Odd random power surges and lost power to AC unit in our home. Bathroom lights surging and downstairs bedroom lost power then returned. Possible reasons? Checked the breaker box and no breakers are tripped. Changed batteries in thermostat and LCD screen still won't come on but notice a slight flicker. Both bathroom lights will surge. One flickers off and on. This just started last night around 10 PM. At noon today noticed the AC was off. My son also reported his bedroom lights and TV randomly turned off last night but the rest of the basement lights were on. We have contacted our local power company and they said there was an outage to a breaker in our area over the weekend but it was repaired. They also checked and we are receiving power at our meter. Sorry electricity is not my forte so doing my best to explain. Am very concerned about potential hazard of surges and loss of power. We live in a rural area and don't have any local electricians. Thanks for any suggestions on how to proceed.

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    Is there any pattern to which circuits have lost power? Does running a 240V appliance such as an electric stove cause the dead circuits to come back on partially? Are any lights much brighter than normal? Commented May 22 at 3:51

1 Answer 1


This sounds like a lost neutral. A lost neutral is usually on the utility side of things, and storm or other damage can cause problems which, when nominally repaired, could leave an unnoticed lost neutral.

With a lost neutral the 240V circuits will be normal but some 120V circuits will be high and some will be low, and the voltage will vary depending on usage. You can verify this using a multimeter. Easiest is at a combination 120V/240V receptacle (e.g., typical clothes dryer) to see each hot-neutral voltage, but you can also go around the house checking various 120V receptacles and you should find as many high as low.

In any case, this is a serious problem as high voltage can zap things, low voltage can damage things in other ways and variations are the worst of all.

CALL YOUR UTILITY AND TELL THEM YOU THINK YOU HAVE A LOST NEUTRAL. If they don't know what that is (depends on training) then tell them you have a power outage and unsafe conditions and need them to send a truck. Unfortunately, if they check the meter remotely they likely only see the total voltage (240V, correct) and that power is flowing, but not the difference between each hot and neutral.

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    Thank you very much for your advice! Unfortunately it was not on the power company's side but ours as the homeowners. We have our electric running underground from our meter to our house. We did get someone to come and check and we showed 220 at our meter and like 76 V at our breaker box. Most likely it was broke underground. We rewired , dug trench, put our wire in conduit (it was not fully encased previously) and several hours and thousands of dollars later we have full power. Just leaving this response in case anyone else ever has a similar issue. Again thanks so much for advice given!
    – Mandi C.
    Commented May 22 at 15:17
  • Underground always sounds like a great solution for (a) aesthetics (personally, I don't mind wires running on poles along the street, but some people do) and (b) storms. But as you found out the hard way, you trade protection from storms for other problems. With outdoor wires, except in rural areas, most of the time a lost neutral (or lost hot or total power outage) will be someplace before the meter because the meter will be on or next to the house with very short (and usually well protected) cable/wires to your main panel. But there are exceptions. Commented May 22 at 15:21

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