Lights Flickering...

regina_phalangeJanuary 12, 2011

We paid an electrician to put in a ceiling light in a room with no overhead lighting. The next day it started flickering and then the circuit tripped. So I called the electrician and he came back out, told us we needed to put it on a new circuit and we payed him an extra $435 to put that in. It hasn't tripped again but it's still flickering....badly. Could this be related to the wiring?

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"Could this be related to the wiring?"

Well, it is either the wiring or a ghost is messing with the switch. It sounds like you have a loose connection either in the branch wiring to the fixture or within the fixture itself.

Unless this is the kitchen, you didn't need a new circuit for 1 light. I think you got taken there.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 1:06PM
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Thanks for the feedback! There was way more than 1 light on the circuit. The room was the formal living room which we are using as an office. The outlets in the room were on the same circuit (my computer is hooked up to said outlet). Also on the same circuit were the entry way light, the dinning room light, the hallway light and the laundry room light. They split it and made a new circuit for just the living room (lights and outlet) and left the rest on the old circuit.

It's strange b/c the lights do not flicker all the time. They are not flickering right now. I'm sure they won't be when the electrician comes back.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 3:21PM
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btw, sorry if my question sounds silly but my husband is saying maybe it's the light bulbs or the fan. I think he's just hesitant to call the electrician back out a third time. The electrician is not the friendliest. I just don't want to return the fan, install it myself (or pay someone else to) after I already paid him if the problem is likely the wiring that was done by the electrician.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 3:29PM
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OUCH!... taken indeed. Time to play hardball, i.e. you want the flickering *EXPLAINED*, then FIXED, HALF (or more) of your $$ refunded, or you call the AHJ/permit-granting and/or state licensing officials, re: substandard work, UNnecessary work, NO PERMIT PULLED, etc.

Hopefully flickering is NOT caused by something I recently found in a family member's rental prop: previous owner installed dining room chandelier where none existed... ding-a-ling decided to pick up HOT from adjacent kitchen switch... but, per usual, this j-box contained only a switch-loop, i.e. NO NEUTRAL... what's a safety-be-damned jury-rigging scumbag to do? Why, tie the neutral wire from the new light fixture to the YOKE SCREW of its new (2-in-1-gang) switch, of course! Yeah, let that lazy EMT conduit carry some current for a change! Heck, the wallplate will protect the tenants, right?!

Needless to say, over time, that rusting plaster-encrusted yoke screw became a faulty "neutral" conductor... flickering ensued.

Of course this jury-rig had no box in the ceiling... yep, just a bar across the hole, the lightweight fixture hanging FROM THE PLASTER and lathe. :rolleyes:

Hope your new install is not THAT egregious, but obviously, the flickering indicates a DANGEROUS FAULT. UNacceptable! How does a (licensed?) sparky walk away from that, and consider it "done"???

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 3:34PM
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Started post before seeing any of OP's follow-ups, walked away, came back... still, this REEKS of bad work. The flickering MIGHT be confined to, and caused by the new fan-light combo, but is still indicative of a potentially dangerous fault, and might well be the "bad neutral" scenario I detailed above.

That was NOT an especially loaded branch circuit, and the installation of a whole new branch was clueless-ness at best, scamming at worst, likely a combination of the two... neither motive belongs in residential wiring.

The fact that other lights on branch are steady indicates that computer/surge-protector/UPS/office equipment are NOT "dirtying up" the existing branch circuit. There's something bogus here, and it can't be wished away.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 3:47PM
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Thank you for responding!

I have to admit I'm pretty clueless and don't understand the whole bad neutral thing. FWIW, they used the switch for the outlet in room to wire the new fan/light combo. The main guy complained that it was a hard job, I guess because of the direction the joists were running in the ceiling (first floor of 2 story house). Took him a full day and had to make logs of holes in the wall/ceiling. It was part of a 2 day job totally over $2,000 (can lights in family room, kitchen, furrowing out a wall in front of fireplace and mounting TV over top, wiring behind and then under the house and into the closet for all boxes/blueray/etc). He said the doing the light/fan combo in the living room was the hardest part of the job. There were 3 guys...the main guy I'm not a fan of and he seems shady to me but the two workers were really nice and seemed like they knew what they were doing to me.

When they came back out for the tripping, they checked all the outlets and switches and did amperage readings at the box and said it was overloaded. I guess that room wasn't meant to use a lot of electricity as a formal living room with no overhead light and turned into an office with a lot of electronics hooked up and a new light/fan installed. Is that B.S?? I don't know...they could have easily taken me.

We hired them because they had tons of positive reviews on -- no negative reviews.

Dh just tried tapping the wall and switch to see if that would initiate the flickering while the light was on but it didn't do anything. Would that happen if something was loose? Now I'm really worried that there is a dangerous situation going on...

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 4:44PM
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Putting the living room on it's own circuit isn't a bad thing, but it probably wasn't required. None of the things you mentioned are really big electricity users that would overload a circuit. It sounds like he didn't know what else to do, so he just did something he could charge you for and hoped it would fix the problem.

Things to check before you go spending more money:

Do you see similar problems at the outlets? Plug in a couple of table/floor lamps and check.

Are you using CFL's? If so, cheap ones sometimes have problems.

Does the fan have a remote? If so, there often isn't a lot of room for the receiver in the fan mounting. That leads people to try to jam the thing in. They usually have higher gauge braided wire that doesn't respond well to tugging or pulling at the connection.

