Electronics / Small devices not working correctly

Help Support House Repair Talk:

olifer

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I am having issues with various devices in my home and in trying to troubleshoot them, I'm of the opinion that I have some sort of electrical issue. Here's what's going on:

1.) My house was built in 1995, and everything has been working just fine until a couple of weeks ago. (north climate, very cold for awhile.)

2.) A couple of weeks ago, my internet modem/router would not stay connected to the provider, and the router kept resetting to factory defaults on its own. Both devices were replaced.

3.) Smoke detectors: 4 AC wired Kidde smoke/CO detectors that were installed less than two years ago in various parts of the home. They started chirping and giving low battery warnings at about the same time that the internet issues were going on. I replaced all of the batteries, which seems to help for a couple of days, then one or more of them will start chirping every 30 to 60 seconds (fault indicator). If I unplug them from AC and leave them on my kitchen counter, they're just fine on battery only. One of them has not chirped for about a week, whereas the others have been at different intervals...usually after we're up and starting our day. These detectors are NOT all on the same circuit. A couple of them share the circuit that the modem/router are on but the others do not.

4.) Simplisafe security system. Will lose connection with the router, and will then randomly "report" something like "System unarmed" while we're just sitting in the house and the unit hadn't been armed in the first place.

5.) Nest thermostat (which gets its power from the furnace) ... died and had to be replaced.

We have not had any brown outs, rolling black outs, or any other things like dim/flickering lights or clocks resetting to factory, etc., just all of these "small" devices throughout our home, all acting up and failing all at once.

Any help and assistance on how I can begin to troubleshoot this would be greatly appreciated and welcomed.
 

havasu

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Sounds like intermittent internet outages. Call your provider to see if your area is having issues.
 

olifer

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I wish that were the case. The Internet outages wouldn't cause my smoke alarms to malfunction, nor would they make my nest thermostat die.
 

JoeD

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It could be an issue with a bad neutral.
 

Bob Reynolds

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OP indicates that some of these items have been replaced. Is the new router/modem, thermostat working after being replaced?

If the new items are working, then I would suspect there has been a power surge or electrical spike.

All of the items mentioned appear to be low voltage after having been stepped down from 110 Volts. A power surge or electrical spike can cause the AC voltage to jump to the DC voltage which will damage the low voltage items.

A whole house surge protector might help with the hard wired items (smoke detector, thermostat). A plug in surge protector is a must for anything like a modem or router that can be plugged into the wall outlet. Those plug in surge protectors often come with an insurance policy that will replace an item damaged by a surge that was connected to a surge protector. Some also have connections for cable, telephone and USB.

Here's one on Amazon, for $13.25, that comes with $20,000 of insurance:

 

JoeD

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That makes some sense. Any suggestions on how I can try to track down a bad neutral in my home?
If these items are not all on the same circuit then the POCO supply neutral could be bad. If the feed is overhead you might even be able to see the bad connection. It could also be inside the meter can where you can't see it.
 

olifer

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OP indicates that some of these items have been replaced. Is the new router/modem, thermostat working after being replaced?

If the new items are working, then I would suspect there has been a power surge or electrical spike.

All of the items mentioned appear to be low voltage after having been stepped down from 110 Volts. A power surge or electrical spike can cause the AC voltage to jump to the DC voltage which will damage the low voltage items.

A whole house surge protector might help with the hard wired items (smoke detector, thermostat). A plug in surge protector is a must for anything like a modem or router that can be plugged into the wall outlet. Those plug in surge protectors often come with an insurance policy that will replace an item damaged by a surge that was connected to a surge protector. Some also have connections for cable, telephone and USB.

Here's one on Amazon, for $13.25, that comes with $20,000 of insurance:

I think that you're diagnosis is probably the most likely, Bob. The modem, router, and thermostat have all been replaced and are now behaving normally. I hadn't thought about the smoke detectors actually being stepped down to DC voltage, but that makes sense that they are and that their AC connection is simply the source of power before being converted internally by the detectors. The whole house protectors are expensive, so I'll forego that. The modem/router, and security system were all plugged into a surge protector, which I will replace with a new one.
 

Bob Reynolds

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This is an important subject and I have a few things for all of those reading this thread.

1. An outlet strip is not necessarily a surge protector. Make sure you have an actual surge protector and not just an outlet strip for this type of application.

2. Whole house surge protectors are not as expensive as you think. Home Depot has the Eaton brand for about $112.00 This will need to be installed by an electrician.

3. Many local power companies will install a whole house surge protector and charge a monthly fee of around $6 for the service. It may also come with a product warranty that will cover any damage to connected items. They will also replace any surge protector that is damaged.

The surge protectors will absorb the initial hit and that may stop any further damage. It is important to understand that nothing will actually stop a major surge or spike like you might have if lightning hits your electrical system. A major hit will damage the surge protector and anything connected to it.

A surge or lightning strike can come into your home via the main electrical system, the cable coaxial television/internet cable, or the telephone/DSL line. If you have your modem plugged into a surge protector and the surge comes through an unprotected coaxial cable instead of the electrical line, then the surge protector will not help you and the warranty will not apply. For this application you will need a surge protector that gives telephone and coaxial protection. Here is one on Amazon from APC for $25.99:



I live in central Florida and we have lots of lightning strikes here. I have had surge protectors for over 20 years. During this time we have had 2 major hits which have taken out the surge protectors and taken out thousands of dollars worth of electrical items connected to them. Both times, the surge protector company paid for these items and sent me a new surge protector. They require that you file a claim, with a diagram of how everything was hooked up along with return of the damaged surge protector.
 

DesertRider

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You mentioned the house was built in 95... was aluminum wiring code in your area back then? At any rate I would have your electric provider come in and check the tightness of all their connections... a lose or corroded joint could be the cause of all your problems... on any joint exposed to the weather up to and including the main breaker, I like to use a Conductor compound like T&B “KOPR-SHIELD” as a corrosion resistant Compound.

And I agree, a whole house Surge Protecter is excellent insurance
 

jmg1213

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You could use a simple outlet tester at least where the router and the Simplisafe base are plugged in to see if it shows any errors in the wiring. I would do outlets in every room just to see. At least it's an inexpensive way of doing some detective work.
 
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