Lighting accounts for 11 percent of residential energy use, the Department of Energy notes, and appliances consume 17 percent, particularly refrigerators and washing machines. Operating the lights while also using a washing machine consumes a hefty amount of power and creates a power drain that may manifest in flickering lights.
Motor-driven appliances and household equipment need a significant amount of energy to start their motors. Once the motor is engaged, the energy demand decreases. Newspaper building columnist Tim Carter, on his website Ask the Builder, compares this process to pushing an automobile. It takes a lot of effort to get the car to the point where it starts rolling, but once it does, it is easier to continue pushing it. If your lights continue to flicker after the washing machine has been operating for a while, you have a different problem.
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The lights may be flickering when the washing machine is running because there is an issue with the house's wiring. This may be the result of a loose wire connection, but you could also have undersized wiring, which means the wiring is too slight or too thin to accommodate the amount of power being generated. This is a dangerous situation because the wiring may overheat and potentially cause a fire. This situation is more likely to occur in older homes that do not have upgraded wiring. An electrician can inspect and upgrade your wiring.
If the lights are on the same circuit as the washing machine, this may be causing the lights to flicker while washing clothes. Major appliances should be placed on dedicated circuits, but in older homes, this may not be the case. A quick way to check the circuit load is to flip the breaker for the lights and see if the washer loses power as well. If so, both are on the same circuit and should be separated. Wurtsboro Electric warns that homes that use fuses in particular probably do not have enough power to handle many appliances and electrical equipment. An electrician can make the necessary changes or upgrades.
The lights may be flicking while the washer is running because of an inadequate power supply from your utility company. The transformer on your block may be servicing too many homes, reducing the amount of electricity coming into your house. If you think this is the case, call the utility company to send a technician out to inspect the transformer and the power supply to your residence.
- Energy Savers: Energy Saver’s Booklet
- Ask the Builder: Common Wattage of Household Appliances
- Wurtsboro Electric: What Causes the Lights in My House to Periodically Dim and Brighten?
- Michael Bluejay: Electricity Facts
- Kay Bee Electronic and Systems Contractor: Why Do My Lights Dim When the Air Conditioner Turns on, or When the Furnace, Microwave, Washing Machine or Other Equipment Comes On?