After even just a few years in the electrical business, you very quickly learn that the more things change, the more they stay the same. For example, every year when the seasons change, the number one service request we get… doesn’t. And as winter turns to spring, that annual problem is always the dreaded flickering garage light. Yes it happens to the best of us, especially in Chicagoland, but here at Arnold Electrical Services we know the source — and the solution — for your issue.
Why Is My Garage Flickering?
There’s normally an easy answer to why a light flickers, and it almost always comes down to the connection. If a light isn’t glowing steadily, it almost always means that your connection isn’t steady either. This can happen at one of three points: at the connection on either end of a wire or somewhere along the wire itself. And when it comes to garages, the problem is most likely right in the middle — and at Arnold Electric we’ve seen (and fixed) ‘em all! But the first key to solving any problem is knowing where to look.
Today, most garages turn off of a single 15 or 20 amp circuit with one line for lights, the opener and a couple convenience outlets. It’s rare to see these days, but there are still a lot of homes across Chicagoland that feed power to those circuits through overhead hanging wires. It’s not the prettiest way to do it, but it’s a faster solution that saved someone a few hours of work more than a few years ago. But while those wires are out of the way of any foot traffic, they’re in prime real estate to be disrupted by falling branches and debris from the inevitable midwestern storms we see every spring. Our experts can indeed repair any damaged wires above your head, but the ideal solution for keeping those garage lights from flickering is to head underground.
Most single-home garages in the Chicagoland area keep their wires out of the way by burying them underground. Adapting an overhead wiring system to one that goes underfoot is a relatively quick job, but even a superior solution can still run into problems like those pesky flickering garage lights.
When lights that were run underground flicker, the problem at hand is actually very simple and comes down to how the wire was installed initially. The fastest, easiest way to run a line of wire underground is to, well, bury it underground. It’s quick to do, but the drawback is that it leaves the wire’s coating directly exposed to the elements — and as anyone who’s lived through a Chicagoland winter knows, we have a LOT of elements. Every freeze and thaw can break down the wire coating, and when it eventually does break… that’s when the flickering starts.
So again, while we could simply repair the existing underground wire, the best solution we can offer is to lay a protective conduit that protects your wire from ever touching the ground, giving it some much needed protection from the cold. While it is a more labor intensive solution than simply burying the wire, in almost all cases it can still be done in a single day — and will add years before you need any major repairs again. But if you are adding an underground conduit, it might be time to consider an upgrade…
When laying an underground conduit, you COULD get power back to your garage by replacing the wire leading to your existing 15 or 20 amp circuit — but when you’re already digging, it’s a great opportunity to add a little power with a 50-60 watt amp circuit. Why would you need more power if you only have a door and overhead lights to power, you may ask? Well you’re just not thinking big enough! With that extra power to your garage, you could open a whole new range of home upgrade possibilities. Maybe an extra fridge for cold ones in the garage… an electric outdoor range for summer grilling in the back yard… how about a hot tub… or maybe even an indoor EV charging station so you can invest in a fully electric vehicle! The possibilities are endless, and out experts are more than happy to consult on any home upgrades you may have in mind.
While an underground conduit is a great way to prevent those garage lights from flickering, nothing is ever 100% guaranteed to never have any issues at all, so the best solution is to keep your garage — and your entire home — up to date with regular annual maintenance. A quick visit every spring can help us identify problems earlier AND help you fix them before they (or their costs) get out of hand. And if you sign up for the Arnold Electrical Good Neighbor Club for a one-time fee of only $99, you’ll get regular seasonal maintenance like bulb replacement free of charge for as long as you’re an Arnold Electrical customer. Until next time, Chicagoland!