Flickering Lights

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  #1  
Old 07-13-04, 05:42 AM
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Flickering Lights

We just puchased a large ranch built in 1962. It has had a Seimens 100a breaker panel installed within the last few years. The wiring cable is original cloth/fiber covered 3 wire (black/white/bare ground). We have one general lighting 15a circuit that has flickering lights. When they flicker, they all flicker in the same fashion. Worst case was yesterday when they almost went completley out for .25 second. Most of the time they only flicker slightly at random. I don't hear any clicking or arcing. They circuit is comprised of: main bathroom (one light and receptacle), one hall light with 3-way switches, vanity area with 2 small fixtures, foyer light, porch light and a bedroom with one light and 4 receptacles. There are no appliances on this circuit and nothing is plugged into any receptacle.

We have checked the connections in the service panel and replaced the breaker. We replaced all the switches, receptacles, and installed a GFCI in the bathroom. I pulled & tugged on all the crimps (Buchanon) in the boxes behind the fixtures/switches/receptacles). None of the wiring looked to be damaged or burnt. I disabled the bathroom fixture and hall fixture - same problem.

I'm thinking about inspecting the attic for a circuit pinched by a staple or nail, or a loose connection in a junction box? It's so darn hot up there!!! 80 degrees and 90% Michigan humidity.

Any other suggestions before I call a electrician? I'm stumped. Thanks!
 
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  #2  
Old 07-13-04, 06:29 AM
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First, the standard reply - Turn the power off to the circut and move all the connections from the holes on the back of the outlets and switches (backstabs) to the screws. While doing so, check all the wirenut connections in the boxes and make sure they're all tight (I'd probably redo them all to make sure).

If the problem still exists, suspect a junction box somewhere. In Michigan I would expect you to have a basement and all the wiring to come up from there instead of down from the attic. Any chance the basement was finished after the house was built and junction boxes were burried in the ceiling?

Good luck,
Doug M.
 
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Old 07-13-04, 07:33 AM
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The basement is unfinished and I didn't see any junctions in the basement ceiling. All the wires in the switch boxes seem to come down from the ceiling - not up from the floor. I'll get back to work on it tonight. Is it acceptable to cut/remove all the Buchanon crimps and redo using wire nuts? Is there a better method to do this? Thanks for the reply!!!!!
 
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Old 07-13-04, 08:05 AM
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Buchanon crimps? Ooops, missed that in the original post. This could be your problem... As long as these aren't pig tailing copper to aluminum (I've never seen cloth covered aluminum so I didn't suspect it was an issue...) it's fine to cut and replace with wire nuts. Guess you're attic bound if you can't find the problem else ware. Work in the early morning before it gets too hot. The good news is, if absolutely all the lights and plugs on the circuit are flickering, the problem has to be somewhere between the panel and the first fixture. Leave everything else alone.

Doug M.
 
  #5  
Old 07-13-04, 09:04 AM
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No aluminum....all Copper.

What's the easiest method to find the first fixture or recepticle from the service panel?

Is it safe to assume that's where the trouble lies since all the lights flicker? Am I wasting my time looking all the fixtures, boxes, etc? Thank you so much for your info.
 
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Old 07-13-04, 11:35 AM
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Are you sure it's only that circuit that's affected? It could be that the power company has a loose connection in one of the hot conductors. A simple check would be to swap the wire with the next breaker up or down from that breaker. So then you'll be on the other hot phase, if it keeps flickering then head for the attic.
 
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Old 07-13-04, 11:47 AM
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You're not wasting your time looking at all the fixtures if you don't know which one is the first, but I think it is safe to assume that the problem lies somewhere before everything you've looked at so far. No telling how the house was wired. Start by turning off the breaker and making note of every fixture that's effected. Check every plug and light in the house to make sure you don't miss any. The first fixture on the circuit could be at the opposite end of the house from all the others. It's usually not too hard to figure the probable path from the panel to all the fixtures once you know every fixture on the circuit. Sometimes it's easier to find the last fixture, that only has 1 set of wires coming into it, and work your way backwards. In a new house, all you usually have to do is figure out how the builder could have used the least amount of cable...

Good suggestion from MGB. I had sort of eliminated that as a possibility because you said it was a "large" ranch house and the things you named as effected can't be all that's on one conductor but, other things may be effected and you aren't noticing them.

Doug M.
 
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Old 07-15-04, 04:43 AM
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I think I have it licked.

I'm systematically replacing all the light switches and recepticles in the house as time allows. Most are covered with several coats of paint, and some are physically broken/damaged. Moving on to the next bedroom, adjacent to hallway and bedroom with the suspect circuit, I was replacing the light switch (1) and receptacles (4). I thought this room was "totally" powered by a seperate circuit. I first replaced the light switch, and continued to move around the room replacing the receptacles. When I got to the last receptacle, which is near the hallway where I'm having trouble, I noticed it still had power but was inop if you plugged any type of device into it. Hmmmmm.... After replacing that faulty receptacle, no more problem!!!

Thanks for all your replies!
 
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Old 07-15-04, 05:49 AM
mgb
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Way to go!
 
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Old 07-15-04, 06:52 AM
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Good job! Hope that last outlet wasn't a "shocking experience".

Doug M.
 
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