Why Your Lights Flicker

Do you have lights flickering in your home? A flickering light may only seem like an annoyance, but sometimes it is a symptom of a deeper problem.
After some very basic troubleshooting, you’ll know if you really should contact someone to do an electrical inspection or if this is the kind of thing you can address yourself.

Types of Lights That Flicker Normally

When in doubt and only one light is flickering, always replace the bulbs as your first line of troubleshooting.
Some lights flicker normally, depending on certain conditions. For example, a dimmer light may flicker on its low setting if it has the wrong type of light bulbs installed. You may also have lights flicker if you are using fluorescent lights. Fluorescent light bulbs use inductive ballast to control the current running through the light bulb. Switching to LED lights could resolve the issue.

Loose Bulbs and Plugs

If you have the right type of light bulbs installed but only one light is flickering, you may still have a simple issue with loose bulbs or plugs. Screw the bulb firmly to make sure that it is well grounded in the socket. You can also check the plug going to the outlet to make sure the connection is secure. If the plug will not seat firmly in the outlet, you may need a new outlet installed.

In the case of one flickering stand alone light that seems to have a poor connection, such as a lamp or desk light, the problem could be with the light fixture itself. Check other lights on the same circuit and see if they are flickering. If not, try another lamp or light in the outlet. If that light also flickers, there may be an electrical issue with your outlet. If it does not flicker, you’ll need to get your light fixture repaired.

If multiple lamps flicker when plugged into the same outlet, your troubleshooting should stop there. Call an electrician to have the outlet and circuit tested. You should not try to diagnose or fix the problem yourself.

Is Something Wrong at Your Electric Company?

Some flickering lights are caused by issues with the electric company. If you have multiple lights flickering in your home, talk to your neighbors to see if they too are having problems with flickering lights. If so, the problem could be with the electrical load for the neighborhood.

If there is a large load on the network, such as a manufacturing plant, it could cause all of the lights in the neighborhood to flicker. This is not dangerous, but it should be reported to your electric company because it can shorten the life of your appliances.

As a general rule, if you and your neighbors are all experiencing problems, you should report them to the electric company immediately. Your report could be valuable troubleshooting information for the utility.

Faulty Light Switches

If it is an overhead light that is flickering, or if it is a lamp plugged into an outlet controlled by a switch, the switch itself could be the culprit. Try toggling your light switch up and down several times, then leave it off for a few minutes. If you turn the light back on and the flickering has stopped, the switch is definitely the culprit. Some handymen can change out a light switch, but it shouldn’t be attempted on your own if you haven’t been trained.

It looks simple enough on YouTube, but there are a few common “learning mistakes” that can seriously hurt you or damage your property. It’s better to call in some help.

Voltage Fluctuations

If your lights flicker when you are using a particularly unusually high amount of electricity on one circuit, it could be due to voltage fluctuations. These fluctuations in the amount of electricity running through a circuit are not usually dangerous, but they can be an indication that your circuits do not have enough capacity for everything that you are running.

Sometimes circuit capacity decreases are due to worn out circuit breakers. You can easily replace a circuit breaker on your own. These breakers can be purchased at almost any hardware store, and they are simple to install. If you replace a breaker, make sure that you turn off power to the house first. If that doesn’t work to solve the problem, there may be a bigger issue with the circuits that needs to be addressed by a professional electrician.

Large Appliance Electrical Drains

Large appliances such as air conditioners and furnaces can be a huge drain on your electrical system. If your lights flicker when these appliances turn on, it may be one of two potential problems. First, there may be an electrical issue with the appliance that requires repair.

Your first step should be to contact an appliance repairman to inspect your appliances and make sure that they are not causing an unnecessary drain on your electrical system. Malfunctioning appliances pulling extra voltage can be dangerous, so make sure you don’t put off that call.

The second issue that could be happening is that your home’s electrical service may simply be unable to keep up with the demands that you are placing on it. If your appliances are in good working order, contact an electrician for an electrical inspection. They will be able to determine if there is a problem with your electrical service or if it needs to be upgraded.

Loose Circuit Connections and Faulty Wiring

If you have lights flickering all over the house, it could be a sign that there is a deeper issue with your electrical service. As previously mentioned, first check with your neighbors to see if anyone else is having issues. If not, and a problem with the electrical company has been ruled out, it is likely a big problem with your electrical service.

It is important to have these issues checked out immediately by a qualified and experienced electrician. Frequent and widespread flickering lights can be an indicator of a major problem with your electrical panel or wiring. Anytime your electricity is surging unpredictably due to loose circuit connections or faulty wiring, you are looking at a fire hazard.

Getting Professional Help with Your Lights

If you do your own basic troubleshooting and do not resolve the issue, you should contact a professional electrician for an inspection. Before calling the electrician:

  • Make note of what lights flicker, if they are on the same circuit, and how frequently they flicker. Look for common denominators like a particular appliance turning on.
  • Check all bulbs and plugs, making sure you are using bulbs compatible with the light fixture.
  • Check your circuit breakers and replace any damaged or worn breakers.</li.
  • Have your appliances checked by a professional if they seem connected to the problem.
  • Talk to your neighbors and see if they are also getting flickering lights, and if so, call the electric company.

If you do all of these things and you still have flickering lights, it is a job done best by a professional electrician. Don’t attempt to handle any electrical problem beyond changing a breaker on your own if you haven’t received some degree of safety training in this area.

A Final Word on Safety

Working on your home electrical system by yourself without training can be very hazardous. Electrical hazards cause more than 4,000 injuries and 300 deaths every year. Do not put yourself in danger. Electrical work should never be “DIY.”

Your home’s electrical system is one of the most important and hazardous systems in your home. There are 51,000 home electrical fires every year, with nearly 500 deaths, over 1,400 injuries, and over $1 Billion in property damage. Do not become a statistic by leaving your lights to flicker without an electrical inspection.

If you have flickering lights and have completed your own troubleshooting, contact us today for more information or to schedule an electrical inspection. Our experienced and friendly technicians will arrive at your home promptly to diagnose and repair the issue.

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