Lights dim, brighten & appliances slow

Here in the last week and a half we have been having strange things going on with our electricity. The lights dim and flicker. When we try to turn on the microwave the lights will dim (& sometimes brighten instead) and the microwave power drops low. When we use the vaccum the lights will brighten. We usually have to turn off all the lights in the house just to use the microwave. Other appliances don't seem to be affected but I am guessing they are and we just can't tell like we can with the microwave.
We have had the power company come out and he checked the voltage ? coming into the house with the microwave off and with it on. They say it is normal and probably something with the wiring inside. We called an electrician and he came over and turned on the microwave and said yes that something was wrong but he couldn't say what until he started digging around. We're short on cash at the moment so we told him we'd call him.
What is bugging us is this (which may mean nothing): we have made no changes to the load or appliances etc., it has been working fine the past two days but just started up again, and our neighbor who we share the pole with started working on some wood projects in his garage about the same time all this started. Could the neighbor somehow be causing this? The only thing I am not sure of on that is that this all also happens in the morning when he not working on anything.
Any insight or ideas would greatly help!
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snipped-for-privacy@comcast.net wrote:

CHECK THE NEUTRAL...
I doubt it is your neighbor. I suspect that you have lost a neutral at the pole and this actually is the power company's problem.
The only thing I could think that would cause this that wouldn't be the power company's problem is if something inside your breaker panel has fallen apart and the neutral is no longer connected to the outside neutral/earth.
Don't sleep on this too long, if you manage to cause a really unbalanced load while the neutral is disconnected, you can fry a whole mess of stuff in your house.
nate
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replace "roosters" with "cox" to reply.
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Whatever money you save on the electrician you will wind up spending to repair or replace your appliances.
You could have loose connections in the meter, at the service mast, at the pole, or in your main panel. You could also have a bad main circuit breaker. Your neutral connections should also be checked at all points previously mentioned. Did the power company check the connections at the transformer? Just because the voltage is correct does not mean that their equipment and service feed is in good condition. While your at it check your grounding electrode conductor connections.
My guess is a faulty neutral connection somewhere. If so this is not a healthy condition for humans as well as appliances.
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Once had a problem with a loose crimp splice on a the drop line from the pole. It was OK most of the time. When the wind blew a certain way, the wire would swing and the splice would cut in and out, causing symptoms like you describe.
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snipped-for-privacy@comcast.net wrote:

<SNIP>
Almost certainly an Open Neutral.
Depending on which circuits are affected (or all of them), the open could be in the service drop, in the entrance panel, or even in a sub-panel, or in a splice in some junction box (in the case of only a few circuits affected).
The guy who suggested it may require "digging into" was probably right.
Jim
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That means you have a poor or disconnected (open) neutral. (That should be the white wire)
THIS CAN BE DANGEROUS AND CAUSE A FIRE OR DAMAGE ELECTRIC APPLIANCES.
The fact that you did not know what it is leads me to suggest calling the electrician now.
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Joseph Meehan

Dia \'s Muire duit
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Yeah -- but I think I'd call a different electrician. The OP's description of the symptoms is a clear indication of an open neutral, and any competent electrician should have spotted that immediately.
In my opinion, though, before calling an electrician, the OP should call the power company back first, and insist that they come out and check for loose connections on the neutral, all the way from the transformer to the meter base. Call an electrician only if the power company verifies that *their* side is all good.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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On Dec 1, 1:08 pm, snipped-for-privacy@milmac.com (Doug Miller) wrote:

re: Having the power company check all the way from the transformer to the meter base.
I don't know if the OP's company will do it, but a few years back I had some flickering and the power company checked all the way to the main breaker in the panel for me. Maybe they just weren't that busy - nice quiet, spring night...they showed up within a half hour of my call. Turned out not to be anything related to the neutral, but at least they eliminated everything from the main breaker out which made my troubleshooting a whole easier. Turned out to be a bad breaker.
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wrote:

I totally agree.
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Joseph Meehan

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Start by looking for something warmer than normal. If you can get a handheld non-contact infrared temp gun that's the easiest way. Somewhere you have a bad connection between the utility company transformer all the way to the power bars in your panel. So you're talking about connections at the transformer, the masthead, the meter base, the grounding electrode, the main breaker,the main breaker buss attachment, the neutral buss attachment. If you're not comfortable with exposed electrical equipment, hire a pro. Try the power company first, they'll have to check to the meter base anyway, downstream of that it requires an electrician. But the power company may have the infrared device I suggested and they can check your panel also pretty easily.

