Do you often have issues with one light fixture or the lights in one part of your home flickering or dimming? Flickering lights can happen for a variety of different reasons and are sometimes nothing more than a minor annoyance. However, it can also be a sign of potentially serious electrical issues. This makes it important that you take steps to identify the cause so that you know when you need to have the issue checked out by a professional electrician.
Loose or Dying Lightbulb
If you have one light fixture that keeps flickering, the first thing to do is turn the light off and then try to tighten the bulb. Lightbulbs can loosen over time, which can lead to the bulb not making proper contact with the socket so that the light flickers intermittently.
If you have an LED bulb that continues flickering after you’ve tried tightening it, it may simply be that the bulb is starting to die and needs to be replaced. LED lightbulbs don’t just suddenly burn out like incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs. Instead, they tend to just slowly grow dimmer as their LED chip starts to fail. It’s also common for an LED bulb to start flickering as it starts to die.
Incompatible Bulb or Dimmer Switch
It is quite common for light fixtures on dimmer switches to flicker, and this issue usually means that the bulb and/or the dimmer switch aren’t compatible. Not all lightbulbs are dimmable, and using a non-dimmable bulb with a dimmer switch can cause the light to flicker frequently. Non-dimmable bulbs will typically work just fine when the dimmer switch is set to full brightness, but they will often flicker any time you adjust the switch and turn the brightness down.
If you have an LED bulb on a dimmer switch that frequently flickers, it’s often a sign that you need to replace the switch. Unless you’ve had new switches installed within the past 10 to 15 years, there’s a good chance that the dimmer switch isn’t compatible with LED lightbulbs. Old dimmer switches were designed to be used with incandescent bulbs and have a much higher wattage range. This high wattage range makes them mostly incompatible with LED bulbs since they have such a low wattage.
If you use LED bulbs with an old dimmer switch, the higher wattage will often cause the lights to flicker or the brightness to randomly fluctuate. Using LED bulbs with a non-compatible dimmer switch will also greatly shorten the lifespan of the bulbs and can also cause them to make a humming or buzzing sound when turned on.
Loose or Damaged Wiring
A loose or damaged wire in a light switch or a light fixture can also cause the light to flicker. This is a much more serious issue since it can lead to a short circuit or an arc fault, both of which can be a major fire hazard. If you notice that the lights flicker when you wiggle the switch, it’s a fairly certain sign that one of the wires in the switch is loose or damaged. The lights can also flicker if there is a loose connection anywhere in that circuit or in the main electrical panel.
An overloaded circuit won’t always cause the breaker to trip, as the voltage has to rise above a certain threshold before it triggers the breaker. However, the sudden voltage fluctuation that occurs when a circuit is overloaded can lead to the lights that are wired to that circuit temporarily dimming or flickering.
If the lights in one room flicker every time you start vacuuming that room, it’s a good sign that the circuit in that room is overloaded and you’re trying to draw too much power at one time. In this case, you should try to unplug some things from the circuit and then try to turn your vacuum back on. If the lights no longer flicker, you can be fairly certain that the issue was that the circuit was overloaded and trying to power too many things at once.
Another common issue is when the lights in the kitchen flicker any time the microwave is used. In this case, you may need to have your kitchen rewired so that the lights and everything else aren’t on the same circuit or simply put the microwave on its own separate circuit.
Service Needs Upgraded
Another common issue is when the lights in different parts of your home flicker whenever your air conditioner turns on or when you use a high-power appliance like a clothes dryer. If this issue occurs frequently, it may be that you need to upgrade your electrical service and install a higher-amp breaker panel. Many homes only have a 100-amp service panel, while central AC units can draw anywhere from 15 to 60 amps. If the panel doesn’t have a high enough amperage, the AC can draw so much power when it starts that the power flowing to the other circuits temporarily decreases, causing some of the lights to flicker or dim.
If you’re experiencing issues with flickering lights or your home has any other electrical problems, Dawson's Electric is always ready to help. Our team specializes in electrical inspections as well as all types of repairs and installation services so give us a call for all of your electrical needs in Fuquay-Varina and the Raleigh area.