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Old 09-08-2008, 11:39 AM   #1
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Lights Brighten/Dim depends on what comes on


Hi,

This is a problem that has been bothering me for about a couple of months. So, I'll explain the series of event that has happened.

1st.
I installed a 110 volt/15 Amp SPA in my back yard about 3 months ago. I ran a dedicated circuit just for that with a GFCI outlet on the end. Everything was and has been fine.

2nd.
Lightning struck a pine tree in my backyard and the bolt got into an Undeground feeder cable feeding my shed and backfed into my house. Some equipment got zapped. I reran the wire feeding my shed.

Not immediatelly after the strike, but about a month later, I have these symptoms:

-Lights dim for a second when the refrigerator or A/C turns on.

-When my dryer comes on my computer screen shakes frantacally like a degaussing for a second and then has a very small virabtion on the screen while the dryer is running

-Now, just recently, when the SPA turns on, the lights Brighten for about 1 second.

I recently change a couple of breakers in my main panel that were loose in the panel, and things seem to have been fixed. Then a few weeks after that. The syptoms are coming back. Now with the lights brightening.

I hear about "loose neutral" but a checked all in the panel.

Any ideas of help would be appreciated.

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Old 09-08-2008, 11:44 AM   #2
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Lights Brighten/Dim depends on what comes on


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I hear about "loose neutral" but a checked all in the panel.
A loose neutral could be anywhere from your panel to the POCO's transformer. I would call the power company. They will send someone out that will test the line and check the connections.

I put my money on a loose or failing neutral. Somewhere.

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Old 09-08-2008, 11:48 AM   #3
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Lights Brighten/Dim depends on what comes on


I forgot to mention, I did have the POCO check their incoming service and they say eveythign is fine on their end.

Would a loose neutral off on just one circuit branch cause probelms on other lines? Or would it more likely be in the panel?
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Old 09-08-2008, 12:27 PM   #4
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Lights Brighten/Dim depends on what comes on


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Would a loose neutral off on just one circuit branch cause probelms on other lines? Or would it more likely be in the panel?
Could be either place.

If the lights get brighter it means you have higher voltage going to that WHOLE circuit. I wiil get worse and when it fails completely, you will get 240V on your 120v outlets.

Then you will get smoke.

Find it, fix it, now.

I had one case where the POCO came out TWICE and said it's not on their end. After doing a couple thousand dollars worth of work replacing the service and checking a lot of attic junction boxes, the problem was still there. The POCO refused to come out again until I told them I smelled smoke. This time they actually took the time to walk the ungerground route to the transformer and found an issue in a jbox.

Homeowner was NOT happy.
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Old 09-08-2008, 02:50 PM   #5
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Lights Brighten/Dim depends on what comes on


Sounds like a loose neutral, try a lamp on a homerun (or a circuit with no splices), and see if the light changes there, if it doesn't then you have loose neutrals all over your house, if it does then it could be in the meter, or on pocos side. Check your grounds for burns from lightning and fix if found.

Lights dimming is normal...but since you havn't had that before, it isn't.

Tightening neutrals yearly, or every 6 months is a good idea...those can become loose...

While your working, check your coaxial lines for ground blocks...the electrians never installed one...
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Old 09-09-2008, 01:52 PM   #6
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Lights Brighten/Dim depends on what comes on


hello where is this site based?
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Old 09-09-2008, 02:51 PM   #7
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Lights Brighten/Dim depends on what comes on


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hello where is this site based?
The USA.
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Sometimes I feel like if I answer any more questions it is like someone trying to climb over a fence to jump off a bridge and me giving them a boost.
Answers based on the 2008 & 2011 NEC.
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Old 09-11-2008, 08:02 AM   #8
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Lights Brighten/Dim depends on what comes on


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Originally Posted by rgsgww View Post
Sounds like a loose neutral, try a lamp on a homerun (or a circuit with no splices), and see if the light changes there, if it doesn't then you have loose neutrals all over your house, if it does then it could be in the meter, or on pocos side. Check your grounds for burns from lightning and fix if found.

Lights dimming is normal...but since you havn't had that before, it isn't.

Tightening neutrals yearly, or every 6 months is a good idea...those can become loose...

While your working, check your coaxial lines for ground blocks...the electrians never installed one...
This circuit that I have where I'm noticing the lights the most I'll describe.

The panel is in my garage. The circuit has these outlets

One in the garage, and one florescent light with switch
Two outlets in dining area, one light with dimmer switch
One outlet in Living room
Two outlet in back room.

Now here's the thing I noticed yesterday. I checked the voltage in the dining area and it was about 113 volts, then I went to the back room and it was 110 Volts.

I have an entertainment center in the living room with a powerstrip plug in with a (stereo, LCD tv, DVD, cable box). When I turn on the LCD TV the voltage in the back room drops to 108. When I turn it off, it goes back to 110. I never knew a TV could cause a voltage drop. It pulls about 3 amps to the TV.

I have two phases in my house for 110-120v circutis. One phase is about 119-121 and the other varies from 113 to 116. The circuit described above is one the lower votage circuit.

