Lights flicker and things shut off randomly :(

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by GUITAR1989, Oct 10, 2011.

  1. GUITAR1989

    GUITAR1989 New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    Placerville california
    Hows it going :) My brother and I recently moved into a new home and its giving us some electrical trouble. This is whats happening. Ill be sitting watching tv and randomly the all the lights will start flickering sometimes the tv, oven, mirowave, satalite box will just shut off and come back on when the lights are flickering. I was outside last night and noticed the outside lights go off and on with the rest of the stuff when the inside lights flicker. A friend told us that hes seen it happen before. He said he thought it was happening because the wires going to the well are to small of a gauge so when it draws power it messes everything up. What would you guys expect the culprit to be?
  2. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,540
    Location:
    North Carolina
    I started typing the things that I knew that could cause these symptoms but after an hour of typing I decided to delete everything and just say several things could be causing this but I can all but bet you the well is not one of them.

    Maybe it is time to call a professional.
  3. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,540
    Location:
    North Carolina
    I couldn’t sleep at all last night trying to figure out how a well could turn a microwave oven on and off. I had dreams of all types of ghostly beings running around the kitchen turning the microwave on and off and flipping switches to make the lights come on and off.

    Any motor be it for a well pump or a heat pump will be a high draw item when starting unless it is designed not to be such as a soft start motor.
    If your home is at the end of a line or the transformer supplying your home also supplies many other homes you will be at the low end of the supplied voltage. At my house we are the first home on the grid and the only home on the transformer. Our lights don’t flicker at all when either heat pumps pull in or the well. Our voltage to ground is always over 120
    My brother is one of several people off a transformer and turning on the living room ceiling fan causes the lights to flicker. His voltage averages around 110 to 115.

    The well plays no role in either case but the voltages supplied does.

    Neither the voltage supplied by the utility or the motors starting will make the microwave oven start back all by itself once it is off. You may want to look into something that is in there that turns that microwave back on.
  4. Electromen

    Electromen New Member

    Messages:
    17
    Location:
    Pittsburgh
    The first thing I would do is call the electric utility company and have them look for an Open Neutral at the service entrance. They should do this for free. Simply put, an Open Neutral is a bad connection on the utilities Neutral wire. This could be at the Point of Attachment which is where the utility wires connect to your house. It could also be in the meter socket or on the pole if it's overhead. If it's underground it could be in the transformer or a bad wire underground. Also have them check the line voltage conductors for a loose connection.
    While they have the meter off, ask if they'll give you time to tighten the entrance wires inside your main breaker panel.

    Do you have bright or dim lights? If you do, shut off the main breaker, call the Utility Company and tell them you have an emergency. Bright and Dim lights are the result of an Open Neutral. This situation can cause the voltage to vary. I've seen it as high as 190 volts on leg A and 50 volts on leg B. The 190 volt side burned up all of the items in the house on that leg. As you shut off items on leg A, it's possible for the volt to flop the other way sending 190 volts to leg B, burning up the rest of the appliances and tv's. If you don't have bright and dim lights the situation is still not safe and should be fixed.

    The first thing I would do when trouble shooting this is eliminate the possibility of an Open Neutral. The only affect this would have on a well is that when the Neutral is Open, the Neutral voltage could be sent to well casing since it's a very good ground. Do not touch the well wiring until the possibility of the Open Neutral is eliminated. By disconnecting the ground on the well you could get blasted across the yard.

    If the outside lights have CFL, compact fluorescent bulbs, they would turn off/on instead of flickering like the incandescent ones.
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2011
  5. Rich B

    Rich B DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    283
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Get an electrician to pull your meter and inspect the clips the meter goes into......I had this exact problem and it went on and off for years before me and an electrician friend discovered the problem. The clips that the meter plugs into in the meter pan are attached with small machine screws to a metal bar. One side of the meter had screws that loosened up and over time the holes wallowed out and were arcing. We fixed it by drilling and retapping the hole for a larger screw......and cleaned up the clips.
    I would never have done this myself as one bar in the meter pan we worked on was live. My friend was a lifelong union electrician and jobsite foreman. It was a duplex meter pan....2 family house......It worked fine after that repair for at least another 5 years.......It was done orginally in 1978...

