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Ask Angie: Flickering, dimming lights requires electrician's diagnosis

Angieslist.comDecember 20, 2013 

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Angie Hicks

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Dear Angie: My main-floor lights flicker and dim whenever something is turned on, such as the coffee pot, microwave, refrigerator or dishwasher. What should I do? — Eileen W., Greece, N.Y.

Answer: Some problems around the house, however annoying, don't require an expert's immediate attention. This is not one of those.

Because electrical issues pose a danger to people and property, I recommend that you call a qualified electrician as soon as possible.

An expert should address the source of your specific situation, and its solution, but several highly rated electricians offered our researcher possible reasons for flickering lights:

Overloaded circuits: Major appliances, such as a dishwasher or range, each should be on a separate circuit, according to standard electrical codes. Smaller appliances such as coffee pots and toasters should be grouped on one circuit.

Loose or faulty connections: Another cause could be a loose connection in a light switch or outlet, or possibly in the meter box or electrical panel. Terminals in the main breaker panel can become loose over time, stressing circuits and the circuit breaker.

Arcing: This occurs when separate connections are too close, causing a spark and sometimes allowing electricity to jump from one line to another, which can cause a fire.

Whatever the cause, it's best to leave the diagnosis and remedy to an experienced, licensed electrician.

In checking with service providers and reviewing related member reviews, our researcher found that the price to deal with situations like yours could range from $70 to $300. Of course, your actual cost will depend on your specific problem and the complexity of the solution.

Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angieslist.com to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at askangie@angieslist.com.

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