Is the house electrical system killing my electronics?


  #1  
Old 10-31-15, 01:10 PM
J
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 39
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Question Is the house electrical system killing my electronics?

I've been in a home for the past year that was built in the 1960s.

There's been a number of electrical things that have happened that I'm wondering if they weren't just coincidences:

1) 1200 watt Microwave stopped working - by all looks it functioned fine but food never warmed up. No errors or anything, just no actual microwaving happening.

2) Clock on the stove resets. I know it's on the same circuit as the exhaust fan right above it (that the microwave is also on). This is the only A/C-powered clock in the house, so I can't tell if power in the whole house went out or not {we don't leave stuff on when gone or sleeping}.

3) 3 month old dehumidifier stopped working - the error code pointed towards checking voltage and making sure it was within operating temperature(which it was).

4) A lot of the CFL lights have had to be replaced, in various rooms. Don't know when they were first installed. I haven't had to replace any that I myself replaced. However, a lot of them "whine" and make a high pitch sound.

5) Some CFL lights come on before others even on the same circuit. No dimmers. Haven't tried using the same bulbs to see if it's just different bulbs.

6) LED on one of the surge protectors blinks. Not sure if this means something or if the LED is just bad - it's a cheap, nothing special surge protector.

7) Lights noticeably dim when the fridge comes on, the dryer or washing machine comes on, sump pump, and of course when the A/C comes on. I know those draw more current but my panel is 100amp and aside from the A/C, they can't be drawing more than 15-20 amps {breakers}.


So, am I onto something or am I just getting used to how things work being a new homeowner and all? Is there any thing I can do to maybe monitor or test things myself, just to establish if I need to bring a pro in to get it checked out?

Thank you
 
  #2  
Old 10-31-15, 01:22 PM
J
Member
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 4,463
Received 128 Upvotes on 113 Posts
Sounds like a broken or loose neutral.
Call the power company's emergency number ASAP, do not put this off!
There going to come and check there end from the pole to your meter box.
If there end is OK time to call a real electrition, this is not a DIY fix.
 
  #3  
Old 10-31-15, 01:46 PM
J
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 39
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Thank you. This stuff has all happened over the course of a year, not everything was just yesterday, so just wanted to make that clear.

I'm not gonna DIY anything (I don't know anything aside from basic/common knowledge), I just posted on this forum because it was the first place I found for asking these types of questions. Just need to know if these things are normal for homes like mine (built in the 1960s).
 
  #4  
Old 11-01-15, 05:15 AM
J
Member
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 4,463
Received 128 Upvotes on 113 Posts
No it's not "normal" and could be a sign of a very dangerest condition!
I've seen houses burned down because of a neutral issue.
 
  #5  
Old 11-01-15, 05:59 AM
A
Member
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: USA
Posts: 4,531
Upvotes: 0
Received 279 Upvotes on 255 Posts
We need to bring back incandescent lights (bulbs). They are the canaries in the coal mine. They will go noticeably dim if there is a low voltage problem or in cases that need immediate attention, noticeably abnormally bright.
 
  #6  
Old 11-01-15, 10:14 AM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Jersey
Posts: 65,100
Received 3,982 Upvotes on 3,574 Posts
Welcome to the forums.

It doesn't appear you are in imminent danger. A voltmeter would be required to make voltage checks on the circuits in question... whether you did it yourself or had an electrician do it.
 
  #7  
Old 11-01-15, 11:35 AM
J
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 39
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Thanks for the welcome, PJmax.

I've used a voltmeter before doing simple troubleshooting on my car (though DC), I'm just scared to stick those handheld prongs in an outlet. It'd be nice if there was something out there that I could plug into an outlet that would give me numerical indication of the voltage of the serving circuit. I've heard of the kill-a-watt but haven't been able to find out if it gives realtime voltage readings.


I do have some incandescents in some rooms. Those are the rooms I really notice the dimming when other equipment comes on. However, I did notice the CFL in the bathroom gets brighter when I turn on the vacuum which I plugged into a different circuit. Does this mean that a light getting brighter means the circuit it's on is the loose neutral?
 
  #8  
Old 11-01-15, 11:50 AM
ray2047's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 29,711
Upvotes: 0
Received 15 Upvotes on 13 Posts
I'm just scared to stick those handheld prongs in an outlet. It'd be nice if there was something out there that I could plug into an outlet that would give me numerical indication of the voltage
Buy an extra set of probes for your meter. Cut off the probes and connect the wires to a plug. If you want you can turn the breaker off before inserting the plug then turn it back on to get your reading.

