How to Locate the Cause of Flickering Lights

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A flickering light may be resolved with a light bulb change.
A flickering light may be resolved with a light bulb change. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

A flickering light can be aggravating and distracting. It can also be a signal of danger in your homes wiring or simply a sign that your lamp needs to be replaced. You will need to figure out which is the problem. The best way to distinguish the source of a flickering light or lamp is by a systematic process of eliminating possible causes in line from the lamp to your wall plug. Taking the time to find the source can say you a lot of money if the simple solution is a new bulb or lamp versus a new wiring system.

Things You'll Need

  • Electric tape
  • Continuity tester
  • Voltage tester

Start by checking to see if the light bulb that is flickering is operating properly and if it is screwed in fully. Check the bulb for dark spots on the inside. This is a sign of the filament burning off and signals the life of the bulb is limited. This may be why the bulb flickers. If there is no burn off visible check to make sure the bulb is screwed in.

Check the light or lamps power cord. If the problem is in a lamp, turn it on and carefully move the cord. If the lights flicker this is the likely source. Your problem may be at the juncture where the cord attaches to the light fixture, Look at this area to see if the wires coming from the cord appear loose or frayed. If there is damage you can take electric tape and wrap the wires but be aware extensive fraying may need to be repaired by an electrician.

Attach a continuity tester to the plug of the lamp. This is a test to see if the plug and cord are capable of receiving a consistent current. Even if the cord seems to be without visible damage, there could be a hot spot or bad wire somewhere along the cord that does not allow full current to pass through. Insert one tester plug into each slot of the plug. If the cord is not damaged it will beep. If there is no beep the cord is damaged. Unless the lamp is an expensive one it would be best to throw it away. If you want to keep the lamp contact an electrician to have him replace the cord.

Insert a voltage tester into the electric socket where the lamp or light is plugged in. Insert the tip of the voltage tester in each slot of the socket one at a time. If the socket is live you should hear a clear beep. If there is an issue with the current coming through the socket this beep will be interrupted or have a fuzzy sound.

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