    2 years ago I had it all replaced due to a severed servcie drop....I was real happy to get rid of the old stuff....
  6. capecod

    capecod New Member

    Messages:
    38
    Interesting. Here is a puzzler too,,,,, our daughter and son-in-law bought an old house, and the lights would dim and flicker and the appliances would groan. Sort of like gremlins were inhabiting the house. They couldnt figure out what was the cause.

    Solution? They called the cable company because trouble with the TV. The cable guy said that the house was ungrounded! And the ground was actually going thru the cable!
    I cant explain it too well, but the cable guy called the power company and they sent a truck right out within a 30 minutes and fixed it.
    I guess this could have been quite dangerous?
  7. Abouthadit

    Abouthadit New Member

    Messages:
    68
    Location:
    Ca.
    Don't mean to hack in on the OP , but we are having a similar problem too with lights flickering, dimming .
    It appears to be the lights in the kitchen, the electric coffee maker on kitchen counter , dining room light , living room light , and outside front light and back door outside light.
    We first noticed just the dining room light over dining table would flicker dim then back normal.
    Last night all the lights mentioned above were on and really dimed and all but went out the front outside light actually did go out then come back on.

    I went out this morning tothe electrical panel and turned all the breakers off , removed the panel cover and checked all grounds and breakers screws and none appeared loose , a few I turned maybe 1/4 -1/2 turn tighter but nothing obvious ?

    I put the cover back on ,flipped all the breakers back on , went inside turned the lights on and within 10 minutes they were flickering / dimming again .
    Didn't notice the coffee maker lights dimming , will have to wait till dark and see if the front porch light dims goes out ...

    Its not consistently doing it , it may do it five times in 5 minutes or 2 times in 5 hours, but last night was the worst its done it, the lights have never gone completely out till last night..

    Any ideas/suggestions
  8. capecod

    capecod New Member

    Messages:
    38
    Sounds like a grounding problem, though I certainly am not versed in such things, I think that you need a qualified electrician to come in and test everything to isolate the problem.
    Also look for a failed appliance, we live in salt air environment, and we had a fridge in the cellar which was so old that its insulation was gone off the wiring, moved it and it was HOT.
    And the ancient elec stove we had, one day I put a pan on a burner, turned it on, and then came a fireball from hell. Blew the main thank god, but scared all our kids, our dog, and could have cooked mom(me), though luckily my hand was on the handle.

    This is only a guess, but if the lights are dimming like this, and if you read my previous post, of the cable acting as the ground in our daughter's house, looks like you better figure it out before the house goes up or somebody gets hurt. The cable guy and the elec guy who arrived pronto, said it was a severe fire danger.
    Go for it, even if you spend some dough, better be safe than sorry.
  9. Abouthadit

    Abouthadit New Member

    Messages:
    68
    Location:
    Ca.
    Its like its only on a certain leg/breakers ?
    We bought this house as a short sale , I replaced with all new appliances, we did put in new light fixtures all mentioned except for back door outside light.
    The living room light is just a lamp that is plugged into a receptacle controlled by a light switch.
    The dining room light was an old chandelier type and the light in the kitchen was a recessed 4 florescent lights that I framed, enclosed, dry walled and then put in 4 recessed lights ...
  10. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,126
    Location:
    New England
    A bad ground wouldn't do this...

    While it's dangerous, did you check the main power leads were tight?

    If everything from the panel looks good, you probably need an electrician, and you probably should get one to check the main power lugs, too, instead of trying it yourself. It could be a burned/loose/corroded connection anywhere from the transformer to the power panel. Sounds more like a power leg than a neutral problem. If it was a neutral problem, you'd get things potentially getting brighter and burning up rather than dimming most of the time.

