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Author Topic: 2 volts too much?  (Read 875 times)

Bill McIntosh

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2 volts too much?
« on: November 13, 2017, 12:07:06 pm »

We recently had a touring Christian Band You May Have Heard Of play at our church.  The rider called for 2 x 100 amp connections 120 volt 3 phase.  Our electrical contractor tied their tails into panels.

The band's tech lead was reluctant to connect the tails to the PA distro - he measured 2 volts between neutral and ground.  They connected after a discussion with our electrician and show went with no issues.

Is 2 volts a concern that we need to resolve? 



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Scott Helmke

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Re: 2 volts too much?
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2017, 02:03:12 pm »

Rule of thumb in the live sound world is that 2 volts will mean a noisy/buzzy show.
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John Roberts {JR}

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Re: 2 volts too much?
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2017, 02:29:11 pm »

not a human hazard but evidence of a problem.

JR
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Mike Sokol

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Re: 2 volts too much?
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2017, 07:51:12 pm »

Is 2 volts a concern that we need to resolve? 

In any subpanel with a load on it, there will nearly ALWAYS be 1 or 2 volts between the ground and neutral. That's because the ground and neutral should NOT be bonded at the subpanel, only at the incoming service panel. So if you have 4 volts drop on that panel due to a heavy load, then typically 2 of those volts are on the line conductor, and the other 2 volts are the drop on the neutral conductor. If you measure between the neutral and the ground on that subpanel you'll come up with 2 volts. I get worried when I measure EXACTLY 0 volts between neutral and ground on a subpanel because that suggests a secondary neutral-ground bond on the subpanel. That 0 volts is because you've now contaminated the ground with the voltage fluctuations on the neutral due to load variations. And THAT'S what causes ground loop hums.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2017, 08:01:54 pm by Mike Sokol »
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Stephen Swaffer

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Re: 2 volts too much?
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2017, 08:52:05 pm »

A bit a swerve-but relevant I think?  Can you even get a UL listing for equipment that has neutral connected to a chassis?  That would create a secondary ground/neutral bond?  I know chassis tied to neutral's used to be standard fare.  If there is no connection the voltage difference is irrelevant.

I agree with Mike-a 20 amp imbalance with 1 ohm of resistance in a neutral = 2.0 volts differential.  That is pushing good design practice for voltage drop in a circuit.
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Steve Swaffer

Mike Sokol

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Re: 2 volts too much?
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2017, 09:55:37 pm »

I agree with Mike-a 20 amp imbalance with 1 ohm of resistance in a neutral = 2.0 volts differential.  That is pushing good design practice for voltage drop in a circuit.
I drew this graphic up a while ago to help me better understand the various voltage drops in a typical power distro system, and what certain measurements could possibly mean. I try to go into every voltage or current test situation with at least a guess of what measurement to expect. If the voltage measured doesn't line up with my expectations, then there's a hint as to what's wrong. For instance, as you load a typical home branch circuit with more current draw and approach 20 amperes, you'll likely come close to a 5% voltage drop. So 120 volts drops by 6 volts to 114 volts. But only 3 of those volts are on the hot/line conductor. The neutral conductor does an equal and opposite "rise" in voltage, so it will create a voltage difference if you measure between it and the grounding conductor. This basic knowledge is essential to troubleshooting any grounding system. That's because all wires have resistance. And resistance always results in a voltage drop if there's any current draw. It's a fundamental law of electricity. 

Mike Sokol

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Re: 2 volts too much?
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2017, 05:52:33 am »

A bit a swerve-but relevant I think?  Can you even get a UL listing for equipment that has neutral connected to a chassis?  That would create a secondary ground/neutral bond?  I know chassis tied to neutral's used to be standard fare.  If there is no connection the voltage difference is irrelevant.

That is correct. However, while there's no hard connection between the neutral and ground in any modern gear, there often is some sort of capacitor based RF circuit between the neutral and ground to reduce RF generation. I believe that this high-frequency path can allow transient currents in the line and neutral to be transferred into the grounding system.

Bill McIntosh

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Re: 2 volts too much?
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2017, 08:53:32 am »

I drew this graphic up a while ago to help me better understand the various voltage drops in a typical power distro system, and what certain measurements could possibly mean. I try to go into every voltage or current test situation with at least a guess of what measurement to expect. If the voltage measured doesn't line up with my expectations, then there's a hint as to what's wrong. For instance, as you load a typical home branch circuit with more current draw and approach 20 amperes, you'll likely come close to a 5% voltage drop. So 120 volts drops by 6 volts to 114 volts. But only 3 of those volts are on the hot/line conductor. The neutral conductor does an equal and opposite "rise" in voltage, so it will create a voltage difference if you measure between it and the grounding conductor. This basic knowledge is essential to troubleshooting any grounding system. That's because all wires have resistance. And resistance always results in a voltage drop if there's any current draw. It's a fundamental law of electricity.
Thanks Mike.  There was no load on that sub panel but there were other loads on that service.  So the small potential he measured in the sub panel is to be expected.  A higher voltage could be a red flag requiring investigation.

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Mike Sokol

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Re: 2 volts too much?
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2017, 10:25:25 am »

Thanks Mike.  There was no load on that sub panel but there were other loads on that service.  So the small potential he measured in the sub panel is to be expected.  A higher voltage could be a red flag requiring investigation
Exactly. Most electricians and even electrical engineers donít understand this basic principal. But now you know...

Jonathan Johnson

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Re: 2 volts too much?
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2017, 03:41:20 pm »

A couple of things I noted in this discussion:
  • The touring engineer actually metered the power before plugging in.
  • The touring engineer didn't fully understand the readings that were observed.

So, to the first point, it appears that electrical safety education may be getting out there. To the second point, it appears that more education is needed. Maybe that's covered in "Entertainment Electrics 102."
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