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My whole house flickers. It is a townhome. Here are some things to cross off the list:

  • I just replaced the circuit box which was old and faulty. It is brand new, not refurbished.
  • The house is wired with copper wiring except for the major appliance circuits, which use aluminum wiring.
  • The flickering occurs whether or not a major appliance is running. In fact, the flickering often happens when none of the major appliances (ie. dishwasher, washing machine, dishwasher, etc.) are running.
  • I had the power provider come out and check their equipment; they say there is nothing wrong. Furthermore, none of my neighbors are experiencing the same problem.
  • The flickering isn't brief. That is, it isn't because the fridge or AC unit kicked on. When it happens, the flickering can go on for many minutes and doesn't seem dependent on the load. It might flicker with only a handful of lights on and a fan or two which are spread out across different circuits within the home.

The last electrician that came over had assumed that it was because I had copper-clad aluminum wiring, but that isn't true. I just verified that we had copper wiring in every outlet/switch with the exception being any circuit with a major appliance connected to it. My neighbor verified that they never re-wired their townhome and their unit has always had copper wiring (minus major appliance circuits).

What are some potential causes for the whole house flickering, and what can be done about it?

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    Use a multimeter (buy one if you need to) and check voltage on 120V and 240V circuits when the flickering is happening. If you have 240V staying ~ 240V but some 120V go up and some go down then you have a lost neutral problem. If all (trace out your circuits to make sure you are checking both legs/phases) 120V go down then you have a different sort of problem. But in any case assuming it is on multiple circuits that typically means either: utility (before meter) or service entrance (between meter and panel). A picture of the panel might help. Commented Jan 3, 2022 at 2:01
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    I would suggest getting at least two multimeters so you can see both the 120 and 240 deviations concurrently. If the 120 circuits change but the 240 do not then Manazzdhkatc is correct you have a bad or loose neutral probably on or before the meter since you replaced the main but that is not fixed, it could be the main. If the 240 is changing at the mains then it is a power source problem. Also check that all of your breakers are closed, cycling them would not hurt anything.
    – Gil
    Commented Jan 3, 2022 at 2:11
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    Was the new panel installed by an electrician or DIY? I don't suppose you happen to own an infrared camera or infrared (distance) thermometer? Commented Jan 3, 2022 at 2:21
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    It sounds like a loose neutral connection either in your panel or in the meter can if your electrician replaced the wire from the meter can to your panel. I'd call your electrician back and have him check it out.
    – JACK
    Commented Jan 3, 2022 at 12:55
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica Yes, I had an electrician replace the circuit box. Too dangerous for me to attempt it. Thanks everyone. Lately, there hasn't been any flickering, but I have the electricians coming back out wednesday. I will discuss what they think when they get here and see if they can take a look at the neutral.
    – Jack
    Commented Jan 3, 2022 at 18:36

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This is big serious trouble, and can't be tolerated, and must be found ASAP.

That flickering is due to series arcing - meaning the normal current flow is being interrupted by a poor connection, and electricity is arcing across that connection. This arcing is extremely destructive, both spalling the wires and creating LOTS AND LOTS of heat. And that last one can set your house on fire.

The good news is the "lots and lots of heat" makes it fairly easy to find with an infrared (stand-off) thermometer, and will pop right up as a hot-spot on a FLIR. That's what the electrician will do, and I would hope they would do that for free as "go-back" since it reflects a flaw in their work.

It may also be in the power company's line wires -- that is especially likely if a) they replaced the service drop as part of this, or b) the underlying reason you replaced the panel was this kind of flickering.

Anyway, since it affects the whole house, there are scant few places it can be:

  • The main breaker and its lug connections to the service entrance wires and the panel bus.
  • The service entrance wires landing on the meter pan.
  • The contact blades of the meter itself.
  • The splice at the top of the weatherhead between your service entrance wires and the power company's service drop wires
  • The splice where the service drop wires tie to the pole-top wires

The last 3 are the responsibility of the power company. The last 2 don't create a significant fire risk for you.

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