flickering lights? Check out these common culprits

If the lights in your home are flickering and they aren’t flames or Christmas tree lights, you are probably frustrated, annoying, and a little stressed out.

While some causes of flickering are easy to fix, there are larger electrical issues that you should always rule out to make sure your home is running safely. Determine why the lights are not working as they should, and they can return to full brightness in no time.

Read more: Best Cheap Smart LED Bulbs of 2021: Does It Matter Which Bulb You Buy?

Try simple fixes first

Before you pick up the phone to call an electrician, there may be a slight culprit causing your lighting problems. These adjustments can quickly and easily solve the flickering problem.

Tighten the bulk bulbs

This may seem like an obvious solution, but it’s not always the first thing that comes to mind. If your lights are flickering, turn off the power and, using a glove to protect your hand from the heat, clamp the bulb more tightly.

If the light bulb is too loose, the socket is not making the correct contact with the bulb, and this may cause intermittent flashing. Even recessed lights can sag, so check those connections first.

Replacing the keys can solve common flickering problems.

Tyler Lisnesby/CNET

Upgrade old or incompatible switches

If the source of the problem is not the bulb itself, take a look at the wall switch. An old dimmer switch designed to work with incandescent bulbs will not work well with LEDs.

If the lights connected to a dimmer device are blinking, this is most likely the cause. Loose or bad wires behind the switch may also cause flashing.

Check the ratings of your lights and dimmers to make sure they are compatible. A mismatch here can lead to common installation problems such as buzzing or flickering.

Try installing a new dimmer, like Lutron CasitaEnsure that the power is disconnected from the circuit breaker before carrying out any connection work.

Try a smart bulb

Sylvania Smart Bulb 3

Smart bulbs like these from Sylvania can simplify lighting in your home and help you eliminate complex dimmers.

Chris Munro/CNET

If flashing occurs when using a dimmer switch and replacing the switch does not solve the problem, consider upgrading to smart bulbs which does not need a physical dimming switch.

Dimming the lamp directly is more reliable and often solves the dimming problems caused by old dimmers or old wiring.

Read more: Want a smart home? Start with your lights

Bigger issues

If the simple fixes above don’t solve your lighting issues, you may have a problem at home or need the attention of a certified electrician.

Problems like the following can not only damage lighting or appliances, but also put your home at risk of electrical fire. Feel free to contact a professional when wiring is in doubt.

Check the current

Loaded circuits can put your home’s electrical system at risk. Large appliances and HVAC units can cause lights to flicker when they’re turned on, because they draw too much current from the circuit.

This may indicate insufficient wiring to the appliance or a circuit breaker not up to snuff. Call a professional to make sure your circuit breaker is up to the task of operating everything in your home safely.


Disconnect power to any switch or fixture on the circuit breaker before beginning any electrical work.


If you are trying to determine which device is causing the flashing, start each load at the circuit breaker. Tinnitus can also occur in this case, so listen for each circuit while it’s running.

A loaded circuit breaker is dangerous, and in addition to causing problems with your lights, it can also damage your equipment.

Beware of loose wires

If something isn’t connected quite correctly or if your home’s wiring is very old, you may notice flashing lights.

Loose wires are one of the main causes of house fires and something you should definitely not ignore. If you’ve tried several other ways to tackle flickering and it’s still a problem, have an electrician take a look at your wiring.

Again, most flickering is caused by an old, defective or incompatible wall switch, loose or poor quality bulbs. There’s a good chance your lighting issues will be addressed with a quick fix like replacing a dimmer or swapping a light bulb.

However, if you have a problem with wiring or a circuit breaker, it is always best to get an expert opinion on the electricity flowing through your home.

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