Lights flickering

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Old 01-21-12, 03:18 PM
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Lights flickering

Just the other day the chandellier in my foyer started flickering. Actually more like a flash. A flicker is uneven, to me, where the flashing looks like someone's shutting it on and off from the switch. They are normal 65w type a bulbs but on a dimmer switch. I was going to open up the switch and check the connections (done by me maybe 3 yrs ago).

Then, today, down in my basement the recessed lighting is doing something similar. It too is like a flash. it was so quick but noticable it took me a few mins to even figure out where it was coming from. these are 65w recessed lights. and also on a dimmer.

now i'm wondering if they're connected. i'm pretty sure they're not on the same circuit. but this doesnt sound good.

anything else it could be after i check the switch wiring?

EDIT: on the chandellier i noticed the flickering is slower the lower the dimmer is pulled down. the more I turn the dimmer up, the quicker it goes. when on full bright the dimming is barely noticable. Will check the other one now to see if the same is happening..
 

Last edited by bheron; 01-21-12 at 03:43 PM.
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Old 01-21-12, 04:23 PM
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I would have at first guessed a bad connection on the circuit till you mentioned the rhythm of the flickers slows as the lights are dimmed. Now I would guess you have a problem with the dimmer. You mentioned these lights are using normal 65 watt A-lamps, correct? Are these like the old GE Watt Miser or Sylvania Super Saver lamps? (A-19 maybe) I don't recall anything normal about a 65 watt incandescent A-lamp. Those older generation energy saving A-lamps had issues when operated on a dimmer.
 
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Old 01-21-12, 05:15 PM
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First step would be to confirm if these issues are or are not on the same circuit. If not, it is a strange coincidence or a wider power issue. Flip the breaker you think runs one and see if both lose power.

Bud
 
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Old 01-21-12, 07:30 PM
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Ok, thanks. So I just confirmed they are not on the same circuit. so either its a coincidence or something bigger. the recessed lighing looked more like a flash. i thought someone was taking a picture the flash was so quick. so maybe its two seperate problems.
 
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Old 01-21-12, 07:35 PM
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Do you have any 240 volt appliances like a water heater, stove, or dryer?
 
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Old 01-21-12, 07:41 PM
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:-) Like that tagline. I do. I have a dryer and i think thats it (besides the A/C which isnt on). My stove and water heater are gas. so i think thats it.

funny, its not happening now. thought maybe the receptacle needed to heat up or something so i'm leaving them on to see. but now that you mention it, i think the dryer was on today when this was happening? Hmmmm, let me try it out. be right back!
 
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Old 01-21-12, 07:58 PM
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ok, you are correct sir! Wow, I never wouldve figured this out. I turned on my dryer and instantly the chadellier started its blinking. So do i have too much going through my whole house panel? I have a large house with a large 200 amp service panel filled up, with alot of mini type breakers.

edit: also noticed it didnt stop when i turned off the dryer. i also had to turn off the dimmer switch and then the blinking stopped.

how bad is this?
 

Last edited by bheron; 01-21-12 at 08:16 PM.
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Old 01-21-12, 09:10 PM
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I would suggest you call the power companies 24 hour service number and tell them you think you have a loose neutral. If it's on their side they will fix it. They may even be able to at least tell you if it is on your side. It may not be a loose neutral but having them check their side is a place to begin. Do not use the dryer for now. You could damage sensitive electronics.
 
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Old 01-22-12, 10:45 AM
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Thanks ray. I'm glad you said that. Couldn't figure out what has changed recently that would trigger this. We have frequent power outages here and, just so happens, we had one the other night. Was wondering if it was something they did. Ok, will call them asap.

Also, another minor detail to add .. The flickering did continue even after I turned off the dryer and the light switch.

Will post back after talking to elec co.
 
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Old 01-22-12, 10:59 AM
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Dimmers are electronic. Power surges can damage electronics. A loose neutral can cause a power surge. The flash could be a power (voltage) surge. If you have an overhead power drop to your house it could be related to wind. Can't say if it is any of the above is the cause but it is a place to start.
 
