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Flickering lights. Dimming and Bright lights


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For the past 3 months we've had flickering lights. They've become worse after time. Now the lights dim as if they're going to go out or they become very bright. We've used a reader and they go down to 90-100 and up to 131. We've called the electric company twice and said it wasn't at their end. We've changed the breaker box, tightened everything, changed plugs in the home. Checked wires in attic. The electric company claimed they checked their end but we dont know whether to believe them. They came a few days ago to disconnect our meter so we could have the breaker box replaced and that was the first time we saw them in the backyard neighbors home to disconnect something. I'm sure they could check somewhere else but we're not sure that they did. We've turned off breakers and left some on to see if the flickering continues and it does. We have a smart meter and I think it would be a good idea to have that changed out too. We also are thinking about changing out the meter socket. We're frustrated and do not know what to do now! Help.

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Sounds like a loose/broken neutral wire to me. Be aware that it could be anywhere on the system served by your utility transformer - including at a neighbor's house.

Talk to your neighbors (which is a good general rule for most of life!).

The neighbors are not having any issues with their lights.

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Sounds like a loose/broken neutral wire to me. Be aware that it could be anywhere on the system served by your utility transformer - including at a neighbor's house.

Talk to your neighbors (which is a good general rule for most of life!).

The neighbors are not having any issues with their lights.

It's very likely a loose neutral in your house.

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Right. You have a loose neutral connection somewhere. Neutrals are what keeps the 240 volts divided equally into two 120 V supplies. Such defects can sometimes be very difficult to locate since the repairman has to get into the head of the person who wired the house and figure out where the cables are run in order to trace the neutrals. I would not allow this condition to continue for long, otherwise bulbs, florescent ballasts, washer motors/electronics and furnace motors on gas powered appliances might begin failing.

If the entire house is flickering, I'd check the connections in the meter box. If it's just some areas of the house that flicker, it's likely a neutral connection on one of the circuits serving that part of the house. Look for multi-wire circuits (two hot wires and only one neutral). That kind of circuit often yields issues like this.

Marc

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We've turned off breakers and left some on to see if the flickering continues and it does.
The trouble is affecting several circuits or all circuits and the breaker panel has been changed? I am no electrician but I don't think the meter has a neutral connection. Neutral runs straight past the meter and if done the way it is done here, is continuous, but bonded to the meter box with a clamp. So it is unlikely a fault with the meter.

The splices at the weatherhead, outside where the service drop comes from the pole, should be checked, or simply redone with new connectors. Then have the electrician check for fluctuating voltage there.

Maybe your service hookup is underground. So these are just suggestions at this point.

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I am no electrician but I don't think the meter has a neutral connection. Neutral runs straight past the meter and if done the way it is done here, is continuous, but bonded to the meter box with a clamp. So it is unlikely a fault with the meter.

Maybe in Canada but at least where I'm at, the neutral from the service drop - or service riser - connects to the neutral from the main panel within the meter box.

Marc

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I am no electrician but I don't think the meter has a neutral connection. Neutral runs straight past the meter and if done the way it is done here, is continuous, but bonded to the meter box with a clamp. So it is unlikely a fault with the meter.

Maybe in Canada but at least where I'm at, the neutral from the service drop - or service riser - connects to the neutral from the main panel within the meter box.

Marc

It could sometimes be spliced in the meter box here. Of course I rarely get to see inside the meter box. Best practice is to remove a bit of insulation for the bonding clamp but to leave the neutral uncut as it passes thru to the breaker panel. Yes, this house with the flickering lights could certainly have a bad splice behind the meter.

The connections to the actual meter are the two hots, no neutral connection. That is why I am suggesting that the meter is not at fault.

If one of the hots is loose, I don't think voltage could ever exceed 120 vac.

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For the past 3 months we've had flickering lights. They've become worse after time. Now the lights dim as if they're going to go out or they become very bright. We've used a reader and they go down to 90-100 and up to 131. We've called the electric company twice and said it wasn't at their end. We've changed the breaker box, tightened everything, changed plugs in the home. Checked wires in attic. The electric company claimed they checked their end but we dont know whether to believe them. They came a few days ago to disconnect our meter so we could have the breaker box replaced and that was the first time we saw them in the backyard neighbors home to disconnect something. I'm sure they could check somewhere else but we're not sure that they did. We've turned off breakers and left some on to see if the flickering continues and it does. We have a smart meter and I think it would be a good idea to have that changed out too. We also are thinking about changing out the meter socket. We're frustrated and do not know what to do now! Help.

Get a good electrician to check the neutrals and voltage on the system. If needed, have him meet the power company on site to show the voltage fluctuations to the power company guys so they can trace it back to the cause.

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Garry, how would a failing breaker allow the voltage to rise on one leg or drop on the other?

Arcing in the breaker or on the bar.

I agree with Jim P. I can't fathom any failure mode involving only a breaker that would cause the potential of the neutral to slide that way.

Marc

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Sorry, Short reply....

Garret's comment on the transformer was my first thought, especially since I had the same issue some years ago.

If the transformer is allowing 130+ that would account some of the readings then add that the transformer is failing will also account for the drop in voltage. Possibly add into the equation a breaker failing either internally or at its connection point. Neutral not involved.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well if it is a loose connection it is probably generating enough heat to discolor the lug at a termination point somewhere and may also be showing signs of melting insulation on the wire. You may want to check for this at the breaker also but in my experience you would have your breaker tripping if that were happening. I would look for signs of heat build up at termination points. Good Hunting!

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If he's 'win the Mega Ball' lucky it will be loose at an accessible termination. Most likely it's a loose connection in a junction box. If it isn't "in" the house, then it is at the meter or either end of the overhead service cable.

It's been a month. If it were a bad transformer it would have popped by now.

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Well if it is a loose connection it is probably generating enough heat to discolor the lug at a termination point somewhere and may also be showing signs of melting insulation on the wire. You may want to check for this at the breaker also but in my experience you would have your breaker tripping if that were happening. I would look for signs of heat build up at termination points. Good Hunting!

Possibly so. But I've been surprised to see just how unaffected a loose neutral connection can be. I've seen many that showed absolutely no sign of any kind.

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  • 3 weeks later...

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