Saturday, April 17, 2010

Electrical Grid Mysteries

I'm in no way complaining about the luxury of having electricity. Don't get me wrong. Nor am I complaining about the luxury of having a plethora of listening choices in my vehicle. We have a CD player, tape player, AM radio, FM radio...

BUT, I am frustrated with this little inconvenience that is happening lately. Not really so much frustrated. Maybe a teeny bit frustrated. Mostly, I'm perplexed and intrigued.

The electrical wires that are strung along our road for the five mile section of road along which we live suddenly cause horrible interference with radio reception in the car. It is fine up at the house. It is fine when we turn off our road three and a half miles to the north. It is fine when we cross the Clearwater River about 2 miles to the south. But along this little stretch of road, once we get on the roadway, we get mostly very loud choppy static with a little bit of voice coming through.

Why is this? It makes me curious. We have lived here for over eight years. Suddenly, late this last winter, the the wires began causing interference.

I thought initially it was just the decrepit radio in our van. I'd turn it off in frustration soon after leaving the house. Later in a given trip, I'd forget about the interference and turn it back on and it would work fine. Until we got near home. I assumed it was our van radio, since it has another set of digital problems such as arbitrarily turning on and off and changing stations by its own accord.

But lately... lately I've been making frequent trips into Oklee driving Joe's car to pick up Matt and Louisa from play and track practice. Aha! It is not only my van radio. Joe's car radio does the same thing. Since I usually begin these Oklee travels alone, I've have the mental wherewithal to investigate the problem.

A pattern begins to show itself.

The wires strung along the road in front of our house, end at our neighbors' house, a mile and a half south of us. I don't know what happens to them after that. They must be underground. The other farms further down have no visible wires along the road.

The bridge I mentioned earlier is about a half mile south of our neighbors'. Once I get past the neighbors' house, the reception begins to clear up. But immediately statics up again as the vehicle approaches the bridge. Once across the bridge, the reception again clears and then is fine, even when the vehicle later passes along wires that are along other roadways.

It is just these wires near our house. And here's yet a few more mysteries. The wires at our house are on the east side of the road. One half mile to the south of us, where the county changes, the wires cross to the west side of the road. Sometimes, the interference is mild enough it only effects the vehicle when in the lane nearest the wires. Other times, both lanes are effected.

There is one of those green electrical boxes at the corner where the wires cross the road. The interference seems to peak at that point. North of the box, the reception is somewhat clearer than south of the box.

Hmm. Curiouser and curiouser.

And why did this just start happening? What is different about the wires now, compared to the first eight years we lived here? Is it a stray voltage thing? One used to hear talk about stray voltage regarding dairy farms. Maybe radios are effected, too.

Maybe there is something goofy in that little green box.

But the bridge. Why does the reception clear once I pass the wires, but then get bad when crossing the bridge. Maybe the underground wires are strung along the underside of the bridge.

Who knows?

Not me. I just wonder. For now it will have to remain one of my life's little mysteries.

We do have a friend in the Madison, WI, area who is an electrical engineer. He designs grid stuff for metropolitan areas. He would probably be able to answer my questions. But, alas, I don't think he knows this blog exists.

Bruce, are you out there anywhere? I have a little electrical grid mystery for you to solve.

1 comment:

Joe Abrahamson said...

I think it's a bad transformer somewhere along our line.

Love you.