Lights intermittently flicker in whole house.

Reply

  #1  
Old 02-05-13, 04:46 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 9
Lights intermittently flicker in whole house.

Our lights intermittently flicker in whole house and have been doing so for about 3 weeks. Since it is intermittent, it took us a while to figure out what was going on and that it was not related to any appliance or the furnace. Week 2 we called the utility company and after 2 calls they came out an inspected the outside lines. Of course they sent the guy out in the evening. Anyway, he noted the neutral was secure at the line into the meter box and he said he tightened the connections at the pole. He said to check with the neighbors to see if they have the same problem. Checked with the neighbor who shares the same drop from the transformer and they do not have any flickering. During week 3 (today) had an electrician come out to look at our boxes and the meter box. He came out around noon on a bright day. He tightened a somewhat loose neutral and the main panel and then tightened another item in a sub panel. He also made sure that all other connections were secure. He also checked to see that the connections in the meter box were secure. None of the panels nor the meter box exhibited any signs of corrosion or arcing. I was present when he was doing the work. When dusk hit, I noticed that the lights across all circuits continue to intermittently flicker. The flickering pattern seems to be random in timing and length. One point of reference. The sub-panel controls all of the lights in the house across multiple circuits. The main panel came to play when a previous home owner in the 80s had an attached garage added, which was between the pole and the prior main panel (now the sub panel).

Looking for any advice on the next course of action to take
 
Sponsored Links
  #2  
Old 02-05-13, 05:12 PM
Tolyn Ironhand's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Twin Cities, MN
Posts: 11,979
It sounds like you have taken the proper steps so far.

Maybe try shutting off some circuits, one by one, until the flickering stops. One time I would get static on my TV and found it to be a battery charger that was causing it. Even when the charger was in a remote garage.
 
  #3  
Old 02-05-13, 06:34 PM
CasualJoe's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: USA
Posts: 9,212
Is the feeder between the newer main panel and the now subpanel an aluminum cable type feeder (that would be common)? If so, I'd focus in on that feeder. I would want to remove the feeder conductors from both the breaker and neutral bar, abrade the exposed aluminum and inspect the lugs on the breaker and then re-terminate the conductors in the lugs. Then, go to the subpanel. Do the same thing with the aluminum conductors, remove, abrade, inspect the lugs on the breaker and re-terminate. There is a good possibility your problem is oxidation on the aluminum conductors that simply tightening will not fix.

To abrade means to use abrasion with 240 grit wet-or-dry abrasive paper in combination with anti-oxidant compound. Proper abrasion techniques can be found on page 4 of this report by Dr. Jesse Aronstein.

http://inspectapedia.com/aluminum/alreduce.pdf

If you do this and it doesn't help, report back to the forum and someone will direct you from there. You may have a bad main breaker or subfeed breaker, but I think the problem is in your neutral.

Something else you could try and I just thought about this. Try connecting some lighting to the newer main service panel and see if you get the same flickering there.
 
  #4  
Old 02-05-13, 08:18 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 9
I ran a lamp from an outlet in the newer garage that is powered by the newer main service panel and got the same flickering there. Thanks for the suggestion. Would that rule out the feeder between the two panels? The feeder is aluminum cable. It may take me a couple of days to do the recommended action on the feeder.

If things are pointing to the neutral, would it make sense to have the poco come back out and recheck things in the daytime? One thing I just remembered about the poco guy that came out. He told me it looked like they re-ran a new wire to the house at one point in time and that old run had some stray remnants at the pole. Does this sound like it can be anything important to the issue?
 
  #5  
Old 02-06-13, 07:09 PM
CasualJoe's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: USA
Posts: 9,212
I ran a lamp from an outlet in the newer garage that is powered by the newer main service panel and got the same flickering there. Thanks for the suggestion. Would that rule out the feeder between the two panels? The feeder is aluminum cable. It may take me a couple of days to do the recommended action on the feeder.
I based my idea on the problem being after the main panel, but you have proven that to not be the case so I would leave the subpanel feeder alone at this point and focus on everything ahead of the main panel. That would mean, the meter socket, the service entrance wiring, the service drop and/or connections at the pole or transformer. Yes, you'll probably have to call the power company back again. Examination during daylight hours would be preferable.
 
  #6  
Old 02-06-13, 07:30 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 9
It took me 2 calls to get POCO (First Energy) out to the house initially. When I first called, we had snow on the ground and every day I would come home to see if there were any footprints by either the meter or the pole. After a couple of days of seeing no evidence that anyone came out I had to call them again.

I made an appointment with a different electrician on this Friday. This company will send out an electrician with testing equipment to troubleshoot the problem. The first electrician did not do any voltage testing. I am hoping that having 2 different electricians coming to my house will support my case with the POCO that the problem is on their end and they need to come out again and in the daytime. I really hope that the electrician that comes out Friday finds and fixes the problem because it would be easier than having to deal with the POCO. If the 2nd electrician determines the problem is outside and the POCOs responsibility, any advice on how to get the POCO to be cooperative?

Thanks again for all of those who have replied.
 
  #7  
Old 02-06-13, 07:45 PM
Nashkat1's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: USA
Posts: 8,470
If the 2nd electrician determines the problem is outside and the POCOs responsibility, any advice on how to get the POCO to be cooperative?
Your electricians should tell you that the POCO hands off responsibility when their feeder touches your house. The weatherhead, mast, service drop and meter base are all part of your property.

They're not just saying that to get more money out of you. It's true.

If there's a problem between the power plant and the strain relies on your house, it's on them. After that, it's on you and the professionals you hire.
 
  #8  
Old 02-08-13, 01:09 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 9
The 2nd electrician came out today. He tested the voltage and noted it was pretty even coming in. He torqued down the lugs in the meter box. Inspected both the main and sub panel. On the main panel, the main breaker would not shut off. They are ordering a new main breaker and will install it when it comes in. The box was installed in the 80s and is a 200 amp cutler hammer panel. Should the main breaker be hard to find? Hopefully when the new main breaker is installed it will take care of the problem.
 
  #9  
Old 02-08-13, 05:18 PM
CasualJoe's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: USA
Posts: 9,212
Hopefully when the new main breaker is installed it will take care of the problem.
That very well might be the source of your frustrations, but if it turns out that the bad main breaker is not the reason for the flickering and indications again point to the power company, have the electrician call the power company for you with his diagnosis and findings. Power companies generally will listen to a legitimate qualified electrical contractor a lot more closely than to just a homeowner.

The box was installed in the 80s and is a 200 amp cutler hammer panel. Should the main breaker be hard to find?
That would be a Cutler-Hammer C-H series panel. Hopefully the main breaker is not obsolete. If it is, there are usually tons of used ones available online.
 
  #10  
Old 02-08-13, 05:43 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: USA
Posts: 9
Thanks for the advice on having the electrician talk to the power company if this does not fix it. In the mean time, crossing my fingers it is the main breaker and they are able to get one pretty quick as that should be the be easiest path to getting it fixed.
 
  #11  
Old 02-08-13, 05:54 PM
CasualJoe's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: USA
Posts: 9,212
Considering everything you have told us, including the fact that the main breaker won't shut off, I think your electrician is on the right path. Even if the power company does have a problem causing the flickering, you still need the main breaker replaced.
 
Reply

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Display Modes
'