Most homeowners focus on outlets and appliances when worrying about the condition of their home's wiring and forget the humble light switch. However, since these switches are used so often in the course of a single day, they often fail long before other parts of the home's electrical system show signs of age. Watch out for these four common indicators that you need new light switches installed.
The switch itself should only move smoothly up and down. If you notice that you can easily bend it from side to side, there's a good chance that there's damage to the underside of the switch. A loose and wiggling switch will no longer make proper contact with the electrical points that connect to the wiring. You can't just replace the toggle part itself, but putting in a new light switch is an inexpensive and quick fix for a professional electrical repair technician.
Rather than causing the light not to come on at all, most faulty light switches cause a flickering problem instead. This is because the worn contacts on the back of the switch are having trouble keeping a steady flow of electricity moving to the light bulb itself. While wiring issues in the fixture can also lead to flickering, it's likely the switch if any of the other four symptoms are accompanying the light show.
When a damaged toggle or dirty contacts start interfering with the smooth flow of electricity, you'll hear distinctive and unusual noises like
- Popping or clicking as you flip the switch up and down
- A low or high-pitched sizzling noise, like food cooking in a hot pan
- Intermittent crackling while the light switch is in the on position, which stops when you move the switch to off.
All of these noises are caused by electricity arcing between the contacts instead of following a steady flow. Arcing is dangerous because it generates heat and can shock you through the screws on the switch plate, so turn off any light switches making these noises until you can have them repaired.
Finally, don't be afraid to sniff around your switch if you suspect it's going bad. The same arcing that creates the noises listed above also heat up the plastic of the plate, resulting in a noticeable chemical odor. It's best not to wait until you can smell the amount of heat generated by the faulty switch since this means you're at risk for a fire inside the wall.
For more information, contact Skyline Electric, Inc. or a similar company.