lights dim with 200 amp service

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  #1  
Old 07-21-02, 07:19 PM
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groovydogg
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lights dim with 200 amp service

I have a 200 amp service and the lights still dim when an appliance kicks in. is that correct?
 
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  #2  
Old 07-21-02, 07:28 PM
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MTgets
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Just because you have a 200 amp service, the branch circuits may be overloaded, meaning there may be to many devices drawing power from the same circuit, check and see what is all on that circuit.

Also carefully check that the nuetrals are tightened down in the panel, each branch circuit nuetral under each screw on the bar, and the incoming main into the big lug, it may have loosened up.

post back with your findings.
 
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Old 07-21-02, 08:06 PM
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groovydogg
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thanks

We just bought the house and have a fed pacific box that has a secondary box off of it. I can't imagine why there would ba an over load. We have no big appliances and the dimming happens when anything is turned on (TV, another light, etc) I have been told tht I should replace the fed box and after reading about it on the internet i am going to. Unfortuantely our house inspector was an idiot and completely understated the risk of the box (he missed a bunch of other thing too). I am going to do the replace myself. It seems pretty straight forward. I'll look into the loose neutrals and let you know whay I find.
Brad
 
  #4  
Old 07-21-02, 08:27 PM
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Just because you have 200 on the label doesnt mean you have it coming in. I wire a new house for my neighbor that has same problem,,, the utility put a little dinky wire coming in and left a crummy old xformer on the pole... I told him to call ppower quality and complain.
 
  #5  
Old 07-21-02, 09:27 PM
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menjii
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Same problem

Groovydogg, I sympathize. I wonder what area of the country you write from. Two years ago, we bought land, we got brand new service with 2 poles to the house, new wire, and new transformer. The lights flickered or dimmed or completely went out 5-6 times a week. 220 amp service, we thought. The utilty co. hung a diagnostic box on the pole before the meter. Their fault.
The ran a secondary to the house, more new wire. Better for a while, more new neighbors, more casinos, same problem worse than ever. 4 days ago they came and pulled up our two year old poles, put in a taller one and drew the primary hot wire to within 20 feet of the house and hung the new transformer right there instead of 100 yards away. Guess what, now when the lights flicker and dim, it seems crisper, more punctuated, but the floor fan still speeds up and slows down at will. The power hasn't shut off in four days (rare) but the variance in supply is no better, just more pronounced. Three TV's and 2 VCR's with power supply wear later, it just might not be a fixable thing.
I wonder if there is some kind of home voltage regulator available.
We wouldn't be able to afford one, but is there such a thing?
menjii
 
  #6  
Old 07-21-02, 09:56 PM
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Lights flicker and dim

http://www.powerhousetv.com/basics/p...reventing.php3

Fire Safety Issues:

"The problem is not necessarily our wiring - it's what we are asking it to do. The older your home is, the less equipped it is to run the combination of household appliances that we run all the time with little thought - refrigerators, ovens, and a plethora of smaller items like lights, clocks, TVs, computers, aquariums, humidifiers, et cetera. If your lights dim when your refrigerator kicks on, you have a problem and you need to tend to it immediately. If there is no "brown out" when a normal appliance turns on, a hair dryer for instance, then you are probably not overloading your wiring and - all things equal - you should not be in immediate danger. (Air conditioner units usually run off of a different circuit so a brown out when the A/C kicks on is not necessarily a danger sign). " Barton, Beth. Fire Safety. Retrieved 22 July 2002. http://www.mhna.org/fire_safety.htm
 
  #7  
Old 07-21-02, 10:50 PM
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menjii
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a word to the wise...

Thanks, twelvepole for the hints, we will heed them and see if this helps.
We have a 35 year old home, and although we don't even run AC, except at night, perhaps there are too many things unnecessarily plugged in. We have very few of the conveniences you mentioned, but anything could help, if this the issue. We'll try it. Do you mean that even if the appliance is off those wires are drawing current?
menjii
 
  #8  
Old 07-22-02, 04:22 AM
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menjii:
The cause for the light dimming is voltage drop. Voltage drop occurs when more amperage is being drawn than the conductor can carry. To get 120 volts, the black wire is connected to one breaker, which is connected to one hot leg and the white wire is connected to the neutral bar. The breakers that are connected this way must be balanced between the two hot legs. Not so much the physical connection but the actual current draw. A simple way to check this would be to turn off every breaker in the panel except one of the lighting circuits and a different breaker for an appliance. If the light still dims when your appliance turns on the voltage drop is probably occuring in the whole panel as was suggested by everyone else.
A way to locate the source of the voltage drop is to check the voltage at various points with a good analog volt meter.
When working in a live panel you must be very carefull, and if not confident in your abilities with electricty, get a qualified electrician to try this.
Place one probe on the neutral bar and the other on the main lug on the 200 amp breaker. While watching the needle have someone turn something on and watch what the needle does. Do this on one hot leg and then the other.
If the needle drops this indicates that the voltage drop is occuring before your panel. If this is the case the utility should be responsible. Could be something as simple as an improperly seated meter.

Quote: "Unfortuantely our house inspector was an idiot and completely understated the risk of the box "

I'm curious to know what the risk is with a federal box?
 
  #9  
Old 07-22-02, 06:21 AM
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You never know whats going to happen with a Fed panel. Someone on another site had a link to a site about it but cant remember where it was. The warning site focussed on double pole breakers locking up, but I have seen singles fail to trip also. I replaced all I have had.
 
