Flickering indoor lights

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Old 04-02-11, 07:37 AM
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Flickering indoor lights

I have had a problem with my wall and ceiling lights flickering from time to time. This does not happen with plug-in lights, TVs, etc. I've had the electric company out and told me I need an electrician as it's not their problem. I've had an electrician in finding nothing inside. He told me it's the electric company's issue. I live in a townhouse. Please help!
 
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Old 04-02-11, 08:22 AM
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Welcome to the forums! Did your electrician take the cover off the circuit breaker panel?? Do you have a master cut off switch next to your meter base? Did he pull every receptacle and light switch in the house? See where I am going?
 
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Old 04-02-11, 10:18 AM
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Sometimes flicker occurs when a motor starts up ie your heat pump blower or something like that. It has to do with the size of wire feeding the service from the utility company. Usually there's not much that can become short of enlarging the feed from the power lines to your service.
 
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Old 04-02-11, 01:14 PM
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Thanks for yr reply. I understand what your saying, but I've lived here 8+ yrs and have only noticed this in the last 6 mos or so. Why wouldn't it have done it sooner???
 
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Old 04-02-11, 02:39 PM
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If this problem is a recent development then its probably not the power coming in. Do all of the lights flicker or just some of them? How long do they flicker? just for a second or for a couple minutes? Have you had any new appliances installed within that time or had any work done by tradesmen ?

 
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Old 04-21-11, 08:57 AM
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The flickering lasts for a few minutes at a time usually. It seems to be affecting all ceiling and wall mounted lights - not the plug-ins. No work has been done since it has been ocurring. Last year I purchased a new refrigerator but that's it.
 
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Old 04-21-11, 12:29 PM
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Again, what did your electrician do? A cursory look around won't get it. He should have pulled the cover off the panel, or at least checked the stab backs on the receptacles, etc. to see if there was a problem there. They make good money, but they should earn it.
 
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Old 10-07-11, 12:25 PM
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I have a very good electrician friend, and I have a similar problem which I'll describe shortly. But he gave me some good advice on how to troubleshoot flickering lights, so I'll pass it on to you. Please don't do anything below if you don't understand it, or you're not electrically "savvy". I don't mean this to be detailed instructions for an amateur, it's just some ideas for the DIY folks that have some experience and are comfortable doing it.

First, flickering lights can indicate a dangerous situation. Usually it means there is a resistive connection somewhere, (like a loose wire connection), and that can create heat... which can start a fire! So I suggest you get this taken care of ASAP.

Start by shutting off the breaker to the lights that are flickering. If it takes more than one breaker to kill all of the ones that flicker, then that's a clue that maybe it's a "neutral" problem. But more on that later.

Once the breaker(s) are off, AND YOU'RE 100% SURE there is no voltage at the light sockets/switches, open all of them up. and pull out the wiring that is stuffed in. The flickering problem is most likely caused by a loose connection somewhere, and wire nuts not being properly attached can be a cause. Unscrew all of them and put them back on tight.

Next, take a look at your switches and any outlets associated with the flickering lights. Inside most of the boxes you will have 2 sets of wires coming into the box. One set is the voltage coming in, and the other is going out. One thing that some people do wrong is the take the incoming hot (blk usually) and Neutral (white usually), and the attach the incoming lines to the switch/outlet, and attach the outgoing line there too. That means that as the electricity travels from switch to socket to socket to switch to light fixture, etc, etc, through the house, it has to go through all of those switches and connections. That can cause resistance, and loading. The proper way is to wire nut both incoming and outgoing sets together, and then attach a short wire from the wire nut connection to the socket. That way, when the electricity travels throughout the circuits, it is going through the wire nut connections and not the switches and outlet connectors. Not sure if this is clear, but you should be able to find this information in picture or diagram form somewhere on the Internet.

Note: if you see 3 sets coming in/out of a particular box, it probably just means there is one set that is going up to a light or other appliance.

Now let's take a look at the main breaker box. When energized, there is a LOT of voltage in there, (220v typically from one side of neutral to the other) and it can kill you. So please read the following carefully before proceeding.


Safety:
1. The following should be done with the main breaker off at input to he main breaker box. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you should leave this part to an electrician... seriously.

2. Breakers sometimes *explode* when turning them off/on, so it's always prudent to wear safety glasses and turn your face away from the breaker box whenever you flip a breaker. Check out some pics on the Internet of exploded breakers, and the faces they've destroyed... it will scare you. SO IF YOU'VE NEVER DONE ANYTHING LIKE THIS BEFORE, OR DON'T FEEL CONFIDENT, GET AN ELECTRICIAN!

