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  1. #1
    Member BURNin'HELL's Avatar
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    Why are my lights constantly dimming?

    If you know a bit about electricity and power please read on...

    The lights in my house are constantly dimming and getting brighter.... this happens real fast... usually happens when something turns on (fridge, microwave, sump pump)...

    It happens more when it is very windy outside... The power cable comes from the post to the top of my house, it's not an underground cable.... i dont know if it is a problem outside or inside my house... is it the main power cable or the fuse box in my basement... or that meter thing outside

    i didnt know where else to post this....

    i called my electric company... they said they would come here and see what the problem is.... its been two weeks and the bastards still havent showed up.... anyone know what the problem is?

  2. #2
    Member BURNin'HELL's Avatar
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    ahh damn... didnt know it went through... the page never loaded.. said page cannot be displayed... i clicked back and submit again....

  3. #3
    Ultimate Member ChoaticWhisper's Avatar
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    Just a guess but I would guess your using a lot of power my house does it sometimes when I have the A/C on because so much power is needed on that breaker, I know of a few lights and two computers and two tv and a window unit a/c the lights dim when the a/c comes on. Try turning off some stuff on that breaker.

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    Ordained Mommy NeoStarO1's Avatar
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    *****edited smart allic comment out. guess was in bad taste it was suppose to refer to the title of the thread**** sorry.

    I would call that electric company back again and ask to speak to the supervisior and inquire why no one has asked to come inspect the elctrical wiring of the house outside and inside. That is what I would suggest, keep on them and eventually they will get sick of you calling and send someone.

    NeoStar
    Last edited by NeoStarO1; January 14th, 2002 at 08:08 PM.

  5. #5
    MDS
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    BURNin'HELL I had problems posting a sec ago.
    If your house is an older house it is very common to have lights flicker. They used to put lots of outlets on the same fuse or breaker. Also you might check you ground stake and make sure the ground wire has not come off. When large current is drawn from appliances that will make your lights dim for a sec or so. Also if you like in a rural area there usualy is a lot more proplems with line condition. If that flick alot you can check your line volage and see if it's spiking or dropping with a volt meter but becareful not to touch the metal on the leads it'll light you up

  6. #6
    Ultimate Member ragtop's Avatar
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    As MDS suggests, it would be a good idea to check the voltage (carefully) to see how bad its jumping around. If you're getting spikes, that can be real bad for your electronic equipment.

    As far as the cause, most likely a loose connection somewhere. If it gets worse when its windy, that would tend to indicate a problem outside your house. Talk to your heighbors to see if its just your house with the problem, or the whole neighborhood. That may help the power company locate the problem.

  7. #7
    Member BURNin'HELL's Avatar
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    about the electrical equipment getting damaged... how much does a surge protector help?

    my uncle used to be an electrician... he checked all the voltages at the fuse box and they were all fine... none of them were jumping around... but the lights weren't flickering at that moment... ill c if my electric company can determine if the problem is somewhere outside... if it is they should fix it... if its my fuse box (could it be the fuse box??) then ill have to get an electrician to replace that....

  8. #8
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    A surge protector only protects you against an INCREASE in voltage. If the voltage spikes to 200 VAC on a normal 120 VAC line, the surge protector cuts power to the devices in the outlet to prevent that spike from destroying equipment. It does nothing against lower voltages. If the line delivers 90 VAC instead of 120 VAC, the surge protector doesn't have an issue with that. To combat the "line sags" (I think that's the proper term), you'd need a UPS (uninterruptible power supply).
    How about giving us a rundown of what you have in the house, like large appliances, A/C unit, etc?
    It's normal for any light on the same breaker/fuse to dim down when something large (fridge) turns on.
    Another thing to note, any 220 V device takes power from two locations of 1 of the 2 incoming 120 VAC lines to the house. Any outlet, light, etc that is connected to the same side of the fuse panel as the 220 VAC device can dim down when it turns on.
    However, if the lights get brigther than they're suppose to, and you can prove your voltage is well over 120 VAC, then there's a good chance your problem is caused by a malfunctioning transformer somewhere on the grid. Make sure your electric company gets involved in this.
    Good luck and post back with any news

  9. #9
    The Mad Redhatter storm2k's Avatar
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    i agree with jimg. the added bonus is that almost every new ups on the market will provide you "clean" power, meaning that the surge protector can regulate the power within itself and povide a constant 120V to your equipment, which makes it less likely to be killed due to power spikes or dips.

