Flickering Ceiling Lights

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On 01/10/2014 10:25 AM, willshak wrote:

A house would normally have two "hot" wires and a neutral.
If there was a poor connection on /one/ of the "hots" only half the circuits would be affected.
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On 1/10/2014 3:13 PM, philo wrote:

Half: Lights, but not outlets?
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On 01/10/2014 02:28 PM, Stormin Mormon wrote:

Agreed...the outlets would have to be fed by a separate hot wire than the ceiling
See other post...it looks like the outlets have their own breaker and the wires look burned. (at least one does)
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On 1/10/2014 2:41 PM, philo wrote:

The installation looks old enough that one might not have a clue as to what is what. Hell, sometimes the same can be said about any residential installation. Things that make you go hmm...
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All the ceiling lights in the house started flickering intermittently, as if there is a loose connection in the circuit. It's just the light - wall receptacles are fine.
It is not happening all the time or at a particular time of day. My first guess was a loose connection at the circuit breaker panel, but all the connections there are good, and the breaker is fully on.
I know this is not much info, but all I have at this point. I don't think we have rats, but I can picture a big fat rat chewing on a cable in the attic.
For the electrical folks, how would you go about troubleshooting this?
*I would remove some of the circuit breakers to see if there is any indication of arcing on the back of the breakers or busbar. If there is, sand the busbar a little with sandpaper to clean it up and then replace the breakers. If the busbar is severely damaged, move the breaker location or replace the panel or just its interior.
Make sure all connections in the breaker panel are tight, including the neutrals and the mains. I also check the grounds to make sure that they are tight.
If the problem seems to be only on one circuit, start by opening up the switches and ceiling boxes nearest to the electrical panel and go out from there. You should also check any outlets that may be on that circuit.
If the problem is multiple circuits and you didn't find anything by removing the circuit breakers, there may be a loose connection on the main line. This could be inside of the electric meter, at the weatherhead, or at the transformer on the pole.
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On 1/8/2014 9:39 PM, Guv Bob wrote:

If it happens like only once, this probably won't help. But if it is truly flickering, an AM radio might be used to sniff for RF produced. Just tune between stations and put it near outlets, etc. Like I said, 'might'.
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On Wed, 8 Jan 2014 18:39:36 -0800, "Guv Bob"

Is there attic space over the lights? I would try to get in the attic next. A common insulation would be for the 2 circuits (in one cable) to go to the closest ceiling light box and one circuit catches the front half of the house and the other circuit catches the other side of the house.
If you can see the wall where wires go down to the panel, you may be able to figure out which wire goes from the panel to a ceiling light. That light would be the first place to check.
You may be able to wiggle the romex enough to make the lights flicker for someone downstairs watching. If you can get the lights to flicker by doing that, the box that wire goes into will be the problem box. It will most likely be a loose/bad wirenut on the white wire.
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*In my experience the wirenut connection is usually the least likely to be loose. When they are loose it is because some DIYer didn't twist the wires together before putting the wirenut on. Black wires also have wirenut connections in outlet and switch boxes. Trying to rattle cables that are stapled every 4' in the wall is not likely to yield any information unless there is a break in the cable nearby.
The most common problems that I have found that causes flickering lights and intermittent outlets are bad circuit breakers, loose connections on the terminal screws in the panel, and back stabbed connections on the wiring devices. If the wiring was done by someone who lacked experience and knowledge (It is usually obvious by the installation) then loose wirenut connections is quite possible.
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All the ceiling lights in the house started flickering intermittently, as if there is a loose connection in the circuit. It's just the light - wall receptacles are fine.
It is not happening all the time or at a particular time of day. My first guess was a loose connection at the circuit breaker panel, but all the connections there are good, and the breaker is fully on.
I know this is not much info, but all I have at this point. I don't think we have rats, but I can picture a big fat rat chewing on a cable in the attic.
For the electrical folks, how would you go about troubleshooting this?
Thanks in advance.
Bob
==Photos of the panel:
View from Left:
http://imageshack.com/a/img560/852/xvkt.jpg
The 2 light circuits are on the same dual breaker module.
View from Right:
http://imageshack.com/a/img856/8070/c7xk.jpg
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All the ceiling lights in the house started flickering intermittently, as if there is a loose connection in the circuit. It's just the light - wall receptacles are fine.
It is not happening all the time or at a particular time of day. My first guess was a loose connection at the circuit breaker panel, but all the connections there are good, and the breaker is fully on.
I know this is not much info, but all I have at this point. I don't think we have rats, but I can picture a big fat rat chewing on a cable in the attic.
For the electrical folks, how would you go about troubleshooting this?
Thanks in advance.
Bob
==Photos of the panel:
View from Left:
http://imageshack.com/a/img560/852/xvkt.jpg
The 2 light circuits are on the same dual breaker module.
View from Right:
http://imageshack.com/a/img856/8070/c7xk.jpg
One more...
My cousin Ernie Sally McKinney just won Miss Calif. She's quite a looker, so please no obscene comments....
http://img36.imageshack.us/img36/5450/m820.jpg
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On 01/10/2014 02:09 PM, Guv Bob wrote:

