I have power problems in my house.  The lights flicker continually, sometimes every few seconds, sometimes every couple of minutes.  I suppose the flicker has something to do with voltage fluctuations, but it happens so fast, I am not able to detect it with a volt meter reading across the lines.  It happens throughout the house, on every circuit that has a light.  I have a mixture of led bulbs, cfl's, incandescents.  I don't notice the cfl's flickering as much as the incans or led's.

 

The problem started last May.  I have notified the power company (West Penn Power), but all I get is lip service.  They promise they will come out and attach monitors on the lines to determine what the problem is.  It's September, and I haven't seen or heard anything from them.

 

I am wondering it there is any way I could monitor and record the voltage myself, that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.  I would like to get this resolved before I begin running expensive trains again.  

 

Weather, temperature or humidity does not seem to have an effect on the problem.  I have all new bulbs throughout the house.  Any ideas would helpful, thanks.

Original Post

You might see if there is a private company that could monitor your power for a reasonable cost.

 

Alternatively, you could buy a constant voltage transformer for your  trains.  These are also called resonant transformers.  Sola used to make them.

 

Another alternative is to get a UPS for the trains.  

 

 

I am sure there are a lot smarter guys than me who can chime in here, but this sounds like some sort of intermittent connection or poor ground.  

 

Have you, or some one like an electrician checked the panel for intermittents, and or loose connection?

 

Not to be an alarmist, but this is not normal, and could be a sign of more serious things such as something shorting or arcing.

 

Not sure I would wait for the power company.

 

Just my 2 cents

 

 

 

 

Originally Posted by Korber Models:

I am sure there are a lot smarter guys than me who can chime in here, but this sounds like some sort of intermittent connection or poor ground.  

 

Have you, or some one like an electrician checked the panel for intermittents, and or loose connection?

 

Not to be an alarmist, but this is not normal, and could be a sign of more serious things such as something shorting or arcing.

 

Not sure I would wait for the power company.

 

Just my 2 cents

 

 

 

 

It will be my next step.  I missed an opportunity when we had a complete outage overnight a couple of weeks ago.  It would have been an ideal time to check all the house connections.  I am thinking of cutting the seal on the meter, and taking it out to check the connections safely.  I asked the power company to help me with this, but got no where, again.

May be a loose or bad connection outside where you power comes in from the road and connects to the mast head (if your house is feed via "aerial") on your house or in your main service panel. My understanding is that a loose/corroded/ "neutral" can cause this?  You may want to call a qualified electrician to get this corrected.

 

Jeff 

If you have checked your breaker panel, and are sure all wires are tight and nothing is corroded or loose, then the problem is probably outside the house. I had the same problem years ago, and I had a long wooden stick that i used to tap the connection feeding my house. The lights flickered, and I knew the problem was at that connection point. I called the electric company, and they repaired it. Fast forward to today. A number of months ago I lost power to half my house. I have 220 volts coming in, so half the house is on either line coming in. There is no loose connection here. I called the electric company and they would not service me. The thing I did, and you may need to do, is to write a formal complaint to your states' Public Service Commission. They will investigate the lack of service that you should be getting, and contact your local power company to expedite the service and repair. Even now, after a complaint filed and a few calls from the power company, I still have not had any service here. I just filed my second complaint with the local Public Service Commission. I'm waiting for both a telephone call and written reply from the power company.

 

Larry

Years ago, I had a flickering overhead light in the bedroom of an apartment I was renting. On closer inspection, I noticed a barely audible buzzing noise whenever the light flickered. After pulling the fuse, I removed the fixture and discovered a loose wire nut at the connection, which was still warm, even though the power had been off for quite a while. The wire nut and wires were black with soot from the arcing, which was the buzzing I had heard earlier. The building was about forty years old at the time, but I don't know how the wire nut loosened itself to cause the problem. I stayed there for about five years after that, but I was always on the lookout for any more electrical problems until I moved.

 

Fortunately, at the time I didn't have any sensitive electronics other than my computer, which was connected to a UPS. I would say that even if you have to pay to have your house checked out professionally, it should be done, just for your own peace of mind.

 

Bill in FtL

The power company's responsibility ends at the meter head.  Everything beyond is the homeowner's responsibility.

 

My meter once blew off the box because of a poor connection on the terminal block after the meter.  Landed about 6 feet away.  At least the Edison service guy put in a jumper so we could run part of the house.  Had to have an electrician replace the meter box. 

