Home>Discussions>ELECTRICAL & LIGHTING>Power surges when operating dimmer lights/fans
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Sonny
Power surges when operating dimmer lights/fans

We have a brand new home, and I am having some wacky power surge issues in our bedroom. The bedroom has a ceiling fan whose speed is controlled by the "fan" section of a combo fan-light dimmer, and the recessed lighting in the bedroom is controlled by the "light" section of the combo dimmer.

There are a number of other appliances connected to the wall sockets in the room. One is a WiFI radio, and there are two bedside touch lamps. Here's the problem. Whenever I do *anything* with the fan section of the combo dimmer, there are power surges in the room. The touch lamps turn on arbitrarily, and the WiFi radio experiences enough of a surge to reset itself (lose clock settings, Internet settings etc).

I know this is a convenience issue at its best (and I certainly want it fixed for at least that reason), but is this something I should worry about and fix immediately --- is this a dangerous situation? We have had this problem ever since we moved here over a year ago. Can someone here explain what might be going on? Is this something I can fix (can turn of power downstairs before I open up the wall plates)? Is this something I can call an electrician for? If so, what kind of charge should I expect?

Thanks!

dj1
Re: Power surges when operating dimmer lights/fans

if you are asking whether you can fix it yourself, you probably can't.

Your house is out of warranty by now, but contact the builder and try to find the electrician who did your electrical on your house to address these issues.

JLMCDANIEL
Re: Power surges when operating dimmer lights/fans

Is every thing in the bedroom on one 15 amp circuit? If it is the solution would be to upgrade to 2 circuits. You need a load analysis to be sure if 15 or 20 amp circuits are needed.

Jack

Sonny
Re: Power surges when operating dimmer lights/fans

Everything is on one 15 AMP circuit, but should that matter? The WiFi radio is hardly blasting away every hour, and the fan and lights are off most of the time (the fan is only on in the night). We never turn on the recessed lights (admittedly a power hungry 75x8W ~ 6A). The most concurrent use the room sees is a total pull of 6 AMPs (at night before going to bed: two bedside lamps = 2A, one ceiling fan = 1A, max radio = 2A, and misc (phone(s) etc = 1A). No more!

JLMCDANIEL
Re: Power surges when operating dimmer lights/fans

Motors draw a great deal more power during start up.

Jack

canuk
Re: Power surges when operating dimmer lights/fans
dylanthomasfan wrote:

We have a brand new home, and I am having some wacky power surge issues in our bedroom. The bedroom has a ceiling fan whose speed is controlled by the "fan" section of a combo fan-light dimmer, and the recessed lighting in the bedroom is controlled by the "light" section of the combo dimmer.

There are a number of other appliances connected to the wall sockets in the room. One is a WiFI radio, and there are two bedside touch lamps. Here's the problem. Whenever I do *anything* with the fan section of the combo dimmer, there are power surges in the room. The touch lamps turn on arbitrarily, and the WiFi radio experiences enough of a surge to reset itself (lose clock settings, Internet settings etc).

I know this is a convenience issue at its best (and I certainly want it fixed for at least that reason), but is this something I should worry about and fix immediately --- is this a dangerous situation? We have had this problem ever since we moved here over a year ago. Can someone here explain what might be going on? Is this something I can fix (can turn of power downstairs before I open up the wall plates)? Is this something I can call an electrician for? If so, what kind of charge should I expect?

Thanks!

dylanthomasfan wrote:

Everything is on one 15 AMP circuit, but should that matter? The WiFi radio is hardly blasting away every hour, and the fan and lights are off most of the time (the fan is only on in the night). We never turn on the recessed lights (admittedly a power hungry 75x8W ~ 6A). The most concurrent use the room sees is a total pull of 6 AMPs (at night before going to bed: two bedside lamps = 2A, one ceiling fan = 1A, max radio = 2A, and misc (phone(s) etc = 1A). No more!

I'm not convinced there is an issue with the bedroom 15 amp circuit being over taxed -- rather I'm suspecting the fan/dimmer being the issue. Especially if it is upstream of the receptacles in the circuit.

Typically those combo switches would be used for controlling the fan and a fan light. In your case that combo switch is used for dimming 600 watts of lighting plus the draw of the fan.

More common units have a rating for 300 watts of lighting plus the fan, unless that dimmer unit is rated for at least 600 watts of lighting plus the ampacity of the fan, then it's likely the combo switch unit is cooked.

You mentioned you "never turn on the recessed lights" but at some point I'd guess they had been on at the same time as the fan.

2 cents worth.

Sonny
Re: Power surges when operating dimmer lights/fans

Thanks for all the replies, folks.

I did replace the fan, and the problem has not gone away. Is there something specific about the touch lamps that warrant special attention in this sort of situation?

BTW, the touch lamps and the radio are connected off a Belkin SurgeMaster power strip (15A/1875W max).

Thanks!

Justin Smith
Re: Power surges when operating dimmer lights/fans

Replace the Dimmer and the fan control.

Sonny
Re: Power surges when operating dimmer lights/fans

I just did replace the dimmer. For the record, I had experienced sparks *inside* the old dimmer when I operated the fan part of the combo dimmer--I could feel and hear the sparks going off inside the dimmer switch, but not see it outside, or feel the tingle of the electrical discharge (thankfully!). The dimmer is a Lutron Skylark 300-Watt 1.5-Amp Single-Pole Dual Fan Control and Dimmer http://www.homedepot.com/buy/electrical/dimmers-switches/lutron/skylark-slidetooff-fan-and-light-control-ivory-65138.html). I replaced it with a new combo dimmer yesterday, and the sparks inside have gone away, but the touch lamps do turn on (without my intervention, i.e.) still every once a while when I reduce the fan speed.

I'll keep you folks posted with any other observation.

rtirwin
Re: Power surges when operating dimmer lights/fans

I would try checking all ground and neutral connections in the circuit

JLMCDANIEL
Re: Power surges when operating dimmer lights/fans

As far as the touch lamps go there is little you can do. The switching mechanism in the lamp senses a change in capacitance, that change is normally caused by the capacitance of your body coming in contact with the lamp.However the capacitance change can also be caused by other factors including humidity in the air. You will just have to live with it or put lamps in with normal on/off switches.

Jack

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