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Fluctuating Power throughout house, Appliances barely or not getting power

Fluctuating Power throughout house, Appliances barely or not getting power

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  #1  
Old 02-03-11, 11:21 AM
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Exclamation Fluctuating Power throughout house, Appliances barely or not getting power

Hello, I recently bought a house and have always noticed a slight flickering of the lights when the furnace would kick on or the disposable would run for instance. However lately I've began losing lots of power to different appliances.

Let me start with some details: The house is 90 years old. It has an old ceramic fuse box, as well as an updated circuit box in the basement that more recent electrical things in the basement run off of. I recently installed some GFCI plugs because nothing was grounded in ground level of the house, as well as had an electrical outlet added to the bathroom.

After a few days the lights began flickering more and more. Some lights became much dimmer, where others became much brighter than ever before. the microwave seems to get no power at all. The disposal will only produce a soft hum, unless I unplug things from the surrounding outlets in the kitchen. The disposal otherwise will turn off the TV or receiver in the living room when it tries to turn on. The washer has totally quit working, where the dryer only produces a soft hum but will not turn. I did some research online and several similar problems pointing to "neutral grounding" issue or something like that (my electrical knowledge is lacking).

Online forums suggested I call the power company immediately, which I did. They showed up soon, and only read the meters outside. Which they told me was fine coming in at 111 and 221, however they mentioned an old wire running to the house. Something to do with it being a 100, and and needing an upgrade to 200 something. However we do have old lines that hang over the back yard and run to the house and the more I look online it sounds like this problem should be addressed by the power company before I get an electrician out here.

If anyone has any ideas or feedback that may be helpful I could use it greatly. Thanks for the time and any help.
 
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  #2  
Old 02-03-11, 11:41 AM
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You need to get an electrician out there ASAP. This type of problem is very serious and has the potential to start a fire or cause major expensive damage to your appliances. I recommend using only what is essential until it can be repaired. A guy posted a thread just last week with a similar problem who had almost every one of the appliances in his house ruined.

The problem is a loose, broken or burned neutral wire in the service entrance. The power company is only responsible for the wiring up to the meter. It sounds like they have already verified their side is okay. You will need an electrician to check everything on your side of the meter and repair whatever the problem is found to be.
 
  #3  
Old 02-03-11, 11:50 AM
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Actually power should be 120/240 5-10% so yor figures are ok but on the low end. This is probably beyond a beginner DIY project. I'd suggest you call an electrician.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 02-03-11 at 01:55 PM.
  #4  
Old 02-03-11, 11:50 AM
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Thanks for the quick response, I really appreciate your help. I actually saw your posts on some old threads, which is the most useful information I've been getting all day. Anyhow I've just left a message with an electrician to come out as soon as possible. I'm afraid I've already fried my washer and dryer, but that wont be known until the electrical problem is resolved. In the meantime me and the lady appreciate your guys' help and being first time home owners in a money pit probably more questions to come. Will post back when more is known or solved.
 
  #5  
Old 02-03-11, 11:54 AM
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Ah you're right, he did say 241, the 221 I posted was my own error. Thanks for the heads up.
 
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Old 02-03-11, 11:56 AM
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I would get an electrician to look at your wiring ASAP! I would minimize your power usage in the house until the wiring is inspected. No electric space heaters, hair dryers, microwave ovens or other items that draw a lot of current until you get your wiring inspected. The more load you put on the wiring the hotter it will get possibly causing a fire.

I would bet the power company is feeding your house more power than your old lines can handle. I have had very old wiring in several rental houses I bought that had similar symptoms. I found several locations where there had been minor fires and charring of the wood that self extinguished sometime in the past. It is only a miracle that the houses had not burned down.

Many old wiring connections are not good enough by today's standards with modern electrical loads. Those poor connections can loosen and/or develop corrosion. The poor connections resist the flow of electricity so when you turn something on not only are your lights dim but that lost electricity is being converted into heat at the connections buried in the walls. Turn on more things and those bad connections and wires in your walls just get hotter (think fire). Remember when those old wires were installed households used very little electricity. They probably had one light in each room and a radio in the living room. Now that we have lights everywhere, garbage disposals, microwaves, computers, TV's... It can be much more than the old wiring can safely handle. Old wiring was also probably installed before houses were insulated. The wires in the walls and attic long ago were in free air where they could dissipate any heat. This helped the wires safely carry more current. Then many old houses had insulation added later, preventing the wires from safely dissipating their heat (think fire).
 
  #7  
Old 02-03-11, 12:16 PM
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Thanks Dane, and everyone else. You all not only have been real helpful but also terrifying me to where I've got a tech from our AB May home warranty headed this way sometime today. Looks like this may be covered so that's a load off. However I'm pretty sure I'll be buying a new washing machine and dryer...I guess that's a lot better than having myself and all my worldly possessions engulfed in flames.
 
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Old 02-03-11, 01:56 PM
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Please let us know what he finds. It may help others.
 
  #9  
Old 02-03-11, 02:24 PM
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Problem solved for now

We had someone come and find that one of our neutral grounds was not getting the right amount of current(?). One seemed to be fine at 120 where the other read at about 50. He had to trim back the corroded neutral, and then applied some anti corrosive gel to old wires and re grounded the wire. It then came back at 120 on both, now the appliances seem to have regained there steam. However the washer was a casualty, the other appliances seem to functioning normally. This however is a temporary fix as it seems our old box needs to be upgraded. Since it only services some of the house where the others run off of the ceramic fuse box. Sometime in the near future we will have to have all power rerouted to a new box. Thanks to all who chimed in, if this a problem for others and you have some kind of home warranty that covers electrical, this fix was a minimal fee. Thanks again!
 
  #10  
Old 02-03-11, 03:01 PM
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Originally Posted by jdlehne View Post
This however is a temporary fix as it seems our old box needs to be upgraded. Since it only services some of the house where the others run off of the ceramic fuse box. Sometime in the near future we will have to have all power rerouted to a new box.
I would agree with this assessment. Ceramic base fuses are pretty obsolete and you should consider it to be on the short list of home repairs.

With your washer it might be worth having an appliance tech just check it out. Sometimes the fix can be quite a bit less than the cost of a new machine if it's just a fuse or sensor or something like that damaged. Obviously not worth it if it's an old or really basic machine, but certainly could be if it's a high-end washer.
 
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