Flickering lights on one circuit

In my study, my lamps will flicker every few minutes or so. I assume that I have some defect in the wiring on this circuit, or that there is a problem with my circuit breaker connection, or the breaker itself.
So, today I went to the breaker box and made sure that the wire connecting to the breaker were screwed down as tight as possible. I was able to turn the screw a full 1/2 turn, so I thought this might have cured the problem. But, it didn't.
This is a 15 amp, 120 volt circuit, and breaker. Is it very likely that the breaker itself is bad, or may I have a wiring problem somewhere in this circuit ? As far as I know, it provides power to just my one room study.
I can tell that when I turn on a heavy-current device such as my fax machine, these lights will flicker when the machine operates. So, the flicker can be triggered with a heavy load. I have never noticed this before. But be aware that I get frequent flickering even when there is no extra heavy load.
The house is 30 years old, and most likely, it is the original breaker.
Any advice would be appreciated.
Thank you.
James
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James wrote:

Probably not the breaker, although you could test that by moving the wire from the current breaker to an adjacent one (purists will tell you to exchange the wires).
Next step is to check the connections at the outlet.
If the wires are back-stabbed, un-stab them and attach the wires to the outlet's screws.
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Just a caveat...while the old stab connections are notorious for poor connections...the new "commercial grade" designs are excellent (with copper wire). (Hubbell, Leviton, P&S)
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James wrote:

Groups trimmed; this really isn't construction query...
The first step at the panel was good idea -- as another has already said, check next at the outlet(s) directly affected. "Backstab" terminations are, in fact, notorious for such symptoms developing and yours are about the right age both to have possibly used them and for problems to show up.
I'll add a little more...
First, by "lamps" are you talking wall-outlet plug-in or a ceiling fixture(s)? One assumes probably the former but ya' never know...
It would seem somewhat surprising this is the only room on a circuit--might want to check that for certain by doing a load survey of what isn't available when this breaker is off. Often there will be a scattering of service on a single breaker in order to ensure not all in one area of a house goes off if that breaker trips--that may be fooling you here and the real problem could be in another connection elsewhere.
If the flickering under load is indeed a new symptom, that does indicate something has changed and loading of the circuit is indicated by this. It could be that a loose connection as hypothesized has built up enough additional resistance that it's now showing up noticeably.
--
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First thing you want to do is identify everything on that circuit. If outlets other than the lights in that room don't cause flicker, the problem isn't at the panel. If the lights are ceiling lights, and controlled by a switch or dimmer, I'd check there. You need to give more info about the lights, such as the type. If they're low voltage and controlled by a dimmer, that could be an issue as well

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And, are they other lights in the house doing likewise? It might be that it's only noticeable in that room. For example, my den shares a wall with the kitchen and when the refrigerator kicks in there's a barely noticeable dimming of the overhead light for about one second.
JAT.
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Only the lights on this circuit do this. And, it is not a huge flicker....... just a detectable flicker, and not all the time.
Lights that are plugged into more than one outlet on this circuit do this, so I know it isn't just one bad outlet. These are ordinary lamps, with 100 watt bulbs. These are not ceiling lights.
Thanks for all the helpful replies !! I will keep monitoring this and see if I can narrow it down some more.
James
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do you have a laser printer or fishtank heater or something like that plugged in on the same circuit?
Mark
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Yes, I do have a laser printer plugged in to this circuit.
I know it draws a lot of current when operating, but mostly it is in the sleep mode.
James
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First thing, get the laser printer on a circuit by it's self, if all posible, as a copier tech, I can tell you they do pull some power, even the small ones, its the heater lamp(s) in them, some as high as 1000 watts when printing, even in sleep mode, that lamp does cycle on and off to keep the fuser at a pre-heat temp so it will come up to ready in a reasonable time, so this could be your flickering lamp problem.

