General Question

nebule's avatar

What is wrong with my lights?

Asked by nebule (16439points) September 18th, 2010

I’m having trouble with my downstairs lights basically…and wondering if anyone can help before I call my landlord (yeah I know I’ve asked another question about something that’s wrong with my house…but I’m trying to be all independent woman capable of DIY etc.!)

When I press the switch in either the living room or kitchen the lights momentarily flicker and don’t come on. If I try turning the switch on and off they don’t even flicker after that. If I leave the switch on the lights seems to come on a few hours later…sometimes… sometimes they don’t.

I’m not on a payment meter and the fuse is fine in the fuse box….i.e. it’s ON. I have recently had a leaky roof near the front door, but have been fixed now…but worried obviously that there maybe water in the house cavities or something…could this be causing the problem?? I don’t know…any help would be great! xxx

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16 Answers

grumpyfish's avatar

It’s possible that the switch itself needs to be replaced, if you’re comfortable with that you can take a look. If replacing the switch doesn’t do it, then you’ll need to get an electrician involved, which means calling the landlord.

Ron_C's avatar

Sounds like the switch to me. If it was a loose wire, the fuse would probably blow because the lights would probably flicker a lot before they turn on. The older light switches were spring loaded and the contacts loose their flexibility with age. It probably slips into position shortly after the switch is placed in the on position.

Since you seem to know where the fuse is, pull the fuse and replace the switch. Do not replace the switch with the power on the circuit that can be very hard on your fingers and heart.

john65pennington's avatar

Your are flirting with danger. many a time, an electrical short has caused severe damage and death in homes. i would not play games with eletricity. call your landlord or call an electrician and locate the problem. you have an electrical short somewhere and this is dangerous.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Is it an old silent mercury switch? After 30–40 years they go intermittent due to microscopic oxidation on the contacts.
If you’re handy, you can change them easily. A new switch will cost $3. You’ll need a screwdriver, needle nose pliers, maybe a wire stripper and a little common sense.
You can do it.
(I forgot ... Your landlord can do it.)

angelique_1's avatar

the switch could be bad, nd too the water leak could be to blame. but i think its the light switch, id check that first, or have someone do that for you. good luck.

Ron_C's avatar

@angelique_1 water leak? You better get that checked and fixed. You could be living in a deathtrap!

gasman's avatar

It sounds like a loose connection but I don’t think it poses a danger. The problem could be a bad connection at the switch, a bad connection at the fixture, or simply a light bulb that has worked itself loose (assuming there’s only one bulb in the fixture).

In any case I’d start by checking the bulb, then the switch, then the fixture—as that’s the order from easiest to hardest.

People often erroneously refer to an intermittent or loose connection as a “short” but that is incorrect. A true short circuit would blow the fuse or breaker and then permanently stay off until repaired.

nebule's avatar

Thanks everyone! I’m going to phone my landlord first thing Monday as that’s the safest thing to do! xx

ant2887's avatar

um what kind of light are they, if it the long tube light the ballast is most likely bad in it.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

The question about “what kind of lights” is a good one. Are they incandescent bulbs? Those should come on instantaneously, of course. Flourescent “bulbs” should come on quickly, but sometimes with a lag of a second or so. Flourescent tubes, especially in older fixtures with ballast, etc. can get finicky with temperature as they age.

But this does sound more switch-related. Changing a switch isn’t so difficult, and should not be dangerous—if you know what you’re doing. The first thing that you have to know is: turn off the power to that switch! So if you have access to the fuse box / circuit breakers, and know for a certainty that you can isolate the switch—and not have someone else wander over to the box and flip it back “on” while you’re working!—then go ahead and DIY on the switch.

The leaky roof near the front door (if that’s also the area of the light switch) may have corroded some of the connectors, or the switch itself, and sent it over the edge. I wouldn’t worry about water being accumulated (standing water? no) up to the switch behind the wall panel.

nebule's avatar

@CyanoticWasp thank you, the lights are those energy saving ones…lol although I’m pretty sure that doesn’t mean they work whenever they feel like it! lol x

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LuckyGuy's avatar

Did you solve your problem? Was the switch an old, silent, mercury switch?

nebule's avatar

It was a while ago but I think it was the switch and the landlord fixed it…crikey it’s been a long time since I’ve been here!! :(

LuckyGuy's avatar

It is great to see your smiling face again! (Even though that avatar doesn’t show it.)

nebule's avatar

Oh…better get that sorted then @LuckyGuy ;) x Thank you…it is good to be back… xx

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