Bought a house (built in 1937) recently.

When the clothes washer runs (particularly, when it agitates), lights in the house flicker.

I've read in numerous places online that this is possibly due to a loose neutral somewhere.

Would that kind of power flicker kill my fridge? The freezer keeps cold, but not the fridge, and I'm almost certain it's due to the control board dying. My impression is that poor power stability can kill control boards in appliances (I'm pretty sure it happened in our previous house, to a fridge).

I'm asking because I want to know if I need to get the flickering fixed before I get the fridge fixed.

2 Answers 2


That kind of flicker can kill your house. I'd get it fixed before proceeding with anything else. Loose connections and undersized wire = potential fire.

  • The outlet the washer is plugged into is odd---they have a 6-outlet thing screwed onto what looks like an outlook or junction box. I was thinking maybe that's the problem, not something more systemic. While I'm waiting for an electrician to come, could I plug the washer into a different outlet using a thick extension cord and see if it has the same effect on the house, or is that a terrible idea? And beyond the general fire hazard issue, is that kind of flicker hard on equipment (TV, cable modem, FIOS box, etc etc)? Jul 28, 2014 at 15:49
  • You could try, briefly, but one bad outlet or multitap is unlikely to be the source of a whole house flickering. And voltage spikes are bad for electronic equipment. That's why they invented surge protectors.
    – bib
    Jul 28, 2014 at 15:56
  • There is no use for a 6-plug tap on a washing machine socket. The washing machine outlet is normally dedicated to only that purpose, wired direct to a breaker with it being the only socket on that circuit. (though this is a 1937 residence, built before such became common practice.) If you're familiar with doing such stuff, I'd go get a faceplate, pull the tap off (may be secured by the center screw) and plug direct into the socket. And flickering is not only a safety hazard, but can kill other equipment, especially motors if it's a brownout/low voltage situation. Jul 28, 2014 at 15:59
  • Thanks for the comments. How urgent is this to fix? I've contacted a couple electricians, but it seems like most electricians are single man or small shops and they don't return calls that quickly. Is this something that can wait a couple days (time to contact plus inevitable delay due to not scheduling right away), or is this an emergency that needs to be looked at in the next 24 hours? Jul 28, 2014 at 16:08
  • 1
    Hard to say, but my accountant lost her house to a fire caused by a bad wire connection in an outlet so I get a little paranoid when people start mentioning potential loose connections. So I'd say, especially since it's a multiple circuit issue that it needs immediate attention. Jul 28, 2014 at 16:32

Get the flicker fixed as Fiasco Labs recommends. But I doubt the circuit board on your fridge failed. Those are usually an all or nothing failure. Instead look at the valve that controls the airflow from the freezer to fridge. That is a common source of fridge too cold/hot issues.

  • diceless is right, your freezer is what keeps your fridge cold. Will your freezer keep ice cream frozen hard? If not, you may have a fridge problem in addition to electrical issues. Note: its not uncommon, especially in older homes, for the inductive load induced at initial start-up of electric motors to dim the lights very briefly. Jul 29, 2014 at 4:27
  • I had to switch out a fridge at an apartment complex because of this. ( to be seen doing something ) I then hot glued the controls so that wouldn't happen again. ( both fridges are still being used as far as I know ) Jul 29, 2014 at 16:07
  • Appliance tech came and fixed the fridge today. Said the board went bad. Aug 4, 2014 at 16:47
  • Glad you got it fixed.
    – diceless
    Aug 4, 2014 at 20:57

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