5 Common Reasons Why Your Compact Fluorescent Bulbs Are Flickering

Ebonee Williams
Written by Ebonee Williams
Updated November 9, 2021
Modern living room with lights on
JRP Studio - stock.adobe.com

Here's how to see the light

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

Sometimes flickering lights can be fixed by simply swapping the bulb. But in other cases, it can be a sign of a larger problem. And while you should always call a professional electrician near you for any electrical issues, there are some ways you can (safely!) figure out what’s going on.

Here are some reasons why your compact fluorescent bulbs might be less-than-bright. 

1. The Problem Is the Bulb Itself

If you’re experiencing subtle flickering, this isn’t something to be concerned about. Compact fluorescent bulbs (also called CFLs) can flicker for a few reasons: 

  • They’re warming up after you first turn on the light

  • They need to be replaced

  • There’s a temperature fluctuation

But if your lights are constantly flickering, you might have a bigger issue. 

2. There’s Not Enough Current

If you notice the lights dim or flicker when you run your dishwasher or turn on the AC, it could be that the electricity is overloaded and there isn’t enough electrical current available to support everything. This could also mean that there are too many appliances on the same circuit, which is a common problem in older homes. 

If you suspect this is the issue, swap your light bulb for one that’s lower wattage and uses less power. But it’s still a good idea to consult an electrician about your overloaded circuits. 

3. You Have Bad Switches, Plugs, or Cords

Master bedroom with lamps on
Bmak - stock.adobe.com

Flip your light switch on and off a few times. If the light flickers, it’s possible you might need a new switch. Having a faulty cord plug can also be the issue. Check to make sure that the plug is not broken or hanging from the outlet, and call an electrician for further troubleshooting.

4. The Dimmer Switch Is Old

Older dimmer switches often don’t work well with modern bulbs. Contact an electrician to see if  you can find a bulb that’s more compatible with your dimmer, though you might need to replace the dimmer altogether. 

5. The Light Bulb Is Disconnected

Tightening bulbs that are loose can be an easy way to fix your flickering CFLs. In older fixtures, sometimes the bulb can no longer reach the metal pin due to normal wear and tear—and therefore the light will dim or flicker. In this case, you may need to replace the light fixture.

Know When to Call a Pro

Again, it’s always best to call a professional electrician to diagnose the problem and recommend the best course of action. Never try to DIY an electrical job on your own, as these tasks are complex and dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. 

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.