 

Rusty

This forum is great for a lot of things but, remotely diagnosing electrical issues within someone's  house probably isn't one of them.

We don't know each other but, one of the last things I would want to see on here is a post titled "Bad news about Bob Severin."

Please call an electrician tomorrow.

Curt

Having worked for a public utility in the past, the last thing they want to get is a call from the regulatory organization (Public Utility Commission or something like that). CALL THEM and report the lack of cooperation from your electric company after numerous calls and their lack of follow through. I would worry about a problem that could potentially cause a fire because of a short and if you share my concerns, tell them that as well.

 

In this case, the squeaky wheel does get the grease. You need to start squeaking very loudly.

 

I am wondering it there is any way I could monitor and record the voltage myself, that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.  I would like to get this resolved before I begin running expensive trains again.  

 

 Fluke makes a meter that will record voltage, phase fluctuations ect. I'll check the numbers on the one at work. You can google fluke meters and I am sure it will show

up. 

I've scene main breakers act like what you are describing. The guy's are right.

Check for loose connections and slight burn marks first. Also check the service entry

cable. ( wire from the meter going into the house ) I've scene the insulation break

and moisture get into the cable.

Most of all BE CAREFUL !!!!

I'd force the issue with the power company......then call an electrician for a check up. If he finds nothing on the house side then you can go to your state utility commission and file.

While waiting if you have one of the little testers with 3 LED's that show positive, negative and solid ground is a start.....but do not delay. I found a loose wire in a outlet that almost caused a issue.

 

Originally Posted by juniata guy:

Please call an electrician tomorrow.

Curt

ABSOLUTELY!  The problem will not be solved via discussions on a toy train forum.  Requires an on-site examination by a fully qualified individual.  And do it first thing tomorrow morning!

How old is the house?

Was it built in the 1990s(?)-2003(?) when Chinese Drywall was used and since then have found it to be eating up household electrical wiring in the walls?

If you do a google search, it will show you how to do some basic inspections for this issue.

Also, having lived in Houston Texas, i.e. the Land of Telephone Poles and above ground wiring...that stuff will cause what you describe when there is a breeze.

Also, foundation issues, another SE Texas joy....can cause what you describe.

UPDATE:  

 

First:  I sat with a multi-meter on my lap for an hour.  When the lights flicker, the voltage drops from 119 to less than 100.  

 

Second:  West Penn Power showed up at my door.  Yes, on Sunday evening.  They checked the meter and told me the voltage was 244.  However, the feeder is only 60 amps, and probably should be a minimum of 100 amps.

 

Third:  And probably the most interesting.  I am not alone with this problem. Seems everyone in the neighborhood is complaining about the same thing.

 

Fourth:  They claim that they are unable locate the proper recording meters to test for the problem.  Seems these particular meters have been AWOL from West Penn Power for some time.  

 

Since I am not the only kid on the block, I will cease to investigate this on my end, and wait another week for the power company to do something.  If nothing further occurs, then I will place a call to the PUCO or one of the local TV Stations, famous for helping consumers fight the system.

 

Thanks to everyone for their concerns, offers of probable causes, and possible solutions. I did locate one circuit in  my house with an open ground.  This I will investigate and rectify myself.  I'm fairly capable when it come to this type of electrical work.  

 

Thanks once again - Bob Severin

What if an electrician or the power co. determines that your trains are causing power surges and drops in the neighborhood as well as your own home? I suspect your neighbors will be none too pleased.

Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.

Originally Posted by rockstars1989:

You are in the wrong place looking for a solution to a problem like this.

Thanks Nick. Actually, I think this was the right place.  I got some ideas, followed through on contacting the power company, and I think the problem may yet be rectified by them.  The folks here were quite helpful with all their individual inputs.  I am grateful just to have some opinions from other folks.  Help comes in many forms, even if  just directs someone, like me, to seek out other, more qualified people to fix a given problem.

Originally Posted by catnap:

What if an electrician or the power co. determines that your trains are causing power surges and drops in the neighborhood as well as your own home? I suspect your neighbors will be none too pleased.

I knew I should have changed over to LED for my passenger cars!  

Did the power company inspect your connections from the street to the house?

 

My computer UPS are very sensitive and log power events. I was experiencing intermittent "blackouts" of a couple of seconds or less. When the power company arrived, they discovered a connector to the house was bad and arcing. The guy left the melted one for me.

 

Later, after some storm damage up the road from me, the crew was doing some repairs and discovered that the neutral wire up on the poles was not connected to the transformer closest to me. That had occurred from storm damage years before. I had seen the bare metal wire laying in the woods, but thought it was just something they didn't clean up.

