Washing Machine Flicker Dance ...

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Old 06-11-02, 10:56 AM
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Washing Machine Flicker Dance ...

The whole house experiences a subtle flickering when the washer agitates. Also, of course, everything dims when the compressor on the fridge comes on. I had the 60 amp fuse box upgraded to a 40 slot 200 amp breaker box last year and I can't remember if this problem was there before that or not I had so much going on at the time. The power company says voltage is okay on their side coming off the pole. Is there any way I can isolate this problem besides going through and pulling and checking every single receptacle/switch/ overhead light connection?
 
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  #2  
Old 06-11-02, 08:09 PM
Wgoodrich
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Open the door on your fridge and while the light is on in the fridge turn breakers off and back on until your fridge light goes out. Leave that breaker off that feeds power to your fridge. Then go try to start your washer and the lights that flicker. If all those mentioned are off then all you mentioned is on the same branch circuit. If this is true then you need to install a single branch circuit to the washer 12/2wGrnd and a second new branch circuit 14/2wGrnd or 12/2wGrnd to the fridge. That should solve you problems. I suspect someone upgraded the service for more power when their problems were the need to split up the branch circuits in the house. I suspect a partial correction to your wiring problems were performed. Often times people will upgrade a service in amps when the are tripping of experiencing dimming of lights due to too much load on one branch circuit. Once the new service was installed the problem was still there.

Let us know what you find.

Wg
 
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Old 06-11-02, 08:11 PM
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hope this helps

Sounds like a loose neutral to me. WITH EXTREME CAUTION, open your panel and check the incomming neutral wire, along with all the other neutrals in the panel.
 
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Old 06-12-02, 05:16 AM
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These circuits I know as I put them in. The fridge is on a dedicated 20A 12/2 wg. I put this in when I re-wired the kitchen. Do you want to know what was on that circuit before I split it? ... fridge, coffeemaker, microwave, studio/shop, exterior floods, den, 1/2 the LR, kitchen outlets, the outlet with my aquarium on it ... arrggh! I still don't have power in the studio as I had to move that to the bottom of the list. All wired with 50+ year old ungrounded cable and something that looked suspiciously like an old "heavy duty" (which is relative) extension cord. The neutrals in the box are tight. I have not, however, checked the incoming neutral, I don't mess with stuff on the other side of that main breaker, and I test stuff on this side irregardless of if it's "off" or not. I'm not even going to go there.

The washer, on the other hand, I'm not sure about if anything else is on the same circuit or not. I do know that it was added within the last 5 years or so, but I'm practically certain that they probably tapped off an existing circuit rather than messing with a fuse box, it was/is one of the few original circuits left.
 

Last edited by diylady; 06-12-02 at 08:38 AM.
  #5  
Old 06-12-02, 02:21 PM
Wgoodrich
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YOu mentioned that lights were also dimming when the fridge kicked on. You did not list any lighting on that fridge circuit. This would lead us to believe that either marcerrin was right in suspecting a neutral conductor being loose on the line side of the main affecting more than one circuit or that your main service rated panel is too small for your dwelling load or you Utility service wires owned by the utility company is too small for your dwelling load.

I still would lke to hear what you have on with the washer circuit. If you have lighting on that same circuit you may still have a branch circuit flux caused by the cycling load of that washer while in agitation.

A washer motor is under increased load each time the agitator changes directions whether up and down motion or side to side motion. YOu could put an amprobe tester measuring amps being pulled by that washer and the needle of that amprobe would move up and down on the meter cycling with the change of direction of the agitater of that washer. This is normal. Bad thing is that if lighting is on the same branch circuit as that washer you will see dimming timed same as the reverse off rotation of that agitator because of the constant flux of current being pulled during agitation of that washer on the motor load.

Right now with what you have informed us we still are up in air as to whether marcerrin is right about the loose neutral or I am right about the other suspected causes. Poor marcerrin, it is kind of like he bet on the one horse in the race and I bet on all the other horses in the same race. However he may be right if his horse was the favorite in odds. His suspected cause can be a high favorite in this project. I still would like to hear what is not that branch circuit sharing the washer load and if the dimming of lights are on the same circuit or a third branch circuit involved in this story.

Curious

Wg
 
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Old 06-12-02, 03:05 PM
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I'll have to get back to you WG on what else, if anything is on that washer circuit as I've got errands to run this evening and don't have the time to try to pinpoint. May have to wait 'til the weekend.

