10 Reasons for Flickering Lights in Your House
When it comes to flickering lights in your house, causes can range from benign to dangerous. If you’ve noticed that lights are flickering in your home, be it in one room or the whole house, it is important to find out why right away. We’re sharing some of the most common reasons for lights flickering or dimming in a house and why it is so important to get the problem solved as soon as possible.
Why Does It Matter if My Lights are Flickering?
You might be thinking, well, if the fixtures are working the majority of the time, do I really need to be worrying about how to fix flickering lights in my house? The answer is a definitive yes! Here’s why you should care:
- One or multiple lights flickering in the house is a sign of a larger problem you need to address ASAP. Waiting is often more costly than solving the problem right away, because:
- Lights flickering in the house are a fire hazard;
Ignoring the issue could cause damage to your fixtures, outlets and switches, not to mention your breaker box or other items powered by the circuit;
- Ignoring the issue can be expensive. Today’s light bulbs are designed to last for extended periods of time, making them more expensive. If your bulbs are regularly blowing out, you’re going to have some pricey visits to the store.
1. Flickering Lights Caused by Loose Light Bulb
One of the most common (and easy to fix) reasons that lights in a house are flickering is a loose light bulb. Sometimes it is simply a matter of screwing the replacement bulb in too loosely. The bulb then randomly disconnects, causing a flicker. A loose light bulb can also occur because of vibration. For example, if your fixture is underneath a child’s playroom or some particularly heavy-footed upstairs neighbors, there may be enough vibration to cause the bulb to loosen over time. Alternatively, an issue such as an unbalanced ceiling fan (more on that below) can also cause the bulb to shake loose in the socket.
One light flickering in the house is more indicative of a loose bulb than multiple lights flickering in the whole house. Give the difficult bulb an extra (gentle) turn in the socket and see if that solves the problem. If you still have issues, read through some of the other potential causes listed below to continue troubleshooting.
2. A Light Bulb and Socket Mismatch
With so many light bulbs available on the market today, it’s not as simple as running to the store and picking up a box of 60-watt light bulbs and calling it a day. Not only that, older light fixture sockets can be incrementally larger or smaller than standard bulbs. Make sure you are always using the proper bulbs for your light sockets and never try to force an ill-fitting bulb into place.
3. Overloaded Circuits
Overloaded circuits are another common cause of flickering lights. Do you notice that the flickering only occurs when a high-powered appliance is in use? For example, are lights flickering in the house when the AC kicks on? Do the lights dim and come back when you use a tool like a vacuum cleaner or blow dryer? These momentary power drains are a sign that your circuit is being tasked with more power than it is designed to manage.
Start by moving some appliances or heavy power uses to other outlets on another circuit. Additionally, check to make sure that your appliances are not using more power than the outlet is rated for. This is very common with portable heaters and air conditioning units. If you have checked for these issues and your lights are still flickering, or you just want the peace of mind of an expert inspection, call a professional electrician near me.
4. Unbalanced Ceiling Fan
A ceiling fan that is out of balance can quickly wreak havoc on the wiring hidden behind your ceiling. The constant vibration, thumping and pulling can quickly shake loose even the most well-wired ceiling fan. The light in the fan may be perfectly fine while the fan is at rest before becoming a flickering nightmare when it is in motion. It is really important to ensure that your ceiling fan is installed properly from day one to prevent loose wiring and a potential fire hazard. If possible, we recommend professional installation for maximum assurance.
5. Loose Wires or Loose Connections
A ceiling fan is not the only cause of loose connections that lead to flickering lights. Wires can come loose behind your walls due to vibration, poor installation, accidental disruption during renovation, animal interference and so much more. Even pulling too hard on a pull chain can cause an issue with loose wiring if the connecting wires are not properly secured.
If you suspect your issue is a loose wire or a poor connection, it is probably best to hire a licensed electrician to suss out the problem. They have the tools to seek these hidden breaks and get them properly repaired.
6. Water Leaks or Intermittent Water Damage
Water leaks or water damage are known to cause shorts in your home’s electrical system. It does not have to be a massive flood from a broken pipe or overflowed toilet, either. Sometimes a slow leak can seep into the wiring of your home and create shorts. When the area dries, the fixture resumes working until the next bit of water seeps in. This can make the problem even harder to diagnose. For example, if you only have a water leak while the shower is running or for a short duration after the toilet flushes, it can be harder to recognize that these actions are the cause.
