The Red Light Is Blinking on a Power Strip

By John Papiewski

A power strip's indicator lamp flickers after a few years of use.
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The ubiquitous power strips used in every type of home or office have a tendency to flicker caused by the slow deterioration of the indicator light. You see this condition only in power strips with neon lamps, not those with LED indicators. Because the light is faint, you notice it most easily in a darkened room. The blinking is confined to the light itself; it doesn't affect the strip or the AC power available at the sockets.

Indicator Lamp

Most power strips have a power switch that contains a red indicator lamp; by looking at the lamp, you can easily tell if the strip is on or not. The lamp glows only when the strip is connected to a live outlet and the power switch is on. Power strip manufacturers use neon lamps because they're inexpensive, relatively durable and run directly off the 120-volt AC found in commercial electric power. Neon bulbs run cool and consume very little electricity -- typically a fraction of a watt. Neon itself glows with an orange color; a tinted plastic cover may give the lamp a red appearance.

Aging Neon Bulb

After a working life span of several years, neon indicator lights slowly degrade. When new they have a steady glow, but in time they begin to flicker erratically. The amount of light the lamp produces gradually decreases until it goes completely dark. Although it can be annoying to lose the power indication, in this condition the bulb consumes no power and is completely safe.


The neon light in a power strip is usually molded inside the switch. Although you can purchase new neon bulbs, replacing a burned-out part can be difficult. In most cases, you have two choices: Live with a power strip that doesn't glow or replace it with a new model.