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Flickering Lights

Discussion in 'LEDs and Optoelectronics' started by dm99, Mar 19, 2013.

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  1. dm99

    dm99

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    Oct 29, 2012
    I recently moved and at my new place the lights flicker very slightly all the time. At first I blamed the CFL bulbs. In one room I took all those out and put classic bulbs and it seems to be even worse.

    The power company said large appliances/heaters are usually to blame and there's no cause for concern unless there's a connection to it being windy.

    There's a plug right under the breakers which has its own breaker. I turned off all other but that one and connected a lamp and it still flickers, so the appliances thing isn't the case.

    I've got a multi-tester and I was tempted to just turn it to 500V and stick the leads in the outlet, but I'm not quite sure if that's useful or safe?
     
  2. john monks

    john monks

    693
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    Mar 9, 2012
    If your not sure please get someone else who is sure to do it.
     
  3. CocaCola

    CocaCola

    3,635
    5
    Apr 7, 2012
    Where are you located? This can have a huge effect, as not all electricity is the same and can vary from location to location and especially from country to country... Talk to your neighbors do they have the same issue? If so it's likely inherent to your power lines... They sell whole house power conditioners that will smooth it out, one of the clients I worked with had to have one installed in his rural house as the supplied power was wreaking havoc with his electronics, nothing wrong inside the house it was coming into the house that way...
     
  4. Electrobrains

    Electrobrains

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    Jan 2, 2012
    I suppose your multimeter is made for measuring mains voltage (on the high voltage AC range).
    If your light flickers, you should see the voltage on your DMM flickering as well.
    If the problem is not caused by you, it could be the neighbors or a nearby factory.

    Your power company sure is obliged to supply quality electricity. If you don't find the source of the problem, you could demand a check-up. Perhaps thicker wires or changed power distribution routes are needed.

    As pointed out, there are solutions offered.
    A short term one, would for instance be to install a simple electromagnetic voltage-stabilizer (at least for the light).
     
  5. dm99

    dm99

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    Oct 29, 2012
    I'm located in an urban area in Michigan. I read the instructions for the multimeter and put one lead in the narrow slot of an outlet and the other into the wide slot. The voltage fluctuates from about 110 volts to 123 volts.
     
  6. CocaCola

    CocaCola

    3,635
    5
    Apr 7, 2012
    If you can see such a drastic swing, call the electric company and demand they come out and check, I suspect that is an issue with their transformers unless you have some high current device switching on and off regularly that shouldn't be...
     
  7. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    25,496
    2,837
    Jan 21, 2010
    Where I live, the mains could vary by an equivalent to that amount, but not over a short duration. My electricity supplier has Legislated specifications that they must maintain. These include the voltage and frequency limits, but also restrictions on how the voltage may change over time.

    Your supplier may have the same. It may be worth arming yourself with the relevant ones for your supplier.

    Also, your multimeter will not be capable of showing you rapid fluctuations. If your lights are flickering (as opposed to suddenly brightening or dimming) there could be even larger fluctuations that your meter is simply unable to report to you.
     
  8. dm99

    dm99

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    Oct 29, 2012
    I am going to call them tonight... Again
     
  9. dm99

    dm99

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    Oct 29, 2012
    The technician said that it's probably not an issue, but they're going to send someone out tomorrow to verify at the meter that voltages are within their limits.

    Would sudden drop of 10 volts be something you could actually see on lights or is that trivial?
     
  10. john monks

    john monks

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    Mar 9, 2012
    I work in an industrial building and have never seen such voltage fluctuations on the line. I was just wondering if you get sporadic radio or television noise. It seems that if this was something in your house you would smell something burning. I wonder if your street lights are fluctuating also.
     
  11. CocaCola

    CocaCola

    3,635
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    Apr 7, 2012
    If your lights are noticeably flickering there is an issue, for a tech to say there isn't is just being stupid and lazy... The question that needs to be answered is where is the issue and what is causing it...
     
  12. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    25,496
    2,837
    Jan 21, 2010
    Have you asked your neighbors if they are having the same sorts of problems?

    If you're on a single phase, you may need to ask a couple of neighbors because they may be on a different phase to you (and the problem may be restricted to a single phase). If you have multiple phases coming in, see if the problem affects all of them.

    You also need to determine what the specifications the power company has to meet. It may (should) be more than just a frequency range and a voltage range. It should also talk about noise. What you're seeing *could* be noise.

    I'm still uncertain if you've answered the question as to whether the "flickering" is sudden increases or decreases (a step increase or decrease in light brightness which then remains constant for a while), or if its a pulse (lights go bright then dim -- or vice versa and then remain constant for some time), or if it really is flickering (lights go through many bright/dim cycles each second.
     
  13. dm99

    dm99

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    Oct 29, 2012
    The tech came today and said that he noticed the voltage being "slightly low" but that he didn't see the swinging thing I'd observed. He said that the current voltage wasn't dangerous and that he'd have someone come back on Monday to do some more testing throughout the neighborhood to figure out why the low voltage.

    The lights seem to get both brighter and dimmer. It's not like when you start the drill and the flights flick for a second.

    No noise on the TV or radio, but I did have the TV turn off a few times over the past week.
     
  14. john monks

    john monks

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    Mar 9, 2012
    I'm just wondering if you have smart meters like we do in California.
     
  15. dm99

    dm99

    26
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    Oct 29, 2012
    I live near some major industry but most of them seem to shut down. Plus, there's only a few offices on my block, then it's residential. This problem is noticeably worse at night.

    One neighbor said she has noticed the flickering lights in her home as of a few months ago, but she didn't investigate further.
     
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