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Well-Lit: 5 Warning Signs of Faulty Light Fixtures

You rely on a variety of lighting fixtures to keep your home beautiful and useable when it’s dark outside. However, many homeowners fail to account for their light fixtures when thinking about potential electrical problems. Some property owners mistakenly believe that changing lightbulbs when necessary is enough maintenance to ensure their light fixtures stay safe.

Unfortunately, this lack of knowledge about light fixture maintenance can be dangerous. Faulty fixtures are one of the most common electrical fire sources on residential properties, as discussed in our blog “5 Common Causes of Electrical Fires.”

So how do you know when your light fixture has become a fire hazard? Luckily, most faulty fixtures show clear signs of electrical problems, including the five listed below.

1. Abnormal Sounds When On

When electricity flows correctly, its movement doesn’t generate any noise. However, a gap in a circuit forces the electrical current to jump. These jumps can create buzzing, humming, or even popping noises.

If your light fixture makes noises when you turn it on, the wiring may be frayed or a connector may be worn down or broken. In extreme cases, the gaps that cause buzzing noises can also throw visible sparks, creating a serious fire hazard. If you notice a burning smell in addition to the noise, turn off the fixture immediately and seek professional electrical help.

2. Excess Heat During Use

Well-maintained and -installed light fixtures are insulated to minimize the ambient heat they produce when switched on. If a fixture wattage is exceeded or the fixture’s insulation is inadequate, you may notice a pocket of warmth around the light.

If left unaddressed, these electrical issues can make the fixture overheat, especially if the light is left on for long periods of time.

3. Flickering Light

Flickering lights occur when a gap in a circuit is large enough that the electrical current can’t jump fast enough to stay steady, resulting in short bursts of power. Sometimes, flickering results from a loose bulb, so check that the bulb is secure first.

If the bulb doesn’t not seem to be the issue, the fixture itself or your electrical system may be at fault.

4. Malfunctioning Light Switches

When you flip a light switch, you expect to see an instantaneous result. If a light fixture develops a delay or does not respond to its switch, the connection between the fixture and the switch may be damaged.

This symptom can happen when the wiring between your fixture and the switch becomes frayed or worn out. Other common causes of switch malfunctions include damage to the internal switch device and issues with the fixture itself. For example, fluorescent bulbs often develop a short delay before they burn out.

5. Unexpected Brightening or Dimming

Functioning lights should stay at the same brightness the entire time you use them. Even if the lights do not actually flicker, unexpected brightening or dimming can also indicate electrical problems.

If you notice dimming when you turn on another electrical device, such as the vacuum or washing machine, and brightening when you turn off the second device, your circuit may be overloaded. An electrician can solve this problem by changing which circuits your major appliances are connected to or creating a dedicated electrical line for the appliance so it doesn’t have to draw power away from your light fixtures.


If you notice any combination of the warning signs listed above, have the affected light fixture inspected by a professional from Chadwick Electrical Services as soon as possible. Some of these symptoms can occur due to other electrical problems as well, but whatever the cause, rapid response is your best defense against potential electrical hazards.

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