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We moved into a new home about one year ago. Since then we have had several weird instances where several light bulbs within our home burn out at the same time. My wife has also had 2 high-end salon grade hair dryers burn out during this time as well. Thankfully nothing really expensive has blown out yet but I became concerned that we may have a problem so I started doing some research online.

I eventually called the power company to request a line check. The line check revealed a voltage imbalance on the 2 hot lines into our home so the power company tech informed me that he had to shut down my power as a precaution until a repair crew could come identify/repair the problem. The repair personnel showed up a few hours later and it was dark and getting late. Unlike the earlier technician who arrived in a power company truck the repair crew appeared to be driving non power company vehicles so I believe they were subcontractors. They claimed they ran some current tests on the lines and found no problems. They told me they couldn't fix a problem they couldn't find so they were going to turn our power back on.

This didn't make sense to me so I asked a lot of questions about why things were burning up and what would cause the imbalance and I didn't get any clear answers. It also didn't make sense to me that the power company thought it serious enough to shut down our power as a precaution only to have the repair crew tell me there was no problem. My gut was telling me the repair guys were short cutting something but I don't know enough to be sure. Any advice on what I should do would be greatly appreciated.

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You can rent (somewhat reasonably) or purchase (generally expensive) a "Power line monitor" to record any issues with your power as delivered. Or you can call the power company back and tell them what you've told us, and your concerns with how the last time went and the evident subcontractors (and perhaps try requesting that they put a power line monitor on your service for a week or two WITHOUT you having to pay to rent one - probably not, but if you don't ask, definitely not - so ask.)

If renting one, probably go for a month.

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    Some UPSs with a USB connection can log power-line data such as voltage. Such a device may be useful in the longer term to protect a PC from power outages. – RedGrittyBrick Dec 5 '14 at 11:37
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Typically your electrical utility is only responsible for delivering service to the meter, everything after that belongs to the home owner. So it might be true that they did not detect any issues to the meter.

A fault can occur in almost any place of your electrical systems, and depending how it's designed, even a seemingly small issue can have a large impact.

From the info you provided, it does sound like it could be an open or poorly connected neutral. This can be a dangerous situation as devices might receive voltages they are not designed to handle.

Finding faults can be tricky, especially if you are not experienced or don't have the right tools. It sounds like you should contact a licensed electrician. If the issue is with the service, then at least they should be able to provide some more details to the utility that would be helpful for resolving the problem.

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I suspect the subcontractors were trying to shirk the work they were called out to do -- the symptoms the power company technician identified (and you have been experiencing) are classic signs of an open neutral in the electrical service. This is something that the power company must fix -- it can lead to an electrical fire down the road.

  • Its far more likely that the open neutral exists within the homes wiring. Utility connections are large, heavy gauge wires with connectors crimped on, then bolted into your meter. Way less likely to fail then some twisted connection with a wirenut in your house. – Steven Jan 27 '15 at 14:37
  • @steven - Two houses in our neighborhood (that I know of) have had failures of the underground utilities - one a short that blew a fuse and required a splice, another an open neutral that required a new line from the transformer - so it's not out of the question. – TomG Jan 28 '15 at 3:05

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