All the lights are flickering

Benton

Senior Member
All the lights in a customers house are flickering. I thought it was the panel because when I messed with it the lights would flicker as they complained they were. I just got a call and she said they were still doing it. If it is not a loose wire do you think that it is load related?
 

Smart $

Esteemed Member
All the lights in a customers house are flickering. I thought it was the panel because when I messed with it the lights would flicker as they complained they were. I just got a call and she said they were still doing it. If it is not a loose wire do you think that it is load related?
Could be... along with several other possibilities, such as a breaker not making good contact with the bus.H

Have you ruled out loose wire(s)? How so?

If they flickered when you messed with the panel, how were you messing with it? Did it stop when you stopped? Flickeringt fast, slow, intermittent? ...intense, moderate, barely noticeable?

Did you meter main voltage while you were messing in panel and lights flickering?

Tracking it down is a process of elimination...
 

maghazadeh

Senior Member
It is also possible that something is loose before the meter / main (service).
Several occasions it happened to be loose neutral connection at the utility company's transformer up on the pole.
 

Article 90.1

Senior Member
Bad main breaker, or loose main to buss connections are both possibilities as well. Be sure to not only check the connections on the load side of the main, but the sometimes hidden bolts or whatever behind breakers 1 & 2.

The last service call of your nature that we had it was the main was failing. Wish we had a thermal camera, sure would have pinpointed the problem much more efficiently; also think ing of putting a stethoscope back on the van to listen for arcing, etc...
 

goldstar

Senior Member
I had a situation like this several years ago. Checked everything from the meter enclosure into the house. Couldn't find anything loose. Customer wanted a service upgrade anyway so we bumped him up and still ended up with the same problem. Turned out there was a corroded neutral crimp at the POCO pole.
 

kwired

Electron manager
If you have a loose connection someplace the more load you put on it while investigating the more likely it will act up and you will find it easier.

If it is a loose connection in the neutral you will want the load in the panel unbalanced so that you will put more current on the neutral.

Don't rule out the fact that the problem could be ahead of the customer equipment and be a POCO problem.
 

Hv&Lv

Senior Member
I also believe it is a loose neutral here. Like kwired stated, you need to load one side to add current to the neutral. Just don't do it with something like a microwave, refrigerator, or other high cost items.
I recommend using a common hand held hair dryer(or two). 15-30 amps of neutral current shouldn't be hard to find if it is loose.

If it is literally ALL the lights flickering, then eliminate the meterbase and main connections to make the POCO happy and tell them to clean and resqueeze the connections at the pole.
 

gar

Senior Member
111217-1125 EST

Benton:

Connect two 25 W incandescent bulbs to the main panel, one bulb on each phase. Watch the flickering of these bulbs.

If one bulb gets brighter when the other gets dimmer, then there is a neutral problem between the main panel neutral point, where you connected the bulb neutrals, and the pole transformer internal connection for neutral.

If one bulb gets dimmer and the other stays constant, then the hot phase of the dimmed light is the problem area.

If both bulbs get dimmer, then is there some large 240 V load causing the flicker.

You can use two voltmeters to do the same test, but the light bulb technique may be better because the eye easily can see both bulbs at the same time.

When you determine which of the three types of dimming occur, then that determines the next step.

.
 

WIMaster

Senior Member
ALL very good advice above!

If it is the neutral on the line side of the panel you should also check for a proper up to date N-G bonding and grounding at the service also. I have seen this problem more than once and found both problems to exist. Note that old rotted ground rods usually are not worth a hoot a good water ground to the city or well CASING is much better.
 

iwire

Moderator
Staff member
Unless some lights are also getting overly bright I would not be thinking neutral anymore than I was thinking a hot.
 

Little Bill

Moderator
Staff member
ALL very good advice above!

If it is the neutral on the line side of the panel you should also check for a proper up to date N-G bonding and grounding at the service also. I have seen this problem more than once and found both problems to exist. Note that old rotted ground rods usually are not worth a hoot a good water ground to the city or well CASING is much better.
The ground rod wouldn't have anything to do with the OPs problem. You could not even have a ground rod, or any grounding electrode, and everything would work just fine, electrically speaking.
 

Teaspoon

Senior Member
Had a simular problem a while back.
Customer called lights flickering,dimming .
They had already had power company out before they called me.
they had found a loose connection inside disconnect box.
Told customer they needed an electrician.
I was called, on arrival the home owner told me what poco, had found.
I checked it was a little loose, I tightened up connection.
Checked lights,no flickering or dimming. Had Ho turn on several things in the house. no problems noticed. I left thinking this was not the problem But?
Next day H.O. called back same problem.
I went back lights were dimming big time. I asked if poco had pulled meter?
HO said no they didn't. Pulled meter neutral was coroded big time.
Non continious neutral. removed cleaned and noloxed, end of problem.
 

ptonsparky

Senior Member
Gars method is as about as simple as you can get. A very basic procedure for anyone doing service calls.

