Flickering lights can range from the most basic problem to more serious reasons.

If you notice your  lights  flickering from time to time, there are several steps you can take to diagnose and fix the problem.

Firstly, the challenge is to determine what is causing the flickering lights.

Parts replacement is not an answer, you could inadvertently make the issue worse and cost you dollars with no resolution.

Secondly, flickering lights could be your final warning of a potential electrical fire. In most cases due diligence and a qualified electrician, you can quickly fix the problem once you know what’s causing it.

To help you figure out what’s making your lights flicker, we have identified the top 3 categories that could indicate a problem and level of concern.

What can cause flickering lights?

Basic Causes:

  1. Old or loose-fitting light bulbs.
  2. Faulty light bulbs.
  3. Light fixture sockets.
  4. Failing light switches, including dimmer switches.
  5. Timer type switches.
  6. Led or Fluorescent lights must be dimmer approved.
  7. Do not mix and match light type in a fixture, example; LED and incandescent mix

Medium Causes:

  1. Loose wiring.
  2. Failing breakers.
  3. Faulty fuses.
  4. Improperly wired 3-way switches.
  5. 3-way switches must be approved for Led or fluorescent lights.

Serious Causes:

  1. Defective Hydro Power supply
  2. Floating Neutral wire connection
  3. Meter Base issues
  4. Main wire feeders from meter base and main breaker
  5. Faulty Main breaker
  6. Ground faults

What Causes Electrical Voltage Drop?

When a light does not receive a constant voltage supply it will flicker. To be a little more specific, when electrical power fluctuates it causes a voltage drop or spike which can cause the lights to flicker. As a result, your light bulbs in the house will dim then brighten up again once the voltage stabilizes.

If the problem is basic or simplistic in nature, light flickering will most likely be confined to a specific room. If the problem is more serious it may occur randomly throughout the house. To help clarify these concerns here are some visual characteristics that may help you determine basic, medium and serious concerns and provide the base root cause of flickering lights.

1 –Basic Electrical Issues and Corrections

Steps to correct flickering lights

  1. Old or loose-fitting light bulbs.
    1. Replace the light bulb if it is old.
    2. Make sure the light bulb is snugly screwed into the socket.
  2. Faulty light bulbs.
    1. Replace the light bulb with an approved type and size.
  3. Light fixture sockets.
    1. If a light socket is failing, no matter how tight you install the bulb it will not correct the problem. Call PTX Electric and we will repair or replace the light fixture as required.
  4. Failing light switches and dimmer switches.
    1. If a light switch is faulty, it can cause arching and poor electrical contact, replace switch.
    2. Dimmer switches are a common problem of flickering lights. If a dimmer switch is installed improperly or is not designed for the bulb type it will cause flickering. Replace with a new switch designed to operate with the bulb match.
  1. Timer control switches.
    1. Timer switches can also create flickering lighting. This can result from failing contacts or electronics. Replace timer.
    2. As well Timers must be compatible with the light bulb type so please ensure you install the correct model. Timer switches used with Led, Fluorescent and Incandescent lights must be approved to operate with these bulbs.
  2. Led or Fluorescent lights must be dimmer approved.
    1. As mentioned above the bulbs installed in a fixture utilizing a dimmer must be certified as dimmable.
  3. Do not mix and match bulbs in a fixture.
    1. Using different type bulbs can cause flickering in some ballasted type fixtures. Use approved fixture bulbs in these fixtures.

2- Medium Electrical Concerns

  1. Loose wiring.
    1. Overtime electrical connections can loosen and arc. Arcing will cause the wire to degenerate and fail, which will cause flickering and potential failure.
    2. It’s important to replace outlets and switches when they reach their life cycle or show signs of failure. (Outlets and Switch blog)
  1. Failing breakers.
    1. When breakers fail, they don’t always stop working, sometimes the internal components corrode, or contacts burn. When this situation occurs voltage drop can manifest through flickering lights and plugs attached to this circuit.
  1. Faulty fuses.
    1. If you have an electrical fuse panel, check the fuse to ensure it is tightly screwed into the socket. Once again loose connections are often the most likely cause.
    2. If you have an older electrical main panel, please have it inspected, as life cycled panels can be hazardous.
  1. Improperly wired 3-way switches.
    1. There are several ways to wire a 3-way switch and if they are wired incorrectly will cause flickering lights and bulb failure.
  1. 3-way electrical switches must be approved for Led or fluorescent lights.
    1. When purchasing a 3-way switch or dimmer please ensure you buy the right one as they are not all compatible and need to be rated for the bulb type such as Incandescent, Fluorescent or Led. Please read the label before purchasing and save yourself a lot of time and frustration.

Serious Electrical Concerns:

  1. Hydro Power supply defects
    1. Faulty main wire feeds or wire connections can cause power fluctuations and be serious in nature and should be inspected as soon as possible. A qualified electrician will determine the cause, call hydro and take the appropriate action.
  1. Floating neutral wire connections
    1. Loose main feed wire connections are a cause for concern and will cause flickering lights, damage to electrical appliances, and pose a potential risk of power outage or fire.
  1. Meter Base issues
    1. Loose wire or plug connections within the meter base will result in similar conditions identified under item #2. Concern: flickering lights, damage to electrical appliances, and pose a potential risk of power outage or fire.
  1. Main electrical feeders Connections
    1. Loose lug nut connections on the meter base load side or at the main breaker service panel will cause power fluctuations and damages like item #2.
    2. Power fluctuation will occur when the electrical load increases in times of peak use. 
  1. Faulty Main breaker
    1. Faulty main breakers can cause flickering lights as well although they are relatively easy to troubleshoot.
    2. Finding the correct replacement breaker can be difficult as there are many different types and if they are of an older vintage its can be challenging especially if the power is out.  Regular inspections can detect these issues prematurely and save you inconvenience and dollars.
  1. Grounding
    1. Loose ground wire connections on the primary or secondary side of the electrical panel can be very hard to find and repair and will require expert electrical knowledge to resolve the issue.

Are Flickering Lights A Hazard?

It’s never a good idea to ignore flickering lights because they are an indicator of a potential fire hazard. If these signs are evident, you should call PTX Electric Ltd. to find the root cause.

Remember flickering lights are not considered a fire hazard, and it may be easily fixed with a quick bulb replacement, although as noted in the more serious category, neglecting minor concerns can result in elevated electrical use, repetitive light bulb replacement, power outage and fire risk.

Faulty electrical wiring is one of the most common causes of building fires. It’s very important to install electrical components and lighting fixtures correctly to reduce the risk of an electrical malfunction that could result in a power outage or a potential fire.


In closure, PTX Electric Ltd is a certified Electrical company that specializes in service. We are conveniently located in Burnaby close to  Lougheed Mall.

We provide 24hour on-call, expert troubleshooting services that include:

  1. Electrical building inspections
  2. Electrical repair
  3. Circuit tracing
  4. Infrared hot spot detection
  5. Panel labeling,
  6. Electrical Panel upgrades
  7. New building wiring
  8. Just ask for help

Contact: PTX Electric Ltd at our office: (604) 700-3142