Just a note on neutral vs live: The live (black) wire is what is driving your home's electricity. Homes use AC or alternating current. The voltage on that black wire is alternating between 120 positive and 120 negative which either pushes or pulls electrons back and forth. That is where the neutral comes in. It is providing a place for the live wire to push electrons to and then a place to pull them back from. Without it, the electrons can't move and you get no current. If someone checks a junction and sees it has "power" they are talking about the live portion. If you know the live is good but the box still doesn't work, then the problem is probably in the neutral side.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2011 at 9:08AM
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The tester described sounds like a "wiggy" (Wigginton). For AC only. It uses a solenoid to move the indicator. The higher the voltage, the further the indicator moves. The wiggy requires a complete circuit to work. It does not read phantom voltage. It draws the power for operation from the circuit being tested, no batteries. It vibrates when energized for audible and tactile indication of energized circuits. It is possible that one might have an ungrounded energized conductor that is capable of delivering a dangerous electrical shock and the wiggy would not indicate due to lack of neutral or ground.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2011 at 1:22PM
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bus_driver - thank you for responding. I'm afraid your post went completely over my head.

billl - the outlets work fine. The fan does not have a remote. We are using CFLs and after reading your post we went and bought two other brands to see if that might be the problem but the issue persists. Additionally, we got around to installing a new ceiling fan in an upstairs bedroom and are now having the same problem with that fan. There was already a fan installed in that room but it did not have lights and we wanted to change from brass to brushed nickel so we swapped it out.

After googling, I'm pretty sure I've discovered the problem. According to 2005 EPA regulations (Federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act Regulations for Ceiling Fans and Ceiling Fan Light Kits As A Result of the Energy Policy Act of 2005), all ceiling fans with lights must have wattage limiters installed that prevent the lights from exceeding 190w. It's a dimmer inside that prevents it from going over and that's what's causing the flickering. Using incandescent lights resolves the problem. Even if we just swap ONE of the CFLs out for an incandescent light, the flickering stops. Apparently CFLs just don't work with any kind of dimmers. Our actual fan does not have a dimmer (or a remote) but the internal dimmer is there to prevent the wattage from exceeding. So now because of this EPA regulation, I have to use MORE wattage by going with incandescent. Wow, our government is really dumb.

Thread of interest:

    Bookmark   January 15, 2011 at 9:53PM
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WOW... had no clue about that stupidity from Duh Gov... glad you figured it out... still think your sparky should've known that.

So now, in addition to smuggling in "bootleg" toilets from Canada, the most desirable ceiling fans will also come from the Great White North, LOL!

One of my ceiling fans has four 60W incandescents, in the center of a large-ish room, on a DIMMER, each bulb in a separate reflector, pointed in separate and useful directions... tried 40Watters... just didn't do it... I feel so naughty... like a "pirate"... LOL.

So now because of this EPA regulation, I have to use MORE wattage by going with incandescent. Wow, our government is really dumb.

That's why they get bigger raises than you, and WAY better benefits and pension plans... 'cause they ALWAYS find SOMETHING "urgent" that "absolutely needs" to be done... yeah, right... GRRRrrrr.

PS: I am totally open to low-E bulbs that work with existing dimmers... do they exist?

    Bookmark   January 18, 2011 at 10:07PM
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Yes, you can get CFs that work with dimmers. It just takes a little more looking.

Most LED retrofits also work with dimmers. However, they cost a lot more and actually are a bit less efficient than many CFs.

Note: the link below is not an endorsement. I have not traded with the company and have no relationship with them, business or otherwise.

Here is a link that might be useful: Some Dimmable CFs

    Bookmark   January 23, 2011 at 11:31PM
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You don't have to mix bulbs. You can solve the flickering issue by removing the limiter from your ceiling fan. It's not that complicated and it's not the big of a hazard.

A limiter is there just to shut the power off if the wattage goes over capacity. The ones i just removed from my new ceiling fans were 300 watt capacity, but some are 190 watt. They are all different. It doesn't matter because if you are using CFL bulbs they only pull like 13-14 watts a piece. If you have 4 that's only 52-56 watts. The fan will operate fine.

Just make sure you DON'T remove the capacitor. To help distinguish the two take a look at this sight.

Remove these: Limiters(Harbor Breeze) Scroll to the bottom of the page.

DO NOT REMOVE THIS: Capacitor (Harbor Breeze)

So to remove the limiter, cut the 4 wires off the limiter and strip the ends and twist them together and put a wire nut on the end. Don't just tape it, go to the hardware store and get a 14-18 awg wire nuts, install it then tape it. Fires get started by people who try to half-way a job. Connect the whites together, then the black and blue. And you are done once you put everything back together. No more flickering, and you'll notice the Cfl's will come on faster because the electricity doesn't have to travel through the limiter anymore.

It might seem like a really complicated job, but it's actually very easy. I'm sure your husband can do it.

As far as dimmable CFLs go, They do make them now. BUT, you have to buy a special CFL dimmable switch, AND CFL dimmable bulbs(They will be marked on the package). Lowes carries these.

Hoped I helped.

Here is a link that might be useful: What limiters Look like( Bottom of the Page)

1 Like    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 2:41AM
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"None of the things you mentioned are really big electricity users that would overload a circuit. "

A computer and a laser printer are notorious power hogs.

It would have been better to put in a new circuit for the computer to reduce the load.

Old houses often have a single 15 A circuit feeding multiple rooms and outlets (ceiling fixtures and receptacles) and can be pretty easily overloaded by modern usage (a lot of lights, a computer, etc.).

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 10:25AM
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Actually the flickering has nothing to do with the wiring and the circuit breaker issue was totally unrelated. The lighting kits installed in ceiling fans have a device know as a wattage limiter which prevents the lights from drawing more than 190 watts. This device is required by the federal government dept. of energy because fools were installing 100 watt bulbs into 60 watt sockets and they were catching fire. I can promise you that that is the source of the flickering issue. This problem can be even more noticeable if you have a dimmer control installed for the lights.

1 Like    Bookmark   March 2, 2015 at 2:41PM
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