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Norm, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 67
Experience:  Registered professional electrical engineer and licensed master electrician.
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I have a kitchen light that flickers. Naturally, I would like

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I have a kitchen light that flickers. Naturally, I would like to put an end to this. Here are the symptoms:

1. When I turn the light on, it seems to flicker at a high high a frequency that one can barely notice it, yet it is noticeable.

2. This flickering lasts for varying lengths, even up to hours.

3. I am using a compact fluorescent light bulb.

4. I have tried replacing the bulb, but always with a CFL.

5. Sometimes, when the flickering stops, it will return again later...even without turning off the switch.

6. I have not tried checking connections, replacing the can, nor replacing the wall switch plate.

Kevin : Hello, and welcome to JA!!
JACUSTOMER-z14xqazt- : Hi, Kevin.
Kevin : This could be one of several things, the easiest to try is to replace the switch
Kevin : Then, check connection in the switch box and the light itself
JACUSTOMER-z14xqazt- : Okay. I am prepared to try that; however; I will need to purchase a new switch first.
Kevin : If you like, you can borrow a switch from another room. Just be sure to identify which wires went where
JACUSTOMER-z14xqazt- : Good point. Alright.
Kevin : If changing the switch does not work, you must check connection in the light, and the switch box. Keep in mind, it could be wires that are not connected to the switch causing the problem
Kevin : look for loose, burnt, or broken wires
JACUSTOMER-z14xqazt- : This is my first time working with JA. Will the format allow me to get ideas from you...then take a break while I "live life," purchase items, etc., and then come back to you tomorrow to continue the discussion? Or do we need to conduct all our business in one session?
Kevin : yep
Kevin : you can come back any time
JACUSTOMER-z14xqazt- : Okay. Great, because I don't THINK I have the time to work this through to completion right now.
Kevin : If what I have suggested solves the problem, please come back and rate my service. If not, open the ja website, click on my questions, and then open this question
JACUSTOMER-z14xqazt- : Will our chat session be sent to my email, and how will I be able to re-initiate contact later? Sorry for so many, non-substantive questions.
Kevin : send me a message on here, and I will get a notification on my phone
JACUSTOMER-z14xqazt- : Okay. I will definitely rate your service. I did see that you need an OK or higher to get paid. I will make a point of remembering to do that.
Kevin : But please, dont rate until you are satisfied. If my suggestions dont solve the problem, come back and we will try something else
JACUSTOMER-z14xqazt- : So I didn't create a log-in. I'm not quite sure how JA will know who I am when I return. For that reason, I'm a bit wary about closing the current browser. And yes, I won't rate until I'm satisfied.
Kevin : hmm.... I would go ahead and create a log in then
Kevin : The most likely culprit is a faulty switch
JACUSTOMER-z14xqazt- : I did just hit the SAVE & EXIT button, and it showed me as logged in. Hmm. I'll take a look in MY ACCOUNT...
Kevin : OK. If nothing else, just leave the window open
JACUSTOMER-z14xqazt- : I think I've got it now Kevin...I just created a login. Thanks for the initial session. I'll work on the switch and come back later. Cheers.
Customer: Kevin, are you there?
Kevin : Yep
Customer: Hello again Kevin. I've waited a couple of days to see if the light switch change resolved the problem. It didn't, but we figured out one more clue in the process.
Customer: Both the original and replacement switches were "dimmer" switches. If we turn the dimmer switch on fully...that is to say to the switches brightest possible setting, we tend to get flickering. If, on the other hand, we limit the dimmer switch to approximately two-thirds of it's brightest setting, then we eliminate the flickering.
Customer: Your thoughts?
Hi, I'm Norm and it appears Kevin has stepped out, although he has not formally opted out. If I'm stepping on his toes, I apologize, but I see you are checking each day for an answer and I'd like to help.

CFL dimming is a technology that is not completely mature yet. If you want to dim a CFL, first, it must be a dimmable CFL and say so on the lamp base. If it doesn't, it won't dim. Second, people like Lutron are now making dimmers specially for CFL's and they do work better than conventional dimmers, but they are not perfect either. The flickering you are experiencing is likely due to the dimmer not being able to handle a CFL. I have personally had poor results trying to dim CFL's and find that the only CFL's that will control from 0 to 100% are the smallest - 5 watts actual, 25 watts equivalent - and they have a very poor color balance as they dim. Other CFL's will usually only control from 25 to 30% or so and will often flicker, as you are experiencing. If you need that light to dim, I suggest you put an incandescent lamp back in until the technology improves. Incandescent lamps use lots less energy when dimmed and, if you dim them on and off, will last way longer than if they are switched.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

First, let me thank you for stepping in. This is my first time using JA, and I was beginning to think that it was not worth my effort. I appreciate your willingness to help.

Second, I have switched out the CFL for an incandescent light bulb. I will give it a few days. My girlfriend is the one who noticed the flickering and I want her to have the opportunity to verify that it is working fine.

When she lets me know how the change worked, I will then either rate your advice, or will ask another question.

Finally, in the event she decides she wants to use a CFL rather than incandescent, is it safe to say that the problem would be solved by changing the dimmer switch for a traditional on/off switch when using the CFL (of course, that assumes the problem truly is the dimmer/CFL combination)?


Hi Roger,

Yes, a standard on/off toggle switch should eliminate the flicker.

Norm, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 67
Experience: Registered professional electrical engineer and licensed master electrician.
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