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California General electrician, CALCTP certified, work mostly in residential
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I got flickering lights in my home. Single family home. I looked all-over the place for loose connections and didn't find anything until one day my neighbors AC turned on and was the source of my problem. I called the utility company but they said everything looks fine. It has to be somewhere from the meter back to the transformer. They seem not to care. Loose neutral somewhere. Any thoughts?
 

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I got flickering lights in my home. Single family home. I looked all-over the place for loose connections and didn't find anything until one day my neighbors AC turned on and was the source of my problem. I called the utility company but they said everything looks fine. It has to be somewhere from the meter back to the transformer. They seem not to care. Loose neutral somewhere. Any thoughts?
I think you erroneously think a momentary dip in voltage due to increased load on the local grid is something that requires “fixing”.

Also, post your concerns over at www.diychatroom.com and please refrain from joining professional boards you’re not qualified to participate in.
 

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California General electrician, CALCTP certified, work mostly in residential
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well with the money i pay for electricity, momentary dips of voltage caused by my neighbor is an issue that needs to be fixed. I would think a professional like yourself would understand that.
 

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well with the money i pay for electricity, momentary dips of voltage caused by my neighbor is an issue that needs to be fixed. I would think a professional like yourself would understand that.
You don’t pay any more money for electricity than everyone else does babe. I’m only telling you the same thing your utility tried to tell you, the fact that maybe you’re an entitled snowflake and think that you can get anything you want and will tantrum otherwise not with standing.

Get off the board and go to the DIY chat room where you belong.
 

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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
I think you erroneously think a momentary dip in voltage due to increased load on the local grid is something that requires “fixing”.
Yeah, this seems to happen more and more in my city. Just had a transformer die in my neighborhood and within 5 minutes, I had I think 7 contacts because people don't talk to their neighbors first or call the Power Co.

People don't understand that transformers age, POCO Bugs loosen and corrode like service bugs do, and people keep trading in their gas appliances for electrical appliances thinking that it's better for the environment (motors=Yes, heat production = No). People didn't all have central AC, Heat Pumps, etc. 20 years ago.

I want build back better, but I'd accept build back.
 

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Chief Flunky
Field Service Engineer
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I mostly work residential in a gentrifying city -meaning lots of old panels & meters, loose bugs, crappy grounding. I get a lot of situations where 1 leg of the service entrance isn't working/intermittent arcing.

I'm looking for recommendations to get a voltage logger to see if problems are in the service or past the panel in the house. I'd love something as simple as clamps that I could attach before or after the meter, or in the panel at the main breaker or to a DP breaker that I instal. I could leave it there for a day or two and see what kind of info I get.

For example:
Recently I got called for "flickering lights all over the house". I look at the relatively new panel, an old meter socket and decide to check the bugs on the aerial service. Sure enough, I find under-sized bugs and pock-marks on the POCO's wires and the SE cable that feeds the house so I redo all 3 bugs.

While I'm getting my check, the kitchen lights flicker -but it doesn't look like arcing, it looks like cycling. I check the dimmers and sure enough, it's a incandescent dimmer on a bank of LEDs (I should mention that I am the 3rd electrician they've called and at least one other guy checked the dimmers, so that's just friggin' sad).

My customer calls that night: changing the dimmer helped, but it's still flickering. They also say that the receptacles in the living room (different circuit) went out for about 30 seconds and their projector reset itself.

Now I'm back to thinking it's a service leg ...so it's the meter or the meter socket...or the POCO.

This is where I'd like to have a diagnostic tool so that I don't have to climb up and disconnect the nice new job I did on the bugs just so I can safely examine/clean the meter socket. Frankly, I don't have the time to redo the service any time soon so this is a pain in ma butt :(

Anybody got suggestions for an inexpensive logger? Maybe something else?
Cheapest power meters out there is the Shark series by Electro Industries or the lower end of the Square D Powerlogics. It’s kind of strange but the portables are very expensive. Of the portables Dranetz has been a top company for years. You plug them in and walk away. They don’t even have a display because often you get almost a gigabyte of data over even a couple weeks. Bluetooth isn’t going to do it…Ethernet or memory cards and computer software are necessities. I’ve tried cheaper solutions like the old Fluke 43Bs and found they are so limited that I never got anything useful out of them. It’s like my multimeter which does harmonics…useful for a quick look or when I’m right there but I can’t just walk away and I can’t look simultaneously for a voltage dip and current surge and look at waveforms. These tools are expensive for a reason.

