Power is out, generator is on, lights on z-wave dimmers flickering?


(Mike Coscia) #1

So bad storm in NJ today, close to 2’ of snow. Needless to say, power is out, by my general (12kw) kicked on no problems. This is the first time I had to use it since upgrading all my switches to Leviton switches (rf+ series) and the seem to be acting erratically. All dimmers flickered, no matter the brightness level and regular switches seem to turn on and off sporadically. Can anyone even remotely take a guess on what’s going on and is there a way to fix it or can I just not use my lights when I’m on backup power.


(Steve White) #2

There are a few reasons for this. The most likely explanation is that the generator is a MSW (modified sine wave, aka “rounded square wave”) and/or may not be outputting a stable 60hz frequency. I would suggest measuring the AC voltage to see if that’s stable too.

It’s likely just a typical, normal dirty MSW generator which don’t play well with sensitive electronics.


(Mike Coscia) #3

Thanks for the feedback Steve. The generator is throwing a battery error as well. I have a maintenance contract on it, so they will be out tomorrow. I’ll have them check the voltage and frequency while they are here. Is there anything I can do to the correct the issue? Like inline power conditioner?


(Mike Coscia) #4

I know it’s been awhile, but quick update. The battery error was just a general maintenance thing. Apparently, the company I use for generator service uses it as a service reminder notification.

Anyways, I lost power today for a few minutes and when it came back up my lights were all flickering again. This was on regular power, not generator. The dimmers were literally strobing. I turned the breaker on and off for the hell of it and it instantly fixed the problem. I only thought of it as the clock on my stove sometimes gets out of whack with power outages. It actually runs faster than it should and I have to reset the breaker to fix it.

Still have no idea what is causing the issue with the lights, I have to see if resetting the breaker during an actual outage would fix the problem.


(DLee) #5

I would call your power company or get an electrician. We had similar events in an old house years ago. Tree roots had damaged the neutral line in from utility. That problem wasn’t fully revealed until the electrician added proper grounding (rods) to the house as a first step to resolve odd flickering and other problems we were having.

In fact right after the grounding rods were installed and circuits powered on, the neighborhood Comcast box that was in my front yard and grounded to my house, went up in smoke and flames. It was a pretty exciting day. Power utility dug up my driveway and fixed everything at no cost to me, but didn’t reimburse for the kitchen oven control board which was also fried.

Once all fixed, the utility guy said “always call the utility first when you notice problems with your lights or power”. Could have avoided paying the electrician for grounding.


(Mike Coscia) #6

Pretty sure it has nothing to do with my utility power and everything to do with the generator screwing with the z-wave dimmers. This is a 10kw natural gas fed generac. I figured the power isn’t as clean, but had the technician test everything when he was doing general maintenance on the unit. Clean 60hz, no not sure what is causing the issue. Like I said, as soon as I reset the breakers it was working fine. Just have to test it when I’m on generator power. Maybe it has something to do with the transfer switch.


(Todd Wackford) #7

One cheap test you could run is to rent or borrow a “pure sinewave” generator. If you know someone with an RV, they probably have one. Also, are the bulbs LED or incandescent? It they are LED, try an incandescent. LED’s can be picky on wave shape and level.


(Mike Coscia) #8

According to my generac manual…

“Superior harmonics and sine wave form produce less than 5% Total Harmonic Distortion for utility quality power. This allows confident operation of sensitive electronic equipment and micro-chip based appliances, such as variable speed HVAC.”

So, it shouldn’t be causing any issues. The bulbs are all LED on leviton z-wave dimmers and switches.