Do you have lights that mysteriously flicker?

It drives me crazy! It drives you crazy too! That flickering of the lights that remind us of a broken neon sign or possibly a strobe light from a party so long ago. Often there is a problem in only one area of the house. Sometimes the problem only occurs when you turn something else on. And sometimes there is just no rhyme or reason for that annoying flickering.

There could be many reasons for flickering lights. Discovering the reason will involve taking notes like a detective and eliminating the possibilities much like Sherlock Holmes would have done. Most causes of flickering are simple and only cause a momentary flickering. Listed below are many of the common reasons a light might flicker. Most are annoying but some you might need to have investigated by a super sleuth, an electrician.

    Clue #1 – It’s Just One Light That Flickers

Consider that if it is just one light flickering, it’s highly possible that the bulb itself is the problem. First TIGHTEN the bulb before removing it. That might solve the issue. If the bulb was not fully screwed into the bulb socket or if it was screwed in incorrectly it could cause that flicker. If that did not solve the issue, remove and re-insert the light bulb. And let’s not forget the bulb itself could be the problem so trying another new bulb is worth the effort.

    Clue #2 – A Fluorescent or LED light flickering could be normal

Sorry to say, some types of lighting are prone to flickering. Fluorescent lights will often flicker within the first minute after turning them on. This is caused as the phosphors inside the bulb reaches its peak illumination, but they could also flicker when the ballast is failing. With fluorescent lights, flickering seems more common than other types of lighting.

Several factors could contribute to the flickering. The temperature, the age of the bulb, and the actual warm-up cycle of the bulbs are all common causes of fluorescent bulbs flickering. As stated, some flickering is normal but if you are about to reach your tolerance limits, start with replacing your fluorescent bulb. Back to the Detective idea, quickly determine if the new REPLACEMENT bulb flickers. If it does flicker, we have now deduced that the light fixture has a bad ballast. If the fixture is really old, it would be better to replace the fixture instead of the ballast only. Of course, the new fixture will have a new ballast so it’s a Win-Win!

LED lights might flicker when connected improperly or if the dimmer is not designed for LED lights. These two issues are not serious but investigating will help you make a decision on doing something or doing nothing.

    Clue #3 – Faulty Light Switch:

Lights could flicker because the light switch is not doing its job correctly. Try flipping the switch on and off several times or wiggling the switch around a bit. That should actually CAUSE the flickering. Also try shutting the light OFF when there is flickering and turn it back on after a few minutes. If that seems to help, you’re on to something, detective. If you need to do this little activity way too often, it might be a good idea to replace the switch.

    Clue #4 – Dimmer Switches:

Does your flickering light have a dimmer on them? Dimmer switches will cause flickering if the lights are LED and the dimmer is not rated for LED use. Many older dimmers are designed to be use with incandescent light bulbs. They do not play well with LED bulbs. Another thing to consider is that LED bulbs should say they are DIMMABLE. If they do not specifically say that, you should replace them if there is a dimmer on that circuit.

    Clue #5 – House Voltage Fluctuates:

Have you ever noticed that the lights flicker when the AC kicks in? If lights flicker when ANY electric device is turned on, your house voltage is fluctuating. Another clue to voltage fluctuation is that your light bulbs seem to burn out early and often. If your investigative work indicates the house voltage fluctuates, it’s time to call that super sleuth, the electrician

    Clue #6 – Loose Electrical Wiring:

Loose wiring can be a very serious condition and can cause house fires. Basically, all you can do is observe any unusual situations you might encounter. Wiggling a switch or outlet normally will have no negative results but if you see sparks, hear crackling noises or smell that distinctive electrical odor, you need to have an electrician out as soon as possible.

    Clue #7 – Lights Flicker Throughout the House

This is rated seriously high on the ASAP list. Lights flickering all over the house usually means there is a problem at the Main Meter Panel. This can be a fire hazard. Please don’t ignore this problem. It could be a simple fix, but it might be something serious.

    IN CLOSING:

I hope you took the challenge to be a detective and investigate the case of the flickering lights in your home. You chose to not ignore the issue and from your clues you either fixed the problem or now know what needs to be done. If your investigation suggests having the problem checked out by a super sleuth, the electrician, please don’t delay. Make the call.

If you are in the Orange County California area, consider giving Tradesman Electric a call.

We can be reached anytime at: 949-239-7078

That darn Smoke Detector is CHIRPING again!