3. Your skin and heart are excellent conductors of electricity. When you work with electricity, and especially in a breaker box, even if you're sure the main breaker is off and there is no voltage there, don't touch anything with bare hands, and don't lean against the box or anything else while you're checking/tightening connections. Use insulated screwdrivers, and try to do what you can with one hand. Because if you happen to touch high voltage with one hand, and the other hand is touching "ground" (the breaker box, a pipe, etc), the electricity will go into one arm and out the other to get to ground. If you're heart is in the way, it won't stop, it will fry it's way through.

OK back to the process:

Once the main breaker is off, you'll have to take the breaker box cover off. Make sure your breakers fit tight, (pull them out and push them back in), and the wires going to them are attached tightly. Also, make sure there is only one wire per breaker. If not, correct that first. If you don't know how, call an electrician.

Next, check the "neutral" connections, (especially the one that is associated with the breaker for the offending lights). The neutral connections are usually white wires that attach to a strip along one or both sides of the breaker box inside. There should be one wire per hole, and they should all be very snug. (Don't crank them down too hard or you might strip or break something, but they should be very snug).

Next, if everything is tight and good in the breaker box, try swapping a breaker of the same kind and size (15 amp, etc) with another one from a room that is not flickering. AGAIN - SEE WARNINGS ABOVE ABOUT SAFETY, and call an electrician if you have any doubts.

Lastly, turn things back on and if the lights still flicker, follow the wires from the breaker box to the rooms/lights in question, and look for other possible connection boxes with wire nuts, etc. or other circuits that have been attached to the offending one. You'd be surprised what people do when they fool around with this stuff - tapping off power in boxes to add stuff, etc.

I think that's it. Good luck. My problem is bedroom lights flickering and I went through the process above and it stopped. Honestly, I never found anything obviously wrong, but I tightened everything up as I went and somehow the problem went away. So maybe there was just a little looseness somewhere.

Dan
 
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Old 10-09-11, 10:41 AM
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Well, I finally got around to laying down Gone With the Wind and reading this last post Most of the information in there is spot on. Only a few areas to touch on. You lost me on the electricity having to travel from switch to receptacle to receptacle to light, and causing resistance. Current moves so fast, adding something inactive in line won't make the trip any longer.
It may happen, and I'm sorry for those who may have experienced it......but breakers don't "explode". If that were the case I'd rather have a 15 amp breaker do it than a 200 amp main....see where I'm going? Make a statement, but back it up, please. In my years, I have seen pad mount transformers blow up, and that is quite devastating, but you are talking 15,000 volts and faulty equipment.
Hopefully in the past 6 months the OP has corrected her problem.
 
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Old 10-09-11, 12:23 PM
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Now let's take a look at the main breaker box. When energized, there is a LOT of voltage in there, (220v typically from one side of neutral to the other) and it can kill you. So please read the following carefully before proceeding.
Yes it can kill you but from neutral to hot is 120 volts ( 10%). From hot to hot is 240v ( 10%).

from one side of neutral to the other
Only one neutral so there really is no "other side". The poster probably meant neutral to hot.
 
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Old 10-15-11, 10:30 PM
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Sorry for writing a book. Thanks for the clarifications all. No matter how many times you read your post before submitting, there always seems to be a couple of things you miss.

You lost me on the electricity having to travel from switch to receptacle to receptacle to light, and causing resistance. Current moves so fast, adding something inactive in line won't make the trip any longer.
The resistance I speak of comes from connections which may not be tight, not from distance it travels. I just meant that the more "devices" electricity needs to go through on their way to neutral, the more chance of resistance along the way. Thus heat, etc.

...but breakers don't "explode".
Where I work, we've seen pictures of exploded breakers in our safety training. That has prompted the NFPA 70E regulation requiring people in industrial jobs to wear "arc flash" protective clothing, etc. when working with breakers. Just look up NFPA 70E or "arc flash" and you'll see some scary stuff. It may be overkill for the average 15 amp home breaker, but I still recommend caution over complacency when I'm giving advice.

Ray2047 your first sentence is correct. My bad on the voltage (220 vs. 240).

Only one neutral so there really is no "other side". The poster probably meant neutral to hot.
Actually I meant HOT to HOT. Each hot being 180 degrees out of phase with each other, and 110v from neutral. I just look at it in my head as neutral is at ground potential, and each phase of hot with respect to neutral in different directions. I'm sure we're saying the same thing, and it's probably too complex and unnecessary for the average DIY anyway.

- Dan
 
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