The Power company "checked the voltage" (their words, not mine) they said (I wasn't here) at the pole and at the house. They said it was okay. They were really quite nice over the phone. They are aware that it was upgraded from a 60 amp fuse box to a 200 amp panel. To me that incoming wire looks about half the size of the wires coming out of the masthead. The house does not have central H/AC but rather, window units (2 - one of 8,000 BTUs the other 12 we think without pulling the front off. Amps unknown I'm afraid. ) Heat is supplied by NG space heaters. Actually what I mentioned in the prior post about what was on the circuit that I split up is most of the electrical load on the house, with the addition of two computers and the lights of course. That circuit was split up into 2-20a GFCI small appliance circuits;1-15a kitchen lights; 1-15a LR/den receptacles (which has my aquarium on it). I did not hook up the exteriror floods, or the studio. This will be done as time/projects permit (who has time to throw pottery these days anyway? *sigh*)

There is a 100 amp sub-panel in the shop which at the moment has 1-20 amp circuit in it. Interesting enough, I asked my husband to observe the lights in the house the other day when I was sawing and he said they did not dim that he could see, although this is not definitive; that saw may not dim the lights from a receptacle inside the house either. I did not put the sub-panel in (although I did do the circuit.) The electrician who did the upgrade did that.

There is no lighting on the 'fridge circuit; there is nothing on the circuit except the fridge. One wire run straight from the box to the outlet, a distance of about 40' give or take including the drops.

What concerns me besides the annoyance factor is that I would like to, this fall ($$$ permitting) have a heat pump installed, and we also want to go from a gas water heater (which has given us nothing but grief and is only a couple of years old) to electric. How is this problem going to affect those plans?

I think my original question was/is will any loose neutral on my side of the line (not just the main incoming, and not just in the box) might cause the flickering/dimming, and if so is there some method I could use to figure out which circuit it's on and go from there. I'm sorry this is so long, WG and marcerrin but I realize it's rather like a game of 20 questions trying to analyze long distance.
 
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Old 06-12-02, 03:40 PM
Wgoodrich
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Considering the info you have given us then adding the info that you added in this last post I am still leaning on a lighting mixed on the same branch cricuit as the washer that is causing your problem.

When you can let us know what all is on the same branch circuit as your washer branch circuit.

Wg
 
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Old 06-13-02, 04:33 PM
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WG, the best I tell, taking my neon tester around after flipping the breaker on the washer (I'd previously mapped circuits, but it's been a while so I was double-checking) there is one receptacle on the same circuit as the washing machine. This one is located right under the panel and I seem to remember the electrician saying that since he had to make a junction there anyway he went ahead and put in a receptacle.
 
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Old 06-13-02, 06:23 PM
Wgoodrich
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I know I can be a pain at times pumping out questions but it is needed sometimes.

Sounds like your washer is on a dedicated branch circuit without lighting on that branch circuit. One more possibility connecting the dimming of lights to that washer can be lights and washer on the same sub panel fed by a common feeder from the main service rated panel. Is you washer on a sub panel then fed by that sub panel from that main service rated panel. If so shut down that sub panel and see what is shut off with the washer.

If you have no sub panel involved then either you have too much load on your 200 amp main service, a 200 amp main service panel with service conductors that are too small, a loose connection like marcerin suggested or we are back to the utility company power supply being too small.

Tell us if the sub panel is a factor as discribed above, if not then tell us what size wires are connected to your 200 amp main breaker, then also look for any heating of a hot or neutral connection in that panel concerning the main larger sized conductors in that panel.

Curioius

Wg
 
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Old 06-13-02, 06:52 PM
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Wg, I hope nobody thinks your questions are a pain. If we were there, we could answer a hundred questions in one glance. But in this forum, we often have to ask the 100 questions. We try to start with the ones most likely to pinpoint the problem, but sometimes we need to dig deeper.
 
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Old 06-13-02, 06:56 PM
Wgoodrich
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John you are right and this diagnostic venture with the dimming of lights has been a bugger to figure out down to a pinpoint, thats it progression. Have you noticed lately that the diagnostic problems on these posts are getting more and more with a wide range of variables that could apply to that one problem being discussed. Seems like the problems are getting more technical in nature than they used to be. Is it possible that people are getting more informed due to the DIY thus wanting to try a diagnostic problem they would not have attempted a year ago?

Thanks for the support

Wg
 
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Old 06-14-02, 04:02 AM
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WG, I think you're right. Also some of these problems people may have just "lived with" at one time. The internet has indeed in some cases made for a more informed public.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words (and maybe the other 99 questions ) so I'll take a couple tomorrow sometime and post them, a couple of the panel, and one of the electrical service entry. I think a loose neutral *some*where is a distinct possibility. I know for instance that there is one circuit in the house that I've got the wire running through about 4 junction boxes in the attic where I cut out some of that potentially dangerous "extension cord" wire. It was about 115 degrees up there at the time. It is possible that I wasn't as careful as I should have been
 
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