Help: Surges and spikes?

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  #1  
Old 07-20-04, 04:27 PM
CWDavis
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Help: Surges and spikes?

We just bought this house 2 months ago. We have been having on and off surges and spikes and low, very low voltage. This house was built in the 50's. It has some new wiring and lots of old, very old. Cloth type wires.
We have call our electric company 3 times out here. The last time they found a burned wire on the transformer but we are still having the same problems.
I got a volt meter and hooked it up in my kitchen. I watched the meter shoot up to 180 volts and lasted about 10 seconds. The lights looked like they would pop. I turned everything off except one TV, 1 ceiling fan, and the fridge, and 3 nite lights so I could see. It still spiked again up to 178 volts. The electric company said it is a neutral line in the house. I have been changing the plugs and ran in to something weird. Some plugs in the MBR have cloth gold wires, 1 wire is gold and is connected to the gold screw, the other is gold with a black stripe and is connected to the silver side. I made a note of this as to not forget. The living room wall plugs are on the same circuit but they are just reversed in the hook up. The gold wire is going to the silver screw and the blk and gold is going to gold. I was told to hook them back just the way I found them. Could this be causing my problems? I am scared this house might catch fire or something. Blow up everything with surges and spikes so high. It has already burnt up 4 surge protectors, which I am glad of that and not my equipment. Please, I am old lady, well, 54 anyway, not that old. Anyone can help me figure this out?
Thanks
 
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  #2  
Old 07-21-04, 04:28 AM
mgb
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Tighten all the neutral(white)wires in your breaker/fuse panel, including the service neutral. Shut the main off before tightening the service neutral. I've run into this before and it's always been a loose connection on the power company's end. But start with tightening the neutral connections, then start turning off circuits one at a time to see if that stops your surges. If not then it's the power company's problem. If you don't feel comfortable working in the panel, call an electrician.
 
  #3  
Old 07-21-04, 06:36 AM
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Be aware that working inside the panel requires special care. Even with the main breaker turned off, you can still get killed or injured touching the wrong thing. You can even get killed or injured just removing the panel cover if you don't do it carefully.

Don't wait too long before fixing this. Those voltage spikes can destroy a lot of your stuff in short order.
 
  #4  
Old 07-21-04, 07:02 AM
CWDavis
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Thanks,
The electric company did tighten up the neutrals on one of their 3 visits. All is suppose to be tight in the box.
Now does it matter if the wall plugs are wired different on the same circuit?
Also the neutral line coming into the main box looks like it has some insullation gone from it and it is touching the top edge of the house. The electric company said that doesn't hurt any thing and it is still on our side in the house somewhere.
 
  #5  
Old 07-21-04, 07:16 AM
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Most likely the electric company only tightened up their neutrals, not yours. Did they open up your panel?
 
  #6  
Old 07-21-04, 07:56 AM
CWDavis
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Our panel was already opened. I was looking for any kind of a short or spark, anything that could be causing the spikes. The electric company man did tighten up all the white wires in my breaker box. I watched him do it and he told me he was not suppose to be doing that. They were all loose but we still have the problem. Strange as it is but it is not all the time. Different times of day or night. I may go 24 hours with only a few light flashes when the a/c kicks on and then all of a sudden, the fan in my bedroom will sound like an airplane taking off. I can get up a 6am and try to heat up a cup of water for coffee and the microwave is running at a 3rd power. Light is so dimm that you can hardly tell it is on. The next time I use it, it is fine, full power. That is why it is so hard to tell what is happening. The microwave is on it's own circuit.
 
  #7  
Old 07-21-04, 09:48 AM
mgb
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What brand is your breaker panel? Did the electric company pull the meter and check those connections?
 
  #8  
Old 07-21-04, 10:54 AM
CWDavis
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It is a Square D 100 amp box. The electric company guy did check the meter too. He pull the glass off and check it with some kind of meter and said it was fine. Each leg was putting out 116 to 118 volts. I asume he was using a volt meter. That is what he told me. I watched everything he did so I could learn or pump him for what the trouble might be. The other guy that came out the next week, replaced a wire on the transformer and checked the inside of my breaker box and said it had 240 volts coming in.
 
  #9  
Old 07-21-04, 11:20 AM
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Sounds like this is a loose neutral on a multiwire circuit. If this is just occurring on one circuit controlled by a double-pole breaker, then you should shut off the breaker, open up every box on the circuit, and check the connections.

Again, I urge you not to delay getting this fixed.
 
  #10  
Old 07-21-04, 01:29 PM
CWDavis
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Thank you John,
I am not sure what you mean by a double-pole breaker.
Could any loose neutral on any wall plug or light switch cause this problem? Or if the wall plugs are wired opposite of other wall plugs on the same circuit cause this problem?
 
  #11  
Old 07-21-04, 03:05 PM
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opposite
What do you mean by "opposite"?
 
  #12  
Old 07-21-04, 03:27 PM
CWDavis
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My bedroom wall outlets are all gold-black wire to silver screw and gold wire to gold screw, the livingroom wall outlets are on the same circuit but they are wired just the opposite, gold wire to silver screw and gold-blk to gold screw. Also, there isn't a ground wire on any of the outlets.
 
  #13  
Old 07-21-04, 07:16 PM
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Are the receptacles polarized (one slit wider than the other)?

Is there a grounding hole on the receptacles (in addition to the two slits)?

I think it's time to call in professional help...pronto. You haven't got the luxury of taking your time to figure this out. The cost in damaged appliances could be far more than the cost of an electrician.
 
  #14  
Old 07-22-04, 05:35 AM
deep6blue
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It is time to call an electrician.

But, as I like puzzles, here are my 2 cents.

