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Old 10-12-2008, 08:10 AM   #1
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flickering lights


In one room at my son's house the lights flicker when a lamp is plugged in to any of the outlets. The lamp is good as it was moved from another room and it had no flicker. The problem is in one room = one 15 amp circuit. All the rest of the house is OK. I told him it was probably a loose wire, and most likely on the home run since all the outlets in the room are affected. I told him to go to the basement, turn off the breaker and check if the wire was tight on the breaker and the neutral to that circuit was tight. He said they were tight but I didn't observe as I had to keep an eye on my granddaughter upstairs. I watched him open the two outlets on the side of the room closest to the panel which I figured the home run was going to one of these. Both were tight and we still have the flicker.

What is the next step? Could it be a bad breaker? Should I confirm that the connections in the panel are tight? what else should we check?

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Old 10-12-2008, 08:15 AM   #2
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flickering lights


plug an additional lamp in and see if you get the same result. Possible the wires in the lamp socket are loose?

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Old 10-12-2008, 09:24 AM   #3
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plug an additional lamp in and see if you get the same result. Possible the wires in the lamp socket are loose?
That would be my guess.

Or the filiment is about to go out.
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Old 10-12-2008, 10:53 AM   #4
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flickering lights


A lamp was flickering in that room so I brought in another lamp from another room. The new lamp doesn't flicker in the other room so I know it's not the lamp, but the lamp flickers when it is plugged into the outlets in the problem room.
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Old 10-12-2008, 11:38 AM   #5
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I might go around and lightly tap on each outlet and see if that made the light flicker.

Then I would take a peek inside one of the outlets. I would look to be sure it is copper wire and not aluminum. Then I would see if the wires were "pushed" into the back of the outlets or screwed down on the sides of the outlets.

If everything looked ok at all the outlets, then I would go hunting for junction boxes.

If none of the above found the problem, I would maybe swap the wire for that circuit to another breaker of the same amperage and move that wire to the first breaker. (See if the problem moves.)

Also check the white neutral wires in the panel.

I always turn off the main breaker before working in a panel.
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Old 10-12-2008, 02:07 PM   #6
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We did open two outlets and the wire is copper and they used the screws but didn't pig tail. We will tap the remaining outlets and swap breakers. Also, the room with the problem is used as a home office and it has a lot of electronics plugged in, computers, printers etc. I will unplug all of it to see if the problem is coming from the equipment.
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Old 10-12-2008, 02:23 PM   #7
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We did open two outlets and the wire is copper and they used the screws but didn't pig tail. We will tap the remaining outlets and swap breakers. Also, the room with the problem is used as a home office and it has a lot of electronics plugged in, computers, printers etc. I will unplug all of it to see if the problem is coming from the equipment.
Hummm... Usually the screw down wires are pretty reliable connections.

Is this a new or old house? Sometimes during construction a wire gets damaged. A screw or nail through a wire, etc.
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Old 10-12-2008, 02:41 PM   #8
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We did open two outlets and the wire is copper and they used the screws but didn't pig tail. We will tap the remaining outlets and swap breakers. Also, the room with the problem is used as a home office and it has a lot of electronics plugged in, computers, printers etc. I will unplug all of it to see if the problem is coming from the equipment.
Problem shouldn't come from the equipment. Tungsten lights are not susceptible to electronic interference like some sensitive electronics. They are either one or off.

What you are describing is not a brownout or power surge.
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Old 10-12-2008, 10:27 PM   #9
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Problem shouldn't come from the equipment. Tungsten lights are not susceptible to electronic interference like some sensitive electronics. They are either one or off.

What you are describing is not a brownout or power surge.
I have a incandescent (plain old edison style bulb) lamp that is on a 15A circuit with a laser fax (it in a spare bed room and those are the only items on the circuit). Whenever the laser printer engages the light goes flicker flicker flicker.

If the flicker corresponds to a large draw on the same circuit that may be the cause.

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Old 10-12-2008, 11:17 PM   #10
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I have a incandescent (plain old edison style bulb) lamp that is on a 15A circuit with a laser fax (it in a spare bed room and those are the only items on the circuit). Whenever the laser printer engages the light goes flicker flicker flicker.

If the flicker corresponds to a large draw on the same circuit that may be the cause.

Jamie
Laser printers are about 4 amps. That combined with a 1/2 amp bulb shouldn't cause excessive power drain. I can see if there was a 12 amp sawzall starting up but even then it shouldn't cause a flicker.

My guess is that you have something wrong with the circuit.

Have you tried replacing the receptacle? I have seen them go back when the electrician tries to push too much wire in the box.

Does the light flicker in other outlets on the same circuit?
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Old 10-13-2008, 04:37 AM   #11
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Laser printers are about 4 amps. That combined with a 1/2 amp bulb shouldn't cause excessive power drain. I can see if there was a 12 amp sawzall starting up but even then it shouldn't cause a flicker.

My guess is that you have something wrong with the circuit.

Have you tried replacing the receptacle? I have seen them go back when the electrician tries to push too much wire in the box.

Does the light flicker in other outlets on the same circuit?
My light is fine unless the fax starts up. I have not looked at its load, but had suspected it was doing more than 4 amps due to the light thing. I remember it doing this same thing at my old house.

I kind of suspect that having the fax machine ungrounded may be part of the issue, I have it plugged in with a grounding adapter that isn't connected to the screw or anything.

I've seen enough of the electrical work in this house to know that they in general made very good connections, they made very tight loops around every screw on every switch and outlet. So I highly doubt there is a loose wire anywhere.

I am in the process of replacing all the outlets in the house, and will replace the outlet that the fax machine is using with a properly grounded outlet. If I still experience this problem, I will report back here for trouble shooting, I don't know why exactly, but it sticks out in my mind that when that fax machine is grounded that it solves the problem... But I might be wrong...

I have not done any further testing, because I actually figured it was either related to it being ungrounded or was just normal due to the power surge from the laser printer component of the fax machine. (I will have to plug in the kill a wat or put a clamp meter on it and see what it really is pulling. If the outlet change does not solve it, I will follow your suggestions and do additional tests.

Thanks again
Jamie
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Old 10-13-2008, 09:10 AM   #12
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I have not done any further testing, because I actually figured it was either related to it being ungrounded or was just normal due to the power surge from the laser printer component of the fax machine. (I will have to plug in the kill a wat or put a clamp meter on it and see what it really is pulling. If the outlet change does not solve it, I will follow your suggestions and do additional tests.

Thanks again
Jamie
I suggest that you do the tests first so you can see what the problem is first. If you do a bunch of fixes and then the problem goes away you will never know how you fixed it.
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Old 10-13-2008, 10:30 AM   #13
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As to the FAX machine, this is a mechanical machine which causes movement...

Is the light on the same table as the FAX? Try just bumping the table and see if that makes the light flicker as well...
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Old 10-13-2008, 10:38 AM   #14
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Take everything off of the circuit, and put a 12.5 amp load, like a space heater on the circuit, and see what happens, you could check the voltage if you have a multimeter.

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