Flickering/Pulsing lights after sewer work


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Old 10-26-17, 09:40 AM
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Flickering/Pulsing lights after sewer work

The county has been replacing all the sewer lines in our neighborhood, and as a part of it they're redoing all the connections to each house. In our case they moved the water meter as well, so they moved/reconnected the water line. This was done on Tuesday. On Tuesday night, and last night, I noticed that our overhead lights now have an occasional flicker/pulse to them that was *not* happening before. When the lights flicker, the vent fan in the bathroom also seems to slow down, as does the dehumidifier in the basement. I've noticed it in pretty much every room.

It's an older house (1946) with a mix of original and newer wiring. Modern 200 amp panel, so draw shouldn't be an issue. Important to note that, in our case, the copper water line serves as the ground for the house, as the crew who replaced our side of the sewer connection in '16 found out. Could the county crew working on the sewer lines have messed up the grounding some way, causing the flicker? If not, what about the vibration from cutting into the road and digging 8' deep trenches? As this wasn't happening on Monday I can't see how it isn't *something* they did and want to make a convincing argument that they should pay if I need to involve an electrician.

Thanks!
 
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Old 10-26-17, 09:50 AM
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Question is the electric service to house under ground? Was PVC used in sewer work?
 
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Old 10-26-17, 10:03 AM
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As part of this work do you know if they replaced metal pipes with plastic? Do you have a voltage meter or multimeter and if so are you comfortable taking measurements inside the main panel? Measure AC voltage between each leg of the incoming electrical service and the metal breaker box. Each of these voltages should be close to 120V and the voltage between the two legs should be close to 240V.
 
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Old 10-26-17, 12:45 PM
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Service comes into the house above ground in back, so it's unlikely they physically knocked anything loose unless it was vibration--I was more concerned about the fact that the copper water line serves as the ground and that they were definitely messing with that. Not sure what they're using for the new sewer piping as I'm not there while the work is going on. The only way I know that they did my part of the street on tuesday is that a very large patch of my yard was dug up from the curb to the first cleanout.

I do have a multimeter, but it's a little guy so I'm not sure what its limits are. Would have to look when I get home.
 

Last edited by CJM_RVA; 10-26-17 at 12:46 PM. Reason: d
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Old 10-26-17, 12:53 PM
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Any multimeter should work.
 
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Old 10-26-17, 09:27 PM
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Could the county crew working on the sewer lines have messed up the grounding some way, causing the flicker?
Absolutely.

Actually the ground between the panel and the water service is a bond. But if you have a neutral problem in your electrical service.... the bond to the water system will hide the problem. The panel will use the ground as a neutral. If you've lost that ground..... the defective neutral will now be very noticeable.

Possibly the water service was moved and extended in plastic.
I'm guessing you have no ground rods either ?

As was mentioned.... check the two hot legs to neutral.
 
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Old 10-26-17, 10:15 PM
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You might want to call your electric company 24hr emergency number and tell them you think you have a bad neutral. If it is on their side the fix is free.
 
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Old 10-27-17, 01:40 PM
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Didn't get a chance to check the lines coming into the main panel last night, but I'll try to tonight. Thanks for the tip about mentioning the potential bad neutral to the electrical company.

As far as I know there aren't any ground rods, but would there be any external indication if there were? In any case though, unless it was using the entire water system as a very distributed ground, there's still a good 30' of copper line running 8' underground from the basement wall out to where it meets the county system, for what that's worth.
 

Last edited by CJM_RVA; 10-27-17 at 02:05 PM. Reason: clarity
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Old 10-30-17, 08:22 AM
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unless it was using the entire water system as a very distributed ground
That's essentially what happens, but as a neutral not a ground. If your service neutral is broken, current can flow through the copper plumbing to your neighbor's house and use their neutral to get back to the power company transformer. Some also goes through the earth itself, but if a metal path exists, the metal path will be preferred by the current flow.
 
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Old 11-08-17, 03:40 PM
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Well I finally talked to the construction supervisor with the county, and he said he'd never heard of electrical issues from the work but was willing to look into it. His first idea was to basically jump around the new work by connecting a copper wire to the water pipe coming out of the house, before the part that they moved, dig a shallow trench for it and connect it to the county water supply pipe farther down from where the new part tied in. That doesn't seem to have accomplished anything, so I think I'll be talking to the power company next unless he has another idea...
 
 

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