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Old 12-29-2011, 11:02 PM   #1
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Lights Flickering, Dimming, Brightening, and Buzzing


In the last few weeks, some of the lights in the house have either flickered a little, or they dim slightly, or even brighten, when some other appliance is turned on. In the last few days, I've been hearing some buzzing from a couple of different areas. First buzzing seemed to be coming from the humidifier on one of my furnaces, but I couldn't tell exactly where because it's in a rather tight area. Then I could hear a slight buzzing coming from the humidifier on my other furnace. About an hour ago, I was walking by the washer and water heater and could hear buzzing coming from that area. When I touched the cold water pipe, I could feel the buzzing through it. When I give it a little shake, a few of the lights flickered. I can't figure out where it's coming from, but when removed a panel to a storage space above, it got fainter but came back a little louder. I can't figure out what's going on. The only thing I can think of is about a month ago, I had my furnaces cleaned and a new filter put in one of the humidifiers, which had to be nearly taken out to put the filter in. I wonder if that did something or what. Anybody have any ideas? I'd greatly appreciate any help.

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Old 12-29-2011, 11:08 PM   #2
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I think you may have a potentially serious problem going on. Your main service neutral wire may have come loose or broken, causing current to return via your metal water pipes through the neutral connections of your neighbor's houses.

This potentially can cause an electrical shock risk from any grounded metal in your house, including water pipes and appliances.

I can't say for certain this is your problem, but due to the potential seriousness it's better to be safe than sorry. You should call your electric company immediately, if possible, and tell them you suspect your service neutral is broken and your water pipes are energized. They will generally send a truck out ASAP to check things out, at no charge to you.

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Old 12-29-2011, 11:14 PM   #3
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Lights Flickering, Dimming, Brightening, and Buzzing


Actually, now that I realized you mentioned lights brightening as well, I am almost certain this is your problem. Call your power company ASAP, and refrain from touching any more water pipes. If you have any valuable electronics, unplug them so they aren't damaged from voltage swings.
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Old 12-29-2011, 11:16 PM   #4
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Lights Flickering, Dimming, Brightening, and Buzzing


I will suggest that you do not monkey anymore with the eau ( water ) pipes.

Call the POCO right now and tell them you have bad connection and they will send a troubleshooting crew or a guy to trouble shoot the POCO side of the meter they will look at the connection at the meter socket and overhead connection if you have them ( for UG it kinda iffy depending on which POCO you deal with it some will do it and some won't due some of the UG run once it buried it become yours so that is iffy there )


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Old 12-30-2011, 07:00 AM   #5
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Lights Flickering, Dimming, Brightening, and Buzzing


When lights dim or brighten, are the any incandescent lights elsewhere in the house that stay at normal brightness?

Measure the voltage at the panel. When lights dim and brighten, do any of the circuits stay at around 120 volts? (Breaker screw to neutral terminal strip.)
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Old 12-30-2011, 09:40 AM   #6
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Dunno if I'd even try to remove the panel cover while the grounding system is carrying current. Well, maybe I would, but I'd definitely be very, very careful.

Hopefully the OP comes back and lets us know he's alright, and what the power company says. It always worries me when someone's got a serious problem they're poking around with, and they don't come back.
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Old 12-30-2011, 10:03 AM   #7
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Lights Flickering, Dimming, Brightening, and Buzzing


For God's sake: Call the POCO and don't touch anything metallic in the home. Something, likely the neutral, as suggested by others, is seriously awry. You may have an arcing situation going on, somewhere, which is a fire hazard. Don't mess with this. Get professionals on it right away.

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Old 12-30-2011, 12:15 PM   #8
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Lights Flickering, Dimming, Brightening, and Buzzing


I've touched the water pipes and though there's still some buzzing going through but, but cannot feel any current going through. Everything else seems normal. I gave the cold water pipe that goes into the water heater a little shake this morning and the kitchen and family room lights flickered, but my utility room lights, which are flourescent, and in the same room as the pipe did not flicker. I'm getting ready to call DTE, my local utility company and tell them what's going on. A few days ago, we had a very windy situation and maybe that played a part, plus, other windy days in the recent past.
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Old 12-30-2011, 12:26 PM   #9
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We're really not kidding about leaving the water pipes alone. At least a portion of your piping is currently carrying much of the electrical load of your house. You won't feel the current in the pipes, unless you accidentally ground yourself to other nearby metal, or your basement floor. If that happens, the current may be the last thing you ever feel. Plumbers get killed by this type of problem every year.

