electrical problem

I have a power problem, two back bedrooms have flickering lights and tv. Seems to be power fluctuations. Where should I start the fix this?
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HomeBrewer






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The circuit breaker for those bedrooms. Check tightness of connections to breaker AND to neutral and ground bars. Also check carefully any wire-nut connections in the circuit. You got a loose connection somewhere.

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I checked all of the connections inside the fuse box. They are tight. The problem is in two seperate bedrooms, which I believe is on two seperate breakers. Either way, there are no loose connections inside the breaker box. The computer does not flicker. Only the lights and tv screen. The lights never go out, just dim at random times, for a second or two. The tv screen narrows like it's going off, but then goes back to normal.
Any other suggestions? The breakers are 20 amp and look in good condition. Do breakers go BAD? should I replace the breaker and try that?
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"Curmudgeon" < snipped-for-privacy@nospam.com> wrote in message
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Breakers do go bad, but that would normally mean they trip too easily, or not at all. It would be most odd that they cause fluctuations. The breakers are sometimes not set in the box properly, so you might pull them out and reinstall them.
It pretty much has to be a bad connection somewhere. If it is two circuits than you have to figure out precisely what is on those two circuits, and trace them. Then you have to test the circuit everywhere. Somewhere it will be okay on one side, but bad on the other. There is no shortcut for this. It could be a bad splice, a defective outlet, or lots of things.
If the entire circuit is bad, then it has to be the connection at the box, whether it looked okay or not.
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Toller wrote:

I concur with Toller. As my uncle Webfoot used to say, "You've got a loose disconnection somewhere." The "push in" connectors on the backs of some outlets are prime suspects for this kind of stuff.
The noise you reported "coming from a breaker" might just be a magnetic breaker responding to fluctuating current caused by an arc at the loose connection.
I didn't notice your mentioning whether you flipped those breakers off one at a time to see whether the flickering lights and TV are all on one breaker. It would be rather unusual if they weren't. Proving that will point you a little closer to the answer. If its localized to one breaker, you could swap that breaker with one of the other (same sized) ones and see what happens. I trust you know what you're about with line voltage power and know how to KEEP SAFE.
Now, the TV could be flickering because the power from the outlet it's plugged into is jumping around, OR it could just be radio frequency noise created by an arcing loose connection bugging the TV reception. Try plugging in a table lamp in place of the TV, that'll tell you.
Before you go nuts opening up stuff all over the place, try thumping hard with the side of your fist on the walls adjacent to light switches and outlets (while the lights and TV are on) and see if you can affect things that way. You may get lucky and zoom in on the area where there is a loose connection.
Good luck and let us know what it turns out to be.
Jeff
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Jeff Wisnia (W1BSV + Brass Rat '57 EE)

"My luck is so bad that if I bought a cemetery, people would stop dying."
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Are you sure the bedrooms are on seperate circuits?