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Well, It hasn't happened again since the time of this post a couple of nights ago. I came here to try and get an idea too of WHO to call next. I was told by the electric company that if they come out and it is not their problem then they will charge us a fee. And if the electrician comes out of course he charges a fee no matter who's problem it is.
I already have one fee from the electric company because they said it wasn't their problem, I'm afraid I will call the electrician, he'll come out and charge a fee and say it is their problem and to call them back. I just have a bad feeling about all this! I can't afford to be paying fees for people to say it's someone else's problem. Plus I really don't see why I have to pay the electric company anything - I pay them plenty of money every month! And if it's not their fault, they did no work anyway so why the charge! Sorry to vent, just feeling a little frustrated!
I guess we'll keep thinking on it and decide what to do tomorrow. Thanks for the help, atleast we know what the problem probably is and not to call that first electrician back.
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snipped-for-privacy@comcast.net wrote:

Call another (i.e. better) electrician. If he says it is your problem, then you pay to fix it and it is over.
If he is confident that it is the power company's problem, you call the power company and don't have to pay. PLUS you demand a refund for the first charge, since they were wrong and you never owed them money. You could even try and have them pay for the second electrician, since they told you that was what you needed to do and they again were wrong.
-- John
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wrote:

That first electrician sounded like a moron. I worked as a plumber and also as a general handyman for years. The first part of being a business person is to NOT leave the customer hanging, and then charge them. If I went to a job and determined I could not handle the job or simply did not want it, I clearly told them "I do not feel I am able to do this job for you", and would refer them to something..... There would not be a charge for this, because I did not charge for estimates, and this was considered an estimate. If I came and took the job seriously, I'd start to look for the problem, and go from there. If your electrician had opened your breaker box and actually done something, he should have found a problem, or at least isolated it to whether it's in the house, or the electric company's wiring. If he did not do this, he did NOTHING and you dont owe him a cent.
Since you said the problem is only that one circuit, why not just replace that particular breaker, as I said before. Unless you got some oddball breakers, they cost under $10. If this solves it, you're done. If not you are only out a few bucks and have a good breaker to sit on top of your box for the next time you have a problem. From what you described, if the problem only exists on that one circuit, in otherwords, the rest of the house is OK and the problem is isolated to only ONE circuit, example, the one breaker that controls the microwave and a few lights, then the problem is not likely to be the outdoor wires that supply the house, which means it's either the breaker that furnishes that circuit, or a loose wire somewhere in there. If you want to save money, do some of your own testing.
Shut off the power at the main. Look for loose screws or charred connections. Replace that breaker. Turn power back on, if problem is nit solved, determine if the problem is isolated to one particular circuit. If it is, then when you call an electrician they only have to check that one circuit.
Good luck
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On Fri, 30 Nov 2007 16:22:46 -0800 (PST), snipped-for-privacy@comcast.net wrote:

----------
It's the transformer on the pole outside. If you look on the pole, there is a thing that looks like a large can, usually black or gray. with wires coming out of it. That thing feeds your house and as you said, it appears to feed your neighbors house too.
Anyhow, it's running out of power. Those things are filled with electricity when they are installed on a pole. Just like the batteries in your flashlight, they begin to run out of power as they age, and after 20 years or so they just run dry. Most of them are not rechargable, so they need to be replaced just like the non-rechargable batteries in a flashlight, but some models can be refilled with liquid electricity and are good for another 10 or more years.
Call your power company again, and explain to them that your pole transformer is empty and has run out of electricity. Tell them to either replace it, or refill it with liquid electricity. If they wont, tell them you refuse to pay your electric bill.
Additionally, It's most likely that your neighbor emptied it with all his power tools, so I'd have a few words with him and make him well aware that he's a (____ insert cuss words here____), and tell him you place all blame on him, and you are extremely angry. Then explain to him that you will forgive him is he also calls the power company and demands a transformer replacement or refill, and that he also refuses to pay his bill until they take care of this matter.
Grandmere Electrical Services 610 W. 12th St. Springville, Utah 84664
We Specialize in residential wiring and service.
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On Fri, 30 Nov 2007 16:22:46 -0800 (PST), snipped-for-privacy@comcast.net wrote:

Open your breaker box and look for any charred or corroded connections. If you see any, call your electrician, or if you are comfortable working around electricity, shut off the main breaker, then check to see if the screws are tight, and tighten all the neutral screws while you are in there. Pay particular attention to the breaker on the suspected circuit. Have someone turn on the microwave and listen to the breaker. If it makes a popping sound, replace it. Or hyst replace it anyhow, they are not that expensive. Otherwise you have a bad connection, and begin opening every box on that line.
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