What Should I Do When My Lights Flicker?

Most of the time, flickering lights are not a big deal. Sometimes, however, they could indicate a major electrical problem.

Let’s start with the easy stuff.

You might have a loose or defective bulb

This might seem obvious, but sometimes a problem is so easy to fix that you don’t think about it. Always remember Occam’s Razor, which is a line of reasoning that says the simplest answer is often correct. 

If a bulb is flickering, make sure it’s completely screwed in. Careful: If the bulb has been on for a while, it could be hot. Put on a glove or oven mitt or use a hot pad when you tighten it. It could be that simple.

If that doesn’t work, remove the bulb. Clean the the metal base if it’s dirty. Replace the the glass bulb if it wiggles and isn’t firmly attached to the metal base. If the bulb is good, screw it back in and, again, make sure it’s in there nice and firm. If the light still flickers, you have another problem.


Fluorescent or LED bulbs are not your friends

After you turn on fluorescent lights, it can take a minute or two until they reach are fully-illuminated. Until they are, it’s normal for them to flicker.  LED lights also flicker when they’re not properly connected. If flickering drives you nuts, don’t use these bulbs.


Dimmers can be trouble

CFL bulbs (you know the ones: they’re spiral-shaped and they save energy), fluorescent bulbs, and low voltage lights can be incompatible with some dimmers. They may also need their own specially-rated dimmers. Connecting these bulbs with an incompatible dimmer switch could result in flickering. Don’t use a conventional dimmer switch with these bulbs.

The culprit could be a faulty light switch

Sometimes the light switch isn’t properly connecting with the bulb. It might be time to replace the switch.

Now let’s get into some more serious causes of flickering lights.

Voltage Fluctuation (not an episode of Star Trek)

Large appliances can put a heavy demand on your electrical service. Do the lights flicker when they’re turned on? If they do, you might have a problem with the appliance or your wiring. This is serious because it can damage your appliances and even cause your electrical equipment to overheat and start a fire.

Not to get too technical, but wires naturally resist the flow of current. When electricity flows through them, some of the voltage has to force the current flow against the wire’s resistance. That means when any electric appliance is turned on or is in use, the current will fluctuate. When the current fluctuates, it can cause flickers. One way to reduce flickers is to make sure larger appliances like washing machines and refrigerators have their own 240V circuits.

Once you know where the flicker is coming from, you can decide whether you should fix it of if it’s time to call in an electrician.

If you decide it’s time to get some professional help, you know who call: the professionals at EarlyBird Electric. EarlyBird electricians fix flickering lights every day, and we can fix yours too. Just call 612-THE-BIRD (612-843-2473) for quick service you can count on, every time.

The general knowledge and advice in this blog is designed to give you a little background information about your electrical system and may not be complete or contain minor errors.  Early Bird Electric is not responsible for any consequences if you attempt to fix your electrical problem using this information. It’s always a good idea to hire a local, licensed electrician like Early Bird Electric to safely and professionally handle the job.