I like to clip my meter leads to the conductor themselves and then the lug and compare. Often the problem is at that connection point.

Don't rely on fixing GEC connections to solve the problem for a bad neutral. All you do is mask the problem.
 

growler

Senior Member
All the lights in a customers house are flickering. I thought it was the panel because when I messed with it the lights would flicker as they complained they were. I just got a call and she said they were still doing it. If it is not a loose wire do you think that it is load related?
What did you do as a repair of the problem, is there any reason to think that the problem was solved?

If you say tightened a connection that was loose and arcing then that may have only been a temporary fix because once a connection starts to arc out unless it's properly cleaned and a good connection made then it will continue to arc and cause problems.
 

WIMaster

Senior Member
The ground rod wouldn't have anything to do with the OPs problem. You could not even have a ground rod, or any grounding electrode, and everything would work just fine, electrically speaking.
If there is a problem with the neutral connection to the POCO a proper N-G bond at the panel along with a proper grounding electrode SYSTEM will USUALLY mask it. It will not help in areas with high ground resistance or a poor grounding electrode SYSTEM. I honestly do not view ground rods as a good grounding method especially in dry ground and have studied the Sandia report on long term effects of being in different soils (not good).
Just a reminder current takes ALL paths not just the one of least resistance even if that path is to the neighbors grounding electrode system and back to the transformer through their neutral or through the water pipe to the transformer ground.

The O.P. does need to identify the primary cause first, but should also look for secondary problems that may be safety issues.
 

Little Bill

Moderator
Staff member
If there is a problem with the neutral connection to the POCO a proper N-G bond at the panel along with a proper grounding electrode SYSTEM will USUALLY mask it. It will not help in areas with high ground resistance or a poor grounding electrode SYSTEM. I honestly do not view ground rods as a good grounding method especially in dry ground and have studied the Sandia report on long term effects of being in different soils (not good).
Just a reminder current takes ALL paths not just the one of least resistance even if that path is to the neighbors grounding electrode system and back to the transformer through their neutral or through the water pipe to the transformer ground.

The O.P. does need to identify the primary cause first, but should also look for secondary problems that may be safety issues.
I think you're confusing grounded and grounding. If you have a solid connection in the panel from the meter & POCO neutral you can take the grounding electrode & conductor and throw it away and everything will work fine. We're not talking about a short here, just a possible lose connection. The grounding electrode is only for lightning and voltage spikes/surges to try and keep the same potential from panel/equipment to ground. Also, a short or fault is not looking for a path to ground, it's looking for a path back to the source. A GEC has nothing to do with this.
 

George Stolz

Moderator
Staff member
I don't believe that is what he was implying.

I would question the math that would produce a GES that could stand in for the service neutral without looking like an open neutral, however.
 

WIMaster

Senior Member
I do not have any confusion as to the difference between what a grounding system is and what a grounded conductor(Neutral) is. They are bonded together at the panel or point of service and they create a parallel path, not likely to be near the same resistance in most cases, but a parallel path to the transformer none the less.

Scenario #1 Electrician is doing plumbing work on copper pipe that enters his 60 yr old house and gets shocked when he cuts the pipe! He says a few expletives and keeps on with the plumbing project because although it may kill him he will be wishing he was dead if the water is not back on before his wife gets home. Some time later during a bad wind storm said electrician notices all of the lights in the house getting brighter and dimmer and begins to think about the previous incident before grabbing his meter and confirming his suspicion of a poor neutral from POCO. POCO comes out and resplices their connection BOTH problems go away! (He was installing a plastic whole house water filter and the old ground was nowhere near the point where it came in DOH). P.S. I know this guy better than anyone in the world.

Scenario #2 Service call for sparking switch in bathroom. Homeowner notices sparking in bathroom sw while taking a bath and calls for help. Again it is an OLD house they had someone add a outlet next to the light sw. in the bath. The installer fished romex to the outlet from the main panel. They added the outlet by making it a 2 gang cut in box, but did not secure the 2 halves of the box together properly. the other half of the box has A.C. cable coming in to it. there is a 15v potential difference between the 2 metal halve of the box when they are not securely fastened together! when conditions are right they bump and spark. The side of the box with A.C. cable coming in to it has 0V to the metal water pipe in that upstairs bath but the side with romex has 15v. Guess what the potential is from the main service to the city water pipe....15V! Electrician proceeds to bond service per latest code all problems go away! He also tells the homeowner to call POCO and get their line fixed and if they do not believe them to have them call him directly. BTW they mentioned flickering lights and other previos problems after I fixed the BONDING of their grounding electrode to their grounded conductors.
 
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