flickering lights...worry or not?

polarprincessMarch 28, 2011

this is a message my sister sent me, and i told her i would ask here... any thoughts we would appreciate it. for the record, her house is fairly old in an older neighborhood if that means anything to anyone.

okay so here is the whole deal. For the last couple of years, I had had issues with my computer battery backup surging, which has scared me. All of a sudden it'll buzz like the electricity is out, but only for like 5 seconds at a time so that could be totally unrelated, but when I had my computer in the other room years ago, it would do it. So I had the electrician come over to check the outlets where I have it now to make sure everything was on the up and up. It was fine so I put it where it is now, but then it does the surging thing still. not all the time, but probably at least once or twice a day. This could be totally unrelated though. Anyway, on superbowl sunday, the lights started flickering as if Joe was outside welding. That's the only other time we have ever seen the lights do it is when he is welding. However, since then, it has been pretty consistent, but like I said we can go DAYS without noticing it, but then all of a sudden it will do it. It is just the lights but the lights in every room AND out in the garage. My battery backup doesn't surge when it is doing it and the TV is fine, alarm clocks, and microwave clock are fine, just the lights. So I called the power company right off the bat. He came over to check the box here, looked at the pole apparently, checked the poles at the end of the street, checked with neighbors, and nothing. So he told me to call an electrician. I called the electrician and he checked the breaker box, checked the box outside, and came back on a separate day to look at things, but nothing. He said it was probably the power company's deal and that he would call them to have them come take a look once the snow melted and they could get back to the pole. He said that we are at the end of the line so if there was any power surges from the pole, we would get the brunt of it for whatever reason. Anyway, that's the deal and earlier today of course it was doing it again.

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Lights that get brighter are oftne cuased be a loose neutral connection.

It is a real hazard to anything electronic or with a motor.

The voltage can aproach 240 V on a 120 V circuit depending on the loads present.

If your electrician found nothing call the POCO.

Unplug as much as you can since a loose neutral can destroy things and cause fires.

It is a real emergency (I am surprised nothing has failed yet, the loads must be pretty well balanced across the two 120 V legs).

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 9:00AM
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If your lights are dimming and then returning to normal brightness, and you never see them brighten then get normal again, you probably don't have a loose neutral and the associated risk to appliances.

But you may have a problem - or not. Momentary drops in voltage may be caused by very large transient loads in your house or a close neighbor's. Whether you should be concerned depends on how wide the swings are and how frequent. A good electrician should be able to help you determine how serious your situation is.

As for your computer UPS, many of them self-test from time to time. I think mine does it weekly, but I'm not sure (I'd have to look at the manual). The behavior is as you describe - the inverter kicks on and it hums and maybe beeps for a few seconds. Probably nothing to worry about.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 11:54PM
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Do the lights ever get brighter than usual?Sounds like a loose neutral to me or the main ground could be loose or very badly corroded causing a bad connection happens a lot in older houses.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 6:39PM
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