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  • power draw on appliances affect whole house

    Hey Guys,

    My brother and I are trying to trouble shoot a problem wit his electric in his home. When an appliance requires power, it weakens power to other things that are not on the same circuit.

    I know very little about electric besides the basics so I'll give an example. If I am in the kitchen, and the washing machine upstairs changes cycles, it will noticeably dim lights throughout the house. If I am in the bathroom and something requires a a draw of power, the lights would dim in the bathroom and the bathroom fan slow down momentarily, then go back to normal. Sometimes the lights will even brighten beyond their normal output.
    Checked Neutral and it's not loose at buss bar. GCFI in bath breaker trips regularly when using blowdryer. Why would demand on one line affect any other even on seperate sides of the panel?

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks guys!

    -Andrew

  • #2
    Re: power draw on appliances affect whole house

    Could be loose neutral at the transformer, call the power company.
    When lights go brighter than normal it is almost always a neutral issue with the power company
    I would not play with the panel if you are unfamiliar, electricians are cheaper than funerals.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: power draw on appliances affect whole house

      Some Dimming is comepletly normal. If lights gets brighter, look at the post right above this one. You could have an issue with the neutral wire. It can be in your main panel or it could be outside and belong to the power company.
      If the lights just dim a little when a large load (Heat Pump or AC for Example) comes on, its not really an issue and suited for another post or thread.
      If the lights get brighter, call in a professional today. All of your electronic equipment and everything on 120 volts could be catastrophically be ruined.
      I mean TOAST!
      Licensed Electrician

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: power draw on appliances affect whole house

        Hey thanks guys. We definitely plan to call an electrician soon. Ideally we would like to trouble shoot it as much as possible first though. He moved in last summer and things have been okay so a few more days or so shouldn't wreak havoc.

        I asked him more about the "brighter than normal" phases and he said he sees it once a week, sometimes with less frequency. The dimming is much more frequent and happens many times a day. I could understand some dimming but it happens so often there is obviously something that should be done about it.

        He has a discontinued Federal Pacific main panel, 150 amp max. Could this have anything to do with it?

        Any other ways to trouble shoot this to prepare ourselves better?

        Thanks so much!

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: power draw on appliances affect whole house

          If you have a voltmeter you can check both sides of the power coming into the house at your kitchen receptacle. If wired properly your kitchen would have split receptacles (dual breakers in the panel for the kitchen receptacles) meaning that the top 'plug' would represent one side of the panel and the bottom 'plug' would represent the other. Measuring the voltage here is safer than playing with the panel but still can be dangerous. The voltage you measure should be between 115 and 125 volts on each and the voltages should be close on each plug and steady. If the voltage is outside this range at any time or you see the voltage swinging more than 2 volts while you are watching the meter then you have a problem. Ignore split second reading during heavy load starts. Any trouble shooting beyond this should be left to a skilled electrician

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: power draw on appliances affect whole house

            I would by all means turn this over to a good licensed electrician for safety reasons.

            Ask him/her to setup (2) Voltmeters where meter A is connected from L-1 to Neutral and meter B is connected from L-2 to Neutral. This should be done at the point of service entrance. Once setup, run a test with a heavy 240 Volt load connected to L-1 and L-2 and note Voltage drop of both meters. Then try a heavy load from L-1 to Neutral and then the same load from L-2 to Neutral.

            WARNING: Be sure all circuit breakers are off other than the main during this test. If you have fuses, be sure they are removed. Also, please be sure all electronic devices are unplugged and that switches for your AC and/or Furnace are shut off before performing these tests.

            Question: Is this place in a remote location? If you have overhead power lines about how far is it from the transformer (most likely on a wood pole) to where your main load center (breaker panel or fuse box) is located?

            While not cheap it would be a good idea to get rid of the Federal Pacific panel and any other Federal Pacific switch gear. If it's the old "StabLok" type they were disasters in the making when brand new.
            Last edited by Woussko; 05-20-2010, 10:27 AM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: power draw on appliances affect whole house

              We definitely plan on having a proper electrician over soon and will not do anything ourselves besides think it through or any safe tests we could think of.

