My Lights Flicker When Neighbors Suck Power

October 17, 2011


You learn something new every day. Huh.

I was sitting in my office today, typing merrily away, when my lights flickered. Then, they flickered again. ?? I’ve been seeing this happen a number of times recently, and while I wasn’t exactly WORRIED, I wanted to know what was going on. Since I did all the home electric wiring myself (and it’s been working fine for several years now), I guess I’m still a little nervous. It’s a silly thing to worry about— if I wired something wrong, I’d certainly know by now! But I also like to know WHY things happen.

My neighbors next door use a lot of power-sucking appliances. They seem to have commercial carpet cleaners over a lot (we have basement water problems around here, if you recall, and woe to the poor folks who have finished basements 🙁 ). As a matter of fact, the carpet cleaner truck is outside my window right now, roaring at a high decibel for the second time this month. I wondered if perhaps the carpet cleaner machine is sucking the electricity… since I am “after” them in the power grid lines, it makes sense that my electricity would experience a slight transmission delay. Looks like I’m correct! I found this little FAQ at a power utility company website:

Q: My lights dim when my neighbor operates his power tools.

A: The voltage going into your home constantly changes depending on electrical loads used by you and your neighbors. The neighbor’s power tools may cause your voltage to drop.


So if you see your lights flicker and you know that your neighbor is running a homegrown industrial lights machine or is cleaning their carpets, it’s just a temporary blip in the electricity transmission.

I don’t care about the lights flickering, but I do care about how the voltage fluctuations might affect my computers and other sensitive electronics. I think I need to get more surge protectors, just in case.

I’ll pass along a tip I found while researching this issue: If it happens often, you can call your power company to upgrade the transformer, or perhaps they’ll give your neighbor his own transformer on a pole. That way, he can slurp energy without draining it for everyone else down the pike. 😉

P.S. Just in case you’re wondering, your neighbor’s mega-power-slurping does not affect your bill in any way. It just affects the flow of voltage transmission, which is why it’s important to use surge protectors for your electronics.

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3 Responses to “My Lights Flicker When Neighbors Suck Power”

  1. Carole Says:

    Hmm, that is very interesting! I think that is what is happening up at our cabin, too. Everything up there seems to be from like, the 1950s and being we are a mostly seasonal community, we’re apparently never the power company’s priority, LOL. Lucky we even HAVE electricity, ha ha!

  2. Marg Says:

    Well that is an interesting bit of info. My lights don’t flicker much so I guess my neighbor isn’t doing much as far as electricity goes. As long as they don’t go off, we are all good. Take care.

  3. Santa Barbara Electrician Says:

    I’ve been through the same ordeal before. It’s very frustrating to have your neighbor’s electrical usage effect your home.