Ultrasonic ear to bring PEC improved savings, reliability

This new tool allows us to respond member concerns quickly

As the sun raked the rocky soil of a remote Hill Country access road, PEC Technical Services Manager Bryan Harbuck squinted up at the insulators capping the power lines on a nearby pole.

The parabolic pinpointer, which looks like a large, clear disk with a microphone attachment, can’t detect human speech. It registers only the concussive force generated by an arc.

He and his team were deep in PEC’s service territory investigating a complaint from a member experiencing radio frequency (RF) interference on his property. The device in Harbuck’s hand, PEC’s new parabolic pinpointer, gave him the answer he was looking for.

“The RF isn’t coming from our equipment,” he said.

PEC Technical Services Manager Bryan Harbuck uses PEC’s new parabolic pinpointer, a handheld ultrasonic device designed to detect radio frequency interference.

A parabolic pinpointer is a handheld ultrasonic device designed to detect RF interference. RF interference can be generated by power equipment, cell phones, microwaves and other transmitters, and can affect radio signals and non-cable television signals (like those received by satellite dishes and antennae).

“When electrical equipment generates a lot of RF, it’s usually a sign that there’s an issue,” Daren Curry, PEC director of grid modernization and utility automation, said. “Malfunctioning equipment experiences overheating and arcing — that arcing is what creates the noise. A very small number of the RF complaints we receive turn out to be actually caused by our equipment.”

With the new parabolic pinpointer in PEC’s hands (in the past, such complaints were handled by contractors), PEC can now be quicker responding to member concerns — and identifying potential issues early can help prevent outages and costly equipment failure.

The potential for increased savings and reliability is music to our (parabolic) ears.