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The lights dimming in your house whenever someone plugs in a hairdryer are not a sign that the aliens have landed. You could have just been watching too much sci-fi, although that would be really interesting. Flickering lights are an indication of electrical issues that mat need immediate attention, explains Oakley Electrical Contractors, professional electrical contractors in Newport.

Dimming lights are a usual result of a brownout, so you might be inclined to make the same conclusion in this scenario. However, when the lights dim specifically when you use a hairdryer or other high-wattage appliances, the real culprit could be found in your own home. Below are possible causes of flickering lights when using your hairdryer.

Loose Outlet Connection

Sometimes, lights dim or flicker because of a simple loose outlet connection. This issue is easy to address if your lightbulb is connected to a power outlet, such as lamps, as you would only need to adjust the plug to securely attach it to the outlet. If, however, your lightbulb is powered by a switch, and the switch button comes loose, you might need to hire an electrician to avoid the risk of electrocution.

Voltage Fluctuation

California-based Industrial Tests, Inc. defines voltage fluctuation as “random and repeated changes in the flow of electricity to a building”. There are different causes of voltage fluctuation. In the case where lights dim when using a hairdryer, the cause of voltage fluctuation is referred to as interference.

As published on Industrial Tests’ website, “Interference occurs when a number of sensitive and wrong combinations of electrical devices or machinery are operated on the same circuit.” In this particular situation, the lights and the hairdryer are working incompatibly on the same circuit, causing the lights to dim or, in some situations, flicker.

Overloaded Electrical Outlets

Overloaded electrical outlets can be another leading cause of flickering lights. Circuit breakers are designed to handle only a specific amount of electrical load, and when these are overloaded with electric appliances, especially high-wattage ones, they tend to “short out”. In the event that a circuit breaker shorts out, lights could flicker or appliances could malfunction or stop working.

An important reminder that homeowners must always bear in mind is to never overload electrical outlets. This can cause damage to appliances and, worse, could lead to a fire.

Outdated Wiring

Another cause of dimming and/or flickering lights is outdated wiring. This is commonly associated with old homes equipped with old wiring systems that do not meet the wiring requirements of modern appliances. This issue can be solved by having a licensed electrician re-wire the house or install an updated wiring system.

What to Do When Lights Dim When Using Hair Dryer

Dimming or flickering lights are not something to take lightly as these could lead to serious problems such as appliance malfunction and fire. Protect your home and your family by addressing the issue urgently. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Inspect the source of dimming/flickering lights. If it’s an overloaded electrical outlet, make sure to plug in just the right number of appliances and not exceed the allowed wattage. 
  2. Consider using your hairdryer in another room. If your house is equipped with several circuit boards, you can try checking which room is equipped with a circuit board that can handle your hair dryer’s wattage.
  3. Contact a licensed electrician. Electrical systems are rather complicated for untrained people to tinker with. There are just plenty of risks associated with it such as electrocution, damage, and/or fire; so better leave it to the professionals.

How to Hire a Certified Electrician

The Electrical Safety Authority recommends hiring only licensed electrical contractors to take care of your house’s electrical needs. This is often the more expensive route compared with hiring “just someone you know” but it is definitely the smart decision to make. Licensed electrical contractors are not only trained but also are state-qualified; will arrange permits; can offer a Certificate of inspection, and can provide references.

When hiring a certified electrical contractor, remember to follow these tips:

1. Do Your Research

It is always wise to do your research before you embark on any project. Check the cost of your project including materials, labor, and other potential expenses.

2. Set a Budget

After doing your research, set a budget and find an electrician that can work within your budget range.

3. Gather Testimonials

Most electrical service companies post testimonials from real customers on their website. Checking reviews allows you to manage your expectations and choose a professional with whom you could be confident.

4. Shop Around

Never settle for the first contractor you meet. It is highly recommended to speak with at least 3 candidates and narrow down your choices according to who meets your criteria: budget, level of confidence, and expertise.

5. Request Credentials

Do not be embarrassed to ask your electrical contractor for credentials. Remember—there is nothing embarrassing about protecting your home.