Note if the meter you have is digital and didn't cost a couple of hundred dollars it may occasionally give erroneous reading on AC. A cheap ($8-$15) analog multimeter will give more reliable readings. If you use a digital multimeter plug a lamp with an incandescent bulb into the other plug-in of the receptacle to get a more accurate reading.
 
  #9  
Old 11-01-15, 02:39 PM
J
Member
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 4,463
Received 128 Upvotes on 113 Posts
So you still have not called the power company!
How are you going to get shocked holding the plastic probs? Just not going to happen.
Would you even now what to look for when getting the readings?
This exact same issue has been posted here dozens of times, most got fixed by the power company fixing things on there end.
 
  #10  
Old 11-01-15, 03:27 PM
M
Member
Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: USA
Posts: 95
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
I have a Kill-A-Watt. it does give realtime voltage readings. Menard's sells it in a power strip.

I looked at each of your symptoms:

1) Microwave stopped working - The magnetron has failed. This could be related to other failures, it could be caused by putting metal in the oven, or it might just be a failure.

2) Clock on the stove resets. - This is usually related to sudden surges or sags. I have found that some clocks and timers are affected by voltage surges.

3) 3 month old dehumidifier stopped working - Does it reset and operate normally after being disconnected fo9r 10 minutes? If so, it detected a power sag or failure and protected its compressor. If it quit, it should be under warranty.

4) A lot of the CFL lights have had to be replaced - That's why I stopped using CFLs. The life numbers on CFLs are totally bogus, but are still required by law. A CFL is good for about 6500 starts, but is immune to the time it is left on. So if you put it on a motion detector in a high traffic area, you have to replace it every few months.

CFLs and LEDs also fail if they are allowed to overheat. Some must not be used with the screw base pointing up. Many may not be used in enclosed fixtures. others work just fine in these conditions.

Never heard any CFLs whining, but they do have approximately 20 KHz oscillators in them - within human hearing range. Loose parts in the lamp might vibrate, but they don't cause failure.

5) Some CFL and LED lights come on before others - How long a bulb takes to start depends on the design. Lamps of the same make and model should behave similarly.

6) LED on one of the surge protectors blinks - Are we talking about a tiny LED om the strip, or an LED room illumination light bulb. Is it blinking when the surge protector is on, or when it is off?

- If a tiny LED is blinking, check the instructions. It may indicate that the surge protector absorbed a surge large enough to destroy the surge protecting device. Replace the surge protector if this is true.

- If an LED light bulb blinks when it is on, either the surge protector and the bulb electronics fight each other, or the bulb is bad.

- If an LED light bulb blinks when the surge protector is off, a noise suppression capacitor in the surge protector is passing enough current to charge up and fire the light. Adding more load to the surge protector will stop this.

7) Lights noticeably dim when a motor comes on - Do all of the lights dim? If the lights just dim momentarily, it is because the starting current of a motor is much higher than the running current of the motor. It might be that the service drop or entrance wiring is too small. If some lights brighten while others dim, you have a high resistance neutral in the service drop or the electric meter.

Any failure in the service drop or the electric usage meter is the responsibility of the power company. You do not have to pay for a service call for this. And lightning can cause the high resistance neutral - it happened to me TWICE!.
 
  #11  
Old 11-02-15, 07:53 AM
I
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Near Lansing, Michigan
Posts: 9,785
Upvotes: 0
Received 45 Upvotes on 43 Posts
You have classic symptoms of a loose or broken neutral. Step one is to call the power company and have them come out to inspect their side of the service. Step two if the power company doesn't find the problem is to have an electrician come out and inspect your side of the service and panel box. This is the sort of problem that gets worse over time until you have major expensive damage and/or a fire. Call the power company ASAP.
 
  #12  
Old 11-02-15, 07:17 PM
J
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 39
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Yep, the issue was rusted out wires at the meter connection, which the power company took care of. Thanks for all the advice!

MidiMagic, thanks for addressing each point - I think I'll pickup a kill-a-watt just to see the numbers.

3) Dehumidifier compressor died. It didn't come back to life after a reset. It's since been exchanged.

4) I guess that makes sense. Our lights see a lot of on/off cycling. We turn things off when we're not around.

6) This is the LED or possibly neon bulb that I generally thought simply indicated if the strip was getting power. It's more a flicker than a steady/timed blink.

7) Yes, some lights would dim, others would get brighter (and stay brighter while something like the vacuum was on). After the power company replaced stuff, I haven't seen the "brightness" phenomenon again but some lights still do dim.
 

Last edited by jpritzen1; 11-02-15 at 07:51 PM.
 

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
 
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Description:
Your question will be posted in: