Analog Corner #315: The Electric Cure

A 50 year old corroded meter box with aluminum wire.

Rex Hungerford, Edward DeVito and Craig Bradley went to town last week and, along with Garth Powell of Audioquest, fixed all the electrical issues that plagued my sound system. for years.

Garth Powell, a household name for many stereophilic readers, is AudioQuest’s power guru and designer of the Niagara series of power conditioners; he is also responsible for the company’s line of AC cables and signals. Bradley is a local electrician and audio enthusiast who has done electrical work for me in the past, including replacing dedicated lines? One for low power signal components and another for amplifiers? with a single line, hoping it could solve years. annoying floor humming and other noise issues. One would think that the ground potential would be close to zero between two sets of adjacent AC outlets on the same circuit, but the ground potential between the outlets remained abnormally high and the hum did not go away.

I had tried several times to troubleshoot and resolve my ground loop problem; once, I even enlisted the help of a well-regarded New York studio tech assistant. But I had put the problem on hold until, for reasons unrelated to audio performance, I installed a backup generator (footnote 1). The transfer switch inserted into the line damaged the sound to the point where examination of the audio equipment would have been impossible. It was, as Powell described it, “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

Two PS Audio Power Plant AC regenerators got me through this, a P15 and a P20?? Many thanks to PS Audio for the loan. But the regenerators only masked the problem; I needed a “basic” solution, no pun intended.

Last winter, Hungerford and DeVito emailed me, after reading about my electrical issues in those previous columns. They offered to fly in from their Seattle-area homeport to investigate.

Hungerford is a Master Electrician, licensed in Washington State. DeVito has commercial fishing businesses in Alaska and Maine and is also a high-performance audio dealer, specializing in power-related products, including its own Audio-Ultra Performance Series power distribution box. Both are avid audiophiles. Both are obsessed with the quality of electrical infrastructure, and they are eager to spread the gospel of electrical upgrading.

While the two have collaborated on my project and can occasionally work together again (“much like Mick and Keith,” DeVito joked), they later told me that they had started operating independently; see footnote 2 for their contact details.

By the time Hungerford and DeVito emailed, I had already made arrangements with my backup generator contractor to bypass the transfer switch with a direct line from the meter to a new dedicated subpanel in the utility room adjacent to my listening space. This setup would bypass the transfer switch and the rest of my house wiring. A win-win, I thought.

During this visit in the dead of winter, Hungerford inspected the property and examined the electrical infrastructure of the house inside and out, starting with my roof where the Rockland Electric line from the transformer to the other side from the street connects to the mast running down the side of the house into the recently installed Wi-Fi enabled ‘smart’ electric meter. ‘ladder. “It’s not good!” Subsequent inspection revealed no apparent wear.

The meter was new, but everything else was old. Hungerford removed the meter box cover and pointed out the badly corroded aluminum mast wires and corroded clamps they were attached to almost 50 years ago when the house was built (for a family named Kuzma; probably related , Frank commented in an email). The old fashioned meter box clamp had a single ridged contact point. “All the electricity in your house goes through the tiny ridge of that corroded clamp first,” Hungerford said, adding “Don’t you think you hear that?” He also pointed to the uncovered exterior AC outlets which he said “probably sparked” when wet; this too would produce line noise.

Hungerford inspected the backup generator system contractor’s work and declared it very well done, which I thought he would find, since the same people replaced our heating and air conditioning systems a decade earlier and did a great job. “Of course it’s code compliant and it’s a really good job, but the code isn’t good enough for what we’re looking for,” Hungerford said, precisely mirroring something Powell told me earlier.

“What are us after?” I asked shyly. Well, I could try this: Both Hungerford and DeVito suggested that Rockland Electric, my power company, replace the pole-mounted transformer across the street that serves my house and about half a dozen others with a very resistant model that I would pay for. DeVito said he convinced his electric company to do it, but since mine had been replaced over the past decade and because success seemed to take a long time, I decided not to approach Rockland with a transformer replacement request.

