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+2 votes

I am a daughter of an electrician, so perhaps shame on me for not knowing the answer to the following question.

Whenever I plug in my Rowenta Redken steam iron (flat iron for hair), the lights flicker.   Is this dangerous?  I have stopped using this particular flat iron, and perhaps I should be asking my husband, but he's not an electrician.

in House and Home by

2 Answers

+1 vote
Best answer

It means you have an overloaded circuit and the circuit breaker is adapting.  Check the circuit, I will bet is is a 15 amp.  Then I would check everything you have plug into the circuit.

Do a quick add up of the power draw on the line, I will bet the zombie appliance plus the I bet your are drawing over 15 amps and the zombie appliances are going dormant.

Zombie appliance = Instant on with with glowing lights to tell you appliance status.

I would also check to see if you have a 100 or 200 amp service.  It might be time to upgrade your box, sorry for the bad news.  Upgrade = $$$$

“Better a true enemy than a false friend.”

by (2,932,230 points)
Thanks for your reply, Arch, I will check all of this out this weekend. 
0 votes

I am not an electrician.  I did study electrical engineering but not power.

However, what is generally going on with a flicker is the surge current of the device is very high.  This is the initial current anything draws when you turn it on.  For example, a heating element in an iron, looks like a dead short when it is turned on.  Huge current draw.  As the temperature goes up, so does the resistance, which causes the current to fall.  They do this to get them to heat up more quickly.

And house wiring is not perfect.  It is quite inductive.  Inductors resist the change of current flowing in them.  So, one end of the inductor is shorted to ground with the heater, that draws all of the electrons out of the vacinity and the voltage drops locally.  Eventually this low voltage, which causes the lights to flicker, makes its way to the main input from the power line.  The power line is much less inductive and resistive and is able to recharge the house quickly.  So the lights return to normal.

You should see it here when my electric furnace kicks on.  It takes about 30 amps off of both phases.  But doesn't hurt anything.

It may be aggravated if you have 14 gauge wiring or aluminum wires.  They are more resistive.

by (1,318,270 points)

Ah, I see.  Thank you for taking the time out to explain it.  It was easy when my dad was around -I'd just call  him and he would say yay or nay, but I never learned anything about electrical wiring as you can see.  Thank you!


There are of course a lot of things going on.  As archer point d out, your house may have 100 amp service.  This is like a choke point between you and the the power company.  It can slow the recovery of house low voltage to mains voltage.  Breakers, if they are working properly, don't really affect current.  Breakers are designed to take a short surge of several times their rating.  A 15 amp breaker should support a surge of 30 or 40 amps.

But my guess is that your flicker is normal

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