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Why Is My Light Switch Hot?

a hot light switch

Light switches usually don’t cause any trouble for homeowners, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have issues. If you notice that a light switch in your home is hot to the touch, that usually means too much electricity is running through it. Don’t ignore this issue because it can lead to dangerous consequences like an electrical fire.

There are various possible causes for a hot light switch. But whatever the reason, it’s best to let a licensed electrician deal with it. Even if you have DIY experience, electrical problems aren’t something homeowners should ever attempt to fix on their own.

The Possible Causes for a Hot Light Switch

Before you panic, it’s normal for light switches to get a little warm, particularly dimmer switches. Electricity first goes through the switch to get to the light fixture, explaining the slight temperature increase. But it should never be hot. If it does, these are the likely causes.

The Circuit Is Overloaded

Like wall outlets, light switches have a maximum capacity and will get hot when the power exceeds that limit. The problem is most light switches have a rating of 15 amps, while many circuits use 20 amps. That means switches are prone to overloading and pose a fire risk. To prevent this issue, use high-capacity switches that can handle heavier loads without overheating.

You Have Faulty Wiring

If your light switch is hot, faulty wiring might be to blame. It could be due to improper wire installation, or the wires might have become loose or damaged over time. Bad wiring can generate sparks, causing the light switch to overheat. It can also hamper the flow of electricity and produce excess heat. You’ll need the help of an experienced electrician to sort out the wiring in your home.

The Light Switch Is Failing

Like all appliances and devices in your home, your light switches will eventually fail. Their contacts and other internal components will wear down or even shift, resulting in improper electricity flow. If your light switch is buzzing, hissing or emitting heat, those are signs that it’s on its last legs and requires a replacement soon.

You Are Using a Dimmer Switch

Dimmer switches, a kind of light switch, give users more control over the brightness of a light fixture. They have a semiconductor that functions like a transistor, controlling the amount of electricity that passes through the light. Because of heat and energy buildup, dimmer switches usually feel slightly warmer than regular light switches. If yours is hotter than usual, it might be overloaded or malfunctioning.

Save your DIY skills for other home projects and repairs. For overheating light switches, short circuits and other electrical issues, it’s best to leave it to the professionals. Electricians have the knowledge, experience, and tools to do the job. Schedule regular maintenance with them so they can keep your electrical systems updated.

a buzzing light switch

What To Do if You Hear a Buzzing in the Light Switch

If you have a buzzing light switch at home, don’t ignore it. That annoying sound means something’s wrong with the switch, and it needs your immediate attention.

If it’s powering more than one light bulb, it might be overloaded. It could also be improperly installed or incompatible with your electrical system, too old or needing replacement.

Here’s what to do if you’re dealing with this issue.

Add More Switches

The usual amperage of regular light switches is 15 amps. Meanwhile, dimmer switches have a wattage rating of at least 150 watts. If a switch is taking in power beyond its capacity, you’ll hear it buzz whenever you turn it on. That’s the sound of electricity jumping from one connection to another.

There are two ways to fix this overloading issue. You can have an electrician add more switches to power up the light fixtures in your home. Or you can have them upgrade your home to higher-power switches that can take on more load. Don’t ignore an overloaded switch, which can lead to disastrous consequences.

Fix Wiring Issues

Electricity should flow through a circuit smoothly, but improper wiring can hinder that and cause electrical arcing, which is when electricity jumps from a one connection to another. The current will jump across the air, causing that buzzing sound you hear. Arcing can happen when the wires have no proper insulation and are touching. It can also occur when there’s a gap between the wires.

Contact an electrician to ensure you have proper wiring at home and that no wires are loose or damaged. They might have to tighten screw connectors and wire nuts that have become loose over time. Before they inspect your wires, they will turn off the power to the affected areas.

Replace the Switch

Light switches are sturdy and usually can last a good 20 years. But beyond that, they start becoming ineffective and might produce a buzzing noise. Other signs the switch is at the end of its life are if it overheats or if the light fixtures flicker. If your light switch has served you for decades, it might be time to replace it

Having an electrician replace it will prevent electrical accidents and eliminate the annoying buzzing you’ve been putting up with. It’s helpful to note the ages of your light switches so you know when they’re due for replacement.

Professional electricians will know what to do if you have a buzzing light switch at home. Let them handle the situation because electrical issues can be tricky and potentially dangerous. They’ll perform the necessary repairs and replacements safely and efficiently.

a light switch that isn't working

What To Do When the Light Switch Is Not Working

While light switches can last for what seems like an eternity, yours might surprise you one day and refuse to turn on. You have a couple of options when that happens. The first thing you should do is check the breaker and see if it tripped. Reset it then and see if that fixes the issue.

If there’s nothing wrong with the breaker, turn off the light switch, inspect the light bulb and tighten it in case it’s loose. If that doesn’t work, unscrew the light bulb and see if it lights up on another fixture. If it does, the switch is probably damaged and needs a replacement, or you might have a wiring problem. If you can’t figure out what’s wrong, trust an electrician to get to the bottom of it.

Contact a Licensed Professional for Your Electrical Problems

If you have a light switch at home that’s overheating, buzzing or won’t turn on, contact a licensed electrician. It can be tempting to try and fix things yourself, but electrical issues can be potentially dangerous. A professional will have your light switches working smoothly again in no time.

ABC Can Fix Your Lighting Problems

It can be annoying and expensive to deal with a hot light switch. Instead of dealing with lighting issues, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our pros will diagnose the cause of the problem and then make all needed repairs. We will also give you electrical safety tips to protect your home.

Tom Riggs

Tom Riggs is the Division Manager for Mechanical Services, overseeing sales and operations for HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Appliance Repair and Water Quality for all ABC Austin branches. He joined ABC in 2014. Before ABC, he was an HVAC Service Technician, HVAC Comfort Advisor/Sales and Operations Manager. Tom attended Universal Technical Institute. He's an avid outdoorsman and enjoys country living with his wife and two sons.

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