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Thread: Lights flicker and things shut off randomly :(

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  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member GUITAR1989's Avatar
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    Oct 2011
    Placerville california

    Default Lights flicker and things shut off randomly :(

    Hows it going My brother and I recently moved into a new home and its giving us some electrical trouble. This is whats happening. Ill be sitting watching tv and randomly the all the lights will start flickering sometimes the tv, oven, mirowave, satalite box will just shut off and come back on when the lights are flickering. I was outside last night and noticed the outside lights go off and on with the rest of the stuff when the inside lights flicker. A friend told us that hes seen it happen before. He said he thought it was happening because the wires going to the well are to small of a gauge so when it draws power it messes everything up. What would you guys expect the culprit to be?

  2. #2
    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    Jun 2007
    North Carolina


    I started typing the things that I knew that could cause these symptoms but after an hour of typing I decided to delete everything and just say several things could be causing this but I can all but bet you the well is not one of them.

    Maybe it is time to call a professional.

  3. #3
    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    Jun 2007
    North Carolina


    I couldn’t sleep at all last night trying to figure out how a well could turn a microwave oven on and off. I had dreams of all types of ghostly beings running around the kitchen turning the microwave on and off and flipping switches to make the lights come on and off.

    Any motor be it for a well pump or a heat pump will be a high draw item when starting unless it is designed not to be such as a soft start motor.
    If your home is at the end of a line or the transformer supplying your home also supplies many other homes you will be at the low end of the supplied voltage. At my house we are the first home on the grid and the only home on the transformer. Our lights don’t flicker at all when either heat pumps pull in or the well. Our voltage to ground is always over 120
    My brother is one of several people off a transformer and turning on the living room ceiling fan causes the lights to flicker. His voltage averages around 110 to 115.

    The well plays no role in either case but the voltages supplied does.

    Neither the voltage supplied by the utility or the motors starting will make the microwave oven start back all by itself once it is off. You may want to look into something that is in there that turns that microwave back on.

  4. #4
    DIY Junior Member Electromen's Avatar
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    Dec 2011


    The first thing I would do is call the electric utility company and have them look for an Open Neutral at the service entrance. They should do this for free. Simply put, an Open Neutral is a bad connection on the utilities Neutral wire. This could be at the Point of Attachment which is where the utility wires connect to your house. It could also be in the meter socket or on the pole if it's overhead. If it's underground it could be in the transformer or a bad wire underground. Also have them check the line voltage conductors for a loose connection.
    While they have the meter off, ask if they'll give you time to tighten the entrance wires inside your main breaker panel.

    Do you have bright or dim lights? If you do, shut off the main breaker, call the Utility Company and tell them you have an emergency. Bright and Dim lights are the result of an Open Neutral. This situation can cause the voltage to vary. I've seen it as high as 190 volts on leg A and 50 volts on leg B. The 190 volt side burned up all of the items in the house on that leg. As you shut off items on leg A, it's possible for the volt to flop the other way sending 190 volts to leg B, burning up the rest of the appliances and tv's. If you don't have bright and dim lights the situation is still not safe and should be fixed.

    The first thing I would do when trouble shooting this is eliminate the possibility of an Open Neutral. The only affect this would have on a well is that when the Neutral is Open, the Neutral voltage could be sent to well casing since it's a very good ground. Do not touch the well wiring until the possibility of the Open Neutral is eliminated. By disconnecting the ground on the well you could get blasted across the yard.

    If the outside lights have CFL, compact fluorescent bulbs, they would turn off/on instead of flickering like the incandescent ones.
    Last edited by Electromen; 12-11-2011 at 06:09 AM.
    Electrical Contractor since 1980

  5. #5
    DIY Senior Member Rich B's Avatar
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    Sep 2008
    New Jersey


    Get an electrician to pull your meter and inspect the clips the meter goes into......I had this exact problem and it went on and off for years before me and an electrician friend discovered the problem. The clips that the meter plugs into in the meter pan are attached with small machine screws to a metal bar. One side of the meter had screws that loosened up and over time the holes wallowed out and were arcing. We fixed it by drilling and retapping the hole for a larger screw......and cleaned up the clips.
    I would never have done this myself as one bar in the meter pan we worked on was live. My friend was a lifelong union electrician and jobsite foreman. It was a duplex meter pan....2 family house......It worked fine after that repair for at least another 5 years.......It was done orginally in 1978...

    2 years ago I had it all replaced due to a severed servcie drop....I was real happy to get rid of the old stuff....

  6. #6


    Interesting. Here is a puzzler too,,,,, our daughter and son-in-law bought an old house, and the lights would dim and flicker and the appliances would groan. Sort of like gremlins were inhabiting the house. They couldnt figure out what was the cause.

    Solution? They called the cable company because trouble with the TV. The cable guy said that the house was ungrounded! And the ground was actually going thru the cable!
    I cant explain it too well, but the cable guy called the power company and they sent a truck right out within a 30 minutes and fixed it.
    I guess this could have been quite dangerous?

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