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I have the standard, split phase power to my house. (Two hots and a neutral). There's a meter box and breaker panel outside, which has the main service disconnect. There's an additional service disconnect which controls the sub panel in the house, at the top of the stairs. That sub panel has a service disconnect which controls the smaller sub panel at the bottom of the stairs.

Anyway, for about the last two weeks, I've noticed my lights will sometimes flicker, or the power will go out for part of the house. For example, the kitchen, hall lights, and family room lights stop working. But the clock on the stove still works, along with the lights and receptacles to most of the bedrooms. It's like I'm losing one leg of power. When it does this, sometimes the power is out for a quick second or two, then comes right back on. Other times it goes out and stays out for several minutes or longer.

I discovered a strange scenario last night when this happened; The power did it again. I went into the kitchen and turned on a burner on the stove, then immediately turned it off. This did the trick, and my power came back on and stayed on the rest of the night. (I might add, when the power came back on, my doorbell started ringing. There was nobody there.)

When the power went out again this afternoon, I tried that same trick; I turned the stove on for just a second, and then turned it back off. Again the power came back on.

So... what's going on here? There have been other posts where people have gotten their power to come back on by turning on the stove, but those posts don't say whether or not they're leaving the stove on, or that the power goes right back out as soon as they turn off the stove. In my case, I'm only turning on the stove for a second or two, then off, and the power to the house is restored, at least for a while. Can someone explain this?

As to the cause of the power interruptions, I've had the power company out twice. They told me the power from the pole to the meter is fine. They did put some kind of monitoring device on the meter, left it on there for a week, then retrieved it. They haven't contacted me yet with the results. Anyway, I'm thinking the problem has got to be with one of the legs. Maybe there's a loose connection at the main breaker, or one of the service disconnect breakers. What are your thoughts? I seriously doubt the problem would be at a junction box, or could it? I'm interested in what you all have to say or suggest on this one. Thanks!

UPDATE: I had a certified electrician come out to the house. He wasn't able to duplicate the problem while he was here, (Lights never flickered, power never went out) but he did find a couple of breakers with bad connections, which he tightened. He also installed a surge protector on the main panel. The power has not gone out since, however..... That evening when I turned on my hallway lights, they started flickering like crazy. I did some investigating and it appears there was a faulty 3-way switch which was causing that. I replaced it. Lights no longer flicker. Hopefully (knock on wood) the electrical problem has been fixed.

2ND UPDATE: Guess I spoke too soon. First, thanks to those who have responded. I appreciate your input. OK, so a couple days after the electrician had come to the house, the power went out AGAIN to half the house. (same half). The electrician had mentioned that if the power should go out again, I should check the status lights on the surge protector he had installed on the main breaker. He said both lights should be on. If only one is lit, I should call the power co. I checked and sure enough, only one light was on. Aha! I left everything as is and called the power company. This time they could clearly see I had lost a leg of power. Problem was on their side. They mentioned possibly re-stringing the overhead lines on the pole and possibly replacing the transformer. I don't know what they did, other than the problem has not returned since they were last out here. Hopefully it is really fixed now. Thanks everyone!

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  • Normally, they have to leave the stove on in order to backfeed the other leg through it....do you have a multimeter? Apr 15 '20 at 3:06
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    Not a working one, no. I did call a certified electrician this morning, and he's scheduled to be out here today. I'll update this with his findings. I'm anxious to know what he finds and how he fixed it.
    – gummyroach
    Apr 15 '20 at 17:31
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I suspect you have a connection that is loose - turning the stove on may arc-weld it for a brief time before thermal cycling cracks it again.

I HOPE you are uncomfortable with random arc-welding in your wiring, as it tends to lead to house fires eventually.

i.e. this is a serious problem, the "fix" you have found is not a good workaround and may actually accelerate having a much larger problem with sirens & flashing lights and all.

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  • Thanks. To clarify, I don't consider the stove trick to be a fix for this problem. I was simply mystified as to why it does what it does. I will have the connections at the disconnects on the main panel checked, even if that means having to pay a certified electrician to make the repairs. I wanted some opinions. Thanks!
    – gummyroach
    Apr 15 '20 at 12:39
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You have one leg of your service out. This is likely at the main breaker since the power company was in your meter box, they would typically have seen if the problem was there.

Either way, this is your responsibility and it typically not something that can be done DIY.

On a side note, if the lights in the house go dim and extra-bright at times, this is a sign of an open service neutral.

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It's a weak connection:

  • at the wires going into the subpanel's main breaker
  • at the wires coming out of the feeder breaker in the main panel
  • at the bus stabs of the feeder breaker in the main panel (likely if that breaker is a different make than the panel; the buses are not compatible!)
  • at the house's main breaker where the service entrance wires attach to it
  • at the meter where the service entrance wires attach to it
  • in the blades of the meter
  • up at the weatherhead
  • up at the pole
  • in this subpanel where the main breaker engages the bus stabs

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