  10. #10
    Ultimate Member Graham's Avatar
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    Just in case you dont read both of your posts

    I repeat...


    The old transatlantic time lag has stopped my replying sooner, but at least I have had chance to read the advice so far.
    The problem is obviously due to voltage drop, a poor connection has introduced some resistance into the circuit.
    When an appliance turns on there is a (relatively) large current surge, the extra resistance in the wiring develops a voltaqe across itself (value dependant on the resistance and the current drawn), this means that the voltage available to the rest of the "system" is lowered by that value, resulting in a dip in the lighting brightness (brown out). This dip is more noticable due to the surge when things are turned on ,the higher the current the bigger the drop, so a large power saw will cause a bigger dimming than a microwave for example.
    In fact the voltage in the house circuit will drop to a new steady lower voltage when something turns on, the dip in brightness is due to the voltage going from (just for example !!!!!) 120V(steady state)-110V(switch on surge)-115V(new lower steady state). This ALWAYS happens, in your case the effect is noticeable.
    The solution is simple if hard to find, if there are too many devices on one power rail (circuit from the fuse box) then the overall current will be high, exagerating the always present voltage drop (the higher the current for a given resistance the higher the voltage drop).
    The other possibility is, as others have said is that there may be a loose connection in the system. The electrickery company will need to check the incoming supply as you cannot turn it off to make the checks yourself, the internal wiring you can do (assuming, like here in the UK there is a switch to isolate the whole house).
    TURN THE ISOLATING SWITCH TO OFF !!!!
    Open the fuse box and check all screw terminations are tight (quite tight), if you are really keen you can do the same for every socket in the house, although the problem is more likely to be nearer the incoming supply.
    If in doubt DONT .
    In the telephone exchanges (years ago) with strowger eqpt., there were enormous currents drawn at 50V, this required large buss bars, and to save mony they used aluminium instead of copper, to make joints in the multiple 8", 0.5" bars they were scrubbed with wire brushes and vaseline before clamping them together. The wire brush got rid of the non-conductive aluminium oxide and the vaseline kept the air out.
    A bank locally (large branch) had a three phase supply, aluminium, over the years the connection to the neutral came loose and eventually went dis., resulting in 415V through the building instead of 230V, that cost them a LOT of money!!!!


    G
    Nothing moves faster than goalposts.

  11. #11
    Member BURNin'HELL's Avatar
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    let's see... two computers, 3 sets of computer speakers, 2 refrigerators, 3 sump pumps, two tv's, 1 radio, most of these things are constantly on... except the sump pumps, these turn on every now and then....

    washer, drier, microwave, these are rarely on....

    i dont know if i mentioned this anywhere... my lights do get brighter than they're supposed to... sometimes they dim, other times they get really bright....

  12. #12
    Ordained Mommy NeoStarO1's Avatar
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    Unhappy

    So what happens if the USP doesn't protect the computer? Cause I think mine is going bad.

    This is interting info and surge protectors I thought they were suppose to handle spikes? I live in old house don't have issue yet except maybe with my ups. and all the outlets I know i need to replace cause a cord doesn't stay in very good.

    NeoStar

  13. #13
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    Graham,
    Wow, excellent advice and insight. If you read BURNin'HELL's next post, he says his lights get really bright at times. Doesn't that mean too much current and voltage through the circuit? Looking at your example about the bank, and the disconnected neutral line, it's clear that the voltage goes up. So, looking at that, it seems the problem could be a connection, either made to the box, or to the water pipe/ground stake. Just my opinion.

  14. #14
    Member swoftrucky's Avatar
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    I can see if there is a bad connection somewhere if your lights are just going dim but your saying they go brighter then normal which is caused by the taking out of a breaker, reactor out at your local neighborhood switchyard, or even the wires hitting together in a wind storm . I'd ask your neighbors if there having problems also and call the Power Company again. They may just be doing work in your area.

    By the way the customer rep. your talking to when you call usual dont know that there working on something in your area.

    (Just in case) If you do lose something (computer,Tv) they should replace it for you if you give them enough grief.

    I work at a power plant but its not my fault that the power goes out, are mice can only run so fast

  15. #15
    Ultimate Member Graham's Avatar
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    BURNin'HELL,
    Dunno if I missed the getting brighter part.
    Are you out at the end of a road, or out in the sticks, the longer the run to the local transformer the greater the voltage drop and the more effect high loads will have?

    What I said about your house applies to the neighbourhood, if there is a low demand from your nieghbours, then the voltage will be at its highest (lights brightest), a steady load from them will give a steady but dimmer light, and high current appliances being turned on will cause momentary dimming.