Turn off all circuits. Then turn on the one for the AC, and one for the frig. Turn on the one for the microwave (The reason for this is you said the microwave was on its own circuit, so there is only 1 outlet on the entire circuit)

Unplug the micro and test the voltage. Make sure the AC is blowing, open the frig door and leave it open to ensure the compressor is going. We want the system to pull power. Test the voltage. Watch the voltage as the AC turns on and off. Also listen for the frig compressor. You should see some small spikes when those devices cycle.

Post the results. What we are doing is isolating the possible circuit where the short/loose connection is.

Was there a Home Inspection completed when you bought this house?


If you really want to keep troubleshooting, you could get this multimeter from radioshack: http://www.radioshack.com/product.as...%5Fid=22%2D812

It has a computer interface that can record voltage over a period of time. It might be helpfull in diagnosing spike/surge patterns.
 
  #15  
Old 07-22-04, 08:20 AM
happywanderer
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smiliar problem

I have recently installed a new panel in my house and am having similar problems to the above. Specifically, when a electric motor is turned on (electric drill, fridge, etc.), some of the lights in my house get temporarily brighter and others become dimmer. This situation usually only lasts for a fraction of a second. I have had the electrician tighten all the neutrals in the panel and also my electric utiility has also checked their connections. All but one connection has now been checked and that is the neutral and the live wires that feed the stack in my house. That won't be done until next week. Also, when one of these motors is truned on, the voltage that is on the same bus as the device drops 3 to 5 volts (from 118 to 113) and the voltage on the other bus increased by 3 to 5 volts (as recorded by a digital Voltmeter at the point where the electricity enters the panel). This condition occurs if any or all or some of the breakers are on or off.

The house is about 50 years old, and there has been many changes over that time, and I have just recently moved into this house.

In reading the above comments, I understand that there might be a problem with the neutral wire, one of which is yet to be checked. My question is:
'Is it possible that the above conditions of spikes and drops are caused by internal wiring in the house'? Also, what other tests can be done to isolate the problem? I can go into the panel to check things out but do not want to go the the exterior wire connections.

Thanks....
 
  #16  
Old 07-22-04, 08:46 AM
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Is it possible that the above conditions of spikes and drops are caused by internal wiring in the house?
Yes.

What other tests can be done to isolate the problem?
The best way to isolate the problem is to figure out where it is happening and where it is not. If it is happening on all circuits, then the problem is probably in the panel (or with the power company equipment or lines). If it is happening on just one circuit (regular or multiwire), then the problem is probably on that circuit. If the problem is happening on just the circuits on one leg of the power (not the same thing as saying one side of the panel), then the problem is probably on that leg.
 
  #17  
Old 07-22-04, 04:27 PM
CWDavis
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Thank you all for all your help.
My problem seems to be all circuits. I have been testing all plugs with one of those 3 light checkers. All my plugs seem to be a ok. I have not had a problem in 3 days now, knock on wood. Lights do blink when something turns on but I thought that is normal. The electric company is suppose to send someone out again to check the wires coming from the transformer. I do have a 3 wire setup coming into the meter. The top wire has a bare spot about 2 inches long where it is touching the house. One electric man told me that wouldn't hurt anything but it makes me nervous. The top 2 lines were wrapped around each other when we first moved in. They have fixed that but it didn't stop the spikes and surges.
We did not have an inspection done before we bought. We should have but this deal was with an investment company and it was buy as is. Bad idea!! I still love my house anyway.
Some of my plugs are grounded and most are not gounded. How can I ground these plugs short of replacing all the wiring? Maybe a GFCI? I don't know much about them or how they work. The kitchen has totally been remodeled, and 3 prong plugs were added in a couple of bdrooms, but not grounded. Kitchen apps are ground, I haven't check the fridge yet. But I doubt if gounded. They also added all new ceiling fans to living room and 3 bedrooms. 3 of them are on same circuit with all the other overhead lighting and outside lighting. MB is the only one on different circuit. They have this house wired so weird. I don't know how to check for amps on each circuit. How do I do that and would it do any good if I did?
 
  #18  
Old 07-22-04, 05:00 PM
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How can I ground these plugs short of replacing all the wiring? Maybe a GFCI?
Grounding serves many purposes. A GFCI is a simple way of providing two of the three main purposes of grounding, but it does not provide grounding itself. So it will give you people protection, it will give you a three-hole receptacle for your three-prong plug, but it will not protect your electronics. Unfortunately, true grounding is difficult, sometimes very difficult. You've got to figure out a way to run a wire or cable from each outlet all the way back to the panel.

I don't know how to check for amps on each circuit. How do I do that and would it do any good if I did?
An instantaneous measurement wouldn't do you much good.
 
  #19  
Old 07-22-04, 06:30 PM
CWDavis
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Ok, I understand now. Another question. My husband has in the past, ran a wire from the wall plug to our TV, screwed it into the gound screw then ran it outside and connected to a steel rod in the ground. He said that gounded it.
Does this work? Or will it work and equipment be protected?
 
  #20  
Old 07-22-04, 09:05 PM
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What your husband did is very illegal and very dangerous. It increases the hazard, not the safety. Unfortunately, it's all too common as people pass this ill-advised piece of advice around.

Funny thing about doing this for a television is that the plug on television cords don't even have a ground pin, so they couldn't care less about the grounding connection.

Don't let him do this again, and if you have any grounds this way now, remove them. It is definitely not true that any ground is better than no ground.
 
  #21  
Old 07-23-04, 05:55 AM
CWDavis
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Ok, thank you very much for all your responses. I have learned a lot of good information on this forum.
I will not let my Husband ground a wall outlet like that again. Thank you.
I will let you all know how this all turns out.
 
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