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Question DetailsAsked on 5/13/2016

One side of my house will lose power for a few hours at a time then come back on?

For the past week, one side of my house will lose power for a few hours at a time. It extends from the living room into the far bedroom and will happen any time of the day and last for hours. But it comes back on. No breakers have flipped and I've tried switching them on and off when it happens. No new electronics have been added to the house. Any idea whats causing this??? Help! :(

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3 Answers


You almost positively have loss of power or connection on one side of your 220/240V feed - it has two 110/120V "live" wires coming in to your house and a neutral and generally a ground - each 110/120V "side" (which may physically be side by side or alternating breakers or fuses as you run down the box, depending on design) is on one or the other of those feeds. 220/240 devices like AC, ranges and electric dryers and electric furnaces and water heaters use double fuses or breakers tapping both sides. So, if you are losing one lead, about half the outlet and light circuits in the house go out - as well as degraded or zero function of 220/240V appliances, depending on how they are wired (some run off 220/240, many use one 110/120V "side" for some burners or maybe the motor while other burners/elements or maybe heating element come off other "side". Electric water heaters commonly have two heating elements, one off each side, so will still heat but less effectively. Ditto to oven elements.

If it is a utility line feed problem (like high tension line touching tree or underground line shorting out) your neighbors should have the same problem. If a utility transformer problem all neighbors that get their feed off the same transformer would generally have the same problem (commonly but not always 2-8 houses or units come off one transformer). If a problem on your side of the transformer, then only your house would see it, though neighbors might see flickers when it cuts on and off.

If one of those leads is cracked or has a bad connection (commonly where an aluminum main lead comes into the mounting lugs in the fuse/breaker box) it can "make and break" connections depending on temperature (both ambient and from the amount of juice running through it). Ditto sometimes with connections at transformers, and rarely a defective main breaker - though in that case usually it just kills one side of the circuit but does not cut back in.

This can be VERY dangerous - I have personally put out electrical box fires at 3 neighborhood houses over the past 30 some years from this cause, because aluminum feeds wire clamps/lugs need to be retightened every 3-5 years but almost no one does it unless an electrician happens to be in the box for another reason and checks it.

I would get this fixed ASAP - if you don't get an emergency callout by an electrician (even though it is now weekend), at LEAST don't use any high-power appliances like electric clothes dryer, electric water heater, oven or double-ring top burners, AC, electric heating systems, electric tankless water heaters, floor-mount power tools or welders or air compressors - or high-amperage electric car plugin - and turn off everything else you don't really need to use, because the more power going through the bad wire the more it overheats and arcs as it makes and breaks contact.

One other possible source - defective connections or circuity in a whole-house surge or arc fault protector (reason I don't like them) or a solar energy setup that shares the house wiring.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD


If your meter has a lock then call the power company and have them remove it before your electrian arrives. The power company may even fix the problem but don't count on it. In my area, they don't look into this seriously until directed by an electrician who has isolated the problem. My guess is that they don't want to be held responsible if the customer's old rusty panel falls apart in thier hands.

That lock has to be off for the electrican to do any meaningful work. It may end up being a problem with your equipment which can cost you anywhere from $200 to $4,500 or it could be a power company problem which may be no cost to you.

If you can hear a snap-crackle-pop sound coming from inside your panel then it is definity a problem with your equipment unless the meter itself is bad.

Answered 4 years ago by Kestrel Electric


Kestrel's answer brought a couple of possibilities to mind:

1) if you hear sizzling, snapping, or popping in your wiring or panels, if NOT at or close to the main breaker location (which may be on top of the breaker panel, or separate next to or under the meter outside) then turn off the main breaker - I would use an insulated tool to trip the breaker to be on safe side, not bare hand. If the problem is on the meeter side of the main breaker or shutoff that will NOT stop the fault, but by shutting off the demand from the house may stop the power flow unless a live wire is actually shorting out there.

2) otherwise, if sound he described is near to main breaker don't go touching things near there - I would call 911 to have the fire department come, and if they will not call the electric utility for you (some 911 centers do, some won't) next call the electric utility emergency number to have them come cut off your power - because if it is making noises in the breaker box, meter (other than the very faint electric motor hum it makes when running), etc then it is almost certainly arcing, hence overheating, and could start a fire at any time. Some fire departments will have a fireman put on insulated electrician's gloves and turn off the main breaker or disconnect if you have one, others will not touch anything electric but will stand by until the power company comes and opens it up and cuts the power (or interrupts it at the transformer) in case of fire.

3) obviously, if the sound is in a particular circuit INSIDE the house, then tripping that breaker or the main house breaker will stop the hazard (assuming it is not already smoking) - but if the sound is in the breaker box don't touch it because it could be "live" - try to shut off outside at main breaker if you have one, otherwise do #2 above.

4) on the issue of whose responsibility it is - that depends on your locale. Some utilities have the demarkation line - the limit where it goes from their to your responsibility - at the transformer, some at the weatherhead above the meter or if underground wiring where the wires enter your meter box (or at the connection lugs inside the meter box), some at a main disconnect or main breaker located next to or as part of the meter box and immediately "downflow" from the meter. Problems on "their side" of the demarkation line are generally their responsibility and no charge to you unless you (or someone at your place) caused the problem, problems on "your side" are your problem and generally the most they will do is disconnect your power - and may or may not charge a reconnection fee after the problem is fixed.

Obviously, if not the electric company's responsibility, then Electrical is your Search the List category - and if you know it is in the incoming feed area or think it might be, be sure to ask and make sure the lectrician can handle that - in some states anything "upstream" of the breaker panel or main breaker (on the meter side of them) requires that a Master Electrician do the work, so you don't want an Apprentice or Journeyman electrician coming who might not be able to handle it, if an issue in your state. You want an electrician who can handle any problem on "your side" of the system.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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