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.


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