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HardeeHouse
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We are working on updating a house from 1981. A little backstory about the house: the previous owner bought it new and, based on stories from neighbors, she almost never used any lights. She’d wake up at sunrise and go to bed at sunset and never turn on any lights. All of the appliances were well cared for and original. When we moved in we installed a new fridge, countertop stove, dishwasher, and washer/dryer. All of these items were installed one at a time (except the washer/dryer). The final item (W/D) was installed in March or April of this year. Since then, we expanded our closet and, in doing so, relocated an existing outlet and added a light from that outlet. The outlet is in a line of outlets so we now have 3 connections in that box. Power in from an outlet, power out to another outlet, and power out to the light’s switch.

I’ll also note that we had squirrels chew through the wiring in our barn which caused one of our breakers to trip. Before we knew the squirrels had caused it, we flipped the breaker back on and it caused all of the lights in the house to slowly go out and buzz. While we aren’t positive, we think we also saw a small spark in the panel as well.

Shortly thereafter, we noticed that certain appliances would cause all of the lights in the house to get very bright and then dim. The dryer, garbage disposal, and microwave specifically. We also tried to run an air compressor from 2 different outlets and it wouldn’t start, it kept clicking but it wouldn’t fully run. We know there’s nothing wrong with it because it worked fine in the same outlet just an hour before.

To fix the problem, we’ve tried turning off each breaker one at a time and run the garbage disposal to see where the issue might be but the lights still flickered. Next we checked the work we did in the closet and everything seemed correct. We even had the power company come out and check the meter and they didn’t find any issues. Today, we cut back as much of the damaged wire in the barn as we could find and replaced that breaker. We’ve left the breaker off in case there were more wires we hadn’t found. When replacing the breaker we also checked all of the connections in the panel and everything was tight. None of this has helped and our lights are still dimming. HELP! What am I missing?!
 
DPG

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Sounds like you may have a damaged neutral connection somewhere. I would advise getting an electrician in to do some proper testing of the wiring. Sooner rather than later - bad connections create localised heat and can start fires.

Hope you get it sorted. Keep us posted!
 
M

Mikegh

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Ya usually when appliances on other circuits dim your lights it means problems in the main wiring (shared sub-board or main board or upstream) or actual supply problems
 
Megawatt

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We are working on updating a house from 1981. A little backstory about the house: the previous owner bought it new and, based on stories from neighbors, she almost never used any lights. She’d wake up at sunrise and go to bed at sunset and never turn on any lights. All of the appliances were well cared for and original. When we moved in we installed a new fridge, countertop stove, dishwasher, and washer/dryer. All of these items were installed one at a time (except the washer/dryer). The final item (W/D) was installed in March or April of this year. Since then, we expanded our closet and, in doing so, relocated an existing outlet and added a light from that outlet. The outlet is in a line of outlets so we now have 3 connections in that box. Power in from an outlet, power out to another outlet, and power out to the light’s switch.

I’ll also note that we had squirrels chew through the wiring in our barn which caused one of our breakers to trip. Before we knew the squirrels had caused it, we flipped the breaker back on and it caused all of the lights in the house to slowly go out and buzz. While we aren’t positive, we think we also saw a small spark in the panel as well.

Shortly thereafter, we noticed that certain appliances would cause all of the lights in the house to get very bright and then dim. The dryer, garbage disposal, and microwave specifically. We also tried to run an air compressor from 2 different outlets and it wouldn’t start, it kept clicking but it wouldn’t fully run. We know there’s nothing wrong with it because it worked fine in the same outlet just an hour before.

To fix the problem, we’ve tried turning off each breaker one at a time and run the garbage disposal to see where the issue might be but the lights still flickered. Next we checked the work we did in the closet and everything seemed correct. We even had the power company come out and check the meter and they didn’t find any issues. Today, we cut back as much of the damaged wire in the barn as we could find and replaced that breaker. We’ve left the breaker off in case there were more wires we hadn’t found. When replacing the breaker we also checked all of the connections in the panel and everything was tight. None of this has helped and our lights are still dimming. HELP! What am I missing?!
I know you said that all connections were checked and tight, but it sounds to me like your main incoming neutral is somehow loose. With all your lights dimming when another load is turned on or its possible that one or your phases or neutral is not making a good connection. I’m from Charlotte NC and what part of NC are you from ?
 
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HardeeHouse
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How is it possible for a line to just come loose? We’ve never touched our breaker panel and we weren’t having any issues until about a month ago.
I know it’s not any of the lines fed off of the breaker because I personally looked at them and all of the screws and wires were tight
 
DPG

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How is it possible for a line to just come loose? We’ve never touched our breaker panel and we weren’t having any issues until about a month ago.
I know it’s not any of the lines fed off of the breaker because I personally looked at them and all of the screws and wires were tight

You really need an electrician to do some testing with appropriate equipment.
 
Lucien Nunes

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In this case 'loose' could include anything that causes high-resistance at a connection between wires or panel components.. E.g. corrosion, tarnish or lack of pressure. It is almost certainly at the panel main connections, not the breaker outputs to the branch circuits.

If operating an appliance causes some or all lights to get brighter this is a very strong indication that a bad connection in the neutral is the cause. This results in the total 240V supply voltage dividing unequally between the two 120V hots... the one with the higher load sees a fall in voltage while the other sees an equal rise. In extremely unbalanced situations, small 120V appliances could receive most of the 240V and likely be damaged or burnt out.

For this reason plus the possibility of tbe bad connection itself overheating, it is best to stop experimenting and get an electrician on the case quickly.
 
