Flickering lights are a mainstay of horror movies. But at home, flickering lights are annoying – at best. At worst, flickering lights can indicate a severe safety issue. Electrical issues cause more than 51,000 home fires every year, causing over a billion dollars in damages.
What causes flickering lights? Let’s look at some of the most common causes and how to troubleshoot flickering lights. Finally, what do you do about them? Read on for a brief guide.
Causes of Flickering Lights
In simple terms, lights flicker because the power getting to the bulb fluctuates. What causes that is the question. While some of the reasons aren’t dangerous – for example, a loose bulb – others are. Serious issues mean a quick call to an emergency electrician.
Large Appliance Start-up
When some of the appliances in your home start running, they can pull a lot more amperage as they start. Sump pumps and electric dryers are examples. They use so much current at start-up that the lights don’t get enough.
This is an issue that should be addressed. It might indicate that the appliance wasn’t wired correctly during installation. In this case, the situation will likely get worse.
Appliances, like washing machines, can also cause flickering lights if they have a bad bearing. In that case, fixing the appliance will solve the problem.
Bad Connections or Switches
A failed or faulty light switch is another common culprit. If you wiggle the switch and the light dims, it’s likely a faulty switch. If you’ve got some DIY skill, replacing a light switch is relatively simple. Otherwise, call the pros.
Call an emergency electrician if the switch is fine, but the flickering continues. There may be a more significant issue with the wiring itself, with a connection, or with your breaker box. These are issues that need to get diagnosed and repaired right away.
Light Dimmer Switches
Most dimmer switches are designed to handle the loads from regular incandescent lightbulbs. So if you replace your bulbs with energy-saving bulbs or LEDs, the dimmer switch can cause them to flicker. Matching the dimmer switch capacity to the draw of the lights avoids this.
Fluorescent Light Flickering
Fluorescent lights are more likely to flicker than regular bulbs or LEDs. As fluorescents age, they have a longer warm-up and become more sensitive. Constant dimming and flickering mean it’s time to replace the bulb.
Multiple Lights Flickering
If only one light is flickering, the chances are the issue is isolated to that light. If multiple lights on separate circuits are flickering, call an electrician immediately. In this case, you may have a serious issue with your main service entrance, your breaker panel, or with voltage fluctuation.
An Ounce of Caution
It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to electrical issues – like what causes flickering lights. As you can see, some flickering lights are caused by a loose bulb or plug. But unless you’re positive you know what the problem is and that you can fix it, be safe. Call an electrician!
For more informative articles, please look around the rest of our site!