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Smart Home

Flickering lights? Check these common culprits first

Flickering light bulbs are annoying and sometimes a cause for concern. Try these common fixes before calling in the pros.

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Ry Crist/CNET

If the lights in your home are flickering and they aren't faux flame bulbs or christmas tree lights, you're likely frustrated and a little nervous. 

While some causes of flickering are easy to fix, there are bigger issues you should always rule out. Pinpoint the reason your lights aren't acting as they should, and you'll be back to full brightness in no time.

Try the simple fixes first

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

Tighten loose bulbs

This might sound like an obvious solution, but it isn't always the first thing that comes to mind. If your light bulbs are flickering, turn off the power and using a glove to protect your hand from heat, screw the bulb in tighter.

Loose light bulbs mean the socket isn't making proper contact with the bulb, and that can cause intermittent flickering. Even recessed lights can loosen, so check those connections first.

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Replacing switches can solve common flickering issues. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Upgrade old or incompatible switches

If the source of the problem doesn't appear to be the bulb itself, take a look at the wall switch. An old dimmer switch made to work with incandescent bulbs won't work well with LEDs. 

If bulbs connected to a dimmer are flickering, this is likely the reason why. Loose or poor wiring behind the switch could also cause flickering.  

Check the ratings for your bulbs and dimmer to be sure they're compatible. Mismatches here can lead to common fixture problems like buzzing or flickering. 

Try installing a new dimmer, like the Lutron Caseta, making sure to turn off power from the circuit breaker before doing any wiring work. 

Make the smart bulb switch

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Smart bulbs like this one from Sylvania can simplify your home's lighting and help you ditch complicated dimmers.

Chris Monroe/CNET

If flickering happens when using a dimmer switch and replacing the switch doesn't solve the problem, consider upgrading to smart bulbs that don't need a physical dimmer switch. 

Dimming through the bulb is more reliable and often solves dimming problems caused by old fashioned dimmer switches or aged 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 house-wide problem or one that needs the attention of a certified electrician. 

Problems like these can not only damage your lighting or appliances, but can put your home at risk of an electrical fire. Don't hesitate to call in a professional when wiring is in question. 

Check the current

Overloaded circuits can put your home's electrical system at risk. Large appliances and HVAC units can cause lights to flicker when they power on, because they are drawing a large current from the circuit. 

This could point to inadequate wiring to the appliance or a circuit breaker that isn't quite up to snuff. Contact a professional to be sure your circuit breaker is up to the task of powering everything in your home safely. 

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Turn off the power to any switch or fixture at the circuit breaker before beginning any electrical work. 

CNET

If you're trying to pinpoint which appliance is causing flickering, start by powering each load on at the circuit breaker. Buzzing could also occur in this instance, so listen to each circuit as it is powered on. 

An overloaded circuit breaker is dangerous and in addition to bothering your lights, could even damage your appliances. 

Beware loose wiring

If something isn't wired quite right or if your home's wiring is very old, you might notice flickering in your lights. 

Loose wiring is one of the major causes in house fires and something you definitely shouldn't ignore. If you've tried multiple other methods to address flickering and it's still an issue, have an electrician take a look at your wiring.

Most flickering is caused by a old, faulty or incompatible wall switch or bulbs that are loose or poor quality. There's a good chance that your lighting issues are indeed a quick fix like replacing a dimmer or swapping out a light bulb. 

However, if you get too far into a wiring or circuit breaker issue, it's always best to get an expert opinion on the electricity flowing through your home. 

Ready to make the switch? 5 things to consider before installing smart light switches

LEDs 101: Your cheat sheet for the light bulb aisle