Power Surges?!?!!? - Electrical - DIY Chatroom Home Improvement Forum

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Old 04-03-2011, 10:13 AM   #1
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Power Surges?!?!!?

I'm a new homeowner and am new to home electrical systems. Lately, I have noticed that my lights flicker, mainly when larger appliances are on in my house. I noticed it first a few weeks back while I was watching TV. I have a Power Supply/Surge Protector on my entertainment center that has a digital readout of the voltage coming from the outlet. It usually sits around 118-124. While watching TV the other day, I heard the furnace turn on, and when the blower started up, the Surge Protector went into Protection Mode because the voltage spiked at 133, turning off all the appliances in my entertainment center. Today, I was running the dishwasher and the furnace kicked on and the voltage went up to 140. I saw this and immediately turned off the dishwasher as I am not sure of the harmful effects of such a voltage on appliances. Now with just the furnace running, its sitting at 127-130. Turning off the furnace, it sits at 120, and running the dishwasher, it goes back up to 130 with the furnace still turned off. I originally thought it had to do with the furnace, so I called a local Heating and Cooling company, they recommended calling the electric company to come out and check the power running into the house from the outside wire. I did so, they came out to check it, and determined that everything checked out OK. So this means that there is some sort of vulnerability inside the house or in the electrical box.

I'm attaching a picture of the insides of my electrical box. I was out looking at the wires today and found three main power wires coming in from the meter outside. Two of the wires are connected to the two breaker connections, while the third was just dangling. So I went outside and removed the meter, disabling the power to my house and moved the third wire from any nearby wires. You can see this wire hanging out of the box in the lower right hand corner. When I bought the house, the electrical box was replaced by the previous owner. They did not provide the contact information for the person who removed the old box and replaced it with this one, however in my experience, this looks like the work of a rookie...

I love learning new things about the house/electrical systems, but am wondering if anyone has any tips on how to try to isolate the source of the problem to resolve these surges, or if I am over my head with this and should just hire an electrician. I'm also wondering if I should have the electrical box rewired so that everything is wired correctly by someone who knows what they are doing to see if that would resolve the problem. Thanks in advance for any help!

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Old 04-03-2011, 10:30 AM   #2
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It looks like your neutral connection has come off.

Get an electrician in to clean up the panel. The picture isn't clear enough but it looks like you have wires that may not be secured in the box, the piece or Romex at the top with all the insulation on it, that black wire running diagonally across the bus should be rerouted. You have red/white and black/white wires connected together and it looks like they are of different gauges. Why so many splices?

The rest of the wires could be routed better.

In some areas a homeowner can't legally pull a meter.


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Old 04-03-2011, 11:09 AM   #3
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Have you had this problem from the day you moved in?

Are all circuits (throughout the house) affected or just a few?

Unplug all electronics (TV sets, microwave ovens, even washing machines with digital readouts) from affected circuits until this is fixed.

Loosen a quarter turn and then retighten all the screws and set screws in the panel holding wires in place. (Have someone with a lot of electrical experience do the big lugs where the power feed from the meter comes in.)
Two of the wires are connected to the two breaker connections, while the third was just dangling.
This might be the problem. The feed from the meter is supposed to have two hot wires and also an equally fat neutral, the latter attached to the terminal strip where all the small white wires are connected. But have an experienced person make this measurement first. Turn off the main breaker and then measure voltage from each of the three fat wires to ground. He should still measure 120 or so volts from each of the two connected hot wires to ground and he should measure zero or so volts from the dangling fat wire to ground. He will probably conclude that the dangling wire is the neutral and will re-attach it correctly.

Now see if the problem is fixed. If not, measure the voltage between the big lugs again (hot to neutral on both sides). Do this while turning on and off a moderately heavy draw appliance such as a hair dryer or a vacuum cleaner on one circuit. If you get the wild voltage swings here, call the power company again for help. (It is slightly more accurate to poke the meter probes between the fat wire's strands as opposed to just touch the big lugs.)

Mentioned in another forum was a loose connection overhead where the wires from the utility pole reach your house. In some cases the electric company has to handle that one.
The good conscientious technician or serviceperson will carry extra oils and lubricants in case the new pump did not come with oil or the oil was accidentally spilled, so the service call can be completed without an extra visit.

Last edited by AllanJ; 04-03-2011 at 11:27 AM.
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Old 04-03-2011, 11:17 AM   #4
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Since the fridge, dishwasher, and furnace are all on separate breakers, it seems that more than one breaker is impacted. I'm going to call an electrician to come and check things out. Thanks for the advice!
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Old 04-03-2011, 11:25 AM   #5
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Pulling the electric meter like you did was extremely dangerous and probably illegal.
Answers based on the National Electrical Code. Local amendments may apply. Check with your local building officials.
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Old 04-03-2011, 11:46 AM   #6
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Voltage going up is caused by a loose neutral. This problem could be anywhere from the POCO transformer connection to the neutral connection in your panel. You might try calling the POCO first. If it is their problem you won't need the electrician and it shouldn't cost you any money.

Do it now. This is a bad situation. Any thing that is not plugged into the surge protector is at risk.
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Old 04-03-2011, 12:36 PM   #7
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In the upper LH corner there is a large wire connected to the top of the ground bus but the picture doesn't show it well enough to tell were it goes. Is that wire cut off too?
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Old 04-03-2011, 05:52 PM   #8
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According to what you say,
Then the voltage actually goes up when large loads cut in ?
This is exactly the oppisite to what I would expect.
The only thing that would explain this is a bad neutral.
If you dont feel confident playing with your main box
then get an electricain to check it.
This is a dangerous situation.
An undersize neutral or a poor connection somewhere.
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Old 04-03-2011, 06:34 PM   #9
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Need a better picture showing close up. I just pulled the picture into paint, and can count at least ten violations (double taps, black wire nutted to neutral, etc.). Neutral is just floating in the air, not connected, so that means the panel is mess, but not grounded, and where in the world is the return path, if no neutral going back to the main or meter.

OP, post pictures also of the main that this panel comes off of, and overhead at your meter, and meter pan.

Last edited by gregzoll; 04-03-2011 at 06:38 PM.
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Old 04-03-2011, 07:40 PM   #10
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First thing first.,

Don't ever pull the meter socket out that is very dangerous to do that a untrained person may not know that meter may have automatique bypass concat or lever { some meter box will have that feature not all of it }

Second thing do you actually have a main breaker outside right below the meter socket ?? if so that is your master shut off location.

I allready counted 12 diffrent voilations there in the load centré alone I do not know how many more I will find so therefore I will really recomed that you get a electrician to come out and help to clean up this mess and there is more than a simple connection issue there.



The answer will be based on NEC ( National Electrical code ) or CEC ( Cananda Electrical code ) or ECF ( Electrique Code France )
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electrical , surge , voltage

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