Question: Dear Mr. Lamoureux, I follow your column in The Signal regularly and have seen how you are able to guide homeowners to resolve their maintenance concerns. I am hopeful that you will be able to do the same for me.
I live in Valencia Hills in a home built in 1974, which I have owned since 1985. Just recently we have noticed that many of our lights dim when appliances cycle on (refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave, etc.) and brighten when they cycle off. In addition, this Saturday evening the multi-bulb fixture over our kitchen table intensified to very bright light for several seconds, then dimmed to normal again.
At the same time, my wife was watching TV in our bedroom and the TV and cable box simultaneously restarted. Upon investigation of the plug bar, I could smell what I thought was an electrical odor, so I have replaced the plug bar with a new one.
I had a local electrical contractor come out to evaluate the problem last week and after cycling each circuit breaker to determine which appliances were associated with each breaker, he converted the kitchen ceiling lights from fluorescent to LED and he replaced one of the circuit breakers. That cost me $600, so I’m a bit hesitant to have him out again.
We are concerned that we are at risk for a fire and would like your advice for how this problem should be addressed and which contractor you would recommend we use. We thank you in advance for your advice and recommendations.
— Sincerely, Steve & Kathy J.
Answer: Steve, thank you for writing in and being a loyal Signal reader. I’d hire a reputable electrical contractor. Sounds like you may have a bad main breaker that is on its way out. They need to pull off the breakers one at a time and inspect the buss bar. The buss bar is the metal strapping that the breakers connect to. If the buss bars are pitted, that will cause that condition you are describing.
Electrical is something you don’t want to play with. I’ve sent contact information for my recommendation to you. Best of luck. Feel free to write back with his findings.
Robert Lamoureux has more than 40 years of experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Email questions to Robert at [email protected].