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Old 09-18-2011, 10:29 AM   #1
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Not enough Power


I live in an old house (1875) but the electrical was updated at some point in the mid 80's to 100 amp breaker service. Over the last 2 weeks or so I've had electrical problems that have become progressively worse. At first I was getting a slight light flicker when the fridge or dehumidifer cycled but now I get a major light dimming enough to kick off the florescent light in my fishtank completely and stop the filter motor. Nothing of high draw runs at full power for instance circular saw spins at maybe half speed, the garbage disposal can barely get out of its own way. I'm pretty sure my fiance burned out the washing machine motor yesterday when she tried to run a load while I wasn't home. This is a global problem these appliances are on all different circuits and all lights in the house dim when you run a high draw appliance. If I were to run say my little pancake compressor all lights in the house would run at about half brightness and the compressor motor would sound like its spinning about half speed. With nothing on (except a few lights and fridge plugged in) I get a reading of 125v with .65amps draw on one leg and with 2.5amps on the other leg. If I flip the main breaker they even out to 118v on each leg obviously with 0 amps. If I run that compressor I read 150v on one leg and 85v on the other leg with about 11.5A on the leg running the compressor.

I have checked all Neutral connections in the panel for a loose connection and haven't found anything. It almost seems like I am not getting enough current flowing into the house. Its a similar effect to if you were running multiple sprinklers off the same hose the water pressure drops every sprinkler head you turn on. It would be great if it was a problem off the street and it was the power companies problem but Im not sure thats the case. I have limited electrical experience I have wired a few rooms and dedicated circuits but I have never dealt with this kind of problem.

Any Ideas?

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Old 09-18-2011, 10:36 AM   #2
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Not enough Power


Call your POCO. You could be dealing a loose neutral or bad transformer on their side. The situation you describe is very similar to what I encountered a couple of years when I bought my house; the problem turned out to be a damaged neutral in the POCO's underground service lateral, combined with a failure transformer. The POCO repaired both of them without any cost to me, (the damaged neutral within about 90 minutes of my initial call; the transformer about two weeks later) and problem was solved.

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Old 09-18-2011, 11:05 AM   #3
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Can you measure the voltage at the panel? Preferably between each big lug with a hot wire and the big neutral lug. Do this while someone upstairs turns on various large 120 volt appliances briefly (not 240 volt appliances like a stove).

Should you find wild changes in voltage here then go ahead and call the power company even though you have not called your own electrician first.

Meanwhile unplug and do not use electronic equipment (televisions, computers, microwaves)

Optional for those with electrical know how and a utility pole on the same side of the street outside the house: Turn off the main breaker. String a wire from the ground wire coming down the pole across the lawn and to the neutral bus bar in the panel (or the fat bare wire from there out to a ground rod or water pipe). Turn the power back on. Recheck the voltages.
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Last edited by AllanJ; 09-18-2011 at 11:10 AM.
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Old 09-18-2011, 11:24 AM   #4
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Not enough Power


Quote:
Originally Posted by AllanJ View Post
Can you measure the voltage at the panel? Preferably between each big lug with a hot wire and the big neutral lug. Do this while someone upstairs turns on various large 120 volt appliances briefly (not 240 volt appliances like a stove).

Should you find wild changes in voltage here then go ahead and call the power company even though you have not called your own electrician first.
Yes as stated in the OP I checked the voltage at both main lugs to neutral I get 125v and 112v if I shut off the main they even out to 118v each. If I turn on a high draw appliance ( small compressor). Voltage spikes to 150v on one leg and drops to 85v on the other.

Sounds like likey a POCO problem then?

I already called them yesterday but haven't seen them come out yet.
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Old 09-18-2011, 11:33 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vdub1970 View Post
Yes as stated in the OP I checked the voltage at both main lugs to neutral I get 125v and 112v if I shut off the main they even out to 118v each. If I turn on a high draw appliance ( small compressor). Voltage spikes to 150v on one leg and drops to 85v on the other.

Sounds like likey a POCO problem then?

I already called them yesterday but haven't seen them come out yet.
Well call them again. here is a good explanation of what is happening.

http://www.code-elec.com/content/00/...st Neutral.ppt
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Old 09-18-2011, 01:24 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Code05

Well call them again. here is a good explanation of what is happening.

http://www.code-elec.com/content/00/...st Neutral.ppt
Remember, Code5, not everyone lives in a town with such an awesome utility company as we have. Easton Utilities would have come out the same day.
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Old 09-18-2011, 01:47 PM   #7
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Remember, Code5, not everyone lives in a town with such an awesome utility company as we have. Easton Utilities would have come out the same day.
Probably not for me though, they are not fond of me.

When I moved here, they said they wanted to come into my house to hook up the cable. I said no, just make sure sure it is good to the house and I will hook up the box.

They insisted they needed to "condition" the cable....

Well, I tore into them and demanded to know what "conditioning" a cable was. The cable supervisor came out and I bombarded her with questions that proved they were clueless.

Needless to say, they never got into the house.
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Old 09-18-2011, 02:23 PM   #8
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Conditioning the cable makes it softer and more manageable. Wait, maybe that's hair.
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Old 09-18-2011, 02:56 PM   #9
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Conditioning the cable makes it softer and more manageable. Wait, maybe that's hair.
That is a better explanation than they could come up with.
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Old 09-18-2011, 07:35 PM   #10
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Putting conditioner on the service conductor insulation removes the static charge so it is safer to work with.
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Old 09-18-2011, 07:58 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by a7ecorsair View Post
Putting conditioner on the service conductor insulation removes the static charge so it is safer to work with.
I think I will see go put conditioner on a 480V 1200 amp Service Cable and see if that helps.
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Old 09-18-2011, 08:38 PM   #12
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Not enough Power


So you can use Head & Shoulders in place of Nolox??
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Old 09-18-2011, 09:07 PM   #13
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I heard of soap rubbed on wires to get them to pull through conduit more easily but I wondered if the soap would eventually decompose the insulation and corrode the wires.
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Old 09-18-2011, 09:22 PM   #14
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So you can use Head & Shoulders in place of Nolox??
Sure, no code says that NOLOX is required on AL conductors.

No manufactures require it, so 110.3(B) is not a player.
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Old 09-18-2011, 09:25 PM   #15
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Quote:
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I heard of soap rubbed on wires to get them to pull through conduit more easily but I wondered if the soap would eventually decompose the insulation and corrode the wires.
Not sure, but the yellow stuff can make them a bear to pull out and refeed.

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