Unless you’re going for some haunted-house motif, or you’re planning a rave, no one likes flickering lights in their home.
But aside from the whole aesthetic appeal, or lack thereof, you should never ignore flickering lights in your home because this could be a sign of a serious electrical hazard.
As a Licensed Electrical Contractor (LEC), we’ve inspected thousands of Ontario homes so we know a thing or two about this whole flickering light business. In some cases, it’s a quick fix but other times the solution lies in assessing the electrical infrastructure of the home and making subsequent repairs.
And if you live in an older home, a home that’s wired with aluminum or knob and tube, you definitely don’t want to ignore a flickering light because this could mean the aged wiring is degrading and you have a loose connection somewhere in the electrical wires.
My goal here is not to scare anyone but rather shed some light as to why your bulbs are flickering and what steps you should take to fix the problem. Here are some things to consider:
Maybe it’s just the bulb:
A loose bulb can cause your lights to flicker. Before you call your licensed electrical contractor, check and see if your lightbulb is screwed in securely to the socket. First, turn off the light fixture and slightly tighten the bulb. Don’t tighten it too much just make sure the bulb is nestled firmly in the socket. Now proceed to turn on the fixture. If the flickering continues, change the bulb to a new one, maybe the one you installed was a defective bulb to begin with? If the bulb continues to flicker, the issue is likely electrical in nature.
Fluorescent and LED Flickering:
There are certain types of lighting systems that are prone to flickering. For example, flickering is common in fluorescent lights. You may notice that the lights will start to pulsate within the first minute of turning them on as the phosphors reaches peak illumination, or when the bulbs are connected to a failing ballast, the ballast regulates the current and provides enough voltage to start the florescent light. Without a ballast to limit the fixture’s current, a fluorescent lamp connected directly to a high voltage power source would rapidly and uncontrollably increase its current draw. Sometimes LED lights will also flicker when improperly connected to a driver, an electrical device which regulates the power to an LED or a string, or with certain dimming systems. Neither types of lighting technologies indicate a serious electrical issue, but you may want to replace your lights if the flickering becomes incessant.
Flickering lights when an appliance is turned on:
In older homes where the lights share a circuit with plugs, it’s common to experience flickering whenever a device is in use but this doesn’t mean it’s normal or safe. Any time an appliance is plugged in and turned “ON,” there is a change in load in the electrical circuit which causes your lights to dim or flicker, this is known as a voltage fluctuation. Large appliances like a dryer or refrigerator can sometimes cause lights to flicker because the load is disrupting the normal amount of voltage allotted for their circuit. It’s important that these appliances, the ones that generally draw a large voltage, are plugged into a dedicated circuit, otherwise you can overload your electrical wires which can cause an electrical fire.
Flickering lights without anything being turned on:
So you’ve checked the bulb and you haven’t turned on any appliances but your lights are still flickering, now what? This is where things become serious. The flickering may be a sign of a loose connection at the fixture or at the panel. A loose connection can cause a lot of strain on your wires and lead to overheating. In older homes with aluminum and knob-and-tube, flickering lights are especially dangerous because there may be some arching, sparking between wires, somewhere in the circuit. It’s imperative to call a licensed electrical contractor, like Birnie HOME SAFE, right away. Locating a loose or broken connection will require a complete electrical inspection or an Electrical Risk Assessment, ERA. Our specially trained and certified electricians use state of the art technology to assess the problem and make the necessary repairs.
If the flickering becomes more persistent, call a licensed electrical contractor, Like Birnie HOME SAFE, right away. We know that forty per cent of house fires are electrical in nature but preventable with the right education.