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Old 06-17-2012, 09:36 AM   #1
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Insane electrical problem


For weeks we've been having this crazy electrical problem. It started off with all of the lights in the house dimming and brightening back up. The first time we called the power company, they told us the power coming into the house is fine. Our house is 112 years old, so after replacing the main switch, checking all of the ground wires, and about every other possible solution, we decided to re-wire the entire house. Everything that wasn't on a power strip or a surge protector, is ruined. We had an electrician come out and re-attach the neutral coming into the house, but he said that there was no problem with it at all and to call the power company back. We did that and they re-spliced the wire.

We are currently only using a couple brand new circuits in the house and we're still having the same problem. When the fridge compressor kicks on, whatever lights (which is very, very few) dim then return to their normal brightness. When we tried to run the AC yesterday (which is brand new, out of the box because our other one that was used for 2 months was ruined), as soon as the compressor goes to kick on, it shuts off and turns back on. It is on a brand new circuit with absolutely nothing else running off of it.

We are going crazy and our electrician can't come back out until later in the week and he doesn't have a clue. We spoke with another electrician and after 30 years, he has never heard of anything else like this before.

What could possible be the problem?? The ground wires have been taken off, cleaned, and attached with new clips, the new circuits and wiring is up to code and has been inspected.

If anyone can provide some insight, we will be extremely grateful!!
Thank you!
Colleen

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Old 06-17-2012, 09:39 AM   #2
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Oh! We've been constantly checking the voltage on the new receptacles and everything is coming up perfect.

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Old 06-17-2012, 09:43 AM   #3
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I would call the power company out again, and maybe this time they will actually look for the problem.
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Old 06-17-2012, 09:58 AM   #4
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Insane electrical problem


They've been out 3 different times (including yesterday) and the best advice they can give up is, "Call your electrician back."
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Old 06-17-2012, 10:06 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by lillis216 View Post
They've been out 3 different times (including yesterday) and the best advice they can give up is, "Call your electrician back."

Its hard to diagnose the problem with a brief description, but it could be a poorly made neutral connection, but this would result in some lights dimming, some brighter, but some simple tests would rule this out, did the power company actually test for an open neutral? Around here they install a machine that applies a heavy load that will indicate a neutral problem....

With that said, dimming lights is pretty normal when a high inrush occurs, i.e. any motor driven appliance... It's called voltage drop, and this is usually a power company issue. But don't expect them to fix it either.
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Old 06-17-2012, 10:12 AM   #6
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Its hard to diagnose the problem with a brief description, but it could be a poorly made neutral connection, but this would result in some lights dimming, some brighter, but some simple tests would rule this out, did the power company actually test for an open neutral? Around here they install a machine that applies a heavy load that will indicate a neutral problem....

With that said, dimming lights is pretty normal when a high inrush occurs, i.e. any motor driven appliance... It's called voltage drop, and this is usually a power company issue. But don't expect them to fix it either.
Yes, they did that yesterday and everything looked fine they said. I just don't understand how this could happen out of the blue. What other details do you need to help?
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Old 06-17-2012, 10:16 AM   #7
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Yes, they did that yesterday and everything looked fine they said. I just don't understand how this could happen out of the blue. What other details do you need to help?

Not much else can be said, if your electrician can't find the problem, I would hire another electrician... at least get a second opinion on the lights dimming if he considers it normal or abnormal.
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Old 06-17-2012, 10:20 AM   #8
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Not much else can be said, if your electrician can't find the problem, I would hire another electrician... at least get a second opinion on the lights dimming if he considers it normal or abnormal.
Ok, thank you for the help. Obviously, we know something is wrong. And every electrician we've spoken with cannot figure it out. :/ This has got to be the most frustrating thing I've ever experienced.
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Old 06-17-2012, 10:28 AM   #9
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Ok, thank you for the help. Obviously, we know something is wrong. And every electrician we've spoken with cannot figure it out. :/ This has got to be the most frustrating thing I've ever experienced.
I find it hard to believe the power company can't find anything wrong, so if that is true then the problem lies inside, again, I can't believe the electrician can't find anything wrong... sounds like a lot of finger pointing going on.
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Old 06-17-2012, 10:31 AM   #10
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I find it hard to believe the power company can't find anything wrong, so if that is true then the problem lies inside, again, I can't believe the electrician can't find anything wrong... sounds like a lot of finger pointing going on.
I agree, the power company has been out here 3 different times and not one person can give us an answer or point us in the right direction.
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Old 06-17-2012, 10:42 AM   #11
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You have an old house so odds are your service is overhead. But...if you have an underground service feeding the house:
  1. Have you or anyone else done any digging around the house?
  2. Is the problem worse after a rain?
If either answer is yes, it's possible one of the hots has been nicked and the moisture in the ground is bleeding the power off.

