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Customer Discussions > Home Improvement forum

Flickering Lights

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Showing 1-16 of 16 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 19, 2012 5:42:45 PM PDT
bilyo says:
I live in a house that is just over 30 years old. A couple of years ago we started experiencing an intermittent flickering light condition on just one 15 amp circuit. It is a very subtle flicker. At first, you're not sure it flickered or you just blinked. Any light, whether switched or plugged into a receptacle on that circuit, flickers.

After checking all connections on that circuit and making sure that it is not over loaded, I went to the sub-panel and checked the tightness of the connections. I was preparing to replace the breaker when I discovered that pulling the breaker and putting it back solved the problem.

Since that time, the same thing has occurred on the same circuit two additional times at intervals of several months. Each time, pulling the breaker and putting it back has corrected the flickering. The problem has not occurred on any other circuit.

Does anyone know what causes this and is there anything that will prevent it?


In reply to an earlier post on Apr 19, 2012 9:18:06 PM PDT
Shradhanand says:
hi,try replacing the circuit breaker andcheck the connections properly.
also try switch it in the place of a next circuit breaker.
if it solve the problem then that section on the box is faulty.
you can relocate the breaker if there is space or replace the panel. good luck

Posted on Apr 20, 2012 5:28:58 AM PDT
Sounds like a loose connection someplace. It's probably arching, and IMHO a fire hazard.

Posted on Apr 20, 2012 7:00:49 AM PDT
First, is it a GFI circuit breaker? What all is on the circuit? I have noticed a slight flicker on GFI protected circuits when a fluorescent light is on. The breaker also hums or buzzes but never heats up or trips. I have recently replaced my bathroom 50w halogen bulbs with 6w LED units. That GFI breaker now also buzzes when the LED light is on. I also have to replace my auto on (motion) switch with a normal SPSD because in the auto position the LED lights rapidly turn on / off.

Posted on Apr 20, 2012 5:34:36 PM PDT
Mr. Jumps says:
Also do some research on your particular fuse panel. Some fuse boxes from that era, along with their circuit breakers are faulty.

Posted on Apr 21, 2012 3:38:51 PM PDT
bilyo says:
After re-installing the breaker a few days ago (which stopped the flickering) the flickering started again yesterday. Larry Birt's comment reminded me that I have an outdoor GFCI receptacle that was not on any of my breaker labels. I checked and, sure enough, it is on the same circuit. I disconnected it and the flickering stopped. I find this strange because it is at the end of the line and not feeding anything else on the circuit. I replaced it with a new one. We'll see if this "fix" lasts.

Does anyone know if this is a common occurrence with GFCI receptacles. I have several others on other circuits. Some feed other receptacles and some don't. Most are older than the one I just replaced and there have been no problems with them.

Thanks for your comments

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 22, 2012 2:03:38 PM PDT
I had the exact same problem about a year ago. It seemd that during certain times of the day and mostly at night my lights would flicker and to make a long story short I ended up calling my electric company to come out and chek my connection from their transformer to my panel the utility worker who came out to check my problem also checked my panel and told me "they" needed to install a brand new transformer because the one that was there was very old and five houses were feeding off of it.
About two days later a four man crew was in the back of my house and installed a brand new transformer. That solved our problem compleatly, no more flickkering lights.....Now I'm no electrical contractor and I don't know if this will solve your problem but it did solve mine and it didn't cost us a dime. It's worth it to call your electrical utility company to get all of the electrical components checked out, including theirs...good luck, I know what you are going through.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 22, 2012 3:50:25 PM PDT
bilyo says:
Good thinking. I hadn't thought about calling the power company. Thanks for the comment. If my current "fix" doesn't work I'll give them a call.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 22, 2012 5:58:24 PM PDT
Your welcome bilyo. My house was biult in 1945 and when I bought it I had the electric service upgraded to 200 amp with a new panel and partial new wiring, outlets,etc throughout. My lights started flickering
about ten years after the electrical upgrades were completed.
It's amazing how equipment(from wall switches to utility pole transformers) wears out. Call your electric company they will figure it out for you, those guys seen it all and will help you I'm sure. Good Luck.

Posted on Apr 22, 2012 7:29:13 PM PDT
C. Mcn says:
my problem was a loose screw where the main red wire came in from the exterior and attached to the master breaker, upon tightening this screw a good 270 degrees around, my problems disappeared mostly, still some minor flickering at weird times but much more rare. i was surprised the screw had gotten this loose on a 25 year old panel.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 22, 2012 9:20:43 PM PDT
Your house is about the right age, where it might have some copper clad aluminum wiring. This is wiring that was created in the 70's by Texas Instruments to reduce the cost of household wiring. One of the problems created by the cladding is that some wires can start to peel off their terminals and create a fire hazard. You might want to check the wiring on that circuit and see if the cross section of the wire you can see any aluminum. If so I would recommend replacing the wiring on that circuit. It's not safe.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 28, 2012 5:54:02 PM PDT
bilyo says:
Thanks for your reply and sorry it took so long to reply back. Nope. No aluminum here. That's one of the first things I checked before buying the place.
Replacement of the GFCI receptacle seems to have corrected the problem - so far. Wish I understood why it was a problem in the first place.
Thanks again.

Posted on Apr 29, 2012 2:33:40 PM PDT
Contacting the power company will not resolve any issues as they are not responsible for anything beyond the pole that leads to your home if that's where the problem is.

Based on your description, it sounds like you might have a busbar that is narrower than the breaker would like to see or the breakers themselves are gapped a tiny bit too wide. If your panel is manufactured by Federal Pacific, you need to replace it as soon as you possibly can as they are no longer capable of remaining compliant with national electrical codes. In fact, if you sell your home, the panel will have to be replaced with a new one.

When current flows through a circuit, heat is generated which causes the metals to expand and contract. Over time, this can lead to arcing which then starts fires as others here have mentioned. But don't worry! Not all light flickering leads to fires, but it's best to keep an eye on it.

If you have an intimate understanding of electrical codes and feel confident working in a panel, a lot of the work can be performed by you. If not, it's best to hire a licensed electrician with liability insurance.

You could use a dab of Noalox between the bar and breaker (insert at breaker end) which will prevent oxidization between the parts. You can purchase this at any Home Depot or Lowes in the electrical section. It's the same stuff you'd use when joining copper and aluminum together.

Good luck, turn off power (EVEN THE MAIN BREAKER) and stay safe!

Posted on Apr 29, 2012 7:19:20 PM PDT
bilyo says:
Thanks for the pointers. The bedroom that my wife uses as a sewing room is on that circuit. So, you can bet she will let me know if the lights start flickering again.
Thanks for the Noalox tip. I was wondering if there was something like that. I'll get some and treat all the breaker contacts.

Posted on Dec 16, 2012 6:16:10 PM PST
Reading,Pa says:
did replacing the gfci fix the problem ? thanks

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 16, 2012 7:35:42 PM PST
bilyo says:
It seemed to fix the problem for a while but, then the flickering returned. I ended up applying Noalox, as recommended by Phillip in his above posting. This appears to have solved the problem. No more flickering since April. As I was pulling the breakers to apply the compound I noticed that some of the contacts felt and sounded very gritty. So, I'm sure there was some corrosion. I should have reported my success back to this forum but, once the problem was solved, I went on to other things and forgot about it.
Thanks to everyone for the help; especially Phillip
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Discussion in:  Home Improvement forum
Participants:  10
Total posts:  16
Initial post:  Apr 19, 2012
Latest post:  Dec 16, 2012

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