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Old 10-17-2014, 11:25   #1
Foxterriermom
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Electrical Issue Question

I am hoping someone can give me a general idea of what may be causing the problem I am having.

For a couple of weeks I have noticed that when I run anything additional to my regularly plugged in electrical items, I get a "browning down" on my lights. I notice it particularly when I run my hair dryer, flat iron, vacuum and washer and drier. If I am in the kitchen with the refrigerator running and I start the microwave, not only do the lights brown down, but I can hear the pull on the refrigerator motor as well.

I have been in this house (built early 1970s) for ten years now and have never experienced this problem before. I am not running anything new or different than I ever have. Any idea what the problem might be?

Thanks in advance for any responses.

FTM
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Old 10-17-2014, 12:01   #2
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Something is making your system think its overloaded.

Check your fuse breakers - may need to replace or get a different type.

Barring that simple explanation - call an electrician. I'm an engineer and dealing with electricity gives me the willies.
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Old 10-17-2014, 12:30   #3
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I also had the same problem with my system last spring. It had been flustrating me for a couple years and burning up Breakers. One day I occurred to me to check my incoming lines.(I have underground service) One leg was 110V the other leg was off and on at 50-80 volts... It should have also been 110V.

I called PUD at 3;30 on Friday after noon. They hustled right out and began to dig holes in my easement. found like three bad spots in the lncoming line and had to repair them. All has been well since.
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Old 10-17-2014, 12:35   #4
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4 of the 5 things you listed are a big pull but if you never had a problem before I don't know why you would now? Almost like the power co isn't giving you enough power? If you were over doing a circuit the breaker would just kick.
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Old 10-17-2014, 12:39   #5
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Get someone in to check the connections and voltage at the panel. Line to line and line to neutral with various things operating. It's possible that there's a slightly bad connection that's doing weird things when current is drawn.

There was a high resistance connection in the neutral between the pole and house at my ex's a few years ago; it was causing one side of the line to drop and the other to go high when things like the microwave were on and drawing power. Lights on the same 'side' of the panel as the microwave would dim, and those on the other side would brighten as their supply voltage increased. It took a while to figure out, but was an easy fix (new compression connector) once it was diagnosed.

All that probably makes no sense to you, but in short, get someone to check voltages at the panel and make sure nothing's loose.

Good luck with it.

-Pat
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Old 10-17-2014, 12:44   #6
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Also check to see if you may possibly have aluminum wiring. Bad stuff.
Sounds like either bad incoming voltage or connection.
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Old 10-17-2014, 12:59   #7
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Also check to see if you may possibly have aluminum wiring. Bad stuff.
Sounds like either bad incoming voltage or connection.
Excellent point - the house was built in the right time frame to potentially have it. It's ok for the service entrance, but not good if it's used for the distribution within the house...

http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminum_wire

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Old 10-17-2014, 13:04   #8
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Since you said you are doing nothing different I would call the utility company. I had a similar problem and when they came out they replaced the pole transformer and the lines to the meter. No problems since then.
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Old 10-17-2014, 13:09   #9
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Gentlemen, thank you so much for your responses. I appreciate the time you took to give me your feedback.
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Old 10-17-2014, 13:20   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DWARREN123 View Post
Also check to see if you may possibly have aluminum wiring. Bad stuff.
Sounds like either bad incoming voltage or connection.
Can be but not necessarilly a disaster.

AL expands and contracts a lot more than copper so it can loosen connections. At the low end, light switchgear like switch and plug is done by a house mouse or other apprentice. AL is retained today for SEU (service entrance unarmored) because its installed by journeymen or higher who can put a torque wrench on connections and also use antioxidants like NoAlux which is made by Ideal. Theyre also overseen by the master license holder.

Alum romex should be replaced where you can, but checking connections periodically can hold you over if you can keep them tight till you rewire. Check each outlet w the power off and tighten with a screwdriver.

All the appliances listed are 12+ amps and most light strings are 15amp limit on 14 ga copper wire and a matching 15a single pole breaker with a maximum of 10 devices or outlets per run. You push it to the max the lights are going to dim.

A fridge should be on its own dedicated line. Same for a mw.

Toasters and blenders also pull some amps so it does not hurt to have a couple of kitchen counter outlets on 12ga wire with 20a breakers.

