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Ceiling Fan With Flashing Light Problem

By Dave Rongey - Summary:

How to Fix Flashing Lights on a Ceiling Fan: The Most Common Problems that Cause Ceiling Fan Lights to Flash On and Off and How to Fix Them.

Flashing Lights on Ceiling Fans and How to Fix Them

Electrical Question: The lights in my ceiling fan flash on and off, what is causing this and how can I fix it?

  • The lights will go off and then turn back on, the filament getting to an orange glow before it goes off again at a regular frequency of about 3 times a second.
  • It is very distinct from a flicker and does not change based on load differences on the circuit.
  • The wiring inside the switch box is correct and safely and effectively wire nutted and connected.
  • I’m not sure what the problem could be.

Do you have any suggestions as to what the problem could be?

This Ceiling Fan Question came from: Alex, a Handyman from Iowa City, Iowa.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your Ceiling Fan Question Alex.

How to Fix Flashing Lights of a Ceiling Fan

Application: Ceiling Fan Light Fixture Light Bulbs.
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools, a non-aluminum ladder.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience, ability to work on a ladder and access to the light fixture.
Precaution: Identify the light switch and turn it OFF , then wait for the bulbs to cool before exchanging light bulbs.
Notice: Changes in light bulb type must not produce more heat which could damage light fixture components or the ceiling fan.

Ceiling Fan Flashing Lights and How to Fix Them

  • Limiting Switch and Light Bulbs
    • Some ceiling fans have a built in limit switch which measures the amount of electricity being used by the light bulbs in the fixture.
    • If the light bulbs are too large or they are consuming too much power or watts then the limiting switch will activate and cause the lights to go off and on.
    • Check the owners manual and make sure the light bulbs are the same as specified, and replace the bulbs if necessary.
  • Loose Light Bulbs
    • Ceiling fans produce vibrations when operating, so if the light bulbs are loose or not screwed in all the way the lights may flash on and off.
    • Check the light bulbs to see if they are loose or they wiggle while in the socket. Gently but firmly screw the light bulb into the socket if it is found to be loose.
  • Loose Wire Connection
    • Wiring connections that are not made correctly can cause problems but can me fixed easily.
    • For best results the wiring connections for the light fixture should be made using wire connectors that have a tapered spring inside which ensures a good wire connection.
    • Rarely will a wire connector become loose during shipping, but it can happen. During the assembly of the components it’s always a good idea to check the wiring connections and tighten up loose connections as needed.
    • Will electrical tape around a wire connector help? Yes, especially in a case like this however if the right wire nut has been selected, the wiring has been properly prepared for the splice connection, and the connector has been installed properly then adding electrical tape to the connector is not necessary.

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15 Responses to “Ceiling Fan With Flashing Light Problem”
  1. Karen says:

    Whoever made the suggestion to check for lose light bulb…you are a genius. My fan has been flickering and not worked for months. Today, I checked the light bulb and tada…it works!!! Thank you :)

  2. Louis says:

    I have a Hunter brand ceiling fan and light combo and the lights were pulsing on and off. I eventually figured out that it was the wattage limiting device in the light kit under the fan. The bulbs are of a correct size and I called the Hunter Company and they said that the fan parts that are the watt limiting switch are no longer available, and that I have to buy a whole new fan and light. I wonder if I can buy a limiting switch from some other place?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Louis,
      I’m sure other watt limiting switches are available, however this type of switch must be sized for the specific light fixture in order for it to work properly. If Hunter is suggesting to purchase a new ceiling fan then it would be interesting to know if the new fan would has a watt limiting switch installed.

  3. Peter says:

    Our recently installed Hunter fan works fine if you turn it off and on with the chains. The problem is, if you turn the light off with the switch, when you turn it back on the light flashes on and off. If you turn it off with the chain and then turn it back on, there is no problem. Any ideas as to what may be causing this?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Peter,
      Now that is very interesting, but I am curious if the wall switch is a dimmer switch? That really should not be a problem if a dimmer switch controls only the light fixture. Keep in mind that there some of the ceiling fan light fixtures have a watt limiting switch, so make sure the light bulbs are within the specified watt limitation.

  4. Vinny says:

    I have run across this same problem today, and am truely baffled. I replaced the remote and the receiver checked all wiring, installed new wire ties and replaced bulbs, the fan works perfect but the bulbs are phasing. What else would you recommend?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Vinny,
      Make sure that the light bulbs that are installed in the ceiling fan light fixture are correct as stated in the installation or owners manual. Some ceiling fans now come with a built in device that senses if the bulbs are too large, and if so the device will cause the light fixture to turn ON and OFF. This sensor is basically limiting the amount of watts of the fixture, therefore this is preventing damage to the ceiling fan light fixture.

  5. kevin says:

    I have installed a new ceiling fan with a light fixture and it works very well, no noise, no noticeable vibrations etc. but the bulbs in the light sockets keep coming loose, I assume due to the low vibrations from the fan. Any suggestions?

    Thank you

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Kevin,
      If the light bulbs are working there way loose in the ceiling fan due to vibration then I would make sure the fan blades are balanced and if needed install the balancing weights that should have come with the ceiling fan installation kit. Other things to check to prevent ceiling fan lights from loosening in their sockets: Did rubber vibration gaskets come with the ceiling fan which were to be installed on the fan brackets or the mount to the ceiling electrical box, and if so were they installed. Conversely if these vibration gaskets did not come with this ceiling fan then perhaps you may locate some and install them. Lastly, make sure the light bulbs are firmly and securely installed into the light sockets.

  6. Tim Hotchkiss says:

    I had the same problem so I called the Hunter Ceiling Fan Company. They said it was the limiter and gave me the part number. I called back later that day and ordered the part. The part arrived and when I opened the box to my surprise they shipped the wrong part. They didn’t send the limited switch they send a whole new light kit. The problem is – the light kit wasn’t the correct one for my ceiling fan. I called them back and they are shipping out the correct part, but I have to pay to ship back the incorrect part. Very poor customer service.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Tim,
      Sorry to hear about the problem with Hunter Fan Company but I’m glad t hear they are finally sending the right part to help get your ceiling fan working again. Chalk it up for experience.

  7. Rick says:

    I have Hunter fan and light control switch. Light seems to dimmed itself. I check the connection at the box and it seemed okay. What might be the problem?

  8. Michael says:

    I just got a Hunter Brighton fan (Feb 2011). Installed it and the light bulbs flash every 30 seconds or so when the fan is on.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Michael, this could be an indication that a wire connector is loose for one of the light fixture wires. I would check the wiring for the light kit. Make sure the bulbs are screwed in far enough as well.

  9. Nate Kirkwood says:

    I have a Hunter (2 bulb, 5 blade) ceiling fan (we bought and put it up last year) that is doing basically the same thing. It started a few nights ago, out of the blue. We don’t ever use the fan that much, so our problem wouldn’t be a vibration problem. I’ve already changed out the switch on the wall, so it’s not that. I’ve taken the bulbs out and made sure the little tab at the rear of their outlet is sticking out enough to engage them. I’m running out of things a beginner can do…


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