Why Are My Lights Flickering?

Almost everyone at some point in their lives will wonder, “Why do lights flicker?” Do you have flickering lights in your house?

Perhaps it started with just one light flickering slightly, randomly, and was hardly noticed. But you may find more and more lights flickering in your house as time goes by.

If you are experiencing persistent and pervasive butterfly-wing fluttering of light that you seem to constantly catch from the corner of your eye, don’t ignore it. Lights flickering in your house could be a warning sign of some electrical problem that might urgently need your attention.

Why do lights flicker or more precisely, what causes lights to flicker? In this post, our electricians outline just some of the key culprits that could be the cause of your flickering lights including, but not limited to:

Circuit Overload

Breakers that keep trippingDo you get flickering lights in the whole house sometimes? If you start to investigate, and really consider what’s going on in your home in those times when most of your lights are flickering, the lightbulb in your own head might go off as you realize that the flickering is related to moments when certain appliances are turned on!

If you are asking “why do lights flicker” (or dim) when you turn on one of your major appliances – like the dishwasher, microwave, washer, dryer, or AC – then you may have found the culprit. This points to an overloaded circuit, due to the larger amounts of electrical current that these appliances tend to require when they first fire up. You may need to consider a new electrical panel upgrade to better serve these areas.

Faulty Light Switches

single pole light switchPerhaps your flickering light problem is not house-wide; it’s specific to one light, or a series of lights in your home controlled by the same light switch. In this scenario, your culprit could be a faulty light switch. Seems like a simple, small enough problem to fix, yes? Yes, but as simple as it is, it is just as important to get it fixed!

Talk to your electrician about lighting upgrades or to get the switch replaced as quickly as possible. Faulty light switches can overheat and cause an electrical fire, turning that seemingly simple small problem into something far, far worse.

Might we also, at this point, recommend that you hire a qualified electrician to do the job? Because, even the simplest of electrical jobs never really are, and given the potential for fiery consequences, it’s better to play it safe than DIY-sorry!

Faulty Electrical Equipment

Whether due to age, poor maintenance, or poor construction, to begin with, certain pieces of electrical equipment in your home are prone to failing or becoming faulty. Your TV, vacuum cleaner, or microwave for instance might be the answer to “Why do lights flicker?”

Failing or faulty pieces of electrical equipment can cause surges in your electrical system, which, in turn, can cause your lights to dim or flicker. If you notice this happening, related to a specific piece of equipment, stop using it. Immediately. Then either get it replaced or repaired (by an expert).

Loose Light Bulbs

Your flickering light problem might be as simple as a light bulb that is loose in its socket. Light bulbs which are not properly screwed into their sockets will receive an inconsistent supply of power, which will cause the flickering.

To check, simply turn off the light in question; wait for it to cool down before handling; then gently tighten the bulb in its socket before turning the light back on to see if its flickering days are done!

Why Do Lights Flicker – Could It Be Loose or Outdated Wiring?

If your light flickering syndrome seems to be getting worse and worse as time goes by and affecting more and more lights throughout the house, you might have a wiring issue. Loose wiring, courtesy of wear and tear, outdated wiring, or incorrect installation, can cause flickering… and way worse. Wiring upgrades should be installed by a qualified electrician!

A loose connection anywhere within your electrical system is a fire hazard. It goes without saying that if you’re not sure if your light flickering is a loose wiring situation or something rather less worrisome, it’s always better to get it checked out by someone who will be sure… and know how to fix it.

An electrician can also check to see if you have outdated wiring such as aluminum wiring or knob and tube wiring found in older homes.

Types of Light Bulbs

Another relatively harmless cause of flickering lights is when it is caused by the type of bulb you are using.

Fluorescent Light Bulbs

These tend to flicker, especially as they are powering up or in particularly cold temperatures, or if the ballast needs replacement.

LED Light Bulbs & Dimmer Switches

Why do lights flicker on dimmer switches? When it comes to LED lights flickering in the house, the most common cause has nothing to do with your electrical system. Sometimes the dimmer switch causes led lights to flicker because dimmer switches don’t always work well with lower-voltage LED lights.

These days, however, you can remedy the situation by looking for dimmer switches explicitly made to be LED bulb compatible. In fact, dimmer switches, which are designed for incandescent or halogen bulbs, don’t tend to work well with most fluorescent and non-dimmable CFL bulbs. To avoid flickering, check that you are using only dimmable bulbs that are compatible with your dimmer switch.

Check out this BC Hydro PDF file on Choosing the Right Light.

When Should I Call an Electrician for Flickering Lights?

These are just some of the most common reasons why your home is afflicted with the flickering light syndrome. But given that all electrical problems need to be fixed, sooner rather than later, the question shouldn’t be “Why do lights flicker?” It should be: “The lights in my house are flickering; what am I going to do about it?”

Of course, if you think the flickering light is something as simple as a loose bulb, even the clumsiest of us can screw in a loose light bulb. (Insert your favourite ‘How many (you know) does it take to change a light bulb’ joke here.)

Besides that, flickering lights are often a sign of some more serious underlying issue with your electrical wiring. And given that electrical wiring has the potential to cause a dangerous fire hazard to your home, it’s never a good idea to either ignore or DIY a lighting or electrical problem.

About Premium Electric

If you are still wondering “why do lights flicker” in your house, our Abbotsford electricians are here to help. Whether you have a residential or commercial electrical problem, for your own safety, always hire an electrician.

We only employ fully bonded, certified electricians so if you need an electrician in Chilliwack, Surrey, Mission, or Langley, or anywhere within the Fraser Valley and the Greater Vancouver Regional District, give us a call.

We can also be reached at 604-308-6195

Or, if you prefer, please contact us online or send us an email.

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