Flickering lights might seem like the beginning of a bad horror movie, but it’s a very real occurrence for a lot of Coastal Maine and New Hampshire homeowners. Not only are flickering lights inconvenient and frustrating, but they’re sometimes dangerous, and a sure sign that something is wrong from an electrical perspective. Fortunately, a flickering light is a symptom — and there’s always a cure.
What Causes Lights to Flicker?
Flickering lights can be caused by a loose plug or light bulb, or something more dangerous such as loose wiring. Whatever the root cause of your flickering lights, it’s best to contact a licensed electrician that can properly diagnose and repair the issue. The root cause might be minor or major, but you never know until an electrician looks under the hood.
Here are some common causes of flickering lights.
1. Electrical service issue
If you live in a densely populated neighborhood, chances are you share a transformer with your neighbors. This means that you share your electrical supply with others. If one of your neighbors is using an excessive amount of electricity, it can result in your lights flickering.
It's also possible that the electrical service isn't properly attached to the transformer in your street, causing your lights to flicker. Always check with your electrical company first to decipher whether it's an issue on their end or yours. If it's on your end, an electrician should be the next person that you should call.
2. Dimmer incompatibility
To the untrained eye, all dimmers look alike. But even identical dimmers can range significantly in price, brightness level, and type. Certain dimmers are compatible with certain light bulbs — such as LED, CFL, and incandescent bulbs — and when you don’t strike a perfect match, it becomes a problem.
This is a common occurrence, especially as government-run programs offer free LEDs to help customers save money and energy. But the problem is, many of these free offers don’t include a proper assessment, and most people don’t have dimmers for LEDs. And when a dimmer is incompatible with a light bulb, it’s likely to blow out.
3. Loose wiring
Loose or outdated wiring is perhaps the most dangerous root cause because it can frequently be a fire hazard. A single loose connection can endanger the entire electrical system, and it shouldn't be taken lightly. Since faulty or loose wiring in your home is a fire hazard, it's important to schedule an electrical safety inspection the moment you notice flickering lights.
A loose connection in an outlet, light, or switch box can lead to a dangerous event called arcing.
- This is when the electrical current leaps over gaps in the connection.
- Each arc can generate heat that is over 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which can often ignite an electrical fire.
Loose wiring can be an issue for older homes, especially homes with knob and tube wiring. It's always a good investment to replace knob and tube wiring because it is generally a fire hazard. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell whether loose or outdated wiring is the case without contacting an electrician to diagnose the problem.
4. Overloaded electrical service
An overloaded or unbalanced electrical service or panel is another root cause of flickering lights. This is probably the issue if the flickering lights are often tied to an appliance starting up, like a dishwasher or microwave. If you've recently added a new appliance that requires a lot of electrical draw, such as a hot tub or a window unit air conditioner, there's a good chance that you've overloaded your panel.
If this is the problem, a licensed electrician can upgrade or repair your service. Upgrading a panel brings more power into your house and spaces out your branch circuits so that they can 'breathe' better, eliminating the issue of flickering lights.
It's also a good idea to update your panel if it's older. That's because older panels are typically grandfathered into older code, so updating a service ensures that you can have a reliable, safe electrical service that relies on modern technologies and regulations.
5. Overloaded circuit
An overloaded circuit is similar to an overloaded electrical panel in that it usually occurs when you've added a new appliance that is drawing more power than your circuit can handle. However, it can also happen with older appliances too. An older dryer, for example, probably doesn't work as efficiently as when you first bought it, which can create more electrical draw.
In addition to flickering lights, an overloaded circuit can cause:
- Buzzing outlets
- Burning odors
- Or more commonly, tripped breakers.
Overloaded circuits can cause appliances to fail completely, so it's important to tackle this issue as quickly as possible. To rectify the issue, we recommend replacing a circuit with a new one for high-demand devices. For example, if you have a 15-amp circuit that is causing problems, a new 20-amp circuit will likely solve the issue.
6. Water damage
If you have an older service, you may have wires that are not conduit.
- In these cases, water can sometimes seep into a breaker panel or meter trough, causing oxidation or rust.
- This rust causes an unstable connection, causing the power to fluctuate and your lights to flicker.
- This can also happen if you have a damp basement or live in a relatively wet area, such as near marshland or the ocean.
When you have water damage in your electrical panel, the best course of action is to replace the panel altogether.
Count on HomeWiz
Here at HomeWiz, our staff of licensed electricians are experts at dealing with these types of electrical safety issues and can provide you with reliable and professional solutions. We believe that no one else can match our level of care for our customers, and we provide up-front pricing and same-day service for your peace of mind.
Do you have flickering lights in your Maine home? Call HomeWiz today at (617) 744-7549 or contact us online to schedule service with our team!