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Why Do My Lights Dim When the Air Conditioner Comes On?

Why Do My Lights Dim When the Air Conditioner Comes On?
August 3, 2023 Valerie Griffiths
Why Do My Lights Dim When the Air Conditioner Comes On?

If dimming lights when your air conditioner or other powerful electric appliance comes on has even caused you worry, you’re not alone. This phenomenon is a common occurrence in many households and can be attributed to a combination of factors. Let’s explore some possible causes behind this issue, and we’ll offer practical solutions to fix the problem.

Electrical Load and Power Demands

When an electric appliance, especially air conditioners, refrigerators, or washing machines, starts up, it requires a significant amount of electricity to get going. This sudden surge in power demand is known as an electrical load. The initial start-up phase is when your lights are most likely to dim because the appliance draws power away from the electrical circuit, causing a momentary voltage drop.

Voltage Drop and Resistance

The phenomenon of your lights dimming is related to the principle of electrical resistance. It’s technical, we know. Basically, electrical current flows through wires to power your appliances and lighting fixtures. As current flows through a conductor, there is always some resistance. When an appliance with high power requirements starts, the current experiences increased resistance in the wires due to the sudden demand. This resistance leads to a temporary drop in voltage, which affects the performance of other devices connected to the same circuit, such as your lights.

Inadequate Wiring or Electrical Panel

Sometimes, the problem may not lie with the appliances but with the electrical system itself. Older homes or those with outdated wiring might have inadequate electrical capacity to handle multiple high-powered devices running simultaneously. If your electrical panel is outdated or overloaded, it may struggle to distribute the necessary power to all the connected devices effectively. In such cases, the lights dimming is an indication that your electrical system requires an upgrade to meet modern power demands.

Distance from Power Source

The distance between your appliances and the main power source can also play a role in light dimming. If you have appliances located far away from the electrical panel, the resistance in the wires will be higher, leading to more significant voltage drops. This effect is especially noticeable in larger properties where the distance between appliances and the main power source is considerable.

Shared Circuits

In some cases, dimming lights can be due to sharing a circuit with high-power appliances. When the same circuit powers both your lights and a powerful device, the voltage drop from the appliance’s initial startup can affect the entire circuit. Consider consulting an electrician to redistribute the electrical load by creating separate circuits for high-power appliances and lighting fixtures.

How Can I Fix the Problem?

Now that we have a better understanding of why your lights dim when certain appliances start let’s explore some practical solutions and tips to address this issue:

Update Electrical Panel and Wiring

If you live in an older home or suspect that your electrical panel is outdated, it’s essential to have a professional electrician inspect your system. Upgrading your electrical panel and wiring can enhance its capacity to handle higher power demands and reduce the likelihood of your lights dimming.

Distribute Electrical Load

Try to stagger the use of high-power appliances so that they don’t start simultaneously. For example, if you’re using the air conditioner, consider turning off other power-hungry devices during its initial startup phase. This way, you can reduce the sudden surge in power demand and minimize the impact on your lights.

Use LED Lights

LED light bulbs are more energy-efficient and draw less power than traditional incandescent bulbs. By switching to LED lights, you can reduce the overall electrical load on your circuit, making it less susceptible to voltage drops.

Consider Dedicated Circuits

For major appliances like air conditioners, refrigerators, or washing machines, consider installing dedicated circuits. This means that these appliances will have their own individual circuit, preventing their startup from affecting other devices.

Consult a Licensed Electrician

If you’re experiencing persistent dimming issues, it’s best to seek help from a licensed electrician. They can conduct a thorough inspection of your electrical system and make necessary recommendations or upgrades to ensure smooth power distribution.

Experiencing lights dimming when the air conditioner or other high-power appliances start is a common occurrence due to electrical load, resistance, and voltage drop. While it might be frustrating, understanding the reasons behind this issue empowers you to take appropriate measures to mitigate it. By updating your electrical panel, redistributing electrical loads, and making use of LED lights, you can create a more reliable and efficient electrical system in your home. Remember, when it comes to electrical work, it’s always best to consult a professional electrician for safety and peace of mind.