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I have been experiencing flickering lights from time to time in the last few months. Now I am losing power to 4 circuits at once without the breakers being tripped. This is happening intermittently for several days now, maybe a couple of weeks as my children advise. I have checked the breakers and they seems to work fine. It has been hard to trouble shoot because I have not been home when this has happened. Or, by the time I got to the panel the power restore itself? However today I was home all day, so I removed the panel cover to be able to access it should the problem arise. When it did I ran to verify the breakers. all OK! When I took a reading of the "5" circuits that all lost power at the same time, I gor a reading of 24VAC at all of them? The rest of the circuite were reading 124VAC. When the power mysterious turned back on, the readings at the same 5 breakers was 119VAC. It should be noted that all the problem circuits are on one leg of the panel? But not all the circuits in said leg are failing, or maybe not demanding power at that time?

What could be causing this anomolie?? Thank-you

PS. Our Power Utility "Power Supplier" has change the outdoor power meters from an older type to a newer smart meter last fall.

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Sounds like you have a problem in your panel. How old is it? Sounds like it could be a split-buss panel and only the "lighting main" fed breaker are being affected.

In my strong opinion you need to have a qualified/real electrician (ie: NOT a "handyman") come out and check it. This is typically NOT a DIY fix.

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    Thank-you for your reply.This panel was installed in 1994 when we bought the house. It is a split-buss panel. – Don Jun 8 '15 at 22:39
  • Boy, doesn't 1994 seem a little late (recent) for a split bus panel? ;-) – Craig Jun 8 '15 at 23:32
  • Thank-you for comment, after last comment and further research online and review of panel, it is a normal panel. – Don Jun 9 '15 at 0:42
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You sound like you have a good handle on testing. I like that you have traced the problem to the panel. If the breaker is putting out 24V at times and 120V at other times than there is a problem somewhere around there.

You have two legs in your panel (red wire and black wire). You have tested all the breakers in your panel and it seems like you are getting 24V on some and 120V on others. I understand you say that all the problem circuits are on the same leg. Are there other loads on that leg that are testing 120V and not 24V when the others are. It would be good to know if it is just those breakers or that entire leg that is having problems. If you need help on testing the legs (hot to ground) than let me know.

Otherwise if you are not having the issue right now and therefore cannot test that than I would take out a few of the breakers that seem to be trouble and switch them for a known good breaker. It could possibly be some bad breakers.

Are all the breakers close together? If they are it sounds like some heat might be causing problems, making the breaker not operate as usual. If this was a Federal/Pioneer panel I wouldn't be surprised if it was a bad breaker. They have a bad name for not tripping when they are supposed to. And maybe a breaker that will not trip is heating other breakers up.

I would also check the bus below the breakers. Does the bus that the breakers sit on look okay. I can't imagine there would be a problem there but it would be good to look at it just incase something happened that I cannot think about.

Remember to turn the breakers on first on any breaker you remove from the panel. Testing to make sure OV is on the breaker to ground when the breaker is off sounds like a good plan with these dodgy breakers. They might be hard to get out to. Wear safety glasses and turn off anything that will make you feel safer getting them out if they are "fused" on there from too much heat. Perhaps turning off the main breaker would be a good idea!

I can't see the power meter being the problem unless an entire leg is seeing 24V. Otherwise I am thinking breaker problems. But try to investigate if there is a reason they stopped working besides perhaps maybe ,like I said earlier, a breaker getting too hot because it's not working properly. Just do visual inspections.

  • Thanks, The breakers are separate from each other. Will change breakers to see if it works. Lights intermittently flickering on these circuits? Tested surrounding breakers for sampling, and they measure 124VAC during and after the failures. Whereas the failing circuits measured 24VAC during and 119VAC after the failure? No visible damage or corrosion to Bus Bar, but would need to take remove the breaker as suggested. When the A/C unit turns on outside, I notice a flicker in the lights also. At least one side of the A/C 240V is on this suspect busbar where the several breakers are failing? – Don Jun 9 '15 at 12:47
  • Generally large loads coming on and off can cause lights to flicker. Even new homes with energy efficient large loads still flicker. Kinda sucky I know. So it sounds like you got to the bottom of the AC flickering the lights... Now your other problem.... – JollyGoodTime Jun 9 '15 at 23:12
  • Hello Janessa, Thanks for the quick response. Yup the other problem, I have switched positions of two breakers on the same bus bar with two others to see what happens next? I did not find any evidence of arcing or corrosion when removing any of the breakers. Just want to see if using another And yes the lights still have a little flicker... is this in anyway dangerous? Also I took some readings when I returned home and every things was OK? Monitoring on going.... – Don Jun 10 '15 at 0:30
  • welll, 6AM this morning power cutout again. Ran down stairs and found the entire bus bar A powerless. Measure from the main coming in on the house side of the main and no power, measure the otheside bus bar B 124vac. NEXT STEPS? – Don Jun 10 '15 at 10:07
  • I imagine the main breaker is the next logical process of elimination. When power cuts out, to measure on either side of the main breaker? If power exists on supply side and not on house side of main breaker in the panel, it should be that breaker causing me all these problems and require an electrcien and Power Utility to shut of power to the house from the meter to make repairs? If no power on either side then should be calling the supplier? Am I on the right track? – Don Jun 10 '15 at 11:27
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I'd (very carefully) do the voltage measurement on the supply-side of the breaker both in normal, and abnormal, states.

Do this with the main breaker off - so your house wiring can't be affecting your measurement.

You are likely getting the odd-voltage-readings (the 24VAC) because your 240V appliances are back-feeding power from the "good" side to the bad side when the problem occurs.

If, with the breaker-off, you measure low voltage on one of the supply side "phases", then you should call your utility and start talking with them about it.

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    Thank-you, I am making arrangements to have an electricien come in ASAP to take over from here. Even if I was to verify the main breaker defective I would not attempt changing it. I measure the feed before and after the meter, which means I would have to go on the roof for the before and in the panel before the breaker for the house side. – Don Jun 10 '15 at 17:16
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One other possibility that I encountered once: the two wires carrying the two phases from the power pole to the two legs each had an inline fuse (about the size and shape of a thumb) outside the house, where the lines entered the service pipe. One of the fuses was going wonky, and causing lights to flicker on any circuit on that leg...

The fuses were sheltered by the overhang of the soffit, but they were somewhat exposed to snow/rain/moisture. When the utility came to check out my problem, the fuse was swollen and steaming slightly in the cool air. An easy diagnosis ...

  • Well fokes, the electricien came and found that a crimp at the mass need changing. This was completed and off he went. Seeming fixinf the problem. However, 2 day later it started again?? Just so happens several neighbors were also calling elecetriciens to verfity the very same thing over a period of time. Then Saturday night the power supplier truck was parked outside my house with tier boom extended over the main connection. I ask what was going on and they said they had a bad jumper and it needed to be replaced. – Don Jun 15 '15 at 15:09
  • Once this was done, I have had no more problems and neither has anyone else! So the Power supplier had several customers go thru the routine until enough complained before they checked their own system which was the route cause of the problem. Thanks for all your help and responses to help get to the route cause and eventual fix. :) – Don Jun 15 '15 at 15:09
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I’ve had this experience, and the neutral at the main, had a corroded lug, and for some reason it would be in and out, but that was the culprit! The solution, a new meter base!

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