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Flickering Lights


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I did an inspection back in March. House built in 1950, electrical panel has been upgraded: breakers & 200 amp service - no notable visible issues. The owners called me this weekend because they have a problem with the lights flickering. After some Q&A this is what I learned.

- Flickering = lights get dim then bright over and over

- Lights don't always flicker - just sometimes

- It is not always the same lights that flicker

- When flickering, turning the light off then back on makes no difference - they will continue to flicker

- Power company came out and found nothing wrong on thier side of the service.

I told them they will need an electrician as I have no idea whet it could be. But as a gesture of good will I said I would try and do some research to see what I could learn. It will also be a good learing experience. So any ideas what it could be?

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When I was doing an inspection on a mid century house and I took the cover off the "new" panel front, half the lights in the house went off. Nothing I could find in the panel would cause it, nor correct it. I went outside and lightly banged the meter housing and the lights came back on, but flickered. Corrosion in the meter connections. Give it a try.

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I'll second the meter connections, especially if the new service install didn't include replacing the meter enclosure.

My brother had a similar issue with flickering lights that worsened to include intermittent brown outs on some circuits and eventually lost power to half the house. The back of the enclosure was rusted through and one of the plastic meter lugs was broken. He's very fortunate the arcing didn't burn the place down.

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Back-stabbed receptacles can cause flickering, but it will always be the same lights. It wouldn't hurt to pull the fixtures that flicker and a few receptacles in a 60-year-old house.

But we are all leaning toward a bigger problem - loose or corroded connections at the service end. I had one side of my service drop to 80 volts one time. The trouble was out on the power pole. Brownouts can destroy electric motors, compressors, etc.

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Had an owner several years back get mad at me about the flickering lights in his home. His was associated with the washing machine and when he turned it on the house looked like a 1970's disco. It turned out that it was a loose neutral in the panel. Simple fix but the owner was still ticked at me because I did not find it in an empty home with no washing machine, etc, etc..... I must admit that it was one of the funnest things I had seen in a home with almost every light flashing or pulsing as the washer went through it cycles.

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Mike nailed it, Mark. Only a crack electrician on-site can find out where. The location-spread of the symptoms suggest the issue would be close to, or within, the main service. Motors could start to burn if it isn't corrected soon.

Marc

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Something that's definitely GWTW is the flicker you will see if you are ever exposed to 25 Hz power and incandescent lights. It's always there, but it only catches your eye from the side every once in awhile. Maybe they could use this on bad guys instead of more intense methods.

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  • 4 weeks later...

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