Weird electrical situation in home

Tonight, my microwave oven began operating at extremely low power even though it was set to high. Then the power disappeared from it entirely. A little later, the overhead lights in my bedroom began to dim and then go out while I was watching television. The television stayed on normally. My computer was on, normally. Then none of the lights in the house would come on, but electrical outlets all worked fine (except, apparently, for the one the microwave was plugged into). The air conditioner no longer blew cool air, though the fan continued to operate. I checked the breakers. All were solidly in the on position. I turned off my computer and TV. I turned off each individual breaker until all were solidly off. Then I turned off the main breaker. Then I turned each individual breaker back on. Then I turned the main back on. Now the lights in one room came on full when I turned their switch. The microwave clock lit up. But then after a few moments, it dimmed out again. Lights in all other rooms came on, but very, very dimly and grew dimmer until they went back out. The TV, computer, stereo, wall sockets as mentioned all still work fine.
What the heck? I've called the electric company and all they said was that someone would be out eventually. But till then: what the heck? I had a fair grounding (no pun) in electricity and electronics years and years ago, though I have no expertise. But the little experience I have doesn't give me much of an explanation of how this could be happening.
BTW, all the houses in the neighborhood have normal power.
Jim Beaver
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On Mon, 26 Jun 2006 05:20:38 GMT, "Jim Beaver"

You have a bad connection somewhere, and I suspect its a neutral. Did you open the breaker box and look for burned wires? Tighten all the screws, (if you can safely do it). Be sure to tighten the main neutral connector.
You "might" also have a bad connection on the wires that enter your home from the pole. That's for the electric company to check. But if it's inside your home, YOU are responsible and need to fix it yourself or call an electrician.
Do you have a test meter? Stick it in those outlets that are bad, or screw an adaptor in a light fixture and test. Then got to the breaker box and check the suspected breakers. Finally meter the mains. If you see the problem at the mains, the problem is outdoors. If not, it's inside some box in your house. Start opening every box if you must, and be sure all wirenuts are tight and no wires burned...
Or call an electrician...
Mark
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That's what it turned out to be -- bad connection on the pole. The electric company fixed it a little before midnight.
Thanks for all the input.
Jim Beaver
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On Mon, 26 Jun 2006 18:12:47 GMT, "Jim Beaver"

Great. Glad its fixed. It's good to know what the cause was. So many of the people on here never post the results of a problem. You likely had one of the hot wires loose (one leg), so everything that was dimming was on that bad leg and the other one was fine. At least your electric company was there fairly fast.
Mark
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Classic "brown out" - low voltage.

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Chambers wrote:

Since when is having lights/appliance working normal in one room and at half power in another a classic brown out symptom? Every brown out I've ever heard of affected the entire house/area in a similar fashion with reduced voltage.
I agree with the advice to check for a loose neutral or one phase of the power. Could be inside the house or the line to the street. I'd start by calling the power company. They will come out and check the service into the house and make sure it's not their problem.
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One leg of a tranformer bad or overloaded.
240 volt service, with 2 120 legs
one side browns out when a tree branch touches it or the transformner is failing...
really confusing 1/2 of home normal the other half doing strange things........
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

I guess it depends on your definition of brown out. In my experience, that term is used to refer to a situation where the voltage level is temporarily reduced to a fairly wide area, eg at least a sub division, and is usually caused by very high demand and the power company deliberately reducing the voltage.
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wrote:

I have has a bad neutral problem twice. Once in my parents home, once on my farm in the garage and a shed. One thing that happened both times is that while some lights brown out, others get brighter than normal. I know this is due to the unbalanced load across the load, and with the neutral being bad, the 240 is not evenly split to 120. Having been thru this twice, I now know that if one light gets dim and the other gets brighter than normal, that indicates a bad neutral.
One other thing I should have mentioned earlier. UNPLUG electronics and motors until this is fixed. Running a lower than normal voltage could do damage, but not too likely (except motors). But if the load is getting 60V at one fixture, the other is getting 180V. Higher than normal voltages WILL damage equipment, especially electronics. Shut off the computer, tv, microwave, and pretty much everything. It's one thing to have a dozen lightbulbs burn out, but $5 worth of bulbs is minor compared to computers and such.
When my garage browned out (outdoor overhead triplex / loose neutral), I lost every compact florescent bulb, a few regular bulbs, the charger for my cordless drill, and my garage radio.
When my parents house went brown, it was much worse. The tv, several radios, several clocks, all the lights on the xmas tree, a coffee maker, the washing machine, and the furnace blower motor. (2 days before Christmas). The cause of that was the idiot that wired their house, who ran ONE #14 neutral thru the 1/2" conduit that entered their 60A four fuse - fuse box. Everything in the entire house was being fed thru that one #14 neutral, except the two 20A outlets in the kitchen. That #14 wire was actually burned to a crisp where it "spidered" off from the overloaded octogon box above their basement laundry tub. I ended up adding a 3/4" conduit, large junction box, and replacing all the wires feeding the house with #12 wires and one neutral for every fuse. The original 1/2" conduit and octogon box ended up being only the light above the laundry and the washing machine outlet.
Mark
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On Mon, 26 Jun 2006 05:20:38 GMT, "Jim Beaver"

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I put our TV and satellite receiver on a UPS.
My wife FREAKED the nite the power failed and all that stayed on was the TV...:)
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wrote:

WOW..... Talk about a TV addict !!!!!
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shut it down right away anyway- keeping the programming active doesn't draw much powere, but keeping that CRT lit sure does....
aem sends....
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We have a DVR on that TV, a minor power bump can cause loss of some of a recording program. Duquesne light our local power provider has those bumps every day with brown outs ETC. they are planning on raising rates a lot to upgrade their system.
our neighborhood had a bad overloaded transformer, they were out at least 8 times resetting its breaker overheat protector. The lineman said just wait soon it will fail completely then we can replace it.
The UPS protects our satellite box and TV with a replacement warranty if they get fried from a power surge. being its a new tv it appeared a good idea, but we shut the tv off as soon as the power fails
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wrote:

...even better than a ghost!
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and was temporarily restored by reseting the breakers. If I had to make a wild guess, i would say your main breaker wasn't seated properly. Test the voltage before the main breaker, after the main breaker, before the individual breakers, and after them. At least then you will know where to look. My guess is that the voltage is normal before the main, but low after. A loose neutral would affect everything; not just some. Do you have any multiwire circuits (two hots sharing a neutral) or a subpanel. If so, they might be the first place to look.
Have fun.
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What a great early morning story. Having trouble sleeping, are we? Did you really check ALL the houses in the neighborhood, and does that include yours? What a great story. I'm smiling. Time for bed, now.
Jim Beaver wrote:

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Thank you. Nothing like a little sarcasm to make a fellow feel good about himself, the world, and his fellow man. My burden certainly feels lighter.
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