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Old 05-12-2008, 05:00 PM   #1
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Newbie's lights flicker and bulbs blow out


To all, I apologize for the length of this post, but even limiting to relevant details, it took a lot of words.

I bought a 4-year old home in 1988. The lights have ALWAYS flickered (not dramatic on/off type flickering, but constant "brown-out" type flickering), and regular bulbs blow out after about one-tenth of the expected life span. Flourescent lights (especially the newer T-8 type) do much better, but still have a shorter than expected life span, both for bulbs and ballasts (the longest life so far on a T-8 ballast was about 2 years, average life is about 1 year). It is a large house (3500 sq. ft.) with a lot of light fixtures. The electrical panel is a 300-A Square-D.

Since the flourescent light fixtures work much better, my wife decided to get some of the little "flourescent" bulbs that replace standard 60W bulbs. These didn't just flicker like the standard bulbs, they acted like miniature strobe lights -- absolutely unusable.

About half of the lights throughout the house are in recessed spotlights, and most of those have touchpad faders. They flicker just like the other lights, but have the additional problem of cutting off after about 5 to 10 minutes (I think the fixtures have thermal fusing built in). If I touch them back on, the time until cut-off keeps getting shorter until it isn't worth fooling with (eventually less than a minute).

I know an Electrical Engineer, and he said the overall problem was because of the thermal fusing in the spotlights, and I should just REPLACE ALL THE LIGHT FIXTURES. In addition to not having a couple of thousand dollars lying around to replace all the light fixtures, I couldn't figure out how a thermally-fused light fixture on one circuit could affect a regular (not thermally-fused) light fixture on a different circuit -- and when I pressed him on that question, he suddenly remembered that he was late for an appointment ... !!!

Anyway, about 10 years ago, I had an electrician check the panel and wiring. The electrician said everything was up to code and perfectly OK. What was worse, he basically acted as though I was imagining the (obvious) problem.

I have lived with the flickering and cost of replacing bulbs for 20 years, but, more than anything, I continue to worry about safety -- despite the electrician's clean bill-of-health !!!

Bottom line ... if I knew what was wrong, I could get it fixed. So, if anyone has any ideas, etc., etc.

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Old 05-12-2008, 05:08 PM   #2
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Newbie's lights flicker and bulbs blow out


A good electrician needs to do a load test where he tests for voltage variation while applying a 100 watt load. The most important part of the test is to test "A" phase while loading/unloading "B" phase and visa versa.

A faulted grounded conductor can actually raise voltage on one phase

Your utility company will probably do this for free.

Take note of how and when the lights "flicker". If they actually get brighter for a half second it is a good clue.

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Old 05-12-2008, 05:50 PM   #3
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Newbie's lights flicker and bulbs blow out


Do the light only dim or do they also brighten when flickering. Brightening bulbs are the symptom of a loose neutral connection on your main feeder cables.
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Old 05-12-2008, 08:45 PM   #4
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Newbie's lights flicker and bulbs blow out


Sounds like a loose connection somewhere on the power drop, either at the tap on the pole or the connection at your weatherhead. Call the power company and have them come check the connections. Does anyone else in your neighorhood have similiar problems; it could indicate a problem with the main feeder lines.
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Old 05-13-2008, 02:09 AM   #5
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Newbie's lights flicker and bulbs blow out


most of the guys allready heat the nail with single phase supply and 300 amp is not really super common size but there is around there.

But.,, However just if i say if this place do have 3ุ supply [ 208Y/120V ] and using the MWBC for lighting circuits i been wondering if someone did not done the homework right in first place with wye connetion network due the phase/ voltage/ current shiftage.,,

Any possblity that you have anything on 240 volt load that switching very fast ?? if not then are you near hevey commercal location ?? it may affect the POCO supply system.

I would start at the Main breaker or load centre first to verify to make sure you got good steady power supply without flickering.

once you verify it then what i would do is turn all the breakers off [ i know you will hate to reset the computer and clocks etc .,,] if this place have the circuits mapped out in first place what you do is find the first lighting circuit turn one circuit on at time and see if the light flickers or not. if not slowly turn on other breakers until you get flickering then try to trace the circuit to make sure nothing is crossed over or something out of " phase ".

