Flickering Lights: Should I Worry?
Flickering Lights are a frequent cause of concern. Lights in your home can flicker for various reasons – some harmless, others hazardous and posing the risk of fire.
You probably don’t need to worry about lights flickering and dimming in the house if:
Your lightbulbs are incompatible with your dimmers. For instance, flickering LED lights when they’re on a low setting can be annoying but they’re not dangerous. Possible solution: change the brand or type of LED (light-emitting diode) light.
A badly-fitting lightbulb is flickering. This isn’t typically a cause for alarm, and changing the bulb generally does the trick. Make sure you allow it to cool before handling it.
However flickering lights in the above cases could also be caused by a faulty switch or dimmer, requiring the attention of a qualified electrician.
Another problem that could be a cause for concern is lights flickering throughout your home.
Whole House Lights Flickering
If all your lights are playing up, it could be due to bad weather interfering with your power supply or a problem with your local utility substation.
However, if the problem persists it may be because of voltage fluctuations in your home, and it’s advisable to consult an electrician.
Minor changes in your home’s voltage are normal, but flickering lights may indicate abnormal fluctuations. Abrupt changes in voltage from low to high can damage electronics and in rare cases cause an electrical fire.
Flickering lights may also coincide with frequent shrinking in the size of your TV picture.
The issue of voltage variations in your home can get worse over time. An electrician will be able to isolate the source of the voltage instability and fix the problem.
Are Lights Flickering in the House a Fire Hazard?
According to official statistics – from the British Columbia Injury Research and Prevention Unit (BCIRPU) – more than 2,600 electrical fires broke out in British Columbia homes from 2004 to 2017, injuring or killing 150 people and causing over $150 million damage.
Leading causes of electrical fires include defective wiring or other issues with electric systems, particularly loose connections.
Loose connections in an outlet or switch can produce arcing, when electrical current jumps over gaps in the connection. This is a top cause of electrical fires., and a single faulty connection can jeopardise your entire electrical system.
Electrical connections need to be tight to avoid creating resistance. Even low resistance can overheat connections and surrounding wires. This can spark a fire if it happens near flammable material.
For example, a bad connection can occur in a loose terminal on a device or coupling to a circuit breaker. If you believe you have a loose connection, call an electrician contractor.
If the lights in your home keep fluctuating between dim and bright (without using a dimmer switch), you could have a loose or corroded wire in your circuit breaker. This is a serious problem requiring prompt professional attention.
Outdated wiring can also result in lights flickering and is a leading cause of house fires. All wiring and its insulation can weaken over time. However, two old wiring systems – knob-and-tube wiring and aluminium wiring – are regarded by insurance providers as particular fire risks.
Flickering lights throughout your home can also be a sign of a problem at the main service cable connection or the meter connection, which contain high-capacity wiring that could be a fire risk if everything’s not working properly.
Why Do My Lights Start Flickering When I Switch on Appliances?
If your lights start flickering when you use a high-wattage appliance like a washing machine or air conditioning, the problem may be an overloaded circuit – your appliances demanding more electrical current than your circuit can provide.
If the flickering only occurs briefly when the appliance first kicks in, this may not be a worry, because large appliances draw more current as they start up. Even in a well-designed electrical system, some minor flickering of lights can happen.
If the flickering persists, though, there’s a problem that needs addressing. If the issue isn’t a circuit overload, it’s likely to be the appliance itself.
Overloading of circuits can result in overheating and burnout of parts, which can cause a fire. It may be an indication of an old or malfunctioning electrical panel or fuse box that can’t cope with the power requirements of modern technology.
If in Doubt, Get Advice from a Professional
If you find you’re often asking yourself “Why are the lights flickering?”, the problem may be irritating rather than a reason to worry. Nevertheless, some causes of flickering lights can be a cause for concern.
While flickering lights are a common issue, they may be a symptom of a bigger and far more serious problem, posing the risk of fire. If in doubt, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If the problem requires more than a simple fix such as swapping a lightbulb, call in a professional electrician to carry out a safety inspection or a troubleshooting service call.