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Suggestions for improving electrical power in bedroom studio, please Audio Interfaces
Old 20th May 2004
Gear Maniac
Sir Bob's Avatar

Suggestions for improving electrical power in bedroom studio, please

My house was built in the '20's. When the air conditioner comes on, the lights in the entire house fade. I would like to remedy this. I also understand that improving the electrical system will clean up my sound a bit.

So, what should I have an electritan do? I spoke to one today. He said he could put in a direct line from the outside circuit box to the room, put in a ground and even improve the flow of electricity by increasing the size of the wire which offers less resistance. He said he could put in a 30 amp (10 gage solid) wire or even a 40 amp (eight gage) line. House current is usually on a 20 amp line.

Unfortunately he also said Edison (the power company) probably has a 100 amp line coming to our house when a 200 amp line would be better. I will need to have Edison come out and look at it. The power surges should diminish with a 200 amp line.

Secondly, power conditioners, what's up with them? Do you have some recommendations on what to have? I checked Mercenary and Atlas. Atlas sells Equi-tech. I skimmed the page but it made little sense to me.

I am willing to spend some money to upgrade if it gets results. Otherwise I can ground the current set up and just get a power conditioner. Your advice is appreciated. Thank you.
Old 20th May 2004
Gear Head

Sir Bob,
If your power sag problem is in your home (i.e. the lights dim when YOUR air conditioner comes on not your neighbors or the factory down the street) then there could be several things at play.
You may need to upsize the service coming into the house. Also, make sure you have good grounding and a good, clean connection between the ground rod(s) and your electric panel, and have your electrician check that all the connections are tight (on the breakers, ground bar etc.).
You haven't mentioned what gear you're powering in your studio but as a general rule you're not going to pull all that much juice with a small studio. I have a fair amount of gear running in my studio on a single 20 amp circuit. Even with everything powered up I'm still pulling under 20 amps.
If the brownouts are caused by heavy usage on your transformer outside (there might be ten homes on the same transformer) it may be time for the utility company to upsize the transformer. If you have a volt meter, monitor the voltage at the wall outlet (keep your fingers where you won't get shocked!). You should have right around 120 volts. Even if you don't, the power company may not be able to do anything for you. Cross country power lines are extremely high voltage, which is stepped down at a substation and again at the transformer out in front of your house. The farther you are from the step down transformers (substation) the lower your voltage is likely to be (which presents it's own set of problems due to the schemes the power companies use to prop up the voltage).
If the power sag is unresolvable by the utility company (there are many areas where brown outs are the norm), you may have to resort to a voltage regulator. This is a transformer which is set up to monitor the incoming voltage and switch between different taps on the transformer to give you a consistent 120 volts.
As far as balanced or symmetrical power goes, I give it my highest recommendation. However, I would go with the Furman IT Reference if you're going to do it (even though its an expensive rascal). Do a search on 'Balanced Power Quandry' on this site and you'll see what I mean.
In principal, balanced power works about the same as a balanced audio circuit, with all of the benifits of lower noise floor and rejection of RF and EMI pollution. If you go to Furman's site there are online videos where Garth Powell is presenting the basic principles and benifits of balanced (or symmetrical) power (well worth your time).
I can't speak highly enough about Garth Powell. He has the abailty to communicate complex concepts in a way that any dummy (such as myself) can understand.
If your house was built in the 20's it could very well be old knob and tube wiring. Your electrician is probably on the right track recommending a dedicated circuit from the main panel and put in a good ground. Again, with a small studio a single 20 amp circuit should be adequate. Go to my homepage and look at the gear in my control room- all on a single 20 amp circuit.
Good luck
Old 21st May 2004
Lives for gear
David R.'s Avatar

Sir Bob,

My house was built in the 80's. The electrical was very old, nothing was grounded except the doorbell. I should clarify, 1880's.

It was large chunks of $$, but I had the electrical service to the building and the wiring inside replaced. Great decision, it takes all the worry out of the equation - am I in danger of burning the place up if I plug in the toaster? Not any more.

Now, I can have the entire studio on and toast bread and heat soup in the microwave, and the lights don't dim.

And, I run everything important off of a UPS (APC 1400 pro).

For a more knowledgeable post, re-read Ren Man's.

Old 21st May 2004
7rojo7's Avatar

(A) add up all the wattage of the amplifiers that you will be using at any one time, multiply this by 1.4. (B) add up the wattage of all your other gear and multiply this by 1.2. (C) add these 2 numbers together and multiply by 1.3. This number would be VA rating. When your electrician brings a new circuit to your studio have him put 1 properly grounded outlet (D) sized to the number derived from (C) multiplied by 1.2 (if (C) was 2,000 then (D) will be 2,400 or 20 amps). Go and find a UPS for this size (an on-line double conversion variety if you can) and follow this with an isolation transformer both sized for (C). Between these two devices you should cover all exigencies for power conditioning. If the AC in your area is really bad you can buy a 2500 watt technical generator and power it from this new line and reconnect it to the previously described installation, in fact if these units are big enough to need fans you may want to run them all near the power box or someplace where no one can hear them. (A technical generator runs a motor from any kind of AC and produces clean AC).
Distribute your power from one source and be careful about pluging all of your devices in phase, don't lift the chassis ground on anything and don't connect anything that's connected to another AC branch circuit (if you have to do this you will need mic. or line isolation transformers, it,s unlikely this will occur in a home studio)
The output of the isolation transformer will have current on both legs when measured to ground, depending on the type of UPS it will also output 60V a side, I don't know if this is what they mean by balanced power. I have a setup that is good for 5,400 W or 8kVA. I don't have a technical generator though.
It sounds as if your friendly neighborhood transformer is over burdened and even if you needed a 200 Amp service it might not be able to provide this. 100 Amps is 12,000 Watts, go around your house and start adding up what you have to know whether or not you need to change your service.
I decided not to go the route of products made specifically for audio because I found alternatives in the industrial market, so far I'm satisfied.
have an electrician make the cables that interface thes things being 100% sure about the phase or you can damage these devices.
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