But the other side is that when you do an upgrade NEC let’s you measure load over a 2 week time period and use actual measurements instead of calculated loads. This can be the difference between a service upgrade and just a subpanel. If you have a power meter expect it to be out on rental more than it spends in the shop.

Interpretation though is the problem. Typically you will see a voltage dip and a corresponding current surge or just a current surge. The surge says you need to look downstream. The voltage says look upstream. This is also much easier with 3 phase because you only see it on one leg so you have something to compare it to. But it can also be an old AC starting especially with weak caps.

In long distances you can use multiple meters and “time of flight” so if there is a sudden flicker with very accurate clocks you can tell direction and how far away. That is how utilities do it on transmission lines where it tells you down to which pole it’s on but it won’t work in such a small distance.
 

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Can't Remember
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I would love to delve into the PQ thing, if only to able to tell usage, inrush and maybe some basic pq factors, but fearful it would take a long time to learn to use it. I have two beast of burdens I bought on ebay. The smaller is squirrelled away somewhere. The Mega Beast stays on the truck and will usually sort out on whose side its on and what the problem is. A set of binoculars help too with the visual inspection. It's not a total cure, but it definitely narrows it down.
 

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Yeah, this seems to happen more and more in my city. Just had a transformer die in my neighborhood and within 5 minutes, I had I think 7 contacts because people don't talk to their neighbors first or call the Power Co.

People don't understand that transformers age, POCO Bugs loosen and corrode like service bugs do, and people keep trading in their gas appliances for electrical appliances thinking that it's better for the environment (motors=Yes, heat production = No). People didn't all have central AC, Heat Pumps, etc. 20 years ago.

I want build back better, but I'd accept build back.
Transformers age sure but it’s not like transformers have some kind of expiration date. They are built for and the utilities indeed do drive them hard. But seeing as just about every electric utility is a for-profit corporation and a electric utility standard has always been “keep the lights on no matter what“ the entirety of the outdoor plant is just used and abused until it fails, and then failure points are addressed as they occur. So they will do what they have to do when they have to do it, but proactive maintenance does not have an obvious return on investment.
 

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Discussion Starter · #32 ·
electric utility is a for-profit corporation and...they will do what they have to do when they have to do it, but proactive maintenance does not have an obvious return on investment.
I agree totally. I'm not expecting much from them either.

My goal here is to find out what I can fix -or at least give my customers a better answer than "Well, it could be...".

I've had 1 or 2 jobs where the cycling was obvious and regular, but on most the time it is irregular and I don't want to wait around for in hour...or literally days if the issue is moistness or vibration. It saves time for me to leave a monitor, come back and say "You're dropping voltage on this specific feeder/neutral/whatever, but only when it's raining out" (likely arial service bug or outdoor meter) or "it's cycling at regular intervals" (probably transformer), or "only when you're home" (Large appliance? Dryer? AC?).

The point for me is that if I charge my minimum ($150) and I can't find an answer (like it wasn't raining at the time), I feel like an ass. On the other hand, if I leave a monitor there, I'd charge less because it'll take 10 minutes to set up on the meter. After that, it will just be a matter of "divide and conquer" to find the connection of fault. Meanwhile, I'd also find out which leg (or neutral) the problem is at -which also saves time actually doing the labor to fix the issue if it isn't the power company's fault.

Since all of my work is within 20 mins of my house and most of it is in a 90 degree arc, it's easy for me to stop off at any customer's house during the course of a week.

I'm also going to add that a lot of electricians don't do this work, so I'm opening up an easy niche in my market that doesn't kill my body (I'm 61, so let me tell all you young folks: whatever pains you are experiencing now will ONLY get worse. Find a good PT; it is like investing in good tools: you'll wish you did it earlier).
 
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