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Flickering lights can be incredibly frustrating, causing headaches and a lot of discomfort. However, you may not realize that they can also be really dangerous. When your lights are continuously flickering, it’s often a sign that something is seriously wrong with your home electrical system. Electrical fires cause over $1.3 billion in property damage every year and around 10% of home fire fatalities are a result of electrical malfunctions. This means it’s important to get to the bottom of why your lights are flickering, in case it’s something truly dangerous. Here are the top 5 reasons why your lights are flickering:

Reason #1: You’re using LED or fluorescent lights

Some types of light fittings naturally flicker more. When you turn on fluorescent lights, the phosphors have to reach the right illumination, and they’ll often flicker in the process. LED lights will also commonly flicker as they’re trying to connect to their drivers. It’s quite normal for LEDs and fluorescent lights to flicker right after you turn them on, so don’t let this flickering worry you.

Reason #2: The bulb is loose

Your light bulb may just be too loose. If you haven’t screwed the bulb into the socket tightly enough, it will flicker. Obviously, you should turn the light off, wait for it to cool, and then screw the lightbulb in more tightly. Always screw your light bulbs tightly into the sockets. If your light bulb keeps flickering, however, then you’ve got a different problem.

Reason #3: Your light switch isn’t working properly

If your light switch isn’t properly connected to the light bulb, you will get some flickering. Try turning the light on and off a few times. Or, you can leave the light off for a little while before turning it back on. If either of these solutions fixes the problem, then you’ve simply got a faulty light switch. An electrician can replace this for you quickly and easily.

Reason #4: Your home’s voltage is fluctuating

Your lights may be flickering because the voltage in your home is fluctuating a lot. This is particularly likely if the lights flicker when you’re using a high wattage appliance. You’ve probably got a voltage problem if you experience other problems like; your light bulbs burning out and lights going dim for no clear reason. If the voltage in your home is fluctuating a lot, then you’ve got a real problem. Your home voltage should always be between 115 and 125 volts, and you can check it using a voltmeter. If you’re getting more variability than that, it could be a sign that something is seriously wrong. Consult an electrician as soon as possible if this is the case.

Reason #5: Your home wiring is loose

The worst-case scenario is that your flickering lights are caused by loose wiring. Loose wiring is the biggest cause of electrical fires in homes, so you don’t want to ignore it. You should turn off the light at the circuit breaker before you remove the light fixture and take a look at the wiring underneath. If it looks loose or you aren’t sure how steady it looks, call in an electrician as soon as possible.

Flickering lights would annoy anyone, but you should also be concerned for your safety if you notice them in your home. If you’ve got flickering lights in your home, or you’re concerned about any other electrical issue, get in touch with the experts at Piper Electric. We’ve been working with home electrical systems in Denver since 1983 and we’ve got all the expertise you need.

Due in part to the plethora of DIY inspired home renovation shows and magazines on the market today, many homeowners get it into their heads that they can tackle any home repair. Unfortunately, many homeowners quickly become aware that home renovation projects are often more complicated than they seem.  One of the most complicated and dangerous elements of home renovation that no homeowner should handle themselves is electrical work. Before you delve into your home’s electrical wiring, take a look at the FAEQ.

FAEQ #1: When do I need to call an electrician?

While we recommend hiring a professional and licensed electrician for any electrical work, there are a few other occasions when you would benefit from having a professional in your home.  Call an electrician right away if:

  • Your lights are flickering on & off, if they are frequently dim, or if you find yourself changing fuses all the time.
  • You notice a burning smell coming from any of your electronics or outlets.
  • You need additional power outlets installed or updated.

FAEQ #2: How much electrical work can I do by myself?

Legally, most states will let you do pretty much whatever you like in your home. However, tinkering with electrical work can be dangerous, especially if you don’t really know how they work. Changing a fuse and rewiring a socket is probably manageable. But, for anything else, just call an electrician. The danger and damage that you can do by messing around with your home electrical grid usually aren’t worth it the minimal financial savings. And of course, if you mess up, you’ll end up paying more to have everything repaired.

FAEQ #3: What are the different electrical outlet grades?

Outlets are organized into three main grades, homeowner grade, commercial grade, and hospital grade. Homeowner grade outlets are the least expensive and the most common but, they’ll generally wear out within five to ten years of use. Commercial grade is a better option as they cost more but will last around one hundred years! Hospital grade outlets are much more expensive and aren’t needed in the average home, as they’re built to be so fail-safe that they can stay on to power medical devices and so on.

FAEQ #4: What’s a “short”?

A short is just another name for a short circuit. It essentially occurs when a wire carrying electrical current (usually the black wire) touches the grounded conductor (the white wire) or the equipment ground (the green or bare copper wire). A lot of heat builds up and can cause sparks. This is why your home’s circuit breakers will cut off your power if a short circuit occurs, so this excess heat doesn’t turn into a fire.

FAEQ #5: What’s the difference between a circuit breaker and a fuse?

Both circuit breakers and fuses have the same job – when there’s an issue with your electrical system, they’ll stop the flow of electricity. The difference is in their longevity. You’ll have to replace a tripped fuse, but a circuit breaker can be put back into use and doesn’t need replacing. This makes circuit breakers the more popular option these days.

FAEQ #6: Why do the light bulbs in one of my fixtures keep blowing?

It’s probably an issue with heat, vibration, or voltage. If the light fixture has an enclosed lens, then the bulb can easily get too hot and burn out the bulb. You need to remedy this, as the excess heat can increase the risk of catching fire. Make sure not to install light bulbs that are too big (you can check the label on the fixture to find out the right size). If the fixture is next to a door then the constant movement may cause the bulb, and its filament to vibrate, which will also cause the bulb to blow. If this is the problem, you can try using a halogen light bulb, which has a stronger filament and is less likely to break. Your lightbulbs may also be too low in voltage for your home. Many modern homes have voltages as high as 125 volts, whereas many common light bulbs are just 110 or 120 volts. The high voltage in your home will run them out quickly, so in this case, it can help to use a 130-volt bulb.

FAEQ #8: Is my home electrical system safe?

If you’re experiencing any of the problems we mentioned in FAEQ #1, then your home electrical system may be unsafe. Similarly, if your home is quite old then your electrical system may not be able to safely handle modern electronics. If you’re concerned about your home electrical system, the best thing to do is to get it checked out by a professional electrician.

Electrical systems can seem confusing but, hopefully, this FAEQ has answered some of your burning questions! If you have any more, just get in touch with us here at Piper Electric. Providing top quality services to customers throughout Denver since 1983, we are the electrical contracting experts.