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HardeeHouse
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Electrician just left. No loose neutrals and everything has the right amps. He said one of our lines might have too much stuff on it but another line (with the dryer) is having the same problem. He also suggested changing light bulbs but it’s not just light bulbs, we have a stand up fan that you can hear changes in the power when the microwave is on. Where to go from here?
 
DPG

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Electrician just left. No loose neutrals and everything has the right amps. He said one of our lines might have too much stuff on it but another line (with the dryer) is having the same problem. He also suggested changing light bulbs but it’s not just light bulbs, we have a stand up fan that you can hear changes in the power when the microwave is on. Where to go from here?

That report inspires zero confidence. Employ an electrician who will do the right testing and find the fault. I hope you didn't pay him/her.
 
Megawatt

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I know you said that all connections were checked and tight, but it sounds to me like your main incoming neutral is somehow loose. With all your lights dimming when another load is turned on or its possible that one or your phases or neutral is not making a good connection. I’m from Charlotte NC and what part of NC are you from ?
You have aluminum wire feeding your panel from the power company and I’ve run into this myself before. Your service entrance is probably SE cable and over time water will get in the panel plus it stays damp in there all the time. Anyway the customer did like you and called the power company to check there side and what they do is put a meter on the wires said all was fine and left. I got called and went straight to the meter and the neutral checked the correct voltage but I read resistance from the neutral bar I had no continuity from the meter to the panel. I shut of the main and took the neutral loose because it was covered by corrosion and making contact. With the problems your having to me it has to be in your meter and more than likely it’s the neutral. Good luck
 
Megawatt

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We are working on updating a house from 1981. A little backstory about the house: the previous owner bought it new and, based on stories from neighbors, she almost never used any lights. She’d wake up at sunrise and go to bed at sunset and never turn on any lights. All of the appliances were well cared for and original. When we moved in we installed a new fridge, countertop stove, dishwasher, and washer/dryer. All of these items were installed one at a time (except the washer/dryer). The final item (W/D) was installed in March or April of this year. Since then, we expanded our closet and, in doing so, relocated an existing outlet and added a light from that outlet. The outlet is in a line of outlets so we now have 3 connections in that box. Power in from an outlet, power out to another outlet, and power out to the light’s switch.

I’ll also note that we had squirrels chew through the wiring in our barn which caused one of our breakers to trip. Before we knew the squirrels had caused it, we flipped the breaker back on and it caused all of the lights in the house to slowly go out and buzz. While we aren’t positive, we think we also saw a small spark in the panel as well.

Shortly thereafter, we noticed that certain appliances would cause all of the lights in the house to get very bright and then dim. The dryer, garbage disposal, and microwave specifically. We also tried to run an air compressor from 2 different outlets and it wouldn’t start, it kept clicking but it wouldn’t fully run. We know there’s nothing wrong with it because it worked fine in the same outlet just an hour before.

To fix the problem, we’ve tried turning off each breaker one at a time and run the garbage disposal to see where the issue might be but the lights still flickered. Next we checked the work we did in the closet and everything seemed correct. We even had the power company come out and check the meter and they didn’t find any issues. Today, we cut back as much of the damaged wire in the barn as we could find and replaced that breaker. We’ve left the breaker off in case there were more wires we hadn’t found. When replacing the breaker we also checked all of the connections in the panel and everything was tight. None of this has helped and our lights are still dimming. HELP! What am I missing?!
Your so called electrician wants you to change you bulbs. For what, that’s not going to fix nothing
 
OP
HardeeHouse
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we called the electrician back out and he brought his boss. He said it’s not at the panel and was probably a loose wire in an outlet. He checked a few but I could practically see the dollar signs floating away so I sent him home and decided we could do that ourselves. Today, while in the process of doing that, we lost all of our power. There was no power at the meter so we called our utilities company back out even though they’ve told us before it was fine. Lo and behold, it was their wire! They’ve now dug 2 holes in our yard and one in the neighbor’s to try to fix it. We’ll see if it works but I’m hopeful. Now we’ll just have to see how it affected the rest of our appliances since we know it killed the motor on our HVAC
 
Lucien Nunes

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Thanks for the update, it's a pity you were given bad info by both the 'electrician' and the utility company. From your description it was clear that the problem was not localised to particular outlets but either the main panel connections or the incoming supply from the street. I hope they will compensate you for any damage.
 
GLENNSPARK
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Do terminal screws feel tight due to correct termination....or because they've been subjected to overheating over a period of time...?
 
M
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Wow! No Self respecting electrician I know would leave you with a statement like that! seriously. Honestly now without beating around the houses, get a "Proper" Electrician to look at this immediately - a time served Electrician will carry out tests and WILL inform you of what the problem is, be it your side of the Origin (Supply In) or Supplier Issue.
 
Megawatt

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we called the electrician back out and he brought his boss. He said it’s not at the panel and was probably a loose wire in an outlet. He checked a few but I could practically see the dollar signs floating away so I sent him home and decided we could do that ourselves. Today, while in the process of doing that, we lost all of our power. There was no power at the meter so we called our utilities company back out even though they’ve told us before it was fine. Lo and behold, it was their wire! They’ve now dug 2 holes in our yard and one in the neighbor’s to try to fix it. We’ll see if it works but I’m hopeful. Now we’ll just have to see how it affected the rest of our appliances since we know it killed the motor on our HVAC
Well congratulations my friend and if you ever need any more help you know where to get the right advice
 

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