I've read that outlets installed in the 70's were backstabbed and I may have to reland the lines on a screw. Does the above still sound like a loose neutral?
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Old 09-11-2008, 10:04 AM   #9
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Lights Brighten/Dim depends on what comes on


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Does the above still sound like a loose neutral?
Well it seems that the poco tranformer might be a little old, but you said the 1970s? when was your house wired?

What brand breaker panel do you have?

How old is your home? Is their old 1900-1940 wiring, 1940-1955 wiring? 1955-1965? 1965-1972? or 1972-1975?

Hold on before opening and changing the back stabs, what you need to do is check for aluminum wire. http://www.inspect-ny.com/aluminum/recogniz.htm says alot about how to find aluminum.

What you could do is shut power off to the 1970s circuits and check pigtails for melting or discolor, also check the wire for an aluminum tint.

To repair aluminum, you could have the "copalum" repair method done.
http://www.inspect-ny.com/aluminum/CPSC03120.htm

If your aluminum is older than 1972 the splices might be up to 55 times more likely to overheat.

Last edited by rgsgww; 09-11-2008 at 10:07 AM.
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Old 09-11-2008, 10:19 AM   #10
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Lights Brighten/Dim depends on what comes on


The house was built in 1970. The only aluminum wire I noticed in the panel was coming off a 40A 240V breaker feeding my A/C compressor.

I believe the panel is ITE. The breaker layout in the panel has the 240 volt breakers at the top. A 60A Main in the middle that only breaks the 120 volt breakers.

I was concerned about the voltage drop along the run describe in the previous thread about dropping from 113 down to 110 and then 108 with the TV on. I could turn off that line and inspect the outlets on that run maybe?
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Old 09-11-2008, 03:37 PM   #11
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Lights Brighten/Dim depends on what comes on


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I could turn off that line and inspect the outlets on that run maybe?
That sounds like a good idea, if you could access an attic or basement you could check there aswell...just dont change any connections if they have aluminum in them.

The reason why aluminum before 1972 is more dangerous than post 1972 wiring is because in 1972 they adapted the al/r (aluminum revised)

Check out this website for safe aluminum splices

http://www.alcopstore.com/

If aluminum is in the circuit, loose/burnt out connections may cause voltage drop. Have you ever had heavy loads slowly "shut off" a circuit?
Have you had flickering lights, if they were left on?

Theres nothing wrong with I.T.E. panels, so thats nothing you should be concerned with.
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Old 09-11-2008, 07:11 PM   #12
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Lights Brighten/Dim depends on what comes on


Quote:
Does the above still sound like a loose neutral?
Not necessarily. It depends on what is happening on the OTHER leg at the time of the voltage drop. Lights dimming, voltage dropping is one problem. Lights gettting bright, voltage rising is another.




Quote:
just recently, when the SPA turns on, the lights Brighten for about 1 second.
THIS is a faulty neutral....if the spa is 120V

The first question is...Is it in a specific branch circuit or is it system wide?

If any of you branch circuits are 3 wire, the problem may be in the jbox where they split. If there are any red wires going to 120V breakers, you have 3 wire homeruns. If not, the problem is in the service or at the supply (POCO)
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Old 09-12-2008, 08:05 AM   #13
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Lights Brighten/Dim depends on what comes on


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I have two phases in my house for 110-120v circutis. One phase is about 119-121 and the other varies from 113 to 116. The circuit described above is one the lower votage circuit.
Where were these readings taken? At the outlets or the breaker panel?

If you tested these at the outlets...do a test in the panel, directly at the incoming service entrance wires, where they land on the main breaker (the wire itself, not the screw terminal)....each leg to ground and 'phase to phase'. If you still show a low reading on one of the 'legs', there probably is a loose connection between your panel and the x-frmr. If the reading is good, check your busbars to grnd & to each other, then each branch circ brkr to gnd. If you show a good 120V on each busbar and all your bc brkrs, your problem lies in the branch circuits.

Check that your breaker terms are tight, and all your neutrals are tight on the neut bar. Look for any neutrals that are 'doubled up' on the busbar. A neutral wire can only be terminated by itself....one wire, one screw. Grounds can be doubled, sometimes even tripled, depends on the labeling of the panel, but neutrals can't. (I don't have the code book in front of me, but I think it's 408.41)
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Old 09-15-2008, 07:53 AM   #14
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Lights Brighten/Dim depends on what comes on


I'd like to report that this problem has now been corrected. It was a loose neutral at the power pole drop coming to my house. The POCO came out for a second time and they recrimped a neutral at the pole and both phases went into balance within 1 volt of each other, and now not ONE blip.

Prior, I found an electrician in the neighborhood and he checked my meter can, and everything checked fine. We tested the voltage coming in...with a load on it, and the voltage drop was still there, so it must have been from the POCO.

I called the POCO a few weeks ago and they said there was no problem. My guess is there were checking their power with the meter pulled and no load, so they wouldn't see it. But, I called them again and suggested to them to check neutral at the pole (per the electrician's request) and that was it.

So, I'm much happier now.

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