Electrical Safety 101

4 Reasons Your Home's Lights Might Be Flickering

by David Hart

Lights that flicker by design help people celebrate the festive period. Lights that flicker randomly can be a cause for concern. Of course, the cause of flickering lights can be benign. On the other hand, flickering can be the first sign of major electrical problems. As such, you should probably call a professional regardless to check the problem and take care of any necessary repairs.

Here are just four reasons why your lights might be flickering.

1. Loose Wiring 

Let's start with what's probably the most serious culprit of flickering lights: loose wiring. When wires come loose, the flow of electricity can occasionally be interrupted, resulting in a noticeable flicker. When this happens, sparks can jump through the air from one side of the loose connection to another. This is known as arcing, and it's extremely dangerous. You can shut off the flickering light at its circuit breaking and then remove the fixture to double-check the wiring, but definitely leave repairs to an electrician if any wiring does look loose.

2. Loose Bulb

A far less serious cause of flickering lights is a loose bulb. When a light bulb isn't secure in its socket, it might not receive consistent power. Inconsistent power leads to inconsistent lighting, and that means flickering. Luckily enough, this is easy to fix. If a bulb flickers, turn it off and let it cool, then try tightening it. If there's no more flickering, that was your problem.

3. Faulty Switch

Your light source will be connected to a light switch that controls the power it needs to turn on. If the light switch isn't properly connecting, your lights will probably start to flicker. This is another less serious problem, and you can test for it yourself. Toggle your light switch on and off when flickering occurs. The problem might just fix itself. If you keep needing to do this, you'll have to get the switch replaced.

4. Voltage Changes

Sometimes lights flicker when you turn on an appliance. This could mean the voltage in your house is fluctuating more than normal. If flickering continues after the appliance is turned off, you could be facing a serious electrical issue; you may also notice lights dimming out of nowhere or frequently burning out. If the voltage keeps changing in your house, it's time to call in a professional. They'll use a voltmeter to take a proper reading and determine what needs to be done.