That photo really helped. It looks very much like one of the wires is burned. I'd cut it back until you got to clean, shiny wire and also replace the breaker itself. (Probably do the same for the other as well)
If ...to get good wire...you need to go back farther than there would be room to reconnect...you will have to "wire nut" new wire in place.
Be sure the connection is tight.
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On 1/10/2014 3:09 PM, Guv Bob wrote:

That's a bit of a surprise. Perhaps an old Pushmatic? Those are not "interchange" breakers.
Wow, she's very attractive. But, I guess that's part of winning such a contest.
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Christopher A. Young
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All the ceiling lights in the house started flickering intermittently, as if there is a loose connection in the circuit. It's just the light - wall receptacles are fine.
It is not happening all the time or at a particular time of day. My first guess was a loose connection at the circuit breaker panel, but all the connections there are good, and the breaker is fully on.
I know this is not much info, but all I have at this point. I don't think we have rats, but I can picture a big fat rat chewing on a cable in the attic.
For the electrical folks, how would you go about troubleshooting this?
Thanks in advance.
Bob
==Photos of the panel:
View from Left:
http://imageshack.com/a/img560/852/xvkt.jpg
The 2 light circuits are on the same dual breaker module.
View from Right:
http://imageshack.com/a/img856/8070/c7xk.jpg
*The circuit breaker for ceiling lights 1 seems to have some discoloration on the busbar above the wire terminal screw. There is also a slight discoloration on the white wire in front of it indicating that it was exposed to excessive heat. Siemens makes replacement Pushmatic circuit breakers. You can get them at an electrical supply that is a Siemens distributor.
Here is an example of the replacement, but I don't recommend buying a used product: http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/220858664088?lpid
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On Fri, 10 Jan 2014 12:04:47 -0800, "Guv Bob"

From the first photo, it looks like the two wires you have marked are both black. How do they leave the panel? It looks like they go out the bottom. It is strange they would go out the bottom to feed lights. Do they go into a pipe or a cable? How many wires total are in the same pipe/cable?
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intermittently, as if there is a loose connection in the circuit. It's just the light - wall receptacles are fine.

first guess was a loose connection at the circuit breaker panel, but all the connections there are good, and the breaker is fully on.

think we have rats, but I can picture a big fat rat chewing on a cable in the attic.

this?

The black feeders from the light CB's wrap down below the breakers, then back up the right side and out the top with 4 other conductors.
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On Sat, 11 Jan 2014 12:25:39 -0800, "Guv Bob"

Try turning on all the lights in the house and just see if the white wire gets warm.
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On 1/10/2014 2:04 PM, Guv Bob wrote:

Nothing obvious with the pictures provided. I do not see any burnt wires as others have suggested.
Someone else mentioned swapping breakers. Go ahead and try this.
Other than that, you might have to trace the wiring from point A to point B, and so on and so forth. If all are flickering I would suspect the breaker, first, then a termination problem second.
Turn off breaker and remove from panel. Visually check the Buss bars for damage/corrosion. If nothing, replace breaker and remove one of the wires and swap wires with another breaker. Make sure that both breakers are 15 amp. Make note of which breaker controls which lighting. Only observe those lights for indication of trouble.
If the problem goes away, swap wires back and swap the other problem\ wire with the other breaker that worked. If the problem goes away, again, replace the breaker. If not, the bug hunt begins.
This entails removing all light fixtures and switches and checking each for proper terminations or indications of wear. Not always a straight forward proposition.
Sometimes one has to turn the power off to the circuit, pull the switch out of the box, turn the power back on and operate the switch, then tap the switch with a screw driver.
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Don't waste time and effort on the breaker until you do ONE simple test. Connect a 100 watt light bulb to each breaker with clips. Turn all the lights that flicker on. Does the light on the breaker flicker? Yes? Breaker. No? Keep looking. It is something common to both circuits and not common to any other circuits in the house. It is an "edison" circuit - so the neutral is the only common and exclusive component. Start at the neutral bus and work back - first joint in the circuit will in all likelyhood be the problem if it is not the neutral buss.
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On 1/10/2014 9:51 PM, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

This is a very sound method. I only recommend swapping wires since it will take zero extra materials, will take about 2 minutes to complete the swap/inspection.
A process like yours will give a result. However, the lamp will have a different neutral connection (note to guv, do not put the lamp across both breakers - go between one breaker and the neutral buss).
The second part would be to isolate the wiring in the panel, and trace the neutral wires of each circuit to the neutral buss, and make sure the connections are good. Turn off breaker, loosen and inpect wire, re- connect to neutral buss and tighten. Be very careful. One hand in panel, the other holding a good, insulated screw driver. Someone might have added another circuit, so treat the neutral as if it were live.
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*In theory it sounds like a good easy method to connect a 100 watt bulb and see if it flickers. However a 100 watt bulb is much less of a load than all of the lights in the house and it may work just fine. The problem is not constant, but intermittent. Since the two breakers are one unit, they are the common link for the two circuits that are having the problem. There are two black wires indicating that it is not a three wire with a common neutral.
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