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Old 12-13-2017, 01:32 AM   #1
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Default Flickering/fluttering lights throughout house

So, we have been doing a floor by floor reno in a big house. I don't know if it started before we started working, or if it was after, but, the homeowner has been complaining about the lights. The lights have been 'fluttering' it seems they dim and come back on at times.

All the lights in the house seem to do it, most are incadescent, some CFL, some LED.

I have gone through the main panel and the sub, all connections, including Neutrals are tight, the only connections we haven't checked are the meterbase.

I did find a grounded tile heat mat, disconnected it. Problem didn't go away.

200A service, only 'big' loads are hot tub, range, dryer.

Help?
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Old 12-13-2017, 01:58 AM   #2
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Sounds like you have a loose neutral connection. If you're there while the lights are dimming take some voltage readings. You'll likely have to get POCO to come disconnect so you can get at the line side lugs and inside the meter. If it's not any of that it could be POCO is in the process of losing their ground at the transformer.
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Old 12-13-2017, 02:14 AM   #3
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Yeah, that's my thought too. Just throwing it out there and see if anyone has any other thoughts.

I've been doing this for 15 yrs, haven't had to pull a meter except one time for smoke coming out of it! Guess I'll make a call in the AM. Thanks.
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Old 12-13-2017, 11:28 AM   #4
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Had a friends house withe same problem. Told her that the work done was all good, it was Edison's problem. After repeated denials, and Edison stealing their surge suppressing meter base, they finally came out and tightened the loose split-bolt up on the pole neutral splice. All good afterwards and they never said a thing or offered an apology.
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Old 12-13-2017, 02:27 PM   #5
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Most times it is the utility, but simple way to tell is fire up interior stuff off a generator with all the leads to the outside world disconnected . If the problem shows up some then it is someplace in the house.
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Old 12-14-2017, 04:04 AM   #6
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Got my hands on a PQM, so we will see what it says in the next few days. Super intermittent, so hard to prove any other way. I'd love to have some evidence for POCO.
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Old 12-14-2017, 04:09 AM   #7
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Got my hands on a PQM, so we will see what it says in the next few days. Super intermittent, so hard to prove any other way. I'd love to have some evidence for POCO.
MacMike has already spelled out the quick method.

You don't even need a gen-set powerful enough to power the whole house.

Just test each set of branch circuits in turn... with the MAIN set to OFF.

Yeah, back-feed that puppy.

If that cures it -- it's settled -- it's a Poco issue.

And you don't have to wait hours and days.
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Old 12-14-2017, 11:13 PM   #8
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1) Perhaps call the POCO, get them to cut the tag, pull the meter, torque connections, re-install meter, re-seal the meter.

2) Temporarily jump the neutral somewhere in the your building (perhaps at the dryer receptacle) to the ground. This will figuratively "re-ground" the neutral. This might rule out a loose neutral somewhere. This is temporary ONLY.
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Old 12-15-2017, 07:43 AM   #9
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I been reading and following this post, really curious what the issue is? Would really appreciate if you fill me (us) in on what the problem was?
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Old 12-15-2017, 08:51 AM   #10
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load imbalance can cause issues with lights dimming also (primarily with florescent lighting and incandescent) for instance dryer starting up inrush current draw dimming light until motor is up to speed.
(also seen with capacitive start motors in large blowers and ventilation fans)

loose neutral issues can also present themselves in discovery of faulty electronics (due to loose neutrals)

generators can help to pin down some problems but be careful
in some cases you need an isolation transformer with portables or you might end up burning out electronic devices.
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Old 12-15-2017, 06:13 PM   #11
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This worked for me once a long time ago, contact POCO, be sure to talk to the right person. You may have to BS your way through to them. Explain situation and what you did in a very professional manner. (pretend your were pulled over by a state trooper). Feed the ego so to speak. You can use the I hear humming sometimes trick. For me they showed up next day and blocked the street with equipment 4 trucks. Problem was in their distribution box. 2 minute fix. We all had a good laugh. Point is if you talk to them the right way you will get results.
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Old 12-15-2017, 06:54 PM   #12
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Well, 48+hrs with the PQM on it, not a single issue since it was installed. Waiting game for now. If I dont have any reulst by Monday morning, Ill call up POCO and get power knocked off and check the meterbase and get them to check the xfrmr connections. underground service, so no O/H conductors to be an issue.
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Old 12-19-2017, 12:08 AM   #13
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SOLVED: so the customer called tonight. Lights flickering again. Looked at the PQM. No love, not picking up the issue on the main. So, we moved to the sub panel and hook it up, lights are now flickering while I'm there. PQM doesn't see it. So I start reading the panel schedule, and it turns out, the 4 main lighting areas are fed from back to back Siemens tandem breakers. So I put a regular lead on the meter and stick it in one of these breakers. Now we see a dip to 104v.

Turns out that both of these breakers are arcing/sparking. Turned off the main and pulled all the Breakers off the buss. These two are welded on! A little careful prying got them off. I assume it started with one and the heating caused the other to start to fail.

Tore out the old breakers, put in two new ones on a different part of the buss, all good now! Turns out it wasn't the neutral!

Each breaker is only pulling 5-6 amps with all the lights on, so shouldn't be a problem in the future... I hope!
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Old 12-19-2017, 01:29 AM   #14
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Hmmm, reading 104 V is usually a pretty good sign that you've lost your neutral. Why did the breakers weld onto the buss? Don't be surprised if this problem is not resolved.
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Old 12-19-2017, 01:31 AM   #15
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Good grief.

The STINK should've put you on to them.
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Old 12-19-2017, 02:34 AM   #16
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Good grief.

The STINK should've put you on to them.

No smell.... But the house is a reno madhouse right now. So if it was smelling, noone would know it.
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Old 12-19-2017, 02:37 AM   #17
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Hmmm, reading 104 V is usually a pretty good sign that you've lost your neutral. Why did the breakers weld onto the buss? Don't be surprised if this problem is not resolved.
These were the only breakers in the whole panel with the 104v issue happening, I checked all the rest while the lights were flickering.

Why did I weld on? My best guess is that the breaker had poor spring tension on the bus and it was a loose connection that started it.
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Old 12-19-2017, 02:40 AM   #18
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Also, I couldn't see the 104v dip with my multimeter, only the PQM. So it wasn't very long term, just a flicker
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Old 12-19-2017, 04:00 AM   #19
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Also, I couldn't see the 104v dip with my multimeter, only the PQM. So it wasn't very long term, just a flicker
For Heaven's sakes -- buy a second-hand Simpson's analogue meter.

The voltage flutter will show up on most responsive analogue meters.

The cost... peanuts.

DMM are SAMPLERS.

They AVERAGE over time -- get it ?

They are based upon 'CR' circuits.

If that's nonsense to you... you need to spend time in upper level Physics -- or whip out a text on circuits.

L = inductance
R = resistance
C = capacitance

MUCH to study.

Yes.
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