A power strip’s indicator light matters. It illuminates when you connect the power strip to an active power source. If the power strip has surge protection, the indicator light may blink or change color when the power strip encounters a surge.
Regardless of the purpose it serves, the light is important. Therefore, a flickering light should elicit some concern from you. Fortunately, figuring out why a power strip light would flicker isn’t difficult. The reasons include the following:
1). Age – End Of Lifespan
According to CNET, power strips have a lifespan of three to five years. As they age, the light will degrade. The brightness will decrease until the light dies altogether. The frequency and duration of use will determine the rate of degradation.
The more use the power strip gets, the faster the light degrades. Some lights will dim slowly until they go out. Others may flicker for a few days or even weeks before dying. The reaction you observe will vary depending on the brand and quality of the power strip.
Expensive high-end power strips have lights that remain strong for years without dimming or flickering.
2). Voltage Is Fluctuating
You see this when a consumer overloads the power strip by attaching more appliances than the device can accommodate. The flickering will persist because the power strip can’t handle the load.
The flickering light is beneficial here because it compels the consumer to reduce the load. Otherwise, the power strip may burst into flames.
3). Factory Defect
Some power strips are defective. They have faulty neon lights that flicker incessantly without actually dying. Sometimes, you notice this phenomenon immediately. In other cases, you may use the power strips for weeks before this problem manifests.
These factory defects are relatively easy to identify. The flickering won’t respond to any particular stimuli. It will persist regardless of whether the power strip has a load or not. You will see it when the voltage is stable or fluctuating. The flickering won’t change in response to the power strip’s state.
4). Physical Damage
People mishandle power strips all the time. They drop the devices, strike them with heavy objects, allow them to overheat by hiding the power strips under carpets and rugs, and more. This is especially true for households with children.
You can’t trust children to handle power strips with care. The neon lights in a power strip are delicate. It only takes a few blows for them to fail.
While brownouts are not as dangerous as surges, they can cause significant harm to your home’s appliances. Brownouts occur when your home’s voltage level dips dramatically. The lights in the house will dim during this occurrence. The unstable voltage can cause the power strip’s light to flicker.
6). Short Circuit
Power strips are not immune to short circuits. Flickering is not the only symptom you will notice. Listen for buzzing and crackling. You should also look for burn marks. Don’t tamper with faulty power strips.
If you think the power strip is a fire and electrocution hazard, use the breaker to cut the power. Pulling the plug out of the wall outlet may lead to a potentially fatal shock.
7). Loose Connections
Loose connections are common in power strips because many laypeople disconnect the plug from the outlet by pulling the cord. This strains the connections. You don’t want to handle a power strip with frayed wiring.
Loose connections and damaged wires can interfere with the flow of current, leading to flickering lights.
8). Is The Light Flickering Or Blinking?
These terms don’t mean the same things. ‘Flickering’ is erratic. ‘Blinking’ is rhythmic. Take the power strip to a dark room and study it. Does the flickering have a steady rhythm? If it does, the power strip is blinking.
Power strips with sophisticated functions can blink for various reasons, including overheating and overloading, and in response to surges, spikes, and brownouts.
How To Troubleshoot Flickering Power Strips?
Power strips are not as complicated as people think. You can diagnose them by learning to identify and interpret their symptoms. For instance:
1). Touch the power strip. Does it feel hot? Overheating can point to a surge or overload. The same goes for burn marks. Check the combined wattage of the appliances running on the power strip. Does it exceed the power strip’s capacity? What happens when you disconnect some of the devices? Does the flickering stop? This tells you everything you need to know.
2). Speaking of disconnecting appliances, some machines are a source of interference. If the flickering only manifests when you run a particular device, but the appliance’s wattage is lower than the power strip’s rating, you can blame the flickering on interference from the appliance.
3). Check the power cord for burned or frayed wires. Exposed conductors should concern you because they can lead to arcing.
4). Look for visible breaks and cracks in the power strip. Take these cracks as a sign that your power strip has reached the end of its lifespan. You can use a power strip with cracks and breaks, but the practice is dangerous.
5). Have you noticed a burning smell? What about crackling noises? This points to overheating, overloading, or a surge. Unplug the power strip from the wall outlet. Don’t use it until you solve the problem.
6). Check the wall outlet. Does it make crackling sounds? Do you see burn marks? The power strip can flicker because it keeps turning on and off due to a fault in the wall outlet. Some people blame the power strip without considering the role the wall outlet plays in the power strip’s operations. Connect the power strip to a second outlet. If the flickering fades, replace the first wall outlet.
7). If you’ve had the power strip for five or more years, you don’t have to troubleshoot it. Assume that it has reached the end of its lifespan and get a new one. If the power strip has surge protection, there’s a limit to the number of surges it can take. You can’t trust a five-year-old surge protector to defend you, especially if your area is prone to surges.
8). The manual should have the final say. It will help you determine whether or not you’ve confused the blinking for flickering. It will also tell you what blinking means. Don’t be so quick to assume that your power strip is a lost cause.
Are There Any Risks Associated With Flickering Power Strip Lights?
Not directly. A flickering light won’t hurt you. Your biggest concern is the cause of the flickering. Why is the light flickering? Is the power strip overloading? You should worry because an overload can start a fire.
Is the power strip overheating? This is another fire hazard. Has the power strip reached the end of its lifespan? Flickering is not a cause for concern in this scenario unless you overload or mishandle an old and worn-out power strip.
It is worth noting that power strip lights are educational. They reveal the state of the power strip. A flickering light is unreliable. You can’t trust it to tell you whether the power strip is on or off.
When To Replace Flickering Power Strips?
- If the flickering power strip is old, get a new one. You should replace these devices every three to five years.
- If the power strip feels hot to the touch, replace it. Some power strips feel warm to the touch because electricity generates heat when it moves through a conductor. But there’s a difference between ‘Warm’ and ‘Hot.’ ‘Hot’ is a bad thing.
- If the power strip has burn marks, throw it away and buy a replacement. This applies to burn marks on the plug, power cord, and power strip sockets.
- Are the sockets loose? Have they failed to grip your machine’s plug firmly? This is another notable symptom of old age. Get a replacement.
- If the power strip crackles and buzzes, stop using it. If you can’t identify and resolve the source of these sounds, get a new power strip.
- If the power strip stops working altogether, replace it.