What Causes Flickering or Dimming Lights and What Can You Do to Fix Them?

What Causes Flickering or Dimming Lights and What Can You Do to Fix Them?

Flickering lights in your house can be annoying, but it can also be a symptom of a much larger problem that needs your immediate attention. Even though flickering lights or lights dimming when a large appliance turns on are common household problems, they can indicate a serious electrical problem that should never be ignored.

Check the Severity of Flickering Lights in the House

You may wonder what is causing the flickering or dimming lights, but you know they could indicate that your home has an unknown safety hazard like faulty or damaged wiring. There could be a hefty bill for the solution in your near future.

Before you start looking into the root of the problem or call an electrician, you need to determine how often and how strong the flickering is. If it happens every so often when you have multiple appliances going simultaneously, especially large appliances that use high voltage like dishwashers or washing machines, then chances are the flickering isn’t critical. Often, lights flicker or dim as the appliances draw power to start or change cycles.

If you notice that the flickering lights in the house are consistent, extreme or nonstop, you should address the issue as soon as possible.

Common Causes of Flickering Lights in a House

Most homeowners sweep those flickers under the rug to deal with “if the problem gets worse.” But chances are that the problem is already in need of attention, and many homeowners don’t realize it’s an issue until it’s too late.

Here are some common causes for flickering lights:

Circuit Overload

Certain appliances and circuits can only handle so much electricity. In general, houses can only manage a certain amount of electrical voltage, and older homes can handle even less, especially if your wiring is older.  Knob and Tube wiring was never meant to handle today’s power-hungry appliances.  And to a certain extent the same goes with Aluminum wiring if it has become brittle over time.  As previously mentioned, make sure to check if the flickering lights in the house are intense, consistent, or continuous over a long period.

It may not only be the wiring that is overloading the circuit.   If you have the wrong lights installed the may, be drawing more than the recommend amount of power also.   Call a professional electrician to handle the inspection as you may need a larger voltage supply or a dedicated circuit.

Issues with Your Electricity Service

Neighborhoods often share transformers, so if you live in a community, this may be the source of the flickering lights in the house. Shared transformers in neighborhoods have individual electricity loads. This means that all units essentially “share” the electrical supply. So even when you aren’t using a lot of electricity, your neighborhood might be, which is causing your lights to flicker.

Electrical Voltage Fluctuations

The standard voltage in most homes is 120V. If you know how to test your voltage, the ideal reading should be between 115V to 125V. However, when voltage exceeds 125V, it could cause flickering lights in the house. This could be the result of deeper issues in your electrical system, such as problems with faults or technical issues. Too much voltage can lead to serious electrical problems and is a safety hazard.

Outdated Switches, Outlets or Loose Connections

This is very common, and most people ignore the outlets.  Over time, if you have outlets that were put in 40 years ago, connections will become loose, and the loose wires can cause flickering lights in a house. You can check for loose light bulbs, bent prongs, loose wiring, damaged wiring and loose outlets. However, if you check these and still can’t determine the root cause, you need to call in a professional licensed electrician.

Instead of an appliance, the loose connection could be in a switch box, light fixture or outlet. If so, it could lead to electrical arcing. Arcing is when electricity jumps over spaces in connections. This can be very dangerous and can cause fire or electric shock.  It is a good practice to update your outlets if they have been there since the 1980’s.    Outlets and switches do wear out over time.

Problems with Main Connection

If you don’t see a pattern, don’t think flickering lights in the house are connected to any appliance, or notice flickering all over the home, immediately call an electrician. This could indicate a problem with the primary electrical cable connection. As with all electrical issues, do not attempt to diagnose or fix this yourself because high voltage wires are involved.

Using the Wrong Bulbs

Using newer LED bulbs when the appliance is made for older incandesence bulbs may not bet well-suited for dimmer switches can cause flickering lights in a house. Luckily, this is a quick, inexpensive, and simple fix—just find a bulb that is rated for the socket and switch them out.  Or switch the socket to handle Led Bulbs.

Faulty Switches and Other Appliances

Flickering lights in a house can also simply be a faulty fixture, light switch or piece of electrical equipment. If you think this is the case or are unsure what the root of the problem is, it’s time to call in an expert electrician who is trained to handle any electrical situation.

Address and Repair Your Flickering Lights Today

Even if you don’t think there is anything immediately concerning about the flickering lights in a house, you should never ignore it. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, even with something as seemingly small as a flickering light. Flickering or dimming lights can signify a more significant issue that can lead to injury, fires or even death. A simple home electrical inspection is well worth the price of keeping your family safe and saving you from an entire home renovation if a fire were to occur.

The only way to get to the root cause and solve the issue safely and effectively is to rely on trained electricians, so you and your home stay safe. If you notice any flickering lights in a home, do not hesitate to call a certified professional electrician today.   Its not worth having your home burn down over something as simple as replacing an electrical outlet, especially if you are in it.

If you need a recommendation on a qualified electrician to assist you with your problem do not hesitate to call me and I will recommend a trusted and reliable professional electrician that I use and trust.

I am here to help!

Tony Rinella - B.A. Urban Studies

Ethos Realty