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Circuit Doctors Blog

My Light Switch Is Crackling When I Turn It On, Is That A Problem?

The only time you use the words snap, crackle, or pop should be when describing the charm and sound of a roaring campfire. If you find that onomatopoeias, words that resemble or suggest a sound, are creeping into your vocabulary to describe your electrical switches, then you have a reason to be very concerned. And at the very least, you need to call in a licensed electrician to evaluate the switch and your home’s entire electrical system to ensure your safety.

How A Light Switch Works

Electricity is constantly flowing through the wiring in your home. It only stops when it comes to a switch that is in the off position. The switch has two terminals that allow electricity to pass through when it is in the on position. But it stops the flow of electricity when the switch is in the off or open position. When you turn off a light, you are just creating an opening that stops the flow of electricity to the light. To turn the light back on, you flip the switch to complete the circuit and allow the electricity to flow to the light.

Why Does My Switch Crackle When Turned On?

When electricity flows, it creates heat. But that heat is contained safely by the insulation on the electrical wiring in your home. If electricity somehow escapes the wiring and insulation, it begins to build up heat and creates the potential for a severe electrical fire. As the electricity increases, it starts to arc and attempts to jump the gaps.

Light switches get much use in most households. And over time, the inside of the switch begins to wear out. At this point, the switch is not making solid contact with both terminals when it is in the on position. That can result in the power flowing intermittently and lights flickering. It can also be the reason that you hear crackling, popping, or hissing sounds as the electric current arc inside the switch. And what the sound is telling you is that it is time to replace the switch before there is serious damage to your home or you suffer a severe electrical shock.

Can I Fix The Switch Myself?

Determining if you are capable of replacing an electrical switch will depend on your level of comfort with DIY projects, hand tools, and following directions. The process is not complicated, but it is imperative that you follow the steps carefully and to the letter. If you are not willing to do that, then a call to a licensed electrician is the best and safest solution to a crackling light switch.

  1. Before doing any type of electrical work, always turn off the power to the circuit at the breaker box.
  2. Use a screwdriver to remove the switch plate.
  3. Carefully remove the screws attaching the switch to the wall. Gently pull the switch out of the box to inspect the wiring.
  4. Free the wires by loosening the screws.
  5. The “hot” wire, black or red, attaches to the brass screw or enters the hole on the same side as the brass screw.
  6. The neutral wire, white, attaches to the silver screw or enters the corresponding hole.
  7. The ground wire, green or bare copper, may be attached to the switch’s green terminal screw. It may be connected directly to a screw on the electrical box.
  8. Pay attention to the on/off labels on the new switch to ensure proper orientation. Attach the hot wire to the new switch.
  9. Follow the previous step to attach the neutral wire to the new switch. If the ground wire is not connected to the electrical box, connect it to the green screw in the switch.
  10. Once the wiring is complete, place the switch back into the electrical box and replace screws to secure the box to the wall.
  11. Restore power to the circuit to test the switch. If it is working correctly, re-attach the switch plate.

If this process sounds too complicated or risky, just call (703) 463-9866. A Circuit Doctor pro will arrive promptly and provide a cost-effective and safe solution to your crackling light switch.

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