I would like have a electrician to come back and have him use the ampmeter check both hot conductor and netrual conductor to make sure it is balanced if not then you have some issue going on.

and ask the POCO if they have some kind of recording device which it will read the voltage / current for at least min of 24 hours so they can able determed if the voltage is out of bound at diffrent time [ i know useally nite time the voltage can creep up a little but it can really affect the whole thing ]

just a thought.

Merci,Marc
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Old 05-13-2008, 09:24 AM   #6
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Newbie's lights flicker and bulbs blow out


I agree with Marc and the others who suggest you need some professional assistance with this. I would start by calling the power company and ask them to check your incoming power to the meter. If they find no problems then call an electrician to check out your service equipment and circuits.
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Old 05-14-2008, 02:59 AM   #7
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Newbie's lights flicker and bulbs blow out


A lot of good hints, especially 220/221.
Marc the French Electrician seems to be onto something, except that I have no idea as to what about 90% of what he said was. I'm joking about the French -- I just don't know the electrical lingo and acronyms (I'm a newbie...sorry).
Marc ... could you possibly re-write your post using some newby english (and hold the acronyms) ???
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Old 05-14-2008, 08:58 AM   #8
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Newbie's lights flicker and bulbs blow out


single phase supply and 300 amp = What we think you are saying the size and type of your service is. Almost all residential services are single phase of varying amps.

3ุ supply [ 208Y/120V ] = 3 phase power commonly found in commercial locations. Most homes are single phase 240/120 volt. But some services in certain areas of the country are 208/120 volt.

using the MWBC for lighting circuits = multi wire branch circuit. Where we use multiple hot wires with a shared neutral wire. A common wiring method, but if not installed correctly they can cause problems.

with wye connection network due the phase/ voltage/ current shift = the connection of the service to the transformer and the resulting problems which could be found.

anything on 240 volt load that switching very fast?? = is there anything in your house that is turning on and off often and quickly which could explain the flickering. This on and off can affect voltage and thus cause flicker.

are you near heavy commercial location?? = are you close to a factory or other commercial buildings which could mean the problem is on the power companies lines.

the POCO supply system. = your power company who supplies your electricity.

start at the Main breaker or load center first to verify to make sure you got good steady power supply without flickering. = check the power coming in to the service pane in your home.

once you verify it then what i would do is turn all the breakers off [ i know you will hate to reset the computer and clocks etc .,,] if this place have the circuits mapped out in first place what you do is find the first lighting circuit turn one circuit on at time and see if the light flickers or not. if not slowly turn on other breakers until you get flickering then try to trace the circuit to make sure nothing is crossed over or something out of " phase ". = try to isolate the problem by turning off all circuits and turning them on one at a time until the flickering starts. If a certain circuit causes the flickering you then check to see if there is a problem with the wiring on that circuit.

I would like have a electrician to come back and have him use the ampmeter check both hot conductor and netrual conductor to make sure it is balanced if not then you have some issue going on. = an electrician will check to see if your neutral wire is carrying the current he would expect to see according to how much current he measured on the hot wires.

and ask the POCO if they have some kind of recording device which it will read the voltage / current for at least min of 24 hours so they can able determined if the voltage is out of bound at different time [ i know usually nite time the voltage can creep up a little but it can really affect the whole thing ] = the power company might install a strip recorder on your service to measure sags and spikes in your incoming power which would explain the problem of flickering.

I hope this helps.
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Old 05-14-2008, 11:09 PM   #9
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Newbie's lights flicker and bulbs blow out


John .,,

Merci pour aide.,,

[ thanks for the help ]


Merci,Marc
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Old 05-15-2008, 08:31 AM   #10
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Newbie's lights flicker and bulbs blow out


Quote:
Originally Posted by frenchelectrican View Post
John .,,

Merci pour aide.,,

[ thanks for the help ]


Merci,Marc
vous ๊tes bienvenu
I'm happy I could help.
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Old 05-21-2008, 09:17 AM   #11
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Newbie's lights flicker and bulbs blow out


John,
Thanks for the translation. It seems that I definitely need to get the POCO (see, I'm learning) involved !!!
MA
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Old 05-21-2008, 02:34 PM   #12
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Newbie's lights flicker and bulbs blow out


Quote:
Originally Posted by MA_in_PC_Fla View Post
John,
Thanks for the translation. It seems that I definitely need to get the POCO (see, I'm learning) involved !!!
MA
Glad I could help. Yep POCO, see, we'll have you sounding like an electrician in no time. Be sure to let us know what you find out.

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