    Intermittent power is hell on anything with electronics in it, which these days is nearly all electrical items in the home. This assumes (and it may not be a good assumption), that you have adequate power coming in - i.e., you aren't trying to pull more than the system was designed for. This tends to happen in older homes as people add more and more things like a/c, bigger WH, dryer, and it approaches the max design load of the panel/supply.
  11. Abouthadit

    Abouthadit New Member

    Messages:
    68
    Location:
    Ca.
    Thanks for the reply , not sure by what you mean "main power leads" ?

    Back to when we were remodeling . The dining and kitchen are basically one room, so the Mrs. wanted to be able to dim the lights in both kitchen and dining room.
    I put dimmers in for both light switches , being that the light bulbs in both areas are not the standard incandescent bulbs, the lights in the kitchen are led in the recessed halo housing X 4 and the dining light has two of those low wattage curled bulbs in the one fixture. The dimmer switches were/are for those type bulbs I asked and made sure of that.

    We noticed it was just the dining light that started to do the flickering ,dimming a few months back , just in the last week or so the other lights had started doing the same thing, but last night was the first time the lights actually went out for barely a second or so then came back on, after doing this on and off over a period of about 2 hours , we were shutting one light at a time seeing if that made any difference , it didn't.

    So earlier (about 1 hour) wife just had the kitchen light on and went to turn it off and said she heard a noise from the switch.
    I'm going to tomorrow turn the power back off and pull both dimer switches and make sure the wires are tight etc.

    Could a loose wire at one of the switches cause everything else ?
  12. Chad Schloss

    Chad Schloss Member

    Messages:
    330
    Location:
    USA
    those spirial lights do not like to be dimmed, no matter what the package says. I have some led lights that are great at dimming, but try it with the spirial lights and they do the same as you describe. try swapping in some old style bulbs and try to recreate the problem.
  13. ActionDave

    ActionDave Electrician

    Messages:
    351
    Location:
    Colorado
    Agreed. You need dimable LED's and a dimmer to match them or incandescent bulbs.
  14. Abouthadit

    Abouthadit New Member

    Messages:
    68
    Location:
    Ca.
    If I remember right , the spiral bulbs are not screw in but push in and twist ? I'll pull the cover off and look.
    Hopefully they are just the screw in type, if so I'll try other bulbs ...
    Thanks !
  15. Chad Schloss

    Chad Schloss Member

    Messages:
    330
    Location:
    USA
    you are in california, so yeah you may have the gu-24 base bulbs instead of the edison base screw in style.
  16. Abouthadit

    Abouthadit New Member

    Messages:
    68
    Location:
    Ca.
    Ok pulled the light fixture ,they are the regular incandescent bulbs not the spiral type.
    Checked the wire connections , all tight . Pulled both light switches and all connections tight inside nothing loose.

    I guess its time to call in an electrician to see what he can find ?
  17. Abouthadit

    Abouthadit New Member

    Messages:
    68
    Location:
    Ca.
    Had the local city electric come by and he checked their side and everything was good , so looks like its time to call an electrician to trouble shoot ...
  18. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,126
    Location:
    New England
    If it's only those new lights connected to the new dimmers, it may be that the dimmers are bad. If it is affecting all things in the house, then it's more likely a power problem than a control problem.
  19. ActionDave

    ActionDave Electrician

    Messages:
    351
    Location:
    Colorado
    Since it is not the lamps I will now go with Miswired Circuit and/or Problem Upstream of the Switchbox for $400 Alex.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2012
  20. Abouthadit

    Abouthadit New Member

    Messages:
    68
    Location:
    Ca.
    Its only on a certain circuit which I replaced lights on. IE; front porch light , dining light, kitchen lights (both dining/kitchen light switches to the dimer switches).
    The back door light which is a slider door off the dining room( I didn't touch that).

    This morning after checking what I could , I had the lights on for at least 2+ hours and nothing , then put a load of clothes in the washer turned it on and within a few minutes the kitchen lights to flickered.

    I have no idea if there was a problem before because when we bought the place it was a short sale and no way of talking to the previous owners.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2012
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