Can a Circuit Breaker Cause Lights to Flicker?

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Old 10-02-09, 09:49 AM
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Can a Circuit Breaker Cause Lights to Flicker?

I have had a technician out three time for my refrigerator due to the interior lights flickering. They have gone through this frig up and down, even replaced the motherboard, and can't remedy the problem.
I did put a new receptical in to eliminate that possibility. I'm curious to know whether a circuit breaker that's "going" bad could cause this? I've plugged the frig into other outlets and it doesn't flicker. The only thing on this circuit is the frig and one other kitchen counter receptical (unused).

Thanks,
Joe
 
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Old 10-02-09, 10:05 AM
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Flicker is caused by a loose connection which can be at any device on the circuit including receptacles, switches, lights, the bus bar or breaker. Check to make sure the breaker fits tightly in the panel and there is no pitting or corrosion on the bus bar.
 
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Old 10-02-09, 10:10 AM
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Thanks for the reply. I think I'll go ahead and replace the breaker, check the bus bar and reseat the neutral, and check all other connections. Fingers crossed.
 
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Old 10-02-09, 11:25 AM
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While you are at it check the connections at the other receptacle.
 
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Old 10-02-09, 11:27 AM
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That's a good idea. Will do.
 
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Old 10-02-09, 01:10 PM
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Ok, I'm now officially frustrated. I replaced the curcuit breaker, reset the neutral on the bus bar, checked the recepticals (tightened), and it still is flickering.
I put a meter on this circuit and it's running at about 140V.
What else could be causing this? Can another circuit affect this circuit?
Another thing, unless the probes weren't seated properly, the volt meter showed a variation from 141 to as low as 116 (bouncing all around between those numbers). I'll confirm that again to be sure.
 
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Old 10-02-09, 01:32 PM
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Is there any chance this is a shared neutral circuit? Does the cable that powers the circuit have a red wire?
 
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Old 10-02-09, 01:34 PM
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No, there is no red wire associated with this circuit.
 
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Old 10-02-09, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by JackSparrow View Post
Another thing, unless the probes weren't seated properly, the volt meter showed a variation from 141 to as low as 116 (bouncing all around between those numbers). I'll confirm that again to be sure.
Yes, indeed it is jumping all over the place. Plus it's intermittent. It'll go for a while and not do it, then go crazy again.
 
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Old 10-02-09, 03:37 PM
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Check the switch controlling light. Switches tend to go bad over the years due to arching. Replaced several at a neighbor's house after lights were flickering/wouldn't work. If the flickering is bad enough, you should be able to hear the arching by putting your ear up to the switch.
 
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Old 10-02-09, 03:51 PM
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There are no switches on this circuit. The light that is flickering is the light in the refrigerator.

Regarding the arching sound-- I can hear that sound at the panel. It's not very loud, but you can hear it.
 
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Old 10-02-09, 04:29 PM
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is it a hum or an arcing sizzling sound? IF you indeed have an arcing sound that is no good! I suggest shutting down your panel and tighten ALL your connections. You should never have arcing in the panel.

Note: Even with the panel shut down there is still hot wires. Extra care is advised.
 

Last edited by Tolyn Ironhand; 10-02-09 at 05:00 PM.
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Old 10-02-09, 04:38 PM
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The light that is flickering is the light in the refrigerator.
I am probably way out of date on my knowledge but every refrigerator light I have seen was controlled by a switch. Didn't read all the posts. Have you already tried operating it on a different circuit. If needed use a heavy duty extension cord to go to another room. Still flickers it is almost certainly the refer. No flicker then it is the circuit.
 
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Old 10-02-09, 04:39 PM
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No hum- it's a sizzling sound. But... I've been checking it periodically and it hasn't done it now for a few hours. This is really weird.
I think this might be a separate issue from my light flicking problems as I have checked all the connections for the frig circuit and even replaced the breaker.
 
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Old 10-02-09, 04:42 PM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
I am probably way out of date on my knowledge but every refrigerator light I have seen was controlled by a switch. Didn't read all the posts. Have you already tried operating it on a different circuit. If needed use a heavy duty extension cord to go to another room. Still flickers it is almost certainly the refer. No flicker then it is the circuit.
Well, what I did was I took a lamp and plugged it into the frig receptical and the lamp flickered away. As well, I did plug the frig into another circuit and it worked fine.
 
