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Old 02-04-2008, 10:12 AM   #1
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lights and power flicker and dim


My lights and power in my place, go dim, flicker, reset cable boxes... stuff like that... when this happens you can actually hear a little sizzling noise inside the breaker box... My condo is about 30 yrs old with aluminum wiring coming in to the box... I had an electrician come out, he replaced a lug that had pretty much welded itself to the box... It fixed the problem, but now has started again, that lug is tight... So I don't know if its the lug again, or the aluminum wiring, or the breaker box itself... Can you help?

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Old 02-04-2008, 10:22 AM   #2
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lights and power flicker and dim


Get him back to check everthing out including the breakers. He should of done this already so have a chat with him.
Please do not attempt to fix this yourself, it is "VERY DANGERIOUS"

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Old 02-04-2008, 10:45 AM   #3
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lights and power flicker and dim


Hi MVA28, This sounds like a serious issue that you'd want to get on top of right away. Keep in mind that aluminum wire can cause problems throughout your entire house, not just at the breaker box. Have you or an electrician tried "Pigtailing" copper wire onto your existing aluminum wire? That is, have you recently tried connecting a new device (like a ceiling fan or something) that has copper wire to your aluminum branch?
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Old 02-04-2008, 09:13 PM   #4
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lights and power flicker and dim


I'll type this but it is going to sound positively stupid. CAREFULLY take the panel cover off. Turn off the lights in the room that the panel is in and get it as dark as possible. Sit in front of panel (not too close) enjoy a cocktail and watch for arcing. My guess is that it's the neutral that is going to be the culprit. You are looking for something that will look like a brief flash of blue light. If you don't want to waste a lot of time drinking in front of your panel, you could jiggle (NOT TRY TO PULL OUT) jiggle the wires coming into your main and neutral and see if you see the arcing. Don't do this if you've been drinking in front of your panel.

I know this sounds dumb. I am absolutely serious.
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Old 02-04-2008, 09:18 PM   #5
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lights and power flicker and dim


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Originally Posted by goose134 View Post
I'll type this but it is going to sound positively stupid. CAREFULLY take the panel cover off. Turn off the lights in the room that the panel is in and get it as dark as possible. Sit in front of panel (not too close) enjoy a cocktail and watch for arcing. My guess is that it's the neutral that is going to be the culprit. You are looking for something that will look like a brief flash of blue light. If you don't want to waste a lot of time drinking in front of your panel, you could jiggle (NOT TRY TO PULL OUT) jiggle the wires coming into your main and neutral and see if you see the arcing. Don't do this if you've been drinking in front of your panel.

I know this sounds dumb. I am absolutely serious.

This sounds like something I would do....


Goose knows no DIYer should ever do this!
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Old 02-04-2008, 11:13 PM   #6
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You know, I re-read my post and yeah it does sound kind of crazy. I will say this though, that if you do see the small arc it will at least point to the problem. I will say that you should NOT stick your hand in there and jiggle wires.
Speaking of staring at a panel with a cocktail....


Thanks Andy for calling me on that one.
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Old 02-04-2008, 11:16 PM   #7
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lights and power flicker and dim


just saying...
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Old 02-05-2008, 12:55 AM   #8
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problem is . . . .that it is unknown how much of the aluminum wire insulation has burnty off inside a wall somewhere . .if this is a rental you live in
. . . . .it is unsafe in any but an replaced condition . . .find other quarters

if this is one you are buying . . .PLEASE . .start replacing that fire hazrd with decent copper wire . . .even if it has to be done in surface raceway to save the many many wall cuts that would have to be made . . .

I have had some experience with trying to patch up. . .or make safe old aluminum wiring . . .and it is my opinion that you cannot . . .

find a sparky in your area you can work with and get that crap deleted
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Old 02-05-2008, 01:01 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kingsmurf View Post
problem is . . . .that it is unknown how much of the aluminum wire insulation has burnty off inside a wall somewhere . .if this is a rental you live in
. . . . .it is unsafe in any but an replaced condition . . .find other quarters

if this is one you are buying . . .PLEASE . .start replacing that fire hazrd with decent copper wire . . .even if it has to be done in surface raceway to save the many many wall cuts that would have to be made . . .

I have had some experience with trying to patch up. . .or make safe old aluminum wiring . . .and it is my opinion that you cannot . . .

find a sparky in your area you can work with and get that crap deleted


Don't even get me started.


