Why Your Lights Are Flickering
Flickering lights can be quite an annoyance. In addition to be being a nuisance, they can also be a sign of impending danger. Given the wide range and possibility of danger, discovering the source of the issue is of paramount importance.
Are your lights flickering because there is an issue with the lights themselves? Or are your lights flickering because there is a system-wide electrical issue? It can be quite difficult to discern this problem on your own if you do not have detailed electrical knowledge.
A few months ago, we were called by a homeowner to investigate this precise issue. The homeowner called and explained that they were experiencing lights flickering throughout their home. Given the possibility of danger, we quickly made a trip to the home. Upon our investigation, we found that the lights were flickering due to an impending emergency.
As you can see in the picture, the panel nearly caught fire after sparking and arcing melted the components of the meter socket. Thankfully, we were able to discover this issue before it became a major problem for the homeowner. Had we not gotten their in time, a house fire would have likely resulted.
It is important to understand that flickering lights are not always the result of a dangerous situation such as the one we just described. The real problem is that flickering lights can be the result of a serious situation. Unless you can be 100% sure that the flickering lights are not the direct result of a serious emergency, we recommend erring on the side of caution.
Do not hesitate, call an electrician.
In many cases, we find that people tend to call their power utility company when their lights flicker. While this is better than not taking any action, it is not the most preferable option.
Why? If you suddenly have a medical emergency, where do you go, the emergency room or your primary care doctor? In the event of a real medical emergency, if you choose to go to your primary care doctor, they will likely send you to the emergency room.
The emergency room example is similar to flickering lights. Your power company is like your primary care doctor. The electrician is like an emergency room doctor. Of course this is not precisely the same thing, but it is a similar comparison. Your power provider would only be able to inform you of an issue that is occurring on their end. An electrician can quickly discover the root of your problem in your home, which is most likely where the problem is stemming from.
Below we have listed some other possible causes for why your lights could be flickering and some possible remedies you can try on your own.
Single Light Fixture: If you discover that a single light fixture is flickering, start by simply turning the light(s) off. This will allow the fixture to cool down. Once you have given it adequate time to cool down, try tightening the bulb(s) or replacing them with a new one or set.
Compact Fluorescent Lamp Bulb: If you have a light that contains a compact fluorescent lamp bulb (these are the spiral-shaped, energy saving bulbs) connected to a dimmer switch, this may cause flickering. These types of bulbs generally do not work with the majority of dimmer switches. In this case, the flickering would most likely be caused by the incompatibility issues.
Multiple Lights: If you experience multiple lights flickering, this could be indicative of loose conductors in your main electrical panel. This is the typical result of aging conductors. They heat up and cool down each time they are put to use. By simply replacing them, the issue should be resolved.
Large Appliances: Some large appliances, particularly those that draw over 100 amps of power, can cause lights to flicker when started. Some examples of these home appliances could be your air conditioning unit, heating unit, or clothes dryer. Flickering that is caused by the starting of these large appliances indicates that they likely need a dedicated circuit of their own.
In the case of power-drawing problems, they should absolutely not be left alone. Long-term increased power draw may overheat the breakers or connectors, resulting in a house fire. If you are experiencing an issue such as this, a soft start kit can be installed. These help reduce the amount of power that is needed to start a larger appliance.
Call for Help, Always
If you have run through the various aforementioned steps and still have not found resolution, it is time to call an electrician. Persistent flickering in your home may indicate loose wiring. Dimming of the lights in your home can indicate the same. Since a single circuit can have up to 50 connections, you absolutely need the help of an electrician to navigate and identify the problem. The electrician can also remedy the problem.
By neglecting the various wiring or connection issues that resulting in your lights flickering, you put your home and family in the way of possible danger. House fires and electrical shock are two of the more extreme dangers that could result if action is not taken swiftly. There is simply no need to delay the process. Call an electrician if your troubleshooting has not worked.
Are your lights flickering? If you answered yes and reside in the greater Pittsburgh region, we are more than happy to come take a look.
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