How to Fix a Flickering Light
Flickering lights in your home can be more than just a nuisance; they may signal an underlying electrical issue. Knowing how to address this problem is key to ensuring your home's safety and functionality.
To fix a flickering light, start by turning off the power and tightening the light bulb. If this doesn't help, replace the bulb, ensuring it matches your fixture's requirements. Observe when flickering occurs, as it might be related to heavy electrical usage. Check outlets, switches, and wiring for faults. If these steps don't resolve the issue, or if you find loose or damaged wiring, contact a professional electrician for a thorough inspection and safe resolution.
Below, we’ll help you troubleshoot common causes of flickering lights and let you know when professional help is necessary. Continue reading to learn more about preventing flickering lights and maintaining a safe electrical system in your home.
Why is my light flickering?
Here are the most likely reasons your lights may be flickering:
Loose bulb or socket – This is the most common culprit. And the fix is simple! Just turn the light off, let the bulb cool, and screw the bulb in until it is snug in the socket. Make sure to check the socket, as well. Sockets on old or exterior fixtures can corrode and wear with time.
Bulb issue – The light bulb, itself, could also be to blame. It may just be old and ready to swap out. It may have a broken filament. Perhaps, it’s even the entirely wrong bulb for your fixture! (NOTE: Incandescent bulbs tend to flicker more than LED bulbs.)
Broken switch – The connection between the bulb and the on-off switch could be worn or broken. Notice a flicker when you wiggle the switch? You’ll likely need to replace it.
Incompatible dimmer switch – Outdated dimmer switches don’t work right with newer LED bulbs. To function properly, these types of switches often require incandescent bulbs, which are becoming more and more hard to find.
Loose outlet connection – The problem could also lie where the light’s plug meets the wall outlet. If the plug’s metal prongs are bent or the fit is too loose, the electricity transfer can be unreliable.
Loose wires – A flicker can be the result of improper connections somewhere in your electrical wiring. Check the wires behind the lightswitch, wall outlets, and circuit breaker to ensure they’ve not come loose.
Old or damaged wires or circuit breakers – Electrical wiring simply wears down over time – especially if it’s exposed to the elements. Address these issues promptly. Damaged wires and circuit breakers are a leading cause of house fires.
Overloaded circuits – Your electrical system can only handle so much use. Depending on your system, just using your HVAC or running your refrigerator could be enough to cause your electricity to short. A consistently overloaded circuit must be taken very seriously. It can cause electrical arcing – electrical current jumping a gap in the circuit – creating is a MAJOR fire hazard.
Electric service problems – Can’t find the cause inside your home? The problem may not have anything to do with YOUR system. The local electric grid could be fluctuating too much. Your neighbor could be using too much electricity. Or a tree could have fallen on a nearby electric line.
Power outage – If your area lost power recently, your electric company may be working to address a short circuit issue that’s responsible for the flicker.
How to fix flickering lights
If you have a flickering light, here are the steps you can take on your own (in order):
Turn off the power – Before you troubleshoot anything related to electricity, make sure you turn the light off!
Tighten the light bulb(s) – Once the bulbs have cooled, twist them to make sure they are secure in their sockets.
Swap out the bulb – If tightening doesn’t work, try replacing the bulb. Double check that the bulb you’re using matches the base size, bulb shape, lumens number, and voltage requirements of your fixture.
Pay attention to timing and patterns – Take note of WHEN the flickering happens. If the flickering occurs when you’re using a significant amount of electricity or running large appliances, try unplugging appliances when not in use and/or spreading appliances out across the house or building to create a better power balance.
Check outlets and switches – Determined the bulb isn’t the issue? Check your wall outlets, plugs, fixture switches, and wall switches. Make sure plug prongs are properly aligning in the outlet. Wiggle the switches to see if you can get a flicker.
Try replacing the switch – If wiggling the switch produces a flicker or flipping the switch off and on again resolves the problem (at least momentarily), it’s likely time to replace the entire switch.
Carefully inspect your wiring – Has a wire disconnected from the switch, wall outlet, or circuit box? Is your electrical system outdated? Have your wires worn down over the years? Get an electrician in there ASAP to reconnect or replace the wiring.
Call an electrician – Once you start to feel even remotely out of your expertise, get ahold of a local electrician. Without the proper training, trying to fix electrical issues on your own puts you, your family, and other occupants at serious risk.
Can flickering lights really start fires?
Yes! Flickering lights resulting from certain electrical issues can pose very serious fire hazards.
For example, electrical wires or circuit box connections that are loose or in bad shape can create sparks that will easily catch certain materials (like wood) on fire.
DID YOU KNOW? Wiring and related equipment account for more than 68% of U.S. home fires caused by electrical distribution and lighting equipment.
How to prevent flickering lights
Preventative maintenance is always the way to go. To avoid flickering lights altogether…
- Routinely check and tighten light bulbs
- Making sure you always buy compatible bulbs
- Consider upgrading to LED lights
- Schedule an electrical inspection every 3-5 years (or more if you live in an old home)
Odyssey Mechanical, LLC | Wilmington, NC Electrical
A full-service Wilmington handyman company, Odyssey Mechanical can solve pretty much any electrical problem you throw our way. And we offer comprehensive electric services for commercial and residential customers alike!
Have a flickering light and not sure how to fix it? Call our technicians at 910-212-6993.