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Old 01-30-12, 10:38 AM
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ok, spent the last week doing the following:

- called the utility company. after a few days one morning I luckily was home when a van pulled up. I went out to the side of the house with the guy an hung out (love talking shop and picking up knowledge from people anywhere). He opened up the service entrance which was really cool. I watched him tighten all of the lugs. He said they were a bit loose but wasnt sure if it was enough to cause a problem. He instructed me to shut off my service panel from them main. inspect each of the neutral connections one by one. so i did just that...

- i turned off my main circuit 200a breaker. took off the panel. (tested as best as i knew there was no power on the breakers). Then, one by one I tightened each neutral. I will say some of them did seem loose. I have almost 60 breakers so it took some time and my forearms were hurting :-). Put the panel cover back on and flipped the power.

- I still see flickering

- the utility guy said if that didnt work it could still be something on their side further down and to let them know.

So, before I call them, I was thinking it might be something else...

I have a bank of fluorescent lights for a very large saltwater aquarium in my basement. they're pretty serious lights. a total of 480 watts run by two electric ballasts. Could something from there, like a surge or short, be causing the other circuits to flicker? I'm not 100% positive but it seems like the problem doesnt happen when the aquarium lights are out.

Wanted to check before I call the util co back.

Bryan
 
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Old 01-30-12, 07:33 PM
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Update: I've been able to isolate the cause of this mess has been -- one of the flourescent lights for my aquarium seems to be the culprit! Ugh! At least I know where the problem is. Just not sure how a single fixture, albeit a powerful one, would be causing other circuits to flicker? And this can't be good right?
 
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Old 01-30-12, 09:36 PM
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I have almost 60 breakers
Are all those breakers in one panel?
 
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Old 01-31-12, 06:50 AM
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yep. i have alot of twin breakers.
 
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Old 01-31-12, 12:01 PM
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Up until the latest code cycle "lighting and appliance" circuit breaker panels (the type installed in residences) were limited to a maximum of 42 circuits. I suspect that the "twin" circuit breakers you have are not listed for use in your panel.
 
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Old 01-31-12, 03:59 PM
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oh boy. how do I find out? also, just as important, any idea how this one fixture is causing the flickering? Could it be something in the wiring that's causing a leak/short?
 
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Old 01-31-12, 04:22 PM
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any idea how this one fixture is causing the flickering? Could it be something in the wiring that's causing a leak/short?
It could just be a breaker not designed for your panel. What brand panel and the model number? Are all of the breakers you can identify the same brand as your panel? Can you post some pictures of the inside of your panel.
 
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Old 01-31-12, 07:39 PM
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oh boy. how do I find out? also, just as important, any idea how this one fixture is causing the flickering? Could it be something in the wiring that's causing a leak/short?
I suspect you are using "Non-CTL" breakers that do not have limiting hardware to keep them from being installed in a late model panel. Although they will fit in a late model panel, "Non-CTL" breakers are to be used for replacement use only in panelboards built prior to 1965. Furd is right that the 2008 NEC lifted the restriction on limiting a panelboard to 42 circuits and does not specifically state a maximum number of circuits allowed, but you are still limited by the number of circuits your panel was designed for. If your panel states it is a 30 circuit panel, you may not exceed that number. If you want to install up to 60 circuits in a single panel, you must buy a 60 circuit panel. I have not seen any supply houses stocking these yet because of the high price, but I do know Siemens makes them.
 
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Old 01-31-12, 08:47 PM
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May be time to do a demand load calculation and if your box can handle the load add a sub panel and move some of the loads. Single Family Dwelling Electrical Load Calculator
 
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Old 02-01-12, 08:39 PM
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I think I'd also suggest some non-destructive testing. Ultra sonic testing will reveal if you have a bad dimmer that could be arcing within the control or a loose or bad connection arcing within a loose wire nut above the fixture in the ceiling box, without taking the chandelier down. A circuit analyzer may reveal if you have a neutral problem if used by a competent, trained electrician. You could also have something as simple as a bad circuit breaker, but it must be tested to know for sure.
 
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