Flickering Lights: Troubleshooting &When to Call for Help

17 April 2015
 Categories: , Blog

If the lights are flickering in your home, the issue could be related to something relatively minor, but in other cases, flickering lights can be a sign of serious trouble in your wiring. Wondering if you should call an emergency electrician? Here are a few troubleshooting steps to work through and notes on when to call for help.

1. Check the bulb or light

In some cases, if you have a flickering light bulb or lamp, it may be the bulb or fixture itself that is the cause of the trouble. Try changing the bulb; if the flickering stops, the issue isn't serious. If you are worried about a lamp or fixture, disconnect it from its current spot, and try it in another outlet.

Make sure to move it far from the original spot so it isn't on the same circuit. If it flickers in its new spot, the issue is likely the lamp itself. If it doesn't flicker, the issue may be with the wires or the circuit where it was originally drawing power.

2. Feel the outlet

If you have a flickering lamp, feel the outlet as well. If it is hot to the touch, the issue is likely the outlet or the wires behind it rather than the lamp.

3. Smell the air

Engage your other senses. If you smell burning plastic, the casing around your wires may be melting or damaged. Like a hot outlet, a burning smell can be a sign of serious electrical trouble and may warrant a call to an emergency electrician.

4. Consider your circuit's load

If you have a lamp or fixture such as a ceiling light that seems to flicker often, pay attention to when it happens. If the flickering corresponds to another electrical device, such as an air conditioner, a vacuum cleaner or a mixer, your circuit may be overloaded.

If possible, check the flickering light in another outlet as explained above. If it works without flickering, take it back to its usual outlet. Then, switch on and off your other electrical appliances and notice how it responds.

If the light flickers, you can simply avoid overloading that circuit, or you can call an electrician to look over your circuits and ensure they have ample power coming to them.

5. Look for simultaneous flickering

If more than one light is flickering at a time—especially if the lights are flickering from an off position to an on position—your power may be arcing. Arcing happens when electricity basically jumps from one set of wires to another.

Safe wires are insulated so this does not happen. If you experience simultaneous flickering, you need to call an emergency electrician like Power Assist Electrical Services so they can assess the fire risk and help you decide how to mitigate the situation.