    Check to see if you immediate neighhbours have the same problem, then check to see if you turning on something big affects them. If it does call the electricity co., if not then it may be your house wiring, but still call the electricity co., I would hope they would not charge to check their incoming feed and terminations (up to your side of the meter, at least here in the UK), obviously they would charge for checking the internal stuff.

    You might like to find some one with a multimeter and check the voltage as close as possible to the supply Carefully . I cant tell you what it should be (here it is 230V ac 50Hz), but the Co. will have (probably) guaranteed limits for voltage and frequency (usually over a 24hr period though).

    G
    Nothing moves faster than goalposts.

  16. #16
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    Normal voltage and frequency in the US is 120 VAC @ 60 Hz. Be extremely careful when measuring the voltage. You said your uncle was an electrician. Perhaps he should do this, as he is experienced with it. Not suggesting that you couldn't do it, but electricity is dangerous stuff.

  17. #17
    Ultimate Member cadetstimp's Avatar
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    There are usually two 110 feeds into a house. They're both phased just right to allow 220 when wired together for the higher powered appliances (you'll notice a 220 socket has 3 or 4 prongs ...two 100 prongs - one neutral - one optional direct earth/ground ). When you look into your electrical box you'll notice behind the breakers are three main bars the breakers attach to.... two main positive 110 feeds and the third negative/neutral.

    If I were you, would try to determine the breaker your fridge is on and make sure the fridge breaker is not on the same 110 feed as your lights/computer circuits. If your refridgerator doesn't have its own breaker (most newer houses have a seperate fridge breaker....it should since it is one of the most powerful 110 appliances) then that might be the cause.....if the lights and fridge are on the same breaker/curcuit.

    but electricity is dangerous stuff.
    Yeah, be carefull...220 can throw ya but 110 is dangerous because it will hold on and not let go.

  18. #18
    Ultimate Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    Graham is right.

    Also several other issues besides too much current for the breaker panel or loose connections.

    More likely the area you live in needs more transformers on the street poles. When you have too few of them the voltage will DROP.
    This is most noticable when a high amperage device cuts on, such as the fridge or a/c.

    Check the wall current, here where I live I'm lucky to have about 130vac most of the time.

    When I lived across town in 1979 I had the exact same symptoms..

    The power company came and installed a temporary "Recording Voltage Meter with Chart" this circular chart showed the dips and surges for about a 2 day period.
    My voltage was dropping to 110vac

    The installed several more transformers on the street, the wall voltage went to over 125vac and no more dimming bulbs.

    here they call the guys "Field Engineers" that's who you need to ask for, they'll know what you're talking about.. Hopefully

  19. #19
    Member capybara's Avatar
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    yes, the electyric company is responsible up to the meter, the homeowner from the meter onward. get the electric co to check their part, then:
    1. check all connections, incl the neutral is all outlets and junction boxs.
    2, get high power appliances incl microwave, toaster, hair dryer, sump pumps totalling 1 hp or above, fridge,
    and anything else over half a ckt
    (750w for a 15A breaker) or
    (1000 w for a 20A breaker).
    3. if your house is mostly aluminum wire, I recommend replacing it, it is no longer to code, too many fires.
    4. email me if any questions, im a journeyman electrician, my boss
    charges $125 minimum service call.
    ha ha ha! j/k
    my signature was so lame i deleted it.

  20. #20
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    Well-said Graham.


    You may want to have an electrician make sure you panel is balanced properly too.








    Stimpy
    "Yeah, be carefull...220 can throw ya but 110 is dangerous because it will hold on and not let go."

    Hmm I think you have that backwards. From my experience, 110 will make you jump as 220 will unless both phases happen to grab you, which does not happen often, but 277/480 (commercial) will grab your a$$ and not let go. I've been hit by all the above and the only thing to grab me was 277/480. If you are grounded well enough just about anything will grab you. Electricity is always looking for the path of least resistance to ground and you donít want to be it.




    Capy, I have never seen a house with branch circuits run in aluminum (at least I don't remember seeing any) other than major appliances, which the NEC allows. Correct me if I am wrong, I have not done any residential work in years but I did run a service truck till 95', but I believe that aluminum is allowed for #6 (maybe #8) and higher wire gauge. If the feeders are aluminum then I would replace them, they are still legal to use though. Aluminum loosens up in time and should be retightened yearly (at the very least every few years IMO) to prevent fires, use NOLOX on them too.

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