 

Finally, all of the "ghost" problems and noise went away. I went nuts in the house because I could find nothing wrong. Nothing was wrong.

 

The point, make sure the power company 100% all of their stuff.

Carl

Arctic Railroad

First - get it fixed.

 

I might be the power company with problems in its lines - if so most likely small tree branches rubbing up against its lines, but it normally would not go on for so long without something getting bad.  IF neighbors have this problem, too, it is definately them causing the problem, if not, it may still be them, but much less likely.

 

It might be something in your house, though.  I'd tend to think that more likely  and focus on that first since if it is, it could be something you need to take care of soon.  Some things that go bad with appliances and wiring can affect all the voltage in the house.  I would not worry about your trains right now - I know we get a lot of discussion about installing DSRs and all but frankly I've never had problems with mine and there are more important things to worry about. 

 

More recently, I had something similar to what you describe occur for about three weeks maybe two years ago - when the starting capacitor on my central HVAC unit's main motor went out.  Quick dip ever time it started, mild surge (brightening) when it stopped.  Simple call to the AC repair guy and around $200 bill for changing it out and doing some other checks and service. 

 

I had a poor connection in my house wiring that was dragging down two circuits upstairs by six volts (definitely enough to see the lights dim alot).  I could have hired an electrician but, being somewhat experienced, I spent a Saturday morning tracking it down myself.  It was a poor wire-nut connection which I eventually traced to a particularly outlet box and tightened (not get only .7 volt drop).  The house is 25 years old now and this sort of thing happens . . . 

 

Wiring problems like that tend to develop oever time and get worse.  The concern I always have is not the flicker itself but the probable damage.  In the six-volts-gone case above - the six volt dip on a 15 amp circuit meant rup to 75 watts of power disappearing (as heat, somewhere) - - - in this case in that outlet box, where it had melted a wire nut and caused browning of surrounding insulation, etc.  A potential fire, (which probably would have been contained in the outlet box which is designed for that) just waiting to happen.

 

Check with the neighbors first.  Hound the utility if you think it is that.  Get someone to look at it otherwise.  These problems, if in your house, never go away - they only get worse.  Maybe not bad-stuff-happens worse, but . . . 

 

 

FIRST, CALL AN ELECTRICIAN, I agree with the other posts.

 

I've known several people that has a floating neutral outside the house, in both cases fairly extensive damage was done before it was corrected.  In both cases it was a power company issue, i.e. beyond the meter box.

 

While you're waiting for the electrician (you did call him, right?), check the voltage on each phase of your power.  They should be very closely matched, certainly within a couple of volts.  If a high current device like a hair dryer being turned on causes that phase to drop in voltage and the other phase to rise in voltage, you likely do have a neutral issue.

 

SECOND UPDATE:

 

Called electrical contractor.  They are sending someone out tomorrow.

 

I opened the main electrical box and found some things I did not like.  The main aluminum feeders are covered with a very thin plastic wrap.  Not the normal hard plastic like you find on Romex, but more like hard saran wrap.  And there are areas where the wire is exposed, not covered.  Now I realize this is not the cause for my immediate problem, but it definitely causes me concern for the future.

 

I will offer another update after he diagnoses everything. 

The main feeds come through conduit and other than the individual wire insulation on the two hot lines, they don't depend on insulation like Romex.  In truth, if you run wires through conduit, you should not have outside insulation covering them according to the NEC.

 

Originally Posted by gunrunnerjohn:

The main feeds come through conduit and other than the individual wire insulation on the two hot lines, they don't depend on insulation like Romex.  In truth, if you run wires through conduit, you should not have outside insulation covering them according to the NEC.

 

John:  I probably didn't make myself clear.  The wires I am talking about are in my electrical box.  Any further deterioration on the covering will cause them too short out against the metal of the box interior. 

Good move Bob.  I ran an office building for IBM back in the 80's a new facility that had aluminum wire. It drove me nuts. It would build up heat at the connections in the breaker panels which made the connections loose and caused all kinds of problems. I ended up having a contractor take pictures of all the panels in the building with a special camera that would show you the HOT SPOTS the loose connections which my maintenance people would check every three months. I ran it for five years and the system worked fine. You can feel each breaker in your panel if it's warm or hot its a problem. Another area to have them look at is how much service you have in the house if you don't have 200amp service you don't have enough.   Good Lock,   Steve

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