You should also have a balanced panel and not have all the breakers running down one side or you can pull feedback on the neutral.

If your house is squared away and still problems, call the power company.
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Old 10-17-2014, 13:29   #11
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Also check to see if you may possibly have aluminum wiring. Bad stuff.
Sounds like either bad incoming voltage or connection.
You know, I just changed a malfunctioning wall plug the other day and did see at least one copper wire when I fixed that. Couldn't tell you if the other line was copper of not.

I did just call the power company and they are going to check my service for me.
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Old 10-17-2014, 13:33   #12
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Early onset Glaubner's Disease, or I'll eat a bug. The only thing that would confirm it further is if sometimes you sneeze when suddenly exposed to bright sunlight, or occasionally find yourself strangely attracted to vanilla ice cream.
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Old 10-17-2014, 13:34   #13
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I also had the same problem with my system last spring. It had been flustrating me for a couple years and burning up Breakers. One day I occurred to me to check my incoming lines.(I have underground service) One leg was 110V the other leg was off and on at 50-80 volts... It should have also been 110V.

I called PUD at 3;30 on Friday after noon. They hustled right out and began to dig holes in my easement. found like three bad spots in the lncoming line and had to repair them. All has been well since.
On my house I want to see 120 volts on each line.
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Old 10-17-2014, 13:57   #14
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You're right ! That's what I was getting only on one side. The other side was variable.
I will delete my former post.

In my service repair they found nicks in the under ground wire and had to cut out the bad that was leaking to earth. There were three eruptions in the lines and said there could be more in the future.

My service is over 35 years old and they ask me if it happens again if I would be open to an above ground service to the meter with a pole in my yard some where from the transformer.
We agreed that would be the way to go. Also my entrance cable to the meter is aluminum.
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Old 10-17-2014, 15:00   #15
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You should also have a balanced panel and not have all the breakers running down one side or you can pull feedback on the neutral.
Agreed on a balanced load, but I have one nit to pick here. In every panel I've seen, it's ok to have breakers running down one side only - the connections on the bus alternate L1-L2 repeat (or L1-L2-L3 repeat for three phase before some pedant points it out ) and continue in this pattern down to the bottom, otherwise a 2 pole breaker would not be able to supply 240 V. from two adjacent taps.

-Pat
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Old 10-17-2014, 22:25   #16
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Early onset Glaubner's Disease, or I'll eat a bug. The only thing that would confirm it further is if sometimes you sneeze when suddenly exposed to bright sunlight, or occasionally find yourself strangely attracted to vanilla ice cream.
There's no cure for Glaubners disease except death. You should have told him that.
Also, measure your circuits, make sure you don't have a short one.
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Old 10-17-2014, 22:51   #17
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The low voltage could harm any electrical motor you have running such as your fridge,,,first have the inbound lines checked for low voltage,,,I had the same issue with my cabin and discovered that the line leading to the building was rubbing on a tree limb. The insulation rubbed off and caused a large voltage drop and that caused the motor in my fridge to burn up. My lights would do the same as you described.
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Old 10-17-2014, 23:02   #18
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The low voltage could harm any electrical motor you have running such as your fridge,,,first have the inbound lines checked for low voltage,,,I had the same issue with my cabin and discovered that the line leading to the building was rubbing on a tree limb. The insulation rubbed off and caused a large voltage drop and that caused the motor in my fridge to burn up. My lights would do the same as you described.

Thanks! Two weeks ago I was up on the roof cutting back the neighbor's tree that had grown into my lines that came off the pole and fed into the house. I didn't look closely at the lines as at the time I was just trying not to cut the wrong thing and electrocute myself. I'll go back up sometime this weekend and see if there is any visible wear.
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Old 10-18-2014, 01:11   #19
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Thanks! Two weeks ago I was up on the roof cutting back the neighbor's tree that had grown into my lines that came off the pole and fed into the house. I didn't look closely at the lines as at the time I was just trying not to cut the wrong thing and electrocute myself. I'll go back up sometime this weekend and see if there is any visible wear.
Let the power company check it. That part of the feed is their responsibilities in most areas. If insulation is rubbed off you could get zapped!
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Old 10-18-2014, 01:30   #20
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Let the power company check it. That part of the feed is their responsibilities in most areas. If insulation is rubbed off you could get zapped!
On the positive side it won't happen to you twice.
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