  #10  
Old 07-22-02, 06:54 AM
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One thing that I haven't seen anyone touch on is that the conductors that feed the service from the meter itself may be loose. Living in the heat we have a/c's running all of the time here and I have had many service calls describing the same problem of dimming lights and brown outs and so forth.
The majority of the time I have found that the trouble was service related as in loose connections both in the service panel and Load and Line side of meter. I have even seen the required washers in the meter put on improperly and cause this problem.
Since this deals with the meter can and Live circuits that are not user serviceable, once you have exhausted tightening all of the connections inside of the home you might want to call a reputable electrician in your area and have him look at the service and the meter can. I would in NO WAY advocate a do-it-yourselfer attempting to correct anything regarding the meter can I merely mention this as it might be a cause of your symptoms. BY ALL MEANS call an electrician to perform this check for you, do not attempt to do it yourself. There is NO protection on the secondary side of the power company transformer.
 
  #11  
Old 07-22-02, 01:44 PM
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groovydogg
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our house inspector told us that the fed boxes are inconvienent to work on and many electricians will require that the box be changed before they will do anything to them. I have since learned about the failing to trip problem. I have looked in side the box and a couple of the breakers have wires that have melted insulation (about 1/8-1/4 inch worth) I can only assume that that means that too much current went through the wire. I am atill contemplating doing the change myself. If it a straight forward deal and just hooking up the new the same way the old was than I can do it. BUT the problem is while doing a little recon in the box today I saw a (red) wire that is not hooked into anything. When I put a VOM it reads about 40 volts AC. the wire was just "hanging out" not cap no wore just an expose end. it comes from a cable that has a red, black, white and ground cable. My problem is now, "do I rewire and possibly wire the old problem into a new box?" unless a problem is huge/blatently obvious I would not recognize it. Also I don't know if this is connected but there is a circuit that the lights blow out very often (about once a month)
 
  #12  
Old 07-22-02, 04:04 PM
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Wgoodrich
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When you see bubbling of insulation in close proximity of a connection such as your neutral bar, breaker lug or even a wire nut you have a loose connection if that bubbling does not continue further down the conductor.

Consider any insulation that is bubbling next to a connection as a loose connection that needs that damaged part of the wire to be cut off and then inspect the lug it was connected to for discoloration or other heating damage signs. If you see the lug that wire connected to then you need to replace that lug or that breaker that lug is mounted on. Then make a good connection using the undamaged wire that you cut back to.

This bubbling tells me that the people who posted that you have a loose connection was right on track. Question is if you have that many loose connection in you panel where else in the service conductors, meter or even in branch circuit switch, junction and receptacle boxes.

I would do some real close looking and see where else you find loose connections throughout that house.

Be concerned, loose connections are cause for a large percentage of house fires on record.

HOpe this helps

Wg
 
  #13  
Old 07-22-02, 11:51 PM
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Same type of problem

I don't know if anyone has this symptom, but I am having the same type of problem, although mine seems a bit more pronounced.
I get intermittent flickering on all circuits, both separately and together and any time. I have even gotten it on a brand new wired circuit, so it is not the circuit drawing too much since it was done to code. We have had the power company out twice to the house, once to replace the neturals and once for new wire to the house. The problem still happens. This happens with one little reading light on and nothing else, or it happens with anything on. We have already tried to tighten everything, but this was not the cause. I have made it my mission to find the problem, too bad I have to rely on other people. Any suggestions???

My service is new 200 amp, with a large Murray box, half filled. House is 40 years old.
 
  #14  
Old 07-23-02, 04:58 AM
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groovydogg
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I checked all the connections they seem tight enough. another question: What is the difference between the neutral and the ground? Why are they different if I show continuity from the ground bar to the neutral bar? I have yet to find a good source of info and I have been only able to do some (insulated) poking around in the box with a VOM. I won't attempt anything till I get a book. and YES! I know what not to touch!!!!!
 
  #15  
Old 07-23-02, 09:59 AM
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When you ask the difference between neutral and ground, you risk opening up one of those dialogues that goes for 50 posts and takes weeks. It seems to happen every time.

Maybe I can just head it off by saying that there is indeed a big difference, and just because you get continuity between them doesn't mean much. Many good books have been written on how grounding works, and there have been many long, long threads in this forum on the subject. I hesitate to say more for fear of opening Pandora's box.
 
  #16  
Old 07-23-02, 10:33 AM
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groovydogg:
Voltage drop or dimming occurs when more amperage is being drawn than the conductor or connection can carry.
I have been fairly successfull in locating these types of conditions in airconditioning work with a quality ANALOG volt meter.
If the meter is attached to the terminal screw of the breaker that supplies the affected light and neutral, the needle should waver in unison with the light dimming. If this happens you can then move the one lead from the breaker to the main breaker to see if you get the same response. If you do, you would expect to find the problem upstream of where you tested it.

Also make absolutly sure you know what you are doing around electricity, because a couple of hundred dollar repair bill from a qualified electrician is not worth your life.
 
  #17  
Old 07-23-02, 10:52 AM
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I have seen the same problem in cities several times where they have several services off of one xformer on a pole. The utility has a whole gobblygook of connections crimped on for several years,,, have even seen the problem lloked for and finally fell off in the parking lot was how they found it.
 
  #18  
Old 07-23-02, 10:49 PM
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sberry27, Here is the website for Federal Pacific imformation
http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpepanel.htm

I also agree with sparksone42, I've seen the problem at the point of attachement ( if you have a overhead service drop) or inside the meter can. If everthing else checks out on your end, contact your power company with this problem.



Fred
 
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