Even Wiremold? To replace AL in a home?

WtF? Why would you even consider it?

Just asking....could be wrong.
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Old 02-05-2008, 08:25 PM   #10
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Plus we're not even sure if just the service conductors are Al or all the branch circuits. As for Wiremold. Last ditch doesn't begin to describe how far down the chain that stuff is. Nothing personal, I just think that the sin of a wiremold install will never be covered.
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Old 02-05-2008, 11:32 PM   #11
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lights and power flicker and dim


Goose.,, now you mention wiremold i did see one house with full of wiremold everywhere i just nearly dropped my jaw how the guy ran it. my reaction more like this >> .,,,,


I dont know how he did that but sorta kinda remind me of old Edison days of K&T wires everywhere in the house.

but he asked me to fix a simple issue with GFCI and end up have redo the whole house and get rid tons of wiremold devices.

Merci, Marc
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Old 02-06-2008, 04:14 PM   #12
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I wonder if we are describing the same product? . . .WireMold series 500
metall raceway...metal boxes...all grounded... THHN stranded cooper as size required

has been an viable alternative in some cases . . . .a good case is where one has to eliminate AL wiringf in an old home with lath and plaster . . .walls
nicley painted...amd the cost to replater..texture...repaint . . .TO THE HOME OWNER warranted this unique use

it is OBVIOUS . . although it can be run in an somewhat "overlookable manner . . . . .


isnt my druthers but at times it can be an alternative to lraving dnagerous AL in the walls...if its branch circuit wiring in question
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Old 02-07-2008, 09:22 AM   #13
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lights and power flicker and dim


I took the breaker out and looked at it... it looks fine... replaced it into a different slot... they still flicker, but not as bad, and i went back and looked at the wiring... it is al. wire that is coming in, But all the other wires are copper... trust me i checked... So now i don't know if the breakers are going bad, or the breaker box itself is going bad or what... thanks for the tip on the cocktail and staring at it... i have starred long enough in the dark to hear the frying noise, and see nothing... and also i have tightend all the wires in the box... and still alive... but thanks for all the replys... ya'll are awesome... anymore ideas? besides calling out an expensive electrician... haha...
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Old 02-07-2008, 04:21 PM   #14
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great...house ..branch circuit wiring is copper....okay lets work on the entry conductors that are AL . . .

A..did you say ALL the house lights flicker? or just some of them?

B . .were you able to determine if they are Lindsco or Zinsco breakers? . .
long-ish skinny . . .take one of yours out and take it to supply
house or even Home Depot just to determine type . .you didnt
say if you had replaced any of the old breakers? . .if it is an older Linsco / Zinsco panel . .they had bus bars where the breakers land that would pit
from sparking . .and sometines it is the breaker itself.

Also..these breakers had a terrible past of NOT opening on the breakers rating . . .IE a 20 amp breaker...breaking the circuit at 20 amps . .so they would turn into your basic toaster elements . . .

C go ahead and call the Power Company and ask them to replace the
entry conductors from the meter to your panel in copper . .snapping
/ popping / frying . . .sounds like bad place on the bus bar in a Zinsco
panel or seriously oxidized AL conductors

D . . . .do they flicker all the time? or sporadically? if sporadically
turn on a known flickering light...dispense the cordless phones to you and friend and have friend watch lights whilst you . . . ."wiggle" each breaker..one by one

if I can help won4thewoad@yahoo.com
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Old 02-07-2008, 04:38 PM   #15
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lights and power flicker and dim


As to point C, you are responsible for the conductors from the line side of the meter to the service drop conductors. I think the general thought here is that the Al service conductors from the meter to the panel are suspect. Also possible that conductors from meter to drop are loose.

As for the breaker brand, it is definitely possible that the breakers are defective. I didn't see a location in your profile, but Federal Pacific breakers are one of the most problematic breakers in existence. Do you have an amprobe? If your current is high and the breaker isn't tripping, this could be the buzzing sound. If that is the case that buzzing will soon be a sound like BANG! So, you need an electrician to check out:

1. the connections on main breaker and neutral. If these are tight have him:
2. probe the offending circuit with an ammeter and see if it is in trip range. If it is, replace breaker. If it is Federal Pacific, replace entire panel.

If everything there checks out, call POCO and have them open meter can and check terminations on load and line.

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