Hello. It's possible I can't give enough information here for a
diffinitive answer, but I'm asking anyway. My lights and other
electrical appliances have recently been experiencing surges of
power; lights go brighter, refridgerator goes louder, etc. I'm afraid
this is going to damage something, or cause a fire. I've called the
power company and their annoying automated messages state that
flickering lights (etc) are usually caused by interier wiring, yet
others I've spoken to say that nothing can cause EXTRA power to be
supplied to the affected appliances, diminished yes, extra (surges)
no. It also doesn't effect one or two circuits, either, but pretty
much the whole house. Should I contact an electrician, or have the
power company come out and inspect? They say they'll charge me $80
for the visit if the problem isn't in their wiring, and they might
not be able to resolve it for that price.
I have no difinitive answers, and am not an electrician by any means,
however many years back I had an experience that also made no sense
like getting power to circuits that were clearly turned off.
The problem in our case was a new concrete footing settled onto the
power line coming into the house and caused a short between the
different phases of the line. So turning on a switch on one circuit
caused appliances in another circuit to turn on!
Another possibility is that your appliances are actually continually
running at low power and the "surges" you are experiencing are actually
the appliances returning to normal.
As for how to decide if you want the power company to comeout or an
electrician, check your neighbors and see if they are having the same
problem. If they are all having the same problem, have the power
company come out. If it is just your house (and there is no obvious
damage to the wiring just outside your house) and electrician is
probably the right answer.
In the fine newsgroup "alt.home.repair", RBV
message within < on 02 Jun 2004:
Thank you. I'll check with the neighbors as you suggest. Yours
sounds like a strange problem! Glad you got it worked out. If I may
ask, who ended up being at "fault" for that and had to pay? I can
sort of see it going either way, unless the wiring wasn't marked
properly when the new footing was put in, or something. Even
Ya know, I thought this a few times. If this is the case, I like it
better when the "surge" occurs. My kitchen has better lighting
during those. Tonight is really bad which is prompting my query.
It doesn't happen like this often which could possibly make it
harder to diagnose? Tonight is making me want to turn off all
this isnt entirely true. although the types of things that need to happen
to cause this situation are rare, they do exist.
it seems to me the first thing to do is talk with the neighbors. take a
look at the wire where it connects up on the pole and find the people
connected to the same line as you, as close to you as possible. if you're
the only one, its probably your wiring. probably somewhere between the
panel in the house and the line coming into the house.
Don't discount the power company either. We found, in our area, that we
were experiencing "meter jumping" which was power surges that made the
meters spin like a whirling dervish for a few seconds!! Sure, it made for
some higher power bills too.
Come to find out, the power company will "surge" the lines as those quick
surges will help burn off small branches that may be laying across wires.
It's a dirty trick, but they do it.
on 02 Jun 2004:
I don't think it is a legend, that means several people believe it and
nobody that knows anything about utilities would believe this. Any
power company that did this would quickly go out of business from
We had to replace several small things like DVDs and VCRs after one particular
very brief (like momentary) power outage and the subsequent surge. I am in FL
where this happens often. Now all my small stuff and computers are on surge
suppressers. I checked with power company and they recommend whole house surge
suppressers and they will install - but the costs is very high.
One of my neighbors is an electrician for county and he said he has a whole
house ss but had someone (private co) install it and it was cheaper.
It is a neighborhood problem around here.
Have you ever noticed in FL that right after major surge "problems" seem to
damage all kinds of items in your home . . . next thing you know within a
few days you are getting a mailing from FPL offering to sell you their
"surge protection" insurance?
It's just an oddity that every time we have those problems around here,
those mailers show up. But, I'm sure it has nothing to do with the power
True, it can really be a problem, esp in the lightning areas
like FL. Whole house protection is good, but, and this is
opinion, so you'll find many different opinions on this,
even with whole house protection, OR instead of, which is
how I think, it is still necessary to have specific
protection on sensitive electronic components such as
computers, computerized sewing machines, etc. In general,
if you can afford the whole house protection, then all you
need is the cheapie suppressors, like Walmart etc. sell, at
each device. If you don't have whole house protection,
however, then you should have something much more reliable
and capable of taking a strong hit. There isn't much of
anything that will save you from a direct lightning hit to
power lines outside your home, but that isn't a very usual
It's hard to describe how "good" a protector should be,
but in general, one wants a 3-way protection, and the higher
the number of "joules" the suppressor can handle, the better
the protection. Some of the good ones even offer equipment
replacement if their products fail to protect you, but ...
like I said, nothing is going to protect against a direct
Google for "surge protection" +computer (use the quotes)
and you can get lots of info on it and some are good for the
layman to read and figure out how they work.
