.  The power company line crew 
replaced the hot line clamp, and all is well on the N5BG/NI5T Beverages. 
This morning the noise was an S-6 level on Topband in the AM mode.  Now the 
level is background hiss.

In most cases if the amateur will search out the probable noise source and 
present it to the power company operations people, they will clean it up. 
Most small, rural power company's do not have the in-house expertise, nor 
the equipment, to search for and find an RF interference problem.

Your mileage may vary, but it works for us.  CU all in CQ 160 SSB next week.

73 de Milt, N5IA 

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