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.
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
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...
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.
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.
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
really confusing 1/2 of home normal the other half doing strange
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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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