              I'm pretty sure the only thing in the kitchen that hits both sides of the panel is the electric stove, which is hardwired. I did the renovation and would have noticed 2 separate lines going into a receptacle.

              It is not at all in a remote location. It is a townhome in a suburb 15 minutes North of NYC. The electric is run underground inside the community. I'm not really sure how far it is from a transformer, I have to look for a green box right?

              We plan on having the FP panel swapped out and it was recommended in the engineering report during the sale. It's just a little pricey like you said.

              Thanks for the advice! I will print it out and show it to the electrician to help diagnose the problem further.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: power draw on appliances affect whole house

                Originally posted by wbrooks View Post
                If you have a voltmeter you can check both sides of the power coming into the house at your kitchen receptacle. If wired properly your kitchen would have split receptacles (dual breakers in the panel for the kitchen receptacles) meaning that the top 'plug' would represent one side of the panel and the bottom 'plug' would represent the other. Measuring the voltage here is safer than playing with the panel but still can be dangerous. The voltage you measure should be between 115 and 125 volts on each and the voltages should be close on each plug and steady. If the voltage is outside this range at any time or you see the voltage swinging more than 2 volts while you are watching the meter then you have a problem. Ignore split second reading during heavy load starts. Any trouble shooting beyond this should be left to a skilled electrician
                This is the silliest post I have ever read. Its also incorrect information. The only thing that was true or made any sense was your last sentence.
                Licensed Electrician

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: power draw on appliances affect whole house

                  It sure is correct info for our code, as all kitchen receptacles are required to be split (14/3 run from panel), and it sure is a safer place for an inexperienced home owner to take a voltage reading than the panel. What exactly don't you think is correct?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: power draw on appliances affect whole house

                    Maybe up in Canada their code is as per wbrooks, but here in the USA, I have sure never seen it and actually would not want to have a duplex receptacle (GFCI type or not) split so it's on 2 circuits.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: power draw on appliances affect whole house

                      Hosh,

                      Maybe you can ask some of your neighbors if they have similar problems. In a town house development several houses may share the same transformer.

                      A good electrician will know good tests to perform, but what needs to be checked before going wild is whether the problem is inside your place or outside it. More than likely somewhere there's a bad neutral connection or too light gauge neutral wire. Improper grounding may also be an issue.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: power draw on appliances affect whole house

                        I can't believe none of you have this in the US. If you look at your receptacles do you have a tab that bridges the hot (brass) screws? If so it is designed to be removable (snap off with pliers). I can plug a toaster and coffee pot into the same receptacle in the kitchen and not have it blow because they are on a dual breaker.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: power draw on appliances affect whole house

                          Wayne, Our Spec grade duplex receptacles have the breakaway tab you tell about.

                          We have a wild duplex receptacle where it's for dual Voltage. It's a NEMA 5-20 and 6-20 all in one! Rating: 20 Amp, 125/250 Volts. ... L1 and L2 to the brass color screws and neutral to the silver. Ground to the green screw. These are sometimes used for electric heaters and larger window ACs.

                          Last edited by Woussko; 05-20-2010, 09:26 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: power draw on appliances affect whole house

                            Sorry. I did not realize you are in the great Country of Canada.
                            We require two 20 amp kitchen small appliance circuits also. But its not separate circuits on single yokes. This method of wiring is considered a MWBC, and is not required in any circumstance.
                            Licensed Electrician

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: power draw on appliances affect whole house

                              Thanks John, no apology necessary. I find it amazing how different codes can be across Canada - never mind between borders or for that matter States/cities, Chicago Illinois comes to mind.
                              Anyone know if the whole state is under the same code or is Chicago different? Seem to remember that our machines come with a special cable for Chicago, normal machines world wide have a 14' power cable but the ones destined for Chicago have a 6' cable
                              Last edited by wbrooks; 05-21-2010, 12:34 PM.

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