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Old 12-13-2007, 02:21 PM   #1
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Home electrical advice needed


Hi, I'm dealing with the ice storm here in Oklahoma, and was wondering if I could get some advice. It's very hard to get a local electrician on the line as they are all very busy. I am one of the lucky ones that has power, but it's flaky. I can run the heater or the refrigerator, but not both at the same time. Sometimes I have to unplug the fridge to get the garage door open. Turning on different appliances has various affects on lights; sometimes they get very dim, other times very bright. My line to pole is aboveground; it appears intact, but I'm almost certain it took a hit from a branch,as the cables lines beneath it are down. The neighbors line directly east of me (last house on the block) is snapped. The rest of the block does not appear to be affected. So my question is: could the easterly neighbors line being down affect me, or do I have something wrong in my house? The reason I ask is that I don't know whether to wait for PSO to fix the neighbors line (free), or go ahead and make an appointment with an electrician (costs me). I should add that when I got home, there was a surge protector in my computer room making a high pitched whine, and a strong electrical smell coming from the room. I unplugged everything since then.

Any help or guidance would be much appreciated.

Thanks

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Old 12-13-2007, 02:55 PM   #2
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Home electrical advice needed


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Originally Posted by jiminy View Post
Turning on different appliances has various affects on lights; sometimes they get very dim, other times very bright. My line to pole is aboveground; it appears intact, but I'm almost certain it took a hit from a branch,as the cables lines beneath it are down.
That most definitely sounds like a loose neutral. This is something that the power company needs to fix. Almost all of the time, this is their responsiblity, and there is usually little an electrician can do. So you may well call the power co, I imagine they are just swamped, but at least you will be on the list. Crews from my area and all over the country working down there.

My advice to you is to minimize your usage, and try to limit use of electronic equipment and motors. I understand that is extremely inconvenient and that it is important to have heat and light, etc. especially in the cold.

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So my question is: could the easterly neighbors line being down affect me, or do I have something wrong in my house?
Possibly, if there is a short, however those usually blow open. I would imagine that the problem is your service drop, or the connection at the service head, the connection at the pole, the utility's secondary line, or at the serving transformer. It is too difficult to pinpoint, just giving you some ideas.

Others will post....

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Old 12-13-2007, 03:22 PM   #3
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Home electrical advice needed


Thanks very much! I did call in to the power company, but I imagine that partial outs are at the bottom of their priority. I would hate to wait a week and have them tell me it's not their problem, when I could be going ahead and getting an electrician. Of course, the other side of that is that I hire an electrician and he tells me I have to wait for PSO. Maybe I shouldn't be so cheap, as I am pretty lucky compared to most people. Only six or so branches down, no full trees lost.

Thanks again
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Old 12-13-2007, 03:53 PM   #4
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Home electrical advice needed


good diagnosis junk that more than likely is the prob
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Old 12-13-2007, 09:45 PM   #5
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Home electrical advice needed


I'd be leary of running anything if the POCO was giving me horribly bad power. You don't have partial power. You have potentially expensive (damaged electronics, etc) power. Sketchy.

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Old 12-14-2007, 08:13 AM   #6
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Home electrical advice needed


Thanks Andy - I do have everything unessential unplugged. The line next door was fixed yesterday by an independent contractor, so I can rule that out. An interesting twist - this morning I turned the water on in the shower fine (feet dry), but while I was taking the shower, I reached out to adjust the hot water level, and grasping the metal faucet with feet wet caused a mild current to run through me. Not enough to hurt, but noticeable. Also, turning on the kitchen light (fluorescent) switch now doesn't turn on the light immediately, but a light on a dimmer switch in a room on the opposite side of the house comes on, then goes off when the kitchen light comes on, then they start alternating. I'm going to go ahead and get an electrician. The one who fixed the line next door said they were charging $115/hr. I don't know if that's normal or if they are gouging, but he had a list about 400 calls long. Anyway, thanks to all for giving some good information.
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Old 12-14-2007, 08:20 AM   #7
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Home electrical advice needed


You have a very dangerous situation. You should not receive any kind of shock when you are in the shower. You either need to live without any electrical in the house and wait for the POCO, or find an electician that can make the repair.
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Old 12-14-2007, 11:26 AM   #8
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You don't want to hear this I'm sure but
You should shut off your main breakers right now and don't turn them back on until this gets fixed.

The $115 per hour is a reasonable rate, too bad you couldn't have got him while he was there. Has the POCO given you any idea on when they will get there?

See this thread Fire after reconnect - what happened?

Last edited by jogr; 12-14-2007 at 11:32 AM. Reason: to add related thread
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Old 12-14-2007, 11:55 AM   #9
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You have a complex electrical situation centered around a broken neutral.

You have the two hot wires (240 volts) still intact but your ground, either attached to a water pipe or attached to a ground rod, is acting as a neutral.

Earth ground is not all that great a conductor so it only works for a few amperes. After that, a greater imbalance in watts desired between one side and the other side of the 240 volt line will result in severe voltage fluctuations, more than 120 volts on one side, less than 120 volts on the other side.

Current is getting to your (earth) ground via the neutrals tied to ground at the one and only proper and mandatory place, the main panel.

Can you tell whether there is "unnecessary" sagging or stretching of your service line out to the pole? A typical home service line has a "silver" suspension wire as combination neutral/ground/support with the two "black" hot conductors spiral wrapped around it with slack in the latter two at each end. If at one end you notice the whole shebang suspended by the two black wires stretched tight, that is evidence the neutral is broken there.

A broken neutral should be a high enough priority for the power company (POCO) that you should not be behind those folks with no power.

Last edited by AllanJ; 12-14-2007 at 12:00 PM.
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Old 12-14-2007, 02:19 PM   #10
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Home electrical advice needed


Ok, you all have convinced me to shut everything down except a light bulb. But when you say shut off the main breakers, do you mean all the switches in the box inside, or is there a main switch outside? If I shut all breakers in the box down, do I still need to disconnect hard-wired appliances like the dishwasher and range? I'm thinking to leave one circuit on for lights.

Allan, unfortunately I am at work and am going from memory, but I don't think the line was sagging more than normal. Which was a surprise because the cable line was pulled out of it's relief so hard that it is laying on the ground. I will give it a closer look when I get home. I'm also going to call the POCO again with this information.

Thanks again, you've been a big help.
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Old 12-14-2007, 02:22 PM   #11
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Home electrical advice needed


If you turn off the breakers, you do not need to disconnect the hard-wired stuff.
Good luck with this. Hope you get it fixed soon.
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Old 12-14-2007, 03:13 PM   #12
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Home electrical advice needed


Sometimes the main breakers are in the panel with all the individual circuit breakers (often at the top) and sometimes they are in a separate box (usually with the electric meter).

Often the breakers will be labeled on the handle with the amperage rating. For mains in a older house they may be as low as 60 amps but more than likely they will be 100 or 200 amps. So if you see breakers at the top of the panel labeled 100 or 200, they are likely the mains and if you flip them everything should go off. If no mains in the panel look outside where the electric meter is and see if there are main breakers out there.

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