Why Do My Lights Flicker?
Flickering lights can be an annoyance or they can be a symptom of a more serious electrical issue. We get many calls about flickering lights and if that is a sign of danger and what could be the cause?
Here are some questions an electrician will ask to determine the cause of your flickering lights.
Questions to Answer about flickering lights:
- What are you doing when your lights flicker? Do the lights flicker when a large applicance such as your A/C or a heat pump kicks on or do they flicker randomly for no reason? Pay attention to when this occurs and explain this to your electrician.
- Take careful note of if all of your lights flicker or just some areas of your home? Again, pay attention to what else is going on in your house. Are other appliances in use or starting up?
- How often does this happen? Make not of the frequency of the lights flickering or dimming.
Here are some reasons your lights may be flickering:
Your lights flicker in one area and not throughout your entire home:
There are several possible causes for this. Causes of localized flickering can range from a bad light bulb or light fixture to a complicated and potentially dangerous problem such as a loose wire in a circuit. A licensed electrician will need to perform a circuit diagnosis in order to determine if there is a loose neutral or hot conductor which could be the cause of your flickering lights. Finding a loose connection in a circuit can be a complex troubleshooting issue. A single circuit can have many connections to inspect for a loose connection. Sometimes as many as 30-50 connections! The loose connection could be in many places such as a receptacle, a junction box, a light switch, in a light fixture or the main electrical panel. Loose connections can be a serious issue and should be evaluated by a licensed San Diego electrician.
Lights throughout the house and or nearly half of the Lights in the house Flicker:
If you are noticing random lights flickering and or sometimes nearly dimming and it’s throughout the house or a large part of the house and you are sure it’s not a large appliance kicking on causing the problem then make sure you have an electrician look at your main electrical service. If it’s not the same circuit always flickering it’s a sign that you could have loose service conductors in your main electrical panel or in your meter base. Again, this could be a very serious issue so contact your local electrician asap to address this issue for you. Your service conductors heat up and cool down with use all day every day 24 hrs a day 7 days a week. Over time this can cause the service conductors to loosen up and as they loosen up they create even more heat. Eventually this can cause the service conductors to burn up lugs on your main breaker, or the service conductors themselves to burn up, to even more serious issues. The key is to put an electrician’s eye on this for you and in the future make sure you have an electrical maintenance plan in place to help prevent this issue from ever occurring.
If your Lights Flicker When a Large Appliance such as your Outdoor A/C or Heat Pump start up:
Flickering lights upon start up of a large appliance is a very common problem. The reason this occurs is that these large appliances can draw 100 amps or more when they first start up. If your home has a 200 Amp service then one appliance drawing 1/2 of your homes available electrical power just to start is going to cause a your lights to dim or flicker. It requires much more electricity to start up than it does to run the appliances. Once they get going the power draw is much less.
- If you are concerned, it is a good idea to contact a licensed electrician or the company who wired your appliance and check to be sure the unit is wired using the proper wire size and that all connections are tight and the correct size breakers are being used.
- Your local HVAC contractor may be able to install a soft start kit on your unit if one is not already installed. It may not completely solve the issue but can help to reduce the amount of current needed to start up. Many newer models already have this feature built in, but it is worth checking.
- Another common cause of flickering lights throughout the entire home are problems between your panel and the power company transformer. The wire feeding your home may be too small or possibly the transformer feeding your house may even be too small. Contact your local power company to check this out. They will usually dispatch someone within a day or two.