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Old 10-02-09, 05:08 PM
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Ok, So we know the issue is the circuit and not the fridge. Turn off that circuit and check all connections of any device/fixture that is dead/not working. Also, look in the panel and see if this circuit is part of a multiwire branch circuit (MWBC) You will know this because you will find either a cable, pipe or flex conduit with 3 wires (not including a ground) two colors and a white. If it is a MWBC you need to find the breaker that is feeding the other hot (colored) wire in the group, turn it off and check all the connections just like you did on the other circuit. I'm thinking you may have a loose neutral someplace because of this:
I put a meter on this circuit and it's running at about 140V.
What else could be causing this? Can another circuit affect this circuit?
Another thing, unless the probes weren't seated properly, the volt meter showed a variation from 141 to as low as 116 (bouncing all around between those numbers).
 
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Old 10-02-09, 06:00 PM
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Did you see if the kitchen counter recepticle voltage also jumps all over the place? If it is on the same circuit, have you pulled out that outlet to see if that one feeds the fridge outlet, and maybe the counter outlet is backstabbed or otherwise loose connection?

This should be an easy problem to find as between the panel box and circuit is a limited number of possibilities. Although a worse case scenario would be if some unknown junction box somewheres, if there was one. Although we think your problem is in the panel box.

Of those limited possiblities are 2 halves - the hot and the neutral. By testing your hot feed to the ground wire (not the neutral) would tell you if the hot wire is loose, or the neutral is loose, including back at the sizzling panel box.

I recently had a loose screw that secured one neutral bus bar to another, in a Square-D panel box, that wreaked havoc. Within 15 minutes of the regular handyman (who is afraid of electricity)showing me the voltage fluctuations in the house, I had the problem spotted and solved.
 

Last edited by ecman51; 10-02-09 at 06:08 PM. Reason: Rewrote part - thought of easier way
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Old 10-02-09, 07:44 PM
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Did you see if the kitchen counter recepticle voltage also jumps all over the place? If it is on the same circuit, have you pulled out that outlet to see if that one feeds the fridge outlet, and maybe the counter outlet is backstabbed or otherwise loose connection?
Yes, the other receptical at the counter top is hoppin all over. I went as far as to completely remove this receptical, nut up the wires, and check the frig light-- still flickered. So that eliminates any issues with that receptical.

Of those limited possiblities are 2 halves - the hot and the neutral. By testing your hot feed to the ground wire (not the neutral) would tell you if the hot wire is loose, or the neutral is loose, including back at the sizzling panel box.
I went and tested all recepticals with the hot and the ground and got the same readings as hot to neutral.
I have not heard it sizzle once since early in the afternoon today-- right after I had installed the replacement breaker. So possibly something was loose at that point that I have since tightened up. I did find one loose hot wire on a breaker (living room) that I tightened a few minutes ago, but didn't make any difference with the frig.
 
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Old 10-03-09, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by JackSparrow View Post
I went and tested all recepticals with the hot and the ground and got the same readings as hot to neutral.
Same reading as how?: Wavering voltmeter readings you mean? All of them? How many is that? More than the fridge/countertop circuit?

If they(whichever amount of them "they" is) wavered same as to neutral as to ground, leads me to believe that it is the hot wire, and not the neutral wire that is/was loose.

But you could do yet that one more test by volt testing between the hot wire and metal water supply-line plumbing pipe, and see what that does.
 
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Old 10-03-09, 12:00 PM
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Think I just figured it out. I remembered yesterday when replacing the frig breaker, that it was difficult to get out. I ended up having to pry it out with a screwdriver. Didn't think much of it at the time and went ahead and put the new breaker in.
I went back to that breaker today and removed it to inspect the contact on the panel. It had marks on it as if it had almost burnt to the breaker. I got some emory cloth, cleaned the contact up, and reinstalled the breaker-- no more flicker. Whether it was corrosion or the breaker and contact burnt together, I don't know, but it seems that was the problem. We've gone about two hours now without flicker.

Thanks for all your help.
 
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Old 10-03-09, 12:40 PM
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'Jack, Jack, Jack......no, we named the monkey Jack....' (Couldn't resist.) Thanks for letting us know.

But weren't you having that problem before you changed breakers?
 
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Old 10-03-09, 04:04 PM
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Yes, it indeed was the reason for me to change the breaker in the first place. Whatever was on there was causing the problem. It hasn't flickered since.
 
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