Troubleshooting Humming, Buzzing, and Flickering In Your Light Fixtures

It sounds like a bug zapper except it’s not killing any bugs. Bulbs have always had this reflex to start humming or buzzing and tend to nag not only our ears, but our patience as well. And no matter how many times we may hit it, nothing seems to change. But why is the lamp making all of the noises in the first place? What can be done to make the lamp stop?

Humming Light

Incandescent Bulbs:

Incandescent lamps, for the most part, are pretty quiet and have no trouble with humming. Incandescent bulbs, however, become more susceptible and begin to buzz/hum when they are installed with a dimmer, usually a Triode for AC (TRIAC). A dimmer, or the TRIAC, basically functions by perpetually removing and applying voltage to the light fixture. This excites and cools the filament which causes a vibration resulting in humming or buzzing.

Incandescent light

What Do I Do When My Incandescent Bulb’s Humming or Buzzing?

  • Rough service bulbs will have a supported filament lessening vibrations

             -Rough service bulbs are made to be resistant against vibrations and any outside force that can damage a filament.

  • Change out the dimmer switches
  • Replace your old incandescent bulb with a 130 volt bulb. These bulbs have a more solid filament to reduce buzzing.

Fluorescent Bulbs:

Unlike the incandescent lamps, fluorescent bulbs have been known to flicker and buzz.

Why Does My Fluorescent Bulb Flicker and Buzz?

Fluorescent troubleshooting

In both cases of an, “Aging Ballast” and “Extreme Low Temperatures” the ballast will be affected and the lamp will not receive efficient voltage. The lamp will then begin to flicker and buzz.

A fluorescent bulb

Ballasts:

Ballasts are the devices that regulate the amount of voltage a light fixture receives.

Magnetic Ballasts – will hum often because of the metal plates that vibrate to create electromagnetic fields

Electrical Ballasts – this type of ballast can reduce or remove the humming of the light fixture entirely

A lighting ballast

To make sure that the ballast that you choose won’t make any noise, check the package to see if the sound rating is class-A. If not, then you are more likely to hear buzzing and humming in your light fixture.

LEDs:

LEDs are also known to have an electromagnetic hum.

What Causes The Humming In My LED Light Fixture?

LED humming

These types of bulbs are the best choice for you when it comes to avoiding a humming light fixture. The first reason is that LED bulbs don’t have any moving parts like fluorescent and incandescent bulbs. The moving parts are what causes them to hum. The second reason could be due to incorrect installation that causes it to hum. So you should make sure that you have a compatible dimmer, driver, and that there are no appliances that are placed near it, that could cause electromagnetic interferences.

It is important to remember that before you install any type of dimmer that they are compatible with you light fixture. But sometimes your lighting equipment has just reached its expiration date and needs to be changed. Be sure to check all of your equipment fully to be positive that it can still function properly.

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Recommended Reading

If you need to replace your fluorescent tubes, switch to T8 LED tubes! Learn about the benefits of LED lights and the different types of LED tubes.

Replacing your fluorescent bulbs with T8 LED tubes presents a challenge. Read our guide to learn about the pros and cons of each type of tube and find the one that works best for you.

Dimmers require compatible bulbs that reach a certain load level or power level in order to work. Read our guide to help you choose which bulb and dimmer you need.

Make sure to disconnect the power before starting. Stay safe during LED tube retrofitting!

Will Owen
Will Owen

B.A. in English from Kennesaw State University. Will takes what he's learned and writes about all sorts of things from artists to electrical supplies and LED light systems. You name it and he can probably write about it.

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