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Discussion Starter #1
hi everyone, i hope this is the right spot to post this question (if not feel free to move it to the appropriate section:)

our chandelier in the living room blinks on and off whenever we walk near the plug outlet closest to it. The chandelier is not plugged into this outlet; the wiring is fed into it through the ceiling. When this happens, a few other appliances in the general area (plugged into near but different outlets) lose their power, but come right back on (they are 'blinking' as well, I suppose.)

So I opened the outlet in question to have a look. 2 white wires, two black, one ground. (all copper wiring). One of the white wires was discolored right where it feeds into the plug outlet, almost looks like it's 'burned' or something. I wrapped all 4 wires in electrical tape for the time being and re-attached the plug outlet. So far the blinking has stopped, but I'm not totally convinced. It's always been an intermittent issue.

Could this have something to do with the ground wire... how important is it to have the ground wire not touching *anything* else when it's shoved back into the box? It seemd difficult to shove all 5 wires back in there without anything touching eachother.

Thanks for the replies guy/gals, I'm just concerned about it, having little kids running about and everything :)
 

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If the wires where just back stabed into the back of the outlet, there's your problum.
They need to be wrapped around the screws on the sides instead.
 

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A discolored neutral wire is a sign of a loose connection.
Replace the receptacle, and strip back the neutral wire, then connect them to the screws.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
thanks for the fast responses guys.

my apologies- our wiring is actually aluminum (if that makes any difference)

the wiring is fed (rear-inserted) into an old-style receptacle using internal clips (meaning you can't just pull the wires out or simply un-screw them).


I was concerned that the brown/black-ish color at the end of the white wire meant that it was an urgent fire hazard or something.


So I will purchase a brand new receptacle and then wrap the 4 wires (2 white, 2 black) around the screws and tighten up, would that be correct... and hopefully this will eliminate the blinking and power outages further on down the wall? thanks again :)
 

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Make sure the receptacle is marked for AL wire.

You may want to check the rest of your receptacles and switchs for the same thing.
 

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As stated alum. and copper don't play well together. You need to check all outlets and switches on that circuit and make sure they are all marked for AL, they can't be mixed. Also I would change that outlet and when you do don't use the back-stab they are notorious for coming loose.
 

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Moved this to electrical----------
 

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.... our wiring is actually aluminum (if that makes any difference)

the wiring is fed (rear-inserted) into an old-style receptacle using internal clips (meaning you can't just pull the wires out or simply un-screw them).


I was concerned that the brown/black-ish color at the end of the white wire meant that it was an urgent fire hazard or something.


So I will purchase a brand new receptacle and then wrap the 4 wires (2 white, 2 black) around the screws and tighten up, would that be correct... and hopefully this will eliminate the blinking and power outages further on down the wall? thanks again :)
This makes a BIG DIFFERENCE! You have uncovered a potential fire hazard! That melted wire is a big indication of just how close you are getting to burning your house down.

One remedy as you have figured out is to replace the receptacle, and -- this is important -- you MUST obtain a device rated for CO/ALR connection.

I would also recommend that you have all the other devices in your house checked -- and replaced with proper ones for aluminum connections. The same thing can occur anywhere in your house.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
thanks again guys, i'll be replacing the receptacle tonight. just to clarify, there's no indication any of the receptacles are the wrong type (copper vs. aluminum)... the house is aluminum wire and as such, the receptacles are all aluminum as well (or so I would think).

The aluminum wire itself isn't melted; the white insulation around it is discolored/blackened at the tip where it enters the receptacle. So far the answers have been that this is a result of a loose connection... is this still correct?
 

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The receptacles have to be marked, embossed right in the plastic CU and AL.
I just checked one I have laying around and it is marked CU, it is also marked AL in a circle with a line through it, so it is not OK for AL.
 