So, it happened to me recently. My 2 AM unplanned wake-up call. You know, that annoying “Chirp “Chirp from you smoke detector that you know from experience will continue until you sell the house. But wait, why does it have to happen in the middle of the night? Seriously, WHY!

I know it could be by design, but I always felt there was more to it than that. So, I set out on a mission to discover WHY it always happens in the wee hours of the night.

Here’s what I found:

Almost all smoke detectors operate on batteries or at least have a battery for backup in case of a power outage. As with all batteries, the power level will eventually fall below a certain voltage level. When that happens, the detector emits a warning of low voltage by chirping. The electricity in a battery is produced by a chemical reaction going on inside the battery. In those wee hours of the night, we usually experience lower temperatures. The colder temp will cause that chemical reactions to occur at a slower rate. That, in turn, will reduced the electrical output from the battery to the smoke detector. That same battery that was OK at noon is now setting off the low battery “Chirp which indicates that your battery is nearly dead.

To sum it up, it’s colder in the middle of the night so a marginal battery will appear nearly dead and of course, the “Chirp will start.

We all know temperatures drop during the night. When your battery has lived a long life, and possibly past its prime, its ability to produce voltages may be enough in the warmth of an average day to power that smoke detector, but when the nighttime temperatures drop even a bit, they will slow down the chemical reaction that occurs inside the battery. That, in turn, reduces the electrical output. The smoke detector has no other option than to warn you that its battery is now too weak to function properly. And now we know the reason they seem to always wake us in the middle of the night.

WOW, who would have thought?

More Helpful Hints:
It’s NOT just low batteries that will set off your Smoke Detector. We all know that burning food and fireplace smoke will set off the smoke alarm, but here are a few other issues that will trigger that alarm.

1. Strong chemicals obviously produce odors, but did you know that ammonia and paint fumes can set off your smoke detector too?

2. Do you live with high humidity? That can be more than annoying for you, it can also set off smoke alarms. Many times, the density of the moisture particles in your area will trigger your alarm.

3. Steam can do it too. Just like humidity sets off your smoke alarm, steam coming from a shower or a pot of water boiling on your stove could also set off your smoke detectors.

4. And if that weren’t enough, Dust could also give you a false smoke alarm. If your detector is in an area where you are remodeling or for another reason has a lot of airborne dust, your alarms could be ringing. If that happens, you will need to clean the insides of your smoke detector. Compressed air is the best way to accomplish this task. Tools and fingers, could make the detector unusable.

5. Best idea we can offer is to change your Smoke Detector batteries every year like clockwork. A good way to remember it is a Holiday that will remind you such as Daylight Savings Time. BE SURE to use the highest quality batteries you can buy. I’m sure the extra dollar you spend will prove to be worth it at 3 am on a cold night in the not too distant future.

If nothing suggested stops that annoying “Chirping”, seek the help of a professional. That chirp gets old after a few minutes.

Brought to you by the electrical pros at:

The Tradesman Electric, Inc.
Orange County, California
949-239-7081

Is your Electric Breaker Panel putting your home at risk?

Electric panels are one of the most important electrical devices in your home. Inside that metal box is all the electrical circuitry that supplies the power to run everything in your home. We all would agree that the last thing you want to experience is a problem inside this box. That panel with all its qualities and advantages can also be an extreme danger to you, your home and your family.

A serious issue with electric panels presents itself when they fail to trip as designed when a real trip issue occurs. If a breaker does not trip when required, that excess electricity has to go somewhere. What usually happens is the panel will overheat. That damages the panel, so it is more likely to repeat that problem and in extreme cases, it could cause a fire.

Electric Panels can have issues that hide for decades while deteriorating.

 

Some of those issues are:

 #1 Older, outdated panels might not be able to serve your electrical needs

#2 Current electrical needs are greater than the times when it was installed

#3 Outdated panels are rarely up to code

#4 Most of these panels contain aluminum components

#5 The connection of the breaker to the bus bar is often not solid

#6 The bus bar corrodes quite easily

#7 The bus bar softens and suffers metal fatigue

#8 Breakers may appear to be off when they are actually STILL ON

 

How will you know if you have an Electric Panel that could put your home and your family at risk?

One way is to open the door of your panel and look for the manufacturer’s name. Here are the most common names to look for:    Zinsco, Federal Pacific, GTE-Sylvania and Challenger

Because of design flaws, all these panels CAN have electrical problems and most of these problematic panels have been recalled.

