Do I need to replace circuit breakers

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  #1  
Old 03-01-07, 08:17 AM
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Do I need to replace circuit breakers

About a week ago I started having trouble with lights to my basement stairs and bathroom (same circuit) dimming and brightening up again. Yesterday I had trouble with lights in my computer room (separate circuit, opposite side of breaker box) doing the same thing. These are both 20 amps. Doesn't do it all the time, just for a few minutes at a time every few hours. No other parts of the house do this.

My daughter and I mapped out every outlet and light in the house about a month ago, so I know exactly what is going on here. I did replace a breaker about 10 years ago which had kind of welded itself onto the clip on the box, barely go it off.

I've had trouble since I bought the house of having to replace bulbs more often than I think I should. Was built in 1950, but upgraded to 100 amp in the 80's in a rehab where 75 percent of the house was switched from aluminum to copper. There is some original aluminum wiring, but the circuits I'm having trouble with one is all copper and the other is a combo of copper and aluminum.

Any ideas before I start delving into it? Thanks.

Chris
 
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  #2  
Old 03-01-07, 08:58 AM
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The comment "opposite side of breaker box" means nothing. What is important is if the circuits are fed from opposite sides of the incoming 240 volts. Is this the case?

Also, do the lights all dim at the same time (both circuits) or do they dim at different times, or do you not know the answer to this question.
 
  #3  
Old 03-01-07, 09:14 AM
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Yes is the case, meant opposite sides of incoming 240. On the the circuits I mention yes the lights all dim at the same time, but usually not both circuits at the same time. For a time this morning both were doing it at the same time and then one stopped and the other continued for a few more minutes. Now they are both fine.



Chris
 

Last edited by Chrisgj; 03-01-07 at 09:48 AM.
  #4  
Old 03-01-07, 09:37 AM
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Whenever you have dimming on more than one circuit at the same time, your first call should be to the power company. Some power companies may insist that you have an electrician investigate first, but many will come out and investigate promptly. A common problem is a loose connection somewhere in the power company's wires. If they investigate and find no problem, then you'll have to get an electrician to look for a loose connection in your wires.

Another thing to think about is all the things that are on each of the problem circuits. Anything that cycles automatically (e.g., a pump, a refrigerator, etc.) often causes dimming on lights that are on the same circuit. If this is the case, and if the dimming is not severe, then you can probably just live with it.
 
  #5  
Old 03-01-07, 09:46 AM
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If it was the electric companies fault, why wouldn't I have problems with the whole house?

Nothing else is running like a sump pump which we do have and is only a few feet from the computer room, so I would know. Our refrigerator is very quiet and can't hear it come on unless standing right next to it, so I can't say anything there.

I've thought over everything and the only thing I come up with is circuit breakers and did consider it being outside, but it wouldn't hurt to call the electric company.

Thanks,
Chris
 
  #6  
Old 03-01-07, 09:48 AM
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Here is a map of the breaker box I recently made.

http://www.geocities.com/[email protected]/Breakerbox.html

6 and 12 are the problems.
 

Last edited by Chrisgj; 03-01-07 at 10:05 AM.
  #7  
Old 03-01-07, 09:54 AM
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If it was the electric company's fault, you would have problems in the whole house (if it was a loose neutral) or in half the house (if it was a loose hot). But you may not notice on many circuits, since only incandescent lights are very sensitive to small voltage changes.

Are all or most of your breakers twin (aka tandem, aka skinny) breakers? I noticed that you listed both 1 and 2 on the "B" side.

Which two are the problem circuits?
 
  #8  
Old 03-01-07, 09:59 AM
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They are all tandem, two switches per box. Sorry I meant to circle 6 and 12 which are the problem circuits. 13 and 5 seem to be alright. On 13 the outlets in the kitchen run a LCD 15 inch tv, microwave, phone with answer machine and stove with electronic ignition and light/exhaust fan over the stove. No problems with any of them.

The sump pump on 5 we had a lot of rain a couple days ago and it seems to run fine. I've been paying close attention to it for a few years since now the pump is 14 years old.

Talked to electric company and a women told me she thought all the lights in the house should do that if it was their problem. They are coming out to make sure everything is fine on their end.

Chris
 
  #9  
Old 03-01-07, 10:03 AM
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The furnace could be causing your problems on 6.

You're fortunate to have such an accommodating power company. Sit tight to see what they say. Then be sure to let us know.
 
  #10  
Old 03-01-07, 10:10 AM
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She couldn't tell me when exactly they will come out.

The furnance (3 years old) we only use when outside gets to the teens, so it's been completely off for 2 weeks now (my problems started a week ago) with temps more like spring now. Before 2 weeks ago, temps were in the single digits most nights and the space heaters can't keep up then. We keep 5 space heaters going at 62 degrees 24 hours a day, no problems with them.

We primary use electric heat in the winter as we found is less than half as much money to heat our house that way. Electric bill will run $80 ($30 if not using space heaters), but gas would cost us about $175 a month in winter ($120 month up until a year ago when the rates went up 50%).

Looking at my map which is a 100 amp panel can you tell if I can add more circuits? There is room for one more tandem and maybe some day I'll take off the wiring to the switches that don't work when I'm certain that they don't do anything. I figure they were probably cut in the wall somewhere from the rehab years ago. I opened those switches in case some day I run across dead outlet or something, but I triple checked the whole house to make sure I didn't miss something.

Thanks a lot,
Chris
 
  #11  
Old 03-01-07, 11:49 AM
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By space heaters, do you mean portable plug-in devices? You should know that those are the least efficient and most dangerous heating devices you could possibly use. I don't like them at all, except for very occasional use.

By electric heat, do you mean electrical resistance heating or a heat pump?
 
  #12  
Old 03-01-07, 12:02 PM
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Yes, these are small electrical resistance space heaters than plug in the wall. We are careful with them. They are supposed to shut off if tipped or overheat. They may be inefficient, but they save us hundreds of dollars in the winter over what natural gas would cost to run the furnace.

Chris
 
  #13  
Old 03-01-07, 12:25 PM
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I cannot fathom that using electric space heaters, especially multiples of them, is cheaper than natural gas. You must have a very old and/or inefficient furnace.
 
  #14  
Old 03-01-07, 12:43 PM
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Or a large house that you only heat part of.
 
  #15  
Old 03-01-07, 08:08 PM
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I was surprised too, but I had to try it since rates went up 50% overnight. I heat every room 800 sq ft, including one downstairs 100 sq ft. Most of them are alway set at 62 degrees, with 3 to 4 completely off during regular work hours.

I went to Home Depot tonight to match up circuit breaker switches and they didn't have anything that quite matched up, all three I tried wouldn't go in quite all the way. Hopefully I'll have better luck at Lowes tomorrow.

Chris
 
  #16  
Old 03-02-07, 04:26 AM
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Do not attempt to buy a circuit breaker based on what "goes in all the way". You need a breaker approved for your panel. Take the panel information to an electrical supply store.
 
  #17  
Old 03-03-07, 12:33 PM
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Found the right breakers at another hardware store. Problem is solved.

Thanks,
Chris
 
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