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.... there's no indication any of the receptacles are the wrong type (copper vs. aluminum)... the house is aluminum wire and as such, the receptacles are all aluminum as well (or so I would think).
That is a real bad assumption. Unless a homeowner has been educated on the subject, they think an outlet is an outlet and a switch is a switch. So, if a homeowner has replaced any of them, you have a real good chance of having a copper only device on aluminum wire.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
the original inquiry is why is are the lights blinking when stepping around a particular receptacle.

The copper vs. aluminum topic wasn't a part of the question. No where did anyone say the receptacles are the wrong kind... I'm not sure how that all became inter-twined with this. That's a seperate issue that somehow became mixed in... I will check everything just to be sure on that, but the first (and only) question was why do the lights blink on and off when stepping/walking in the vicinity of a certain receptacle? If it's a loose connection/loose wiring in the receptacle (which seems to be the answer) then I will definitely be changing it tonight. But again, there are no plugs in the particular receptacle... just when you walk near it, the lights come on and off intermittently. :)
 

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the original inquiry is why is are the lights blinking when stepping around a particular receptacle.

The copper vs. aluminum topic wasn't a part of the question. No where did anyone say the receptacles are the wrong kind... I'm not sure how that all became inter-twined with this. That's a seperate issue that somehow became mixed in... I will check everything just to be sure on that, but the first (and only) question was why do the lights blink on and off when stepping/walking in the vicinity of a certain receptacle? If it's a loose connection/loose wiring in the receptacle (which seems to be the answer) then I will definitely be changing it tonight. But again, there are no plugs in the particular receptacle... just when you walk near it, the lights come on and off intermittently. :)
The AL comments were because I'm sure many people have made lots of mistakes with AL wired homes and no one here wishes that upon you.

The outlet in question is probably daisy chained to other outlets and potentially hardwired lights. If the connection leaving or coming into this outlet is loose anything downstream will be affected by the connection.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
thanks. I'll replace the current receptacle and check all the others in the house, too.

As far as aluminum wiring goes, there's nothing I can do to change that aside from re-wiring the entire place but that isn't something we're going to get into at the moment.

I'll start with the one spot and go from there. If the flickering is gone after the receptacle replacement then I know it was a loose connection. After that the best I can do is inspect every other outlet/light ficture etc and make sure everything is as it should be.
 

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IF the old receptacle was back-stabbed, I can tell you from experience that it was NOT suitable for any aluminum wiring.

When aluminum branch-circuit wiring was first installed back in the late 1960s to early 1970s, they simply did not know the potential problems that would develop with this wiring method.

CO/ALR devices which were developed after numerous failures and fires do NOT have back-stab holes in them, and for good reason.

So you are wise to check other devices in your house for proper type and integrity of connections.

You may have an isolated case with a rogue device, or discovered the tip of the iceberg.
 

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AL wiring in a CU only receptacle can become loose and result in the problems you are describing. That's why everyone is focusing on the AL/CU issue.
Most homeowners don't know this and will use receptacles that are not rated for AL because they are more common and sometimes less expensive. This is a serious hazard. The fact that you have one problematic receptacle may indicate a wider issue. You don't need to replace the AL wire, but you do need to make sure you are using proper receptacles, switches, wire nuts, etc...
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
I'll be going through every receptacle and every light switch this coming weekend to be sure. IF this uncovers that several devices are rated for copper, then this issue has been a blessing in disguise and I will be replacing each and every problem.

I'm happy I posted this message here; it's helped me a lot and made me a little more educated on the issue. If there's anyone who loses sleep over home safety issues, it's me. That said, I approach it from a logical standpoint and not a position of fear: meaning that I try not to launch into a panic mode and tear up the entire house before actually researching the issue at hand. This is a potential risk, and one that needs to be addressed a.s.a.p.

The loose connection is definitely from my kids running and jumping around; they tend to do that right in the area of question near the receptacle. Needless to say they've been warned ;)

I'll follow up once this is all complete.
 

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I believe you are correct about the blessing in disguise. There is nothing wrong with alum. wiring you just have to be very careful when you change something and a LOT of people are not aware of it. Good luck and keep us posted.
 
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