Troubleshooting Flickering Lights: Getting to the Root of the Problem

25 January 2016
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Flickering lights, especially those that occur at night when you face total darkness if they go out, can be a little unnerving. Even though you know there is probably a logical explanation for it, you may find yourself peering into dark corners or glancing over your shoulder until you uncover the cause. There are a number of very logical reasons why your house lights may flicker.

It could be the weather

Those who live in the country already know that when Old Man Winter blows into town he often rattles the windows and sets the lights a-dancing. There are several reasons the weather can cause your lights to flicker.

  • Wind: In rural settings, trees often line the streets close to the electrical lines. When the branches are thrashed by the wind, they often cross two electrical lines. If they make contact for a second or two they cause a quick interruption in the electrical supply. While the interruption may be too short to interfere with the furnace or other electrical equipment, you may notice dimming or flickering in your lights. If flickering lights is only a problem during windy or stormy weather, it may be from tree branches close to the lines momentarily touching two lines at the same time.

  • Snow: In rural areas, downed lines are common during storms. When wind and heavy snow cause trees to topple, they often end up across the electrical lines. When this happens you will likely experience a short burst of flickering lights before you lose electricity to your home. When this happens your neighbors will likely lose electricity too.

  • Lightning: A lightning hit to an electrical line can cause arcing, which temporarily stops the electrical supply. Because the electrical lines are equipped to shut down quickly and then restart several times to check to see if the arcing problem still exists, you may experience flickering lights before the system shuts down or before the electrical supply resumes normally. If you experience flickering lights during a lightning storm, it may be from lightning striking the electrical lines.

Something could be going on in your home

Before you assume that ghostly entities have set up residence in your home, there are some other more common causes of flickering lights that are found in your home.

  • Faulty Wiring: Loose or faulty wiring can cause intermittent flickering lights in your home. If the lights in the entire household flicker, the problem is likely in the main wiring, but if flickering is isolated to one room or section of the home, it may be faulty wiring in the circuits to that room. If you suspect faulty wiring, contact your local electrician as it poses a danger of fires.

  • Faulty Lamps: Sometimes the problem lies in the lamps themselves. If only one lamp flickers, the problem may be a loose connection inside the lamp or problems with the outlet you are using. Check that the cord is plugged in securely as a loose cord is also a common cause of flickering bulbs in lamps. Try placing the lamp in another room and observe for signs of flickering lights. If the problem persists after moving the lamp, the issue lies with either the lamp or its bulb. 

  • Bad Bulbs: Sometimes lights flicker because the light bulb is not screwed in securely or because the bulb is faulty. Check the light bulbs and replace them if necessary to see if that solves the problem.

  • Other Appliances: If all the lights in your home flicker or dim at the same time your problem may stem from another appliance. Check to see if the flickering occurs when a major appliance kicks on. If this is the case, talk to your electrician about correcting the problem.

It could be the neighbors' fault

Blaming the neighbors for your electrical problems may seem like a stretch, but the truth is some of your neighbor's power equipment or transmitters may interfere with your electricity. If you notice flickering lights every time your neighbor does woodworking in the garage or your lights dim every time he or she starts up major equipment, it may be interfering with your electrical supply.Talk to your neighbors about your flickering lights to determine if they are running appliances or electrical equipment at the time your lights flicker. Likewise, if you notice flickering lights at the same time every evening, check with your neighbors to see if they run power equipment or other electrical devices at that time.

Maybe it's the electric company's problem

If the lights in the entire neighborhood flicker on a regular basis, chances are good the problem lies with the electrical supply. Talk to your neighbors to determine if they are experiencing the same problems. Call your electric company and advise them of the issue if you think it stems from the electrical supply.

If you are unable to determine the cause of your flickering lights, call a local electrician, such as from a company like Skyline Electric, Inc., to evaluate the problem. Make note of when and where the flickering occurs and what you have done to try to uncover the cause. If that doesn't solve the problem, go ahead and call your local paranormal group (if you are the believing kind) to see if your flickering lights are the result of paranormal activity, but make this your last resort as it is more likely your problem has an earthly cause.