Flickering Ceiling Lights

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On Wednesday, January 8, 2014 8:39:36 PM UTC-6, Guv Bob wrote:

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 t ime of day. My first guess was a loose connection at the circuit breaker pa nel, 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? Th anks in advance. Bob
Those look like Bulldog push button breakers. I would try to clip lead a l ight on the output side of the breaker that feeds the flickering lights, an d see if there is any flickering at the breaker output side when the ceilin g lights are flickering. That will prove something, as to where you should look next. Those breakers look old enough to seriously consider replacing them, even if the trouble end up being downstream from the breaker.
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On 1/10/2014 3:22 PM, snipped-for-privacy@sbcglobal.net wrote:

For diagnostic, swap the lights wires off that breaker, with the wires off another breaker.
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Put the 100 Watt test lamp on at the output of the breaker, then turn on al l the ceiling lights to cause the flickering. When you get the flickering, see if the 100W bulb also flickers. If you can't see the ceiling lights f rom the electrical panel, put the 100W bulb at the end of a long extension cord so you can see the bulb aand the ceiling lights at the same time. TH IS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE!!!!
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snipped-for-privacy@sbcglobal.net wrote:

That's what a wife is for!
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On Wed, 8 Jan 2014 18:39:36 -0800, "Guv Bob"

You may have a loose neutral on the house or in the panel. You've checked the hots but a neutral can do this, too. BTDT.
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Thanks to all for the tips and good info. I pulled out the tandem CB & cleaned all contacts and the flickering stopped. Checked Home Depot and their equivalent is $54 by Connecticut Electric. Mine is Siemens originally installed in 1961.
Here are some odd photos for curiosity. The panel can use some cleaning -- something for another day.
CB Wires Running out of Panel to House http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800x600q90/24/m966.jpg
Siemens Tandem CB (2 separate signal-pole circuits) http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800x600q90/543/dl9w.jpg
Connections sanded and cleaned http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800x600q90/856/dmyz.jpg
Neutral bus http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800x600q90/716/eezs.jpg
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
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On 1/12/2014 12:12 AM, Guv Bob wrote:

Thank you for the follow up. I'm glad it was some thing simple like cleaning some terminals. A good chance for the rest of us to learn from your experience.
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My question is this:
Why is there so much rust in the panel? Is the house extremely humid or is water getting into the panel via some kind of leak?
I had rust in my panel a while back. The source was the service cable. Water was getting into the wire where it entered the meter and traveling along the cable, up and down, until it came into the panel. I sealed the junction and also cut a small slit in the service cable jacket at it's lowest point (a small dip) along it's run. Water dripped from the slit for a little while.
I haven't seen any more evidence of water in the panel. I check the slit every now and then and there is no evidence that the water is dripping from it, so I'm pretty sure the sealant solved the issue.
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wrote:

CB &

and

cleaning

or is

The photos make it look worse than it is. Mostly that's dust. It's in a low foggy area, panel is 50+ years old on the side of the house that the rain hits.

traveling

the

for

slit

from

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You have rust colored dust? That's dust on the screw heads? That's dust on the uninsulated section of the wires? That's dust on the top of the neutral bar at the top screw? I think not.
In any case, the fact that you had flickering lights and that cleaning the CB connections fixed the problem indicates that conditions inside the box are degrading.
re: "The panel can use some cleaning -- something for another day."
IMHO, that day should be very soon.
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On 01/12/2014 10:06 AM, DerbyDad03 wrote: X

It's my experience in the industrial world that cleaning connections is only a temporary fix. The only true repair is to replace all.
Of course the stuff I worked on was several hundred amps...a 15 amp wire may hold up ok...but I'd check all connections periodically.
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wrote:

CB &

Depot and

cleaning

humid or is

in a

the rain hits.

dust on

neutral

Good grief. Get a life.

the

box

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I have a life and I plan to keep living it. If my panel was degraded to such a state that it was causing loose connections, I'd fix it ASAP before a fire started. I found the moisture in my panel while trying to figure out why *my* lights were flickering. I noticed the rust and tracked the cause down to the water in the service cable. I took care of it immediately.
As it turned out, the flickering was caused by a loose cable at the pole, but I still knew enough that rust in a service panel is not something to leave as a project "for another day".
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*Save your keystrokes Derby. You're talking to someone who won't even replace a 50+ year old breaker to ensure his own comfort and piece of mind. That panel is past its rated life and should be replaced and I am guessing that the service that feeds it as well. The next owner of the house will take care of it.
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... Snip ...

Thanks for the support, John.
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On 1/13/2014 10:14 AM, DerbyDad03 wrote:

Good job, Bob. Personally I would update the panel to something new, but that is *me*. Nothing in the images that you showed would be an OMG moment to an electrician. Nothing but normal oxidation and thermal cycling present.
Derby, rust on copper wires? Really?
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I never said there was rust on the wires. I questioned the claim that it was dust. Not the same thing.
Rust in the panel, corrosion on the wires, etc. are all signs that there are problems within the panel - age, moisture, whatever - that should be addressed.
The fact that the problem was solved by cleaning the breaker and the connection indicates that the rust and corrosion are impacting the performance of the panel.
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Put the 100 Watt test lamp on at the output of the breaker, then turn on a ll the ceiling lights to cause the flickering. When you get the flickering , see if the 100W bulb also flickers. If you can't see the ceiling lights from the electrical panel, put the 100W bulb at the end of a long extension cord so you can see the bulb aand the ceiling lights at the same time. T HIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE!!!!
That's what a wife is for!
After 55+ years of marriage, I know what I can and can't ask for <g>.
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Well, the lights started flickering again. In attached, CB 1 & 3 are a signal unit - tandem I think is the term. I removed them, cleaned all the contacts and checked all the wiring connections and all are fine. After that, no flickering for a few weeks. Now it started again this week. Connections are still tight.
Looks like you have to pay to post images at imageshack.us now. If anyone knows somewhere else, I can post an image for this there. Meanwhile, it's posted at alt.binaries.schematics.electronics and alt.binaries.schematics.electronic.
CB #9, receptacle near the door has a lamp plugged into it and it also flickers when the ceiling lights do. So that probably elimates CB 1&3 as the problem. Also, it might be good to say that no appliances or heavy power users are running at the time of the flickering. I have looked for a common activity, but they flicker night or day, and whether anything else is running or not.
No other devices are flickering. Wind doesn't make any difference,. The ceiling light/fan in slot #8 doesn't flicker, nor do any other lamps plugged into receptacles.
Any other ideas what might be the problem before I go out and buy a new CB?
Thanks fellers!
Bob
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On Sun, 20 Apr 2014 07:53:55 -0800, "Guv Bob"

I would also check for an intermittent circuit breaker.
If nothing obvious appears (like a circuit breaker on fire, smoking, or cracked housing), put a clamp on ammeter on the wire to the flickering circuit and see if you can detect the flickering. Testing will take two people. Station one at the breaker box and have them watch the ammeter. Follow the wiring around the house until you find the bad connection by wiggling the wiring and wall jacks. My guess(tm) is a junction box in the ceiling or under the floor, where the wires are connected with electrical tape instead of wire nuts or screw terminals.
If you do find tape, I strongly suggest you hire an electrician to inspect your wiring as other such abominations may be lurking in the wiring.
This is what you do NOT want to see: <http://diy.stackexchange.com/questions/2032/is-this-electrical-junction-up-to-code
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