Not trying to scare you (well, maybe a little), just want to make sure you stay safe.

When you talk to the power company, make sure they're treating it as an emergency. Post back and let us know how it goes.
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Old 12-30-2011, 12:34 PM   #10
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Lights Flickering, Dimming, Brightening, and Buzzing


Quote:
Originally Posted by OldManJim62 View Post
I've touched the water pipes and though there's still some buzzing going through but, but cannot feel any current going through.
...
I gave the cold water pipe that goes into the water heater a little shake this morning and the kitchen and family room lights flickered, ...


Listen, Old Man Jim 62: If you want to live to become Old Man Jim 63: STOP MUCKING-ABOUT AND CALL THE POCO! NOW!

If it were me, and I actually know quite a bit about things electrical, I'd have opened the distribution panel, by now, wearing gloves, standing on an insulated surface, with my other hand in a pocket, and pulled the main breaker.

But I want to live to see 61, would like to do so with our current home still standing, and with as many of the appliances as possible not fried.

Jim
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Old 12-30-2011, 12:58 PM   #11
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Lights Flickering, Dimming, Brightening, and Buzzing


Quote:
If it were me, and I actually know quite a bit about things electrical, I'd have opened the distribution panel, by now, wearing gloves, standing on an insulated surface, with my other hand in a pocket, and pulled the main breaker.
That's not the answer I would have expected from someone that knows a lot about electricity .... Why not just turn it off ...


Before touching anything other than the main breaker to off or shutting down valuable electronics I would look at it this way ...

The problems he is having would indicate a problem with the service neutral. Call the power company and let them check their side of the meter out to the transformer. Then if that checks ok call an electrician to come look at what is going on and he can check the owners premise wiring.
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Last edited by Stubbie; 12-30-2011 at 01:03 PM. Reason: added one sentence
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Old 12-30-2011, 01:03 PM   #12
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Lights Flickering, Dimming, Brightening, and Buzzing


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Originally Posted by Stubbie View Post
That's not the answer I would have expected from someone that knows a lot about electricity .... Why not just turn it off ...
That's what I meant by "pulling" the main breaker. I didn't mean removing it from the panel

The reason for the insulating steps is I'd have to touch the metal breaker box to open it. And, yeah, the odds of that actually being energized are slim-to-none, but for the effort the precaution takes, why not take it?

Jim
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Old 12-30-2011, 01:05 PM   #13
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Lights Flickering, Dimming, Brightening, and Buzzing


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Originally Posted by More Power! View Post
That's what I meant by "pulling" the main breaker. I didn't mean removing it from the panel

Jim
I know Jim just poking some fun at you ....
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Old 12-30-2011, 02:37 PM   #14
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Lights Flickering, Dimming, Brightening, and Buzzing


Actually, More Power, I'm going on 65. When I first joined this site, I was 62. Ok, power company just left. Guy checked the main service neutral, checked the outside ground, checked a ground that's hooked up with one of the humidifiers. Made sure they were all tight. In fact, he did more than he was actually required to do. When I tapped the pipe after he was done, the lights flickered and he said it has to be somewhere else in the house. So, I'm going to have to call an electrician and let him go through the house and look around and see what he can find. I have not heard any buzzing for awhile now. And getting an electrician on a late Friday afternoon with a holiday weekend coming right up is probably going to be very hard to do.
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Old 12-30-2011, 02:57 PM   #15
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Lights Flickering, Dimming, Brightening, and Buzzing


Sounds like a faulty neutral in a branch circuit. Something's plugged into that same branch circuit with a three-prong plug, has neutral and ground tied together, and is also tied to your water pipes.

Your water pipes must be regarded as energized.

Very, very dangerous situation.

Jim

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