Lights Flickering while appliances start-up and while running.

I have a whole house problem of lights flickering and dimming as appliances run or start up. As the washing machine is in it’s washing cycle, the light actually flicker to the agitation of the washer as if they were disco lights, this happens throughout the entire home. I also have dimming of lights throughout the house as appliances start up. It is an older home that has been built in the late 60’s or early 70’s with only a 60A service. I realize that this service is probably not adequate for todays amount and style of modern appliances. I did however check the breaker box for tight connections and a possible loose neutral and found nothing wrong. However I did check the incoming load at the panel and seems as though there is an indifference in the line voltage on each leg, as much as 20 to 25 volts difference from one side to the the other. Could this be a potential problem of my utility company, possibly at the meter socket, such as a bad connection. Anything anyone can share would be a great help!

Thanks, Jeff

Jeff, I think you hit the nail on the head with the socket being faulty.

On older homes, it is not uncommon to find corrosion in the meter socket and this can cause flickering. At least thats my guess from here.

another thing i just thought of is do you get any shocks from the pipes…if so could be an open nuetral…

Call an electrician , this can not be fixed from away.

Sounds most likely to involve a loose neutral connection, causing 120 volt lighting and appliances on each leg to in effect be in series with lighting and appliances on the other leg in a single 240 volt circuit. It sort of works when loads on each leg are by sheer luck perfectly balanced, but can subject lighting and appliances to any voltage between zero and 240 volts when load is increased or decreased on either leg.
I recommend you have a licensed electrician examine your electrical system immediately, as this would be a dangerous situation.

Jim King

You are correct, the problem appears to be in the meter socket or the service.

Just a note, you mentioned checking the load and then described the voltage difference… Load checks result in amperage readings, voltage checks result in voltage readings… you had your terminology wrong there.

A load difference between the two 120V lines are normal when random 120V loads are in operation. Voltage differences on those lines should not be more than a few volts.

If you are sure about the connections on your equipment its time to call the power company. I have even heard of them repairing things on the customers equipment for free many times around here.

I checked the two main lines coming into the box from the meter. The one leg was reading around 129 volts while the other was reading about 107 volts. That’s what led me to believe I may have a bad connection in the meter socket or even a bad meter.

The 127 (unusually high) + 107 (unusually low) add up to 236, very close to 240. That makes me continue to suspect a poor neutral connection. The 107 leg could also have a poor connection, and both problems could be in the meter socket, as stated by others.

Jim King

If you have a non-contact thermometer you can probably spot this from a safe distance. Are any of the neutral connections in the panel discolored or dull looking? If the problem isn’t there it is in the meter base or upstream from there. That is the PoCos problem and they will fix it for free. You can probably speed them up by saying it is an emergency and you are going in yourself … but don’t.

Would you suspect the poor neutral connection to be in the utility companies wiring? That reading was taken at the box where the main coming in attaches to the breaker box lugs. I touched each lead, of which there are two, separately coming in and and the neutral bus bar to get the reading. I went over all the neutrals in the box and all are tight and secure. There is one that I am suspicious of though and it is a piece of stranded wire that runs from GFCI breaker to the neutral bus bar. I suspect that whomever installed the GFCI breaker used this piece of stranded wire instead of a piece of solid copper. Do you think I should replace it with a piece of solid?

The stranded wire on the GFI breaker is from the factory. There is no need to replace it.

Do as others have already suggested and call your local power company.

I think you need either the POCO or a licensed electrician NOW. Whether you get it checked out for free or not should be one of your lesser concerns at this point Jeff.

Jim King

If the problem is not in your equipment, which sounds true, it has to be the PoCos problem. They don’t want you in the meter can behind their seal (even though you might own it) and you certainly have no business up at the service point on the drop or at the transformer on the pole. So you can see this is clearly their job to fix it.

Please Note: This user is a non-member guest and is in no way affiliated with InterNACHI.

I wonder how many if any of the above post’s are made by electricians .
While we all like to give advice and information , I do wish you would think just a Little before giving advice like has been given above .
With knowing nothing of the person asking the questions and the person is not even ("Please Note: This user is a non-member guest and is in no way affiliated with InterNACHI. ").
Now if this person tries to make repairs and some one is hurt or worse I can see advertisement and possible more that NACHI or any of the above sure do not want or need.

Thanks… Cookie

I used to be an licensed electrician. It’s true many are not electricians, That doesnt make it wrong to ask questions. However… Cookie is right. and ultamately we do not want our poster to get hurt.
Call a licensed electrician to have it evaluated. You’ll fell better.
Then Let us know what was wrong so we can gloat about who was right or wrong.

Just wanted to let you all know that the issue with the incoming electric is a problem of my utility. Apparently between the transformer and the handhole box (underground utilities). I appreciate all of your replies and I wanted to let “Cookie” know that I am safe and that I didn’t electrocute myself. I would not have taken on any job that I couldn’t have handled or tampered with the utility company’s service in any way. I was only looking for some other opinions on what others thought the problem was.


Thanks but I have read that One electrician gets electrocuted every day in the USA .
These are people like me who have many years experience , so if can happen daily to them then the odds go up very much when Mr home owner figures he can do it.

Defenetly an open neutral, electric company needs to cut the neutral wire from the old crimp and re-crimp it, once is done every thing will be beautiful again, and each leg will read 120/120 as it suppose to read. Good luck.

The post is from 2007. I am sure he has resolved his/her issues at this point.

Welcome to the Forum.

Hi. I am a homeowner who just experienced this very thing. Before panicking and calling an electrician that we couldn’t afford, I decided to start with our power co. to see if the issue could possibly be on their end. They sent out a very helpful lineman who spoke with me over the phone while I was at work. He thought the condition of our rusty meter box could be the source of the problem and commented that it could be rotted out in the back. Of course, not being allowed to touch that he said what he could try was replacing a couple of the electrician ‘bugs’ since they looked corroded. Not being there he couldn’t show me what he was talking about but I Googled the term & came upon a semi-illustrated, Lineman’s slang dictionary defining them as solder-less connectors. Hey, if that works I’m down with it!
About 2 or so hours later, my husband called from the house while on his lunch break to tell me that when he walked in the temp was about 45⁰. He went down to the basement to check on the furnace and found all the control boards on the furnace and WH were nicely browned and crispy. So, to cut to the chase…we were set back about a grand for the new boards and just in time for Christmas, too! Good news is he resolved all the issues we had like: popping & smoking outlets, scary voltage drops in attempts to run appliances, and the crazy “disco” light show (as the OP exp’d).
The emotional part of me believes the lineman had all the best intentions and certainly didn’t mean to damage anything. However, the wallet part of me isn’t happy that we had to drop a G we don’t have! Pardon my whine but we’re really struggling and didn’t need this-esp. now when we can barely afford to heat the house to begin with. Hubby’s already working 2 jobs - as would I - except I can’t since my 93 y.o. mother w/dementia lives with us and needs my assistance in the evenings.
I’m certainly not an opportunist but if there is a chance we could be compensated for the repair from our power co, I’d like to try. However, all I’ve read so far seems to indicate that they (power companies in general) can declare immunity and deny claims like this.
I welcome all comments and opinions and would be grateful to anyone willing to share experiences dealing with a power company in a similar situation. I am trying to gather as much info. possible. Thank you!