New meter box minus new copper wire, below which is the new main breaker box.

With that idea dismissed, Hungerford went on and laid it all out, starting with a complete replacement of the copper wire striker (mast) with a new meter box (footnote 3). He pointed to sloppy ground connections, including crimped-wire connections that combined aluminum and copper — a definite no-no, he said. He noted several small earth rods near the foundation, which he also didn’t like to see. When he finished laying out the general outlines of the plan and some obsessive details, I told him and DeVito, “If I call my contractor, who provided a meticulous and carefully thought out plan based on the electrical code of the NJ, and I explain everything to him, I can tell you what his response will be, he’ll be like, “Are you kidding me? I don’t do that!” “I directed all of this by Garth Powell. He was impressed and had a few other ideas. He asked me to put him in touch with Hungerford.

Hungerford’s energy and passion for the subject reminded me of Powell’s. They were on the same page. For two days, electricity was all Hungerford wanted to talk about. Throw Powell, and he could only do the same. When I tried to change the subject – to learn, at some point, what sparked Hungerford’s passion? – The conversation immediately returned to the network or grounding or electricity based war stories. Luckily for me, I like obsessed people. Go figure.

I was a little concerned that they were both working as a team. I expected one of two results. Either Hungerford and Powell would get along, and Hungerford would incorporate some of Powell’s ideas for an even better result, or a high-tension feud would ensue complete with a thermonuclear mind-meld blast.

They got along well.

Powell provided Hungerford with a few ideas he really liked. Hungerford gave Powell the benefit of his experience on the pitch, which helped produce a more practical game plan.

A few days after Hungerford and DeVito returned, I submitted a concept version of the new plans to the contracting company Air Group.

I received a phone call from the head of the electrical department, who I had dealt with more than once over the years. We were on good terms. After reviewing the plans, he replied, and I quote, “Are you kidding me? We don’t do that!”

Bradley, however, was definitely up for it, and his involvement was consistent with the way Hungerford and DeVito are used to doing business. Once the plans have been drawn up, the customer engages a licensed electrician to carry out the work, under the supervision of Hungerford or DeVito (or a member of DeVito’s team).

On April 1, Hungerford sent a very detailed plan to bypass the transfer switch which included replacing the existing electrical service with a new copper mast running from the utility strike on the roof to the new meter distribution box.


The new interior laundry room sub-panel.

A new 3R panel (footnote 4) mounted directly below the meter would become the new main distribution panel in the house, feeding both the original 200A main distribution panel in my office and an installed sub-panel in the laundry room ten years ago when we remodeled the kitchen. . These two groups would now become subgroups.

A new copper feed branch would be run in PVC conduit down the side of the house from the 3R box to the utility room to a New sub-panel containing four 20A branch circuits dedicated solely to the audio system (footnote 5). In other words, the new power branch would only serve the audio system and completely bypass the noise-producing household electrical infrastructure, including the air conditioner, pool pump, heating and hot water system, Internet and cable TV. Of course, this would also bypass the transfer switch and generator system, the original purpose.

Footnote 1: In Analog Corner #307, I wrote, “After years of frequent power outages due to wind and snowstorms, we decided we were done with losing power and that gas powered generators were a royal pain in the heavy snow We 😂 my wife and I bit the bullet and ordered a 22kW natural gas powered generator A few days ago the workmen arrived for the ‘ install. For more information, see AnalogCorner #308.

Footnote 2: Rex Hungerford: Web: Ed DeVito: Website: AudioQuest: Web: Bradley Electric Inc. (for New Jersey residents only) [email protected]

Footnote 3: The following description is provided for informational purposes only. All electrical work described herein was performed to code by a licensed electrician.

Footnote 4: The “3R” designation indicates that the enclosure has been certified by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) to protect wiring and junction boxes from rain, sleet, snow, and external formation ice on the outside, but it doesn’t. have a gasket.

Footnote 5: There are now two panels in my laundry room. The new one only serves my hi-fi system and the upstairs home theater system.