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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a customer that had an CFL security light on a pole in her back yard. It was intermittently going on and off all night. I came out and found that the CFL lamp was very loose in the socket, so I tightened it up and covered the photo cell and watched it light up and run perfectly for about ten minutes. I was not impressed with the handyman work of the 12-2 UF running overhead from the house to the pole though. So I left and told her to call if there was any issues.

Three day later: She calls and says the light is intermittent again. I find lamp still tight in the socket. I decided to replace the fixture with a metal halide of the same design. Works great! (yea right)

Couple days later: Light is still on and off but not like a photocell issue where it's cycling itself on and off. I went there after dark and it's not getting any stray light that would turn itself off. I suspect the UF cable ran overhead from the house may have a broken wire. I disconnected the UF cable and rigged up a old extension cord to the light and plugged into the outside GFCI outlet which is on a separate circuit.
When I plugged the cord in I had my meter in the other part of the outlet, after covering the photo eye I waited for it to come on and when it did the meter jumped from 123 volts to 180 volts for a few seconds then it settled back at 123. It's still intermittent all night.

She mentioned that it sometimes goes out when the heat pump kicks on.

I'm scheduled to go back later next week to open up the panel and probably the meter can.
Would a loose neutral connection cause this kind of cycling of the light and a jump in the voltage?

Possibly a bad connection at the utilities pole?

By the way, I think the handy man has done quite a bit at this house over the years.

Any ideas on what would do this? Thank you for any trouble shooting tips you can share, John.
 

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That sounds exactly like a loose neutral to me. A fluctuating voltage like that for a quick spike in my experience has been a loose neutral. I dont know if it would be just on that circuit or the feed into the panel. I knew someone whose computers fried bcuz the voltage went like that and the electrician checked the panel and could turn the lug 2-3 full turns to tighten it up. But it would have to be on a three wire circuit.(unless its fed by a three wire else where and branches out on that 12-2) Because a loose neutral on a two wire circuit would just cause it to turn off as there would be no return path, thus the circuit wouldnt work.
 

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I have a customer that had an CFL security light on a pole in her back yard. It was intermittently going on and off all night. I came out and found that the CFL lamp was very loose in the socket, so I tightened it up and covered the photo cell and watched it light up and run perfectly for about ten minutes. I was not impressed with the handyman work of the 12-2 UF running overhead from the house to the pole though. So I left and told her to call if there was any issues.

Three day later: She calls and says the light is intermittent again. I find lamp still tight in the socket. I decided to replace the fixture with a metal halide of the same design. Works great! (yea right)

Couple days later: Light is still on and off but not like a photocell issue where it's cycling itself on and off. I went there after dark and it's not getting any stray light that would turn itself off. I suspect the UF cable ran overhead from the house may have a broken wire. I disconnected the UF cable and rigged up a old extension cord to the light and plugged into the outside GFCI outlet which is on a separate circuit.
When I plugged the cord in I had my meter in the other part of the outlet, after covering the photo eye I waited for it to come on and when it did the meter jumped from 123 volts to 180 volts for a few seconds then it settled back at 123. It's still intermittent all night.

She mentioned that it sometimes goes out when the heat pump kicks on.

I'm scheduled to go back later next week to open up the panel and probably the meter can.
Would a loose neutral connection cause this kind of cycling of the light and a jump in the voltage?

Possibly a bad connection at the utilities pole?

By the way, I think the handy man has done quite a bit at this house over the years.

Any ideas on what would do this? Thank you for any trouble shooting tips you can share, John.
This time of year in Ohio could cause a cfl to flicker. Replace it with an incandescent and see if it continues to flicker.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
This time of year in Ohio could cause a cfl to flicker. Replace it with an incandescent and see if it continues to flicker.
I actually replaced the entire fixture with a metal halide. So that rules out the lamp.
Your right that it is colder then a well diggers a** here these days. Lol
 

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I remember having an issue that was similar and had to order a special shield for the photo. As I remember it it obviously didn't shield the whole photo but sorta directed it's range. Could be car lights or neighbors lights ect.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I swapped out the original twist lock photocell with a good quality torx brand and rotated the hub to face away from the street and the neighbors with no success.
I have been there at night and it is pitch dark on top of the light where the photo cell is when the light is on.

That was before finding the 180 volts line to neutral when the light started up.
 

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Well it's possible it's a loose nuetral. Perhaps take the photo completely out of the loop for a few nights and note the difference.
 

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I swapped out the original twist lock photocell with a good quality torx brand and rotated the hub to face away from the street and the neighbors with no success.
I have been there at night and it is pitch dark on top of the light where the photo cell is when the light is on.

That was before finding the 180 volts line to neutral when the light started up.
The photo eye is rated for that voltage and amperage ?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Yea the photo eye is the one that came with the fixture and the one I replaced it with was rated for 120 volts.
I'm more concerned with the jump in voltage upon start up of the fixture.
 

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Yea the photo eye is the one that came with the fixture and the one I replaced it with was rated for 120 volts.
I'm more concerned with the jump in voltage upon start up of the fixture.
It doesn't make sense that it is only at start up. Only the current will jump. Did it happen at all while the light was off and does happen everytime at start up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
It doesn't make sense that it is only at start up. Only the current will jump. Did it happen at all while the light was off and does happen everytime at start up.
I was thinking that it's possible that when the amperage goes up due to the startup current the bad or loose connection somewhere in the system starts to sizzle and arc until it levels out.
Now I've been wrong before and I will be again. But I was thinking the high voltage may be caused by a loose connection on the utility side or somewhere before the panel.
I need to do more research on what happens to a single phase system when a neutral is lost so I can understand it better.

I'm positive it is not being caused by the light itself, I was hoping someone who has had more experience troubleshooting these things then I do could share some of their experiences with getting an intermittent higher then normal voltage.
Thank you for the responses so far.
 
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