Flickering lights in house, problem still eludes me.

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  #1  
Old 02-07-14, 08:41 AM
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Flickering lights in house, problem still eludes me.

So, LONG story short(er), we started having flickering lights in the house a few days ago. The flickering was house wide, not just in one location. We've never had this problem and it is located throughout the house. last November we had our 25 year old meter and pedestal die in the front yard and it was replaced. We have not had any problems since.

I initially called the electric company to ask them to send a guy out. This was after hours but the on call guy said he "pinged" my meter and found it to be working exactly as expected. He said he also checked my neighbors meters that shared service with me and they were running normal as well. He scheduled a guy to come check the meter itself the next day and they found it to be working as expected.

My next call was to the electrician that installed the pedestal. He came out the next morning and double checked the meter, then spent almost 2 hours looking at the panel, checking the tightness of every lug and breaker. He checked the power coming in with the furnace off and on with his meter, checked it at random intervals, and inspected the wiring overall. He found some looseness in a few of the lugs and found one breaker for some bedroom lighting that was quite loose. He said the connection was not burnt but had minor evidence of some heat. He tightened it back up and said that may or may not have been the problem. He said this was warranty work so there was no charge. We had lights on while he was here and after his work we didn't see anymore lights flickering. This was about 11AM when he left.

However, at approx. 10:30 PM my wife started seeing the lights flickering again. I noticed this as well at 6AM. It doesn't appear to be tied to any appliance but the only one thats been confirmed is the heat pump. I turned it off and on at the thermostat while the electrician was here and everything was normal. Side note - It has been very cold here (single digits - colder than normal) if that has anything to do with it.

The power company has washed their hands of it since everything on their end is fine. The electrician says it may or may not be the aluminum wires in the yard, but I watched him prepare and connect the wires in the yard to the new pedestal and they looked good. We are not able to afford a major electrical job right now so I'm trying to find out any possible solutions to this problem.

Any assistance in solving this mystery is appreciated.
 
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  #2  
Old 02-07-14, 09:43 AM
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I had a flickering at my house once but very briefly then we lost one leg of our power. One of the buried wires between our house and the transformer had broken. Luckily my responsibility begins at the meter so digging up and repairing the line was the power companies responsibility.
 
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Old 02-07-14, 05:38 PM
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The flickering was house wide, not just in one location.
the on call guy said he "pinged" my meter and found it to be working exactly as expected. He said he also checked my neighbors meters that shared service with me and they were running normal as well.
He scheduled a guy to come check the meter itself the next day and they found it to be working as expected.
Did the power company send a trouble truck to check the mjeter? Did they check the line connections at the meter? It sounds like you have a loose/bad neutral connection somewhere ahead of your main panel. Loose connections cannot be found from the central office.

last November we had our 25 year old meter and pedestal die in the front yard and it was replaced.
Is this a direct burial pedestal similar to what sometimes will serve a mobile home? Is this a subdivision with underground distribution?
 
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Old 02-08-14, 06:46 AM
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How long dose the flickering last? Could be an internal problem with the main breaker you maybe able to hear arcing in the main breaker if it continues long enough.
Geo
 
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Old 02-08-14, 01:13 PM
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Hi Joe, thank you for the reply. I'll try and describe the set up as best as possible so you can "see" what we're dealing with. The pedestal is out across the front yard by the street. The meter is there. There is approx. 75' of buried wire that comes across the yard and up into the crawlspace and then into the room where the breaker box is. I guess it would be similar to what a mobile home uses but we are not a mobile home if that matters.

I did not see if the power company tightened anything. When the electrician we hired put the new pedestal in they had to use new connections to join the wires that were buried with the new wires on the pedestal. They used some long cylinder shaped metal clamps to join the ends of the wires. They put some sort of paste on the wire ends, clamped them together and then covered those clamps with electrical tape if my memory serves. then the new wires that they added came up into the new pedestal.

I will call the electric company Monday morning and ask them to send someone out where I can meet them. I am by no means an electrician but it would seem to me that if the breaker box checked out ok, the lights are flickering all over the house, its' not going to be one breaker or one appliance causing a problem. Since it is systematic then wouldn't that mean it's tied to the main power feed? Am I off base there or can a bad breaker or the like affect the whole system?

