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Old 05-24-2011, 10:45 AM   #1
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Intermittent Brief Power Outages in Half the House


I recently purchased a house and have been having some power issues. The first thing I noticed several weeks ago is that sometimes when a load comes on (such as when the washer or dryer turns on/changes cycles) some of the lights in the house flicker. I called the power co and they replaced the power connections both on the pole side and at the house side. They did not check the meter or replace the overhead line from the house to the pole. This didn't fix the issue.

This weekend I noticed a bigger problem. A few seconds after a moderate load would come on such as a TV or blow dryer, the power on roughly half of the circuits would go completely dark (including 220v outlets), but not the entire house. After about 15 seconds, the power would come back on by itself (no breakers were thrown). It would then go back off about 15 seconds later, and after another 15 seconds, come back on. It would then stay on until another load change. This appears to be affecting the same circuits that have the flickering issue. Am I right to assume I likely have a problem with one of the 110v legs? I have another call into the power co to check the meter and lugs this time. I should point out that this appears to be intermittent, and I haven't always been able to replicate the problem. It never appeared until after the power co changed out the connections, and it had been raining quite a bit the first day I noticed it.

House was built in 1959 and has an updated electric panel.

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Old 05-24-2011, 12:14 PM   #2
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Intermittent Brief Power Outages in Half the House


Definitely sounds like a loose leg to me. Are the affected circuits on every other breaker, running down the panel? And all the 240V circuits? If the power company can't find/fix it, than it's probably either loose connections at the main breaker lugs, or a bad main breaker. I'd recommend you have an electrician tighten/check those, since they are live at all times.

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Old 05-24-2011, 01:02 PM   #3
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Intermittent Brief Power Outages in Half the House


Could also be a connection in the meter socket.
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Old 05-24-2011, 02:07 PM   #4
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Intermittent Brief Power Outages in Half the House


Similar thing happened to me several years ago, half the house would go dark or very dim. Voltmeter showed very low (10-40V) or zero on the affected circuits. Opened the main panel and saw that one leg of the main breaker was discolored badly. As was mentioned, since it's live, I got an electrician to clean up the bus contacts and replace the breaker.
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Old 05-25-2011, 04:48 PM   #5
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Intermittent Brief Power Outages in Half the House


We opened up the main breaker panel, and everything looks OK, no loose connections, corrosion, or discoloration around the main breaker. This makes me think the problem is at the meter or more towards the poco. There is no way the source could be past the main breaker panel since it affects multiple circuits and no breakers flip, right?

Also, the outages affect the 220v dryer, but the clock has not reset on the 220v oven which means it did not lose power (though it could be back-fed from the good leg).

Also of note, the weather has been dry the past few days and no outages have occurred during this time, though the light flickering still sometimes occurs. Another thing I've noticed is that a computer which is plugged into a UPS does kick into backup power mode briefly during major initial load draws, such as the dryer turning on.
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Old 05-25-2011, 04:50 PM   #6
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Intermittent Brief Power Outages in Half the House


The clock in the oven is only a 120v device, taking power from only one leg to neutral. You should definitely try to convince the power company to check your connections at the meter socket. They do go get old and go bad occasionally.
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Old 05-26-2011, 11:09 AM   #7
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Power Co says their responsibility ends at the weather man. The meter itself is their property and they will replace if needed, but the actual meter lugs and the wires from the weatherman to the meter are my responsibility. Looks like I may just have to call an electrician on this one.
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Old 05-26-2011, 12:33 PM   #8
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Yep. Pulling the meter and poking around in the meter socket is not a DIY task, unfortunately. Too much can go wrong.
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Old 06-02-2011, 07:13 PM   #9
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Intermittent Brief Power Outages in Half the House


Power company finally came out and replaced the service line from the weather head to the pole. The problem persists so I had an electrician come out and pull the meter. Sure enough, there was a very loose discolored meter lug, and that side of the meter was actually warm.

The electrician said that since they no longer make this circa-1959 meter base, he couldn't get a replacement lug and would therefore have to replace the entire meter box. Consequently, since an inspector would have to come out, he would have to bring the conduit running up to the weather man up to code since it currently is not. He also said that since he would have to upgrade the ground system for the new meter box, the inspector would also have to look at the service panel, and would likely notice that the 100 amp breaker panel is being overloaded (by too many breakers, not too much current; it has several double 15 amp breakers and the warning label on the panel says they should not be used with the panel.)

So, my questions are:

1) Is it really true that they likely don't make the needed meter lug or socket to fit this old meter box, and the entire meter and mast need to be replaced? They couldn't just put a new socket in?
2) Would the inspector really notice the overloaded breaker panel and demand it be fixed as a result of this project?
3) There is also a sub-panel for an unused 240v outlet. Instead of replacing the entire service panel, could we take out the 240v plug and move some of the 15a breakers to this sub-panel?
4) Does just over $2k sound reasonable for this?
5) If I do replace the service, should I spring the extra $500 and upgrade to 200a service?
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Old 06-02-2011, 08:15 PM   #10
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Intermittent Brief Power Outages in Half the House


Quote:
Originally Posted by mac70pete View Post
So, my questions are:

1) Is it really true that they likely don't make the needed meter lug or socket to fit this old meter box, and the entire meter and mast need to be replaced? They couldn't just put a new socket in?
2) Would the inspector really notice the overloaded breaker panel and demand it be fixed as a result of this project?
3) There is also a sub-panel for an unused 240v outlet. Instead of replacing the entire service panel, could we take out the 240v plug and move some of the 15a breakers to this sub-panel?
4) Does just over $2k sound reasonable for this?
5) If I do replace the service, should I spring the extra $500 and upgrade to 200a service?
Here's an answer to two of your questions:

2. Possibly. It's one of those things that inspectors can either be a bear or understanding about. This worry is NOT a good reason to avoid the project. Just let the inspector know you want to make things right.

5. YES. When do people ever want LESS electricity? I'm saving up to upgrade to 400a.
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Old 06-02-2011, 09:21 PM   #11
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Intermittent Brief Power Outages in Half the House


1) Is it really true that they likely don't make the needed meter lug or socket to fit this old meter box, and the entire meter and mast need to be replaced? They couldn't just put a new socket in? Possibly
2) Would the inspector really notice the overloaded breaker panel and demand it be fixed as a result of this project? Possibly
3) There is also a sub-panel for an unused 240v outlet. Instead of replacing the entire service panel, could we take out the 240v plug and move some of the 15a breakers to this sub-panel? Sounds like a good option to releave overcrowding
4) Does just over $2k sound reasonable for this? Too variable to tell.
5) If I do replace the service, should I spring the extra $500 and upgrade to 200a service? Do you plan on adding an addition like a hot tub or heat pump later?
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Old 06-02-2011, 09:35 PM   #12
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Intermittent Brief Power Outages in Half the House


When it comes to inspectors, it all depends on whether he is any good at what he does. In other words, he may notice the incorrect breakers and he may not. The first clue is if the breakers are a brand different from the panel brand. The second clue is if the existing work is sloppy and he spots a half dozen code violations faster than he can write them down.

Your best bet is to pray for a sharp inspector that uses commen sense when it comes to existing installations. If the existing work was approved by an inspector when it was installed, it is likely that the current inspector will overlook all but a dangerous violation.

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