IF you have one of the panels mentioned above, you might just get a warning before a major event. You might notice your lights flicker. Now to be fair, there are other causes for lights flickering but still, lights that are flickering are NOT a normal thing.

IF your less fortunate, you might not get any warning. The electric panel will overheat, and the result could be a fire.

Additionally, if breakers do not trip as expected, there is a possibility of electric shock and even electrocution. IF you ever do feel an electric shock when using an electrical device, please consider having the problem checked out by a licensed and qualified electrician as soon as possible. Shocks are not normal and are a sign of a sleeping problem.

 

And if that were not enough, you need to look for Federal Pacific Stab-Lok® panels and breakers.

 These panels and breakers will often fail to trip when required. Failing to trip can lead to an electrical fire. Another problem to be concerned with is that these breakers often fail to be truly OFF internally after being manually flipped to the OFF position. Electric shock will most likely be the result.

Your family needs to live in a safe home.  Please check the brand of your panel. If you have a panel mentioned in this article or if upon your quick inspection for the brand name you have a sinking feeling as you look behind the door and know that your panel is not safe, call for a free inspection. Saying it’s been fine since you moved in is not a good way to protect your family.

Consider also that even if your home does not have one of these panels, a friend or a family member might. Pass this article on to them so they can look and know if their home is at risk.

We will provide a FREE Inspection of your panel. Don’t hesitate,

Call Us Today! Tradesman Electric, Inc.  949-239-7081

My smoke detector won’t stop beeping, even after replacing the batteries!

There are a couple things you should know about your smoke detectors before you consider replacing them.
Most smoke detectors in use today use electrical wiring with a battery backup. We replace the battery most often when it starts chirping but they SHOULD be replaced every year at the same time, like on a holiday. These smoke detectors store error codes which means the chirp associated with a week battery chirp is often a common error code. Many units retain that code even after replacing the old battery. To totally eliminate that chirp you must clear the error code that is being held in memory. The best way to do that is to reset the smoke detector.

Try the following steps:

1 Turn off the power to the smoke detector at your circuit breaker.
2 Remove the detector from its mounting bracket and unplug the power supply.
3. Vacuum or use compressed air to clean the smoke detector inside and out.
4 Remove the battery from the smoke detector.
5 With the battery removed, press and hold the test button for 15-20 seconds.
6 Replace the battery in the detector with a new one.
7 Plug in the power supply connector.
8 Reattach the smoke detector to the mounting bracket.
9 Restore power to the circuit breaker.

When power is restored, the smoke detector should chirp once. That annoying low-battery chirping should be eliminated.
One last bit of advice: If the smoke detectors in your home are 10 years old or older, they should be replaced. Your life and the lives of your loved ones are far too precious to risk on an old smoke detector.

Good luck and if this procedure fails you might need an in-home service call. Please call us to schedule service.

My GFI outlet will not reset!

So, your GFI outlet is not resetting. In an effort to save you a service call I would like to ask you to do the following procedures I outline below. If you are still unable to restore power, please call and we can schedule a service call.

As a first step, I would suggest that you check the main panel for tripped breakers. I’m sure you have done this but I would offer a suggestion. Instead of flipping all the breakers on and off, just use one finger to push each breaker to the “ON position. Each breaker should feel solid. If one is spongy, try flipping that breaker off and back on. Be sure to force it to the OFF position and the force it to the ON position. If they are all OK then the problem will most likely be a tripped GFI.

You will be on a hunt for any GFI outlets. The kitchen is GFI protected but the GFI might be anywhere inside or outside the house. Look in the garage first for any outlet that has buttons. There is almost always a GFI in the garage! Push the TEST button and you should hear a click or snap. If not, this GFI has been tripped. Then push the RESET button and you will hear a click or snap. If not then continue checking for other GFI outlets.

Look everywhere. Every room. Outside. Backyard. BBQ area. The side of the house. Bathrooms. Kitchen.

Do the TEST/RESET procedure on each and every GFI you find. 9 out of 10 times this is the fix.
BTW, if you find and fix the issue and it happens again, you are overloading the circuit or something is shorted out. Try eliminating items on the tripped circuit till it stays on.

Hope this helps. If it did not resolve the issue, please email, text or call me 949-378-8334 to schedule a service call.