From the symptoms you describe, you may very well have an intermittent short circuit somewhere with some arcing going on. If this is the case and the location of the intermittent short isn't obvious, I suggest you call a professional electrician to diagnose and correct the situation ASAP.
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I checked the ground bars too - all connections inside the breaker box look ok.
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While I was checking the inside of the breaker box, I heard a sizzling or crackling sound coming from one of the breakers (the bedrooms in question area). Again could this be a bad breaker? or do they go bad?
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Yes, breakers do go bad. Is the breaker warm to the touch?
If the arcing is taking place within the breaker, you will have to replace it. If the arcing is between the breaker and it's connection to the buss bar, you should still replace the breaker. If the problem does turn out to be between the breaker and the buss bar in the panel, then you should put the new breaker in another location in the panel (if there's room), as part of the buss bar may have been scorched and burned away by the arcing, Circuit breakers are not that expensive (unless you have an FPE breaker and panel...in that case, plan on spending about 6 to 10 times what any other brand would cost), nor are they that difficult to replace. The tricky part is if you have no means of cutting power to the buss bars and have to do this with a live panel.
That being said, I still recommend that you have a professional electrician do this job for you. It's better to be safe than sorry - especially if this job has to be done on a live panel. This is a very common and routine job for a pro and he or she can be in and out of there in about 20 minutes.
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The largest reason for recommending an electrician: your diagnostic skills (and those of too many responders) are severely lacking. Don't just wildly replace or fix things Only bad technicians would do that. First learn the scenario. Apparently you know the troublesome receptacle and its circuit breaker. Not enough information. First learn the entire branch circuit from breaker box to offending receptacle. Only then are we ready to seek a solution. Always and first collect facts before trying to fix something. It is how things are fixed the first time.
Now for the problem. Others have suggested a loose wire. Yes. A potentially dangerous condition (made into an emergency service call if house has aluminum wire). Each wire should join other wires only inside boxes. If wires are joined together, they must be fully joined without a wire nut - then the wire nut makes a second joint to the same wire joint. You know which boxes are in that circuit. Take off the cover and visually inspect each receptacle from back room to breaker box.
If wires are joined by connecting to receptacle, then wire must be connected to screw on receptacle side - and not using stab lock holes on back of receptacle. If you don't know those holes, then buy a single receptacle at any hardware store. However you need not even remove that receptacle to confirm proper connection. Wire should be visually obvious - be 'fully wrapped' around screws on side of receptacle.
If that visual inspection provides no obvious reason for intermittent failure, then move on to a next experiment - collect more information. You know the entire branch circuit - the order of each receptacle on that branch circuit. Now connect devices to receptacles closer to breaker box. Ideal device would be electric clock that looses time if power is lost (buy a cheap clock if you don't have one). Report loss of power and how long ago the intermittent occurred. As problem occurs on TV, etc, then does it also happen to receptacles closer to breaker box?
If intermittent occurs to receptacle closest to breaker box, then suspect a circuit breaker or wire from breaker to that first receptacle. Rare for circuit breakers to be intermittent; unless not fully seated in slot because panel cover is removed. But first locate where that intermittent is before fixing something.
One more point. If previous homeowner did wiring, then locate a wire splice somewhere inside wall - often not inside a junction box. Too many homeowners (and even some electrician) will wrap a junction only in electrical tape and throw it back inside the wall. Major problem.
This could be a serious human safety problem. Don't fix the symptoms. First collect information and test - so that you definitely know where the problem must exist. Otherwise get an electrician who should have fancy tools to solve this quickly by first identifying the problem - and only then fixing it.
BTW, this assumes the power fluctuations do not correspond to something else such as a washing machine or refrigerator starting up simultaneously. That is another symptom that suggests problems elsewhere.
HomeBrewer wrote:

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Thanks for all the replies! I am not an electrician, but I am smart enough to know my limitations, I disarm bombs for a living. I will do more diagnostics tomorrow and decide if I need to call a pro.
Thanks again!
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040430 2029 - HomeBrewer posted:

I think you found your problem when you heard the sizzling in the breaker. This is indicative of a loose connection, and inside the breaker the switch contacts could be worn, or loose. You will probably wind up replacing the circuit breaker.
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switch
Even if the noise is random? It's not a constant crackling and only happens at random. Seems NOT to coincide with the flickering lights. I dunno, I'm tired. I'll check it out tomorrow.
Thanks
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breaker.
the
happens
If a sizzling breaker is detected, it is a serious matter, even if intermittent De-energize the panel, remove the breaker and inspect the busbar. The breaker is probably damaged from heat, replace it. Depending on the severity of the heat damage, adjacent breakers/busbar may be damaged also. Inspect/replace accordingly. Breakers have been known to explode under these conditions, be careful and/or put your PPE to use.
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I removed the suspect breaker and noticed blackening on and around the contacts. The bus bar looked good. While working on the panel, I noticed a breaker that was loose. I pulled it and the plastic was broken around the contacts and the contacts were loose. Replaced both breakers and so far it's looking like it's fixed.
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Turn off the breaker, and then pull the sockets and switches out. See if they are wired with "stab in" connections, or if the wire is wrapped around the screw on the side of the outlet (or socket). Wrapped around the screw is far better quality connection.
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Stormin Mormon wrote:

There are some back-wired outlets that are better than side-wireds. They have clamps like a circuit breaker, but they *look* like the stab-ins unless you look close and see that the holes are big enough for #12 (or even #10) wires. A builder would never use them though, cuz they cost $1 more than those really cheap outlets.
-Bob
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I replaced every outlet and light switch in the house a year ago. I used the screws not the stab ins. I fixed the problem by replacing two breakers. One was broken and the other was charred. No idea how this happened, but the house is 34 years old and the breakers were probably close to that.
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Who was the manufacturer of those original breakers?
HomeBrewer wrote:

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I have already tossed them - I forget the name brand - if you list a few it might come to me. - The new ones started with an "S".?
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