Thank you again for the reply.
 
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Old 02-08-14, 01:24 PM
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It is very random. It will last anywhere from 2-3 seconds up to 8-10 seconds. I was sitting about 3-4 feet from the panel the other morning when the lamp next to me started flickering and I heard nothing at all from the panel or anywhere else. I assume it would be loud enough to hear from that close? Thank you for the reply.
 
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Old 02-08-14, 01:28 PM
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If this is affecting everything in the house the problem is either in the panel or upstream on the power company side.
 
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Old 02-08-14, 02:07 PM
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I just spoke with the electrician that did the work. I updated him on the flickering still being present and asked about the line between the pedestal and the house breaker box. He said he really doesn't think it is the line in the yard, but he suspects the breaker that was loose?discolored to be the problem. He said he will come over and replace that breaker and we will see if that fixes it. I appreciate him wanting to try the less expensive options first to solve the problem. I am not familiar enough with this stuff to know if one bad breaker on a panel can cause issues with the rest of the breakers in the box. I've called a few friends that have built homes and the like and they tell me that it can and it would be best to start there first, but they readily admit they are not electricians. This is a very frustrating process but I do prefer this route as opposed to the guy that just wants to dig up the yard and charge me 2 grand. lol

What would you folks say with this new bit of info? Thank you again for the assistance.
 
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Old 02-08-14, 02:13 PM
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Angry

ok so the lights were just flickering and I ran to turn the breaker in question off and that freakin lights are still flickering. So unless the breaker can still cause issues being off, thats not the issue.
 
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Old 02-08-14, 07:28 PM
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When the electrician we hired put the new pedestal in they had to use new connections to join the wires that were buried with the new wires on the pedestal. They used some long cylinder shaped metal clamps to join the ends of the wires. They put some sort of paste on the wire ends, clamped them together and then covered those clamps with electrical tape if my memory serves. then the new wires that they added came up into the new pedestal.
Those long cylinder shaped metal clamps are compression butt splice connectors, sometimes call Hypress connectors, and are usually pretty reliable especially when the aluminum conductors are coated with the oxide inhibiting compound you described, but they cannot be used underground with just tape covering them. Were those connections buried? If so, that is probably your problem.
 
  #11  
Old 02-11-14, 11:26 AM
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well, for some reason the flickering has not shown up for the last 24 hours. Our electrician got upset at the power company implying he might need to recheck/redo the connection underground and he got problematic. I cut ties with him and didn't let him come and change out the breaker he was so adamant was the problem. I'm not sure if the second power company guy came out and tightened something in the pedestal outside just enough to stop the problem, but the timing is funny. They were there about 10:30 yesterday morning according to the ticket on our door, and I noticed shortly after that the problem had stopped. I called the power company and there were no note about what they did other than the issue was fine on their end. So, I guess we will monitor the lights and see if the problem comes back. Does this seem like the correct course of action or would I be better served doing something else? I had contemplated calling another electrician to get him to check everything over just to be safe.

On a related note, thank you to everyone who provided feedback and assistance on here, it is much appreciated.
 
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Old 02-11-14, 02:12 PM
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Our electrician got upset at the power company implying he might need to recheck/redo the connection underground and he got problematic.
Those long cylinder shaped metal clamps are compression butt splice connectors, sometimes call Hypress connectors, and are usually pretty reliable especially when the aluminum conductors are coated with the oxide inhibiting compound you described, but they cannot be used underground with just tape covering them. Were those connections buried? If so, that is probably your problem.
You said the compessionj splice connectors were covered with tape. That type connector is not to be used underground, it isn't waterproof and neither is tape. When water or moisture gets to the aluminum conductor, it will start to corrode and shortly with be nothing but white power. If your lights start flickering again, I'd get a different electrician to come check the splices.
 
  #13  
Old 02-13-14, 07:37 PM
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Hi Joe, thank you for that feedback. I have tucked that bit of info away. It has been almost 4 days with no flickering but I am still contemplating calling another electrician to see what it would cost to have them come out and check everything over. I would guess that it could be as expensive as I want to have the guy come and look over everything.

Thank you again for everyone's replies and direction. This site is very helpful!
 
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