Flickering Lights: Is This Normal?

By Tim Jackson | Oct 08, 2012


Our electrical systems are busy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week providing comfort, security and convenience in our day to day lives.  This is also a system that we rarely think about.  It’s not something you can hear, see, or smell under normal circumstances, so it’s easy to forget that it’s working for us all of the time.  There are a few signals however, that can alert us that something may be wrong with the normal operation of our electrical system. One of the most common of these signals, and the easiest to observe, is flickering lights.

Flickering lights do not always indicate that there is a problem that needs attention.  Under normal operation, you can expect the lights in your home or office to flicker when large loads come on line, causing a brief electrical surge in the system.  A couple of examples are the air conditioning system and electric clothes dryers.  When these units turn on, you may see a very brief flickering of the lights anywhere in the house or office.  The flicker should not last but a fraction of a second and the lights should only “dim” and should not appear brighter than normal combined with the dimming.  Under normal operation, you could also experience dimming in isolated rooms when using a printer, microwave, space heater, or other device that uses a lot of energy due to the surge effect of these devices coming online.  As with the whole house dimming, the event should be very brief and should not continue while the device is in use.

Flickering lights can indicate a problem when the flickering is constant, is not associated with any of the above mentioned larger loads coming on line, or is accompanied by the lights getting much brighter than normal.  This may also be combined with having only half power in your home.  A condition where power is lost to half of the circuits causing a power loss in at least half of the house.  If this is the case, your first action should be to call your utility company and have them check the wiring and equipment coming into your home or office.  Over time, wires and associated equipment can deteriorate, corrode or become damaged causing poor connections.  In addition, rodents can cause damage to the overhead lines and cause wires to begin to deteriorate.  If the utility company clears the wiring & equipment on the outside without resolving the issue, you will need to have an electrician come and check the panel and connections on the inside of the house.

Generally, the electrician will check for loose or corroded connections, damage to the breaker panel due to the wrong breakers being used and not fitting correctly in the panel, bad breakers, or damaged wiring.  If the flickering is associated with only a few rooms, the problem may be a loose connection at a switch, receptacle, or junction box.  It could also be due to rodent damage on the wiring inside the house or office as well as several other possible causes.

Keep an eye out for lights that flicker frequently or that get very bright from time to time. Identifying these signs can help to prevent a bigger issue from developing.  I would also recommend that surge protection be included in every electrical system to protect equipment from the damaging electrical surges that occur with these events.  If we can be of further assistance, please visit our web site at www.belcoinc.com, or for service in Atlanta, give us a call at 770-455-4556.

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