Causes of Fluorescent Light Flicker

Written by lisa bass
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Causes of Fluorescent Light Flicker
Just because the human eye can't see flickering lights doesn't mean it's not affected by them. (Fluorescent overhead lamp in office image by Alexey Kuznetsov from

Even though the human eye has difficulty detecting flickers in fluorescent lighting, people can still be affected by flickering. Voltage fluctuations in the U.S. tend to occur between 110 and 120 hertz per second, far faster than the 50 or 60 flashes per second that the human eye can detect. Unseen flickering can still cause drowsiness, headaches and loss of concentration.

Improper Installation

A fluorescent bulb that's not properly inserted into the fixture can flicker. Improperly installed bulbs are subject to greater fluctuations in voltage, resulting in flickering. Ensure the bulb is tightly fitted into the socket on both sides of the light to avoid this problem.

Improper Bulb

A bulb that's not designed for the fixture can flicker. Using the wrong bulb can cause a voltage mismatch between the fixture and bulb, resulting in flickering. You can generally determine the correct light to use by examining the description on the light. If there's any doubt, take the bulb to the hardware store to ensure you get the correct replacement.

Cold Weather

Gas in the fluorescent bulb doesn't warm up enough to fully light the bulb below 10 degrees Celsius. Enclosed fixtures, which include plastic sheets that fit snugly over the fixture containing the bulb, or plastic sleeves that slide directly over the bulb, can prevent the bulb from being too cold.

Old Bulbs

Old fluorescent bulbs will flicker as the phosphor coatings inside the light that reflect ultraviolet light wear out. These bulbs require replacing.

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