House lights flicker/dim when I run washing machine

grydAugust 3, 2012

I posted this on the home repair forum but it was suggested to post it here as well: This is a new problem but over the past month my lights in the house are dimming when my washing machine starts up (starts agitating). I have 200 amp service and my central ac doesn't dim the lights in my house. I should say that the lights dimming are not even on the same dedicated 20 amp circuit as the washer. Is the washer possibly going? Could a bad breaker cause this problem? Any advice would be appreciated.

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It's more likely that you have a problem with the washing machine. It's evidently drawing a lot of power, thus reducing the voltage and dimming the lights. I'd have it checked out, because a washing machine shouldn't do that. It's highly unlikely that this is a breaker issue.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 4:50PM
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Is it a momentary flicker when the motor starts, or a discernible dimming the whole time the washer is running?
The former is probably normal, the latter definitely is not.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 2:59PM
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Standard loose/corroded neutral issue.

Central A/C doesn't do it because the compressor is 240, and doesn't use the neutral. Washer does.

Typical advice is for OP to call qualified electrician to inspect neutral connections at panel and meter base.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 10:39AM
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If the problem is limited to the washer, then I respectfully disagree with the diagnosis that it's a neutral issue. I would call a washing machine repair person. To me, it appears that the washing machine is drawing much more current than it should for brief periods, causing the flicker (but not tripping the breaker). Probably worn out contacts in the timer.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 11:07AM
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Well the timer diagnosis is BS. You know how many times I've been told a washer was junk because it needed a timer? Many. You know how many times said washer has actually need a timer? Once. ONCE, and that's because some a-hole took after it with a crowbar.

There are a bunch of small loads in a washer. Fill solenoids. Door latch (on a front-loader). Maybe a buzzer. The timer motor itself. There is ONE large electrical load: the motor.

You know what the timer does with that motor? I'll tell you. It turns it on, and it turns it off. For some cycles, it reverses it by turning on a different wire. At NO POINT does the timer have ANY control over how much power the motor is getting.

Also, the timer contacts themselves are quite small, so if you're going to make any pitiful attempt to sell me this timer nonsense based on "internal shorting," you are once again fired as a technician/salesperson, as a dead short of a 15A or 20A circuit through those contacts, at least of the weak type that would be necessary for a 'flickering' report, would OBLITERATE said contacts in very short order, thereby removing itself as a problem.

Face it, there's nothing wrong with the timer.

There is nothing wrong with the WASHER. It is drawing as much power as a washer should draw. That amount VARIES as the mechanical load (presumably clothing) gets spun/shuffled around. Heavier mechanical load on a motor = more current drawn... so as the clothes move around, the mechanical load varies, varying the electrical current. Varying electrical current through the HIGH-RESISTANCE NEUTRAL CONNECTION varies the voltage drop and flickers the original poster's lights.

That whole "you need a new timer" crap has *ALWAYS* ticked me off, as most of the repair people who threw it at me deserved to be charged with fraud. On top of that, you're recommending that the 'customer' IGNORE a POTENTIALLY SERIOUS problem.

Kill yourself.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 12:32AM
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I made a suggestion based on the probability of failure. It's highly unlikely that an intermittent neutral will manifest itself only through a washing machine. That being said, I'm not at the OP's location, so I can't give a precise diagnosis.

Did you miss your prunes today?

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 8:54AM
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