If lights are only flickering in one part of the house, check fixtures near water sources for water damage. If your bathroom is on the second floor, there is the potential for slow leaks to travel. If you suspect your electrical issue is caused by water, it is really important that you get the leaking pipe repair work done immediately. Do not try to repair the problem yourself. Water and electricity are not the best combination for humans.
7. Shifts in Voltage
A flickering light (or lights) can be a sign of voltage fluctuations in your home. These fluctuations are caused by many factors: poor or damaged wiring, lightning strikes, overloaded circuits and more. Voltage shifts should be addressed immediately to save your household time and money. Voltage shifts won’t just cause those notoriously expensive light bulbs to flicker or burn out. They can destroy expensive appliances, computers and fixtures.
There are many steps that electricians can take to fix voltage shifts. Some are easier than others, such as using protected power strips or installing a dedicated line for certain appliances. Others, such as rewiring parts of the home or beefing up your main power source, may be more complicated.
8. Issues Outside the Home
Sometimes problems with your lights are caused by issues outside of the home. For example, if you notice lights flickering in the house when it’s windy, there is likely an issue with electrical infrastructure outside of the home. This could be caused by a tree branch hitting the wiring, a poor connection from the power source to the home or a poor connection further down the line.
Animal or insect interference can also create problems with wiring. Racoons in the attic, mice in the walls or skunks in the crawl space are all capable of chewing through wiring or disconnecting it as they move around. While it’s more common for our southerly neighbors, ants can also chew through wiring and cause short circuiting. Bees and wasps are still very much a potential problem for electricians in Pueblo and Colorado Springs and they can make your lights flicker when their hives/nests create shorts. If you experience any of these problems, call a licensed electrician for help after the exterminator. They can help you determine the extent of the damage.
9. Utility Problems
Sometimes, flickering lights are caused by an external issue outside of your control. This is often due to problems in your individual area or issues with your service provider. If lights are flickering in the house during a storm, for example, that could signal broader issues such as lightning striking a transformer or a storm-related accident damaging power lines.
In these instances, it’s helpful to look on your utility company’s website to check for outages. Even if they are not in your neighborhood, your power can be affected as the utility company works to get everything online. Aging infrastructure, damaged lines/equipment or scheduled outings can also be a cause. Call your electrical company if you believe they are the cause of your electrical issue.
10. Circuit Breaker Problems
Your circuit breaker box is the heart of your home’s electrical system. When it has problems, other areas of the home can be impacted, such as light fixtures. Much like the other potential causes on this list, circuit breakers can have more than one reason for operating poorly. Sometimes circuits can touch other circuits and cause shorts. Other times, the entire box can be poorly wired or outdated which can cause disruptions to the power source.
A breaker box is not a DIY project. Due to your home’s dependency on the panel for electricity, a layman’s mistake could be costly – more costly than a professional. If you have breakers tripping repeatedly or the aforementioned flickering lights, it’s time to call a professional electrician.
What to Do If You Have Flickering Lights in the Home
If you have lights suddenly flickering in your house (or you have a long-term problem you’ve been trying to ignore), it’s important to start troubleshooting immediately.
- Check for loose bulbs and ensure you are using the proper bulb.
- Check for issues such as unbalanced ceiling fans, loose fixtures or visibly damaged outlets and switches.
- Try shifting appliances like heaters and blow dryers to other circuits.
- Look for visible issues outside of the home such as disconnected wires, fallen trees, inclement weather or accidents. Take precautions – don’t go running outside in a lightning storm.
- Look for visible water damage around fixtures near water sources in the home.
- Call your utility company or check your utility company website to find out if there are outages, repairs or infrastructure issues.
- Call a licensed electrician for a professional inspection. Licensed electricians have the skills and knowledge to diagnose the root of your problem with accuracy. They are also insured and most will guarantee their work, helping you have peace of mind that the job was done right.
Still Need Help with Your Flickering Lights?
If you’ve tried troubleshooting on your own and you still need help with your flickering lights, give FlowRight Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Electric a call. We have master electricians and journeyman electricians who will help you find the source of your problem and make it right.