Finding and fixing faulty wiring in your walls can be a frustrating and potentially dangerous process. As a homeowner, you want to restore proper electrical function as quickly as possible without compromising safety. This guide will walk you through troubleshooting flickering lights caused by wiring issues and repairing the problem yourself or determining when to call an electrician.
Identifying the Source of the Flickering
The first step is pinpointing which wire is causing your lights to flicker. Here are some tips for narrowing it down:
Check if the Flickering is Intermittent or Constant
Intermittent flickering that comes and goes is often linked to a loose connection, damaged wire insulation, or overload.
Constant flickering tends to indicate a more serious underlying issue like a short circuit, ground fault, or faulty device.
Determine if Specific Lights or All Lights Flicker
If only certain lights flicker, the problem is isolated to their wiring circuit.
Whole home flickering indicates an issue with the main service wiring or panel.
Consider Any Recent Electrical Work in the Area
Damaged wires during remodeling or new construction can cause flickering.
New high-wattage devices added to an existing circuit may overload it.
With some basic troubleshooting, I can zone in on the likely culprit circuit or wire causing the fluctuations.
Safely Accessing the Wiring through the Walls
Once I've identified the problem circuit, I need to safely access the wiring through the wall. This requires creating a small access point through the drywall. Safety tip: Always turn off power at the main panel before working with wiring.
Here are the steps I take:
1. Turn Off the Circuit Breaker
Locate the correct breaker and switch it to the off position. Test lights to confirm power is off.
2. Cut a Small Inspection Hole
Use a drywall saw to cut an approximately 8 inch square hole at an inconspicuous spot along the circuit.
3. Remove Drywall and Expose Wires
Carefully cut through drywall paper and remove the section. Check wires for damage.
4. Test and Troubleshoot Wiring
With power still off, visually inspect wires and use a multimeter to test for issues.
By creating a safe access point, I can now troubleshoot and repair the faulty wire causing flickering.
Fixing Common Sources of Wire Problems
Here are some of the most common wire issues inside walls and how to fix them:
Loose Wire Connections
Loose wire connections can interrupt electrical flow. To fix:
- Disconnect and strip the ends of the wires.
- Twist ends together securely with pliers.
- Install proper sized wire nut and twist clockwise.
Damaged Wire Insulation
Exposed copper wiring can cause shorts. Repair by:
- Wrapping exposed section with electrical tape.
- Capping with a wire nut if necessary.
Too many devices can overload a circuit. Fix by:
- Plugging devices into another circuit if possible.
- Replacing the breaker with a higher amperage rating.
If wiring itself is damaged, it must be replaced.
- Shut off main power.
- Remove damaged wire and replace with new wiring.
When to Call an Electrician
While many flickering light issues can be DIY repairs, it's safest to call a licensed electrician for:
- Faults at the main electrical panel.
- Tracing wires through walls and floors.
- Installing new wiring circuits or replacing old knob-and-tube wiring.
- Finding the source of whole home electrical problems.
Their expertise and special equipment can accurately diagnose and access complex and potentially hazardous wiring situations.
Restore Power and Test Lights
Once I've repaired the problematic wire, it's time to button up.
- Seal wiring access hole with drywall patch.
- Turn circuit breaker back on.
- Test lights to confirm flickering is fixed.
- Add a junction box if necessary for safe wire connections.
With the faulty wire repaired, I can finally relax and enjoy stable lighting throughout my home.
Tracing down and fixing that one problematic wire in your walls takes time and care. But with the right safety precautions and troubleshooting, you can tackle flickering light issues caused by wiring yourself in many cases. When in doubt, don't hesitate to call a professional electrician to ensure your home's electrical system is safe and reliable.