If not, you need to get some readings at the panel when the lights dim. You'll need a digital voltage meter to get these readings. If the problem occurs often enough or remains long enough you may be able to get these readings:
  1. What is the voltage at the hot lugs before the main breaker?
  2. What is the voltage on the other side (load side) of the main?
  3. What is the voltage coming off the breakers that feed the dimmed lights?
  4. The next place to go would be to a receptacle feeding the dimmed lights.
You said you rewired the entire house. What expertise or knowledge do you have in electrical wiring? I don't mean to be condescending but I have seen homeowners who think they know how to wire something but they don't. If you don't do it right you could have all kinds of problems. Most often I see these kinds of problems with improperly wired neutrals.

You said this problem started a few weeks ago. Are there any changes you made to the electrical system, such as added loads, any rewiring, or anything that has to do with the system at all?

In the rewiring, do you KNOW you rewired everything? Could you possible have missed something? A house that is 112 years old could have knob & tube hidden somewhere. I've seen K&T conductors that were just bare copper in houses newer than yours. All it would take is some high resistance path to ground to dim the lights but not trip the breakers (or blow the fuses).

Without being there, that's about all I can come up with for now. Let us know how it goes.
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Old 06-17-2012, 10:45 AM   #12
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I agree, the power company has been out here 3 different times and not one person can give us an answer or point us in the right direction.
If the power company does not attach a monitor, then the lineman cannot see it. If only using inspection, then the lineman does not know how to find problems such as yours. Any dimming bulbs is a problem. And should not be fixed until the problem is first identified.


You say voltages are fine? Does not matter. What is the actual number.

What are voltages only during dimming? A dimming bulb means low voltage. No doubt or question about it. If your meter on the same receptacle does not report a lower voltage when the dimming occurs, then the meter is not measuring your problem. That dimming says, without a slightest doubt, that voltages are significantly lower. You need a tool that shows how much lower. A number must be provided. If the utilty lineman did not have a number during that dimming, then he did not even see or try to find that defect.

As another was also implying, to have assistance always means numbers. How to separate the guy who knows this stuff from another who does not. The useful technician (lineman or electrician) answers with numbers. Will say what that voltage was when a bulb dimmed or brightened. No numbers imply he is only guessing.
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Old 06-17-2012, 12:36 PM   #13
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Insane electrical problem


I have heard of a similar problem described a few years ago. Ask your neighbors, are they having the same problem/close to the same problem? Are you the first or last house on the block?

It could be one of the POCO's transformers are dying and that is causing the voltage drop. Just to reinstate, is it just your house with this problem or other homes around your's as well?
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Old 06-17-2012, 09:41 PM   #14
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This smacks of shotgun troubleshooting "My engine is hesitating, so I put in a new engine."......

You have to make measurements....with a real volt meter.

1st Question....do you have 240Vac at your house? If so....find the biggest 120Vac motor you have....table saws are good...if not, a good vacuum. Hook the volt meter up across one of the incomming legs of your main panel...have your wife turn on the vacuum....if there is an issue with the wiring between your panel and the transformer on the pole....or the transformer itself....you will see the voltage drop on one side when you turn on the vac and see the voltage rise on the other leg at the same time.

If you do not have 240Vac OR the above test is ok....it's possible one of your neighbors has an unusual load.....

Any trailer trash or wierd neighbors? You could have a pot growing operation nearby....
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Old 06-18-2012, 05:11 AM   #15
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I might have missed this, but did the PUC replace the service drop to your meter? I ask because I had a somewhat similar issue a few years ago (dimming lights, etc...) My electrician found a corroded neutral in my panel, caused by moisture leaking in through the service drop. The weather sheathing was letting water in, and providing a path all the way in to my panel.

In my case, replacing the service drop resolved the problem. Best of luck with this.

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