I noticed that occasionally in the past few days my lights on one
circuit seem to flicker/dim. Tonight, I started to completely lose
power for a few seconds to a few minutes in that circuit but the power
would come back on by itself. The breaker is not tripping. I am
thinking that the breaker is flaky and needs to be replaced. Any other
ideas why this is happening?
Unlikely the breaker.
Start by changing the outlets from stab-in to screwed-down. There shouldn't
be more than ten or so.
The more flakey outlets and lights, the more likely the culprit is closer to
the circuit breaker. Still, it's a good idea to fix all the connections.
A loose or corroded connection is likely the culprit. I've had the problem
several times. Once it was a loose connector terminal at the circuit
breaker panel. Turn off the main CB, check for power on the branch CBs and
then tighten the terminals. Another time, a loose connection on one of the
three wires coming from the utility pole made half the house circuits
flicker and go dead on a random basis. Calls to the utility company finally
got that fixed.
CBs do go bad, I suppose, but I've never had that happen in four houses over
Loose connections on individual wiring devices can also occur and these are
the most dangerous from the standpoint of fire; but start at the CB panel.
If you have a small AM transistor radio, tune it just off station and carry
it around during one of the flicker/dim episodes. A bad electrical
connection arcs and causes radio static. Find the location where the static
is loudest and you'll find the bad connection.
No. But I did once due to a fault that from another building that made the
ground wiring hot. Since then, I test before I touch.
What I've noticed, particularly on CB panels that are fairly heavily loaded,
is that they get warm when power draws are heavy and then cool off at night
and other lightly-loaded periods. The heat/cool cycles seems to loosen
screws, terminals, etc.
There is a group of condo's that I service that tend to have a similar
problem. Most of the time it is the circuit breaker. It is an unusual
style made by ITE years ago. I forget the model number, but instead of
connecting onto the buss from behind, it has a hook on the side. I figured
that the builder must have got a great deal on these breakers, because the
panels can also accept a standard "BR" type circuit breaker. Try switching
circuit breakers in the panel before you buy one and see if that corrects
If it is not the circuit breaker the next bet would be a loose connection
somewhere on the circuit. You would need to open up every outlet, switch,
and light fixture on that particular circuit to find the problem. A common
cause is the wires on a receptacle being back stabbed and coming loose.
Start with the receptacles. If it is a back stab problem, the best way to
correct this is get a new receptacle and use pigtails so that the entire
circuit load is not passing through the receptacle.
Probably a loose wire connection as others have said. I never had any
luck with a radio to detect the static from the arcs, but I have managed
twice to find a loose connection by banging the walls/celings near the
receptacles, lights and light switches. Obviously you don't bang so
hard you punch holes, but hard enough to vibrate the surface some. I
suppose you could use a rubber mallet but I never trusted myself to not
break thru the surface with it. One was an improperly installed
receptacle to aluminum wire and the other just a light switch. A long
shot maybe, but if it works ... .
On Mon, 31 Dec 2007 21:56:23 -0800 (PST), email@example.com wrote:
Bad breaker is likely. If you have a spare, replace it but dont toss
the one from the box just yet. If that solves it, you found the
problem and you can toss that old breaker. If you dont have a spare,
(and may not be able to buy one on New Years day), swap the wires with
another breaker in the box (same amp rating of course). If the
problem moves to the other circuit, breaker is bad.
If it's not the breaker, start opening every box on that circuit and
check for loose or broken connections. If you find something burned,
replace the device (such as an outlet).
For your own safety, I'd shut off that circuit till you fix the
problem because it could cause a fire if there is a loose connection,
not to mention wreck electronic stuff. You can always use table lamps
and extension cords temporarily.
While in the breaker box, be sure the neutral wire to that circuit is
connected well. (I like to check/tighten all the neutral screws at
the same time, as well as doing a visual look at everything in the
If this is a circuit with something important, such as a furnace, I'd
recommend you either call an electrician, or get to the repair
immediately. If you cant get to it immediately, and have a roll of
romex, you can always run a direct feed from the box to the furnace.
Just lay rthe cable on the floor till tomorrow when the stores are
open. (and if you're drinking, dont trip over it <LOL>).
When you swap breakers, always put them back the way they originally
were when you get the problem fixed. Some might be on a balanced
All wiring problems are basically the same. You just got to open all
connections and check things. Replacement of suspected parts often
helps (such as the breaker). I always keep spare breakers, outlets,
switches, and a roll of cable on hand.
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