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Craig, I think that you are exactly right. I think that when the laser fax is in "sleep" mode, it doesn't use much power....... but in just Standby, I bet that lamp does come on and off, as you said.
I did an experiment this evening. I watched the fax, to see when it went into sleep mode. AFter it does go into sleep, my lights don't flicker. I had not noted that before. I think this is the cure (or answer) to this problem.
Thanks to Craig and to all others ! I think all of the points made were good points, and things to think about.
James
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Any heavy load on that circuit, or depending upon your electric service size and demand, a heavy load anywhere in the house should cause "dimming" on lighting circuits, but "flickering" is a different animal, it's caused by loose connections. Loose connections over time will invariably get worse. Even if you install a dedicated circuit for the printer, you still may experience the flickering until the bad connection is located and corrected

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I have seen same thing happen in offices and other places where copiers are used, its funny how many power drawing devices some people plug into the same line the copier is on, have seen once a HP laser printer, and a copier on the same circuit, the copier draws 12 amps, plate on the back shows that, laser printer draws 11.2 amps as I recalled, tried to tell the people in the office this was not good, they did not belive me till I hit the copy button while the printer was printing, yepp...tripped the breaker, they re-located the printer next day. :) If you can get it to a line by its self it will help.

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What other items are on that circuit? Since you can have multiple outlets, in multiple rooms, on one circuit, you may have a load/usage problem on that circuit.
Work backwards and isolate. :~)
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wrote:

Most fax machines are not high current devices.

Yes, turn the curcuit off and have it checked by an electrican. The sitation is mostlikely very dangerous and could result in a fire.
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That is good advice. This could be a floating neutral.
--
Joseph Meehan

Dia \'s Muire duit
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James wrote:

When I had a circuit flicker it was the BUS in the breaker panel.....the Galvanized bus was corroding..... maybe I've been told from mild water damage(panel is under the kitchen sink area in the basement). When the lights flickered I could hear a soft crackling noise in the panel(definitely unsettling). I pulled the suspect breaker and saw damage on the breaker connectors, cleaned up the bus spot some, replaced the breaker and a few months later the flicker returned. I then polished/cleaned surrounding breaker connectors and moved the circuit(another new breaker) to another spot(no more flicker). I'm about to replace the panel(next week). My panel is almost 30 years old but the suspect breaker was added about 10 years ago. If your breaker & bus shows no damage I would carefully check every connection, switch etc. on that circuit and/or hire an electrician.....the circuit could be asking for a fire. Incidentally due to a panel design change(code) I'll need to run new wires from the meter to the panel(short easy run) as they have lengthened the distance from the top of the panel to the main cutoff breaker. Rod
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So you checked/tightened the breaker...good! But your circuits are fed with TWO wires, right? Did you even look at the grounds and neutrals? This is a common error that wannabe electrical DIYers always make. They assume that the breaker side of the circuit is the only place for trouble, and nothing is further from the facts. So the lesson is, use the laws of physics, they're on your side. HTH
Joe
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Hi, I recently (March 01/08) had the same problem... Now my home is burned to the ground. I would highly recommend you get an electrician to locate the probem NOW! Mine turned out to be a old breaker not functioning properly. But it can be a number of things. But it sounds like you have an open neutral. THAT IS VERY DANGEROUS DO NOT DELAY!!! Three or four hundred dollars (probably less) would have saved everything. (thousands) If I had been asleep I would have died. It burned so fast I could not do anything at all. All game plans are nonsense. It' gets too hot too quick to get within 50 feet. The whole place was fully ingulfed in flames within 10 minutes. Luckily no life was lost but I lost everything I owned for 30 years. I went to my friends house (an elecrtician) on Sunday to see if he would look at it. He was out of town. It burned Monday morning around 12:00 pm It was the most horrifing experience you can possibly imagine!!! I was warned on one of these disscussion groups just like I am warning you. I delayed. DO NOT DELAY!!! Thank You -William (from Carolina Beach NC)
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