The most expensive protection is a plug-in protector - on
the order of tens of times more money per protected
appliance. Effective whole house protector costs about $1 per
protected appliance. Even worse, get plug-in protector
specs. They don't even claim to protect from the type of
surge that typically damages electronics. They claim to
protect from a type of surge that typically does not exist.
A big difference exists between the shysters who recommend
plug-in protectors and those who make recommendations based
upon engineering. The latter provide extensive facts AND - a
most important characteristic - the numbers. Junk scientists
and myth purveyors don't provide useful numbers nor cite
electrical concepts. Fundamental - the plug-in protectors are
obviously not effective due to no 'less than 10 foot'
connection to earth ground. Protection is about earthing.
Unfortunately, others let science (such as elementary school
science) go over their heads. Those others, instead, look to
how the presentation is made rather than delve into facts. An
environment rich and profitable for myth purveyors. Posted
elsewhere are facts posted with numbers. How to identify
ineffective protectors: 1) no dedicated connection to earth
ground and 2) avoids all discussion about earthing.
Wasting tens of times more money on plug-in protectors that
are also undersized? Or install protection as it was
installed before WWII so that direct lightning strikes do not
damage electronics. Learn from myths that promote plug-in
protectors, OR learn from science first demonstrated by
Franklin in 1752 and demonstrated by the 25 direct strikes
every year to FM and TV equipment atop the Empire State
Building. The latter demonstrates why 'whole house'
protectors are so effective.
Ask one who recommends plug-in protectors what those
protectors actually do. Why? They must avoid answering this
question to recommend plug-in protectors. Effective
protection is defined by earth ground - not by the protector.
A surge protector is only as effective as its earth ground
which is why 'whole house' protectors are so effective AND why
plug-in protectors, instead, avoid the earthing discussion.
Protectors, of course, is beyond the scope of the thread.
Extensive discussions about effective protection have been
Pop Rivet wrote:
I don't think they mean surge in that way. It would appear
that "surge", for these folk, means any voltage outside
operating range, wether it's lightning, crossed wires, power
bounces when a line goes down, switching grids, etc.. Not
too unusual, really.
I really wish it were, but in South Florida, where FPL has a monopolistic
choke hold on millions of customers - it's exactly what they do and they
admitted it on a local news story as a "necessary maintenance proceedure"
and that the "average" customer would only experience "pennies" added to
their power bills to accomplish this. They just didn't say how many
"pennies" over time, 5? 10? 100? 1,000,000,000? Who knows.
I've actually seen branches laying across utility lines in my neighborhood
area, many lay they for a very long time then, for some reason, they start
to burn and break off.
I challenge you to back that up with anything credible,
concerning the "surging" to burn stuff off the lines.
Second, you're purely guessing, IFF you really saw it, about
the reason/s for branches starting to burn. Personally, I
doubt you have seen that. Sorry. You'd eventually flash
into flame too with that much amperage available to you.
I wasn't looking to engage in an argument, just repeating a news story in
which the power company admitted to power surging to burn off tree branches.
And yes, I've seen it, it is really quite common, especially around here
where one in three trees is in the power lines.
Umm, I dunno where you got your info Lost, but first of all,
that's now what "meter jumping" is, the power companies will
not "surge" the line to burn off anything, let alone
branches, and lastly surges, by definition cannot make the
meters spin as you say and they do not add to the power
bills. You've been listen ing to someone who's probably
laughing at the people who believe that stuff.
On another vein, it is indeed possible to momentarily
increase the voltage on one phase of the wiring coming into
the house. But, that said, I'm not going into specifics
because it isn't necessary for the OP and I doubt you would
The OP may have a wiring problem, it could be inside the
house, and that's the place to start unless something points
to outdoors or a faulty outdoor transformer (not likely;
they don't fail that way). A good insptector will be able
to tell quickly, probably by observation, actually, whether
it's an in or out side problem and the magn itude of the
Please don't spread misinformation.
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