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Warning Signs of Defective Switches

Know What to Look and Listen For

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Switches

Switches

Photo: Timothy Thiele

Lighting is used everyday in your home and switches are used to turn the lights on and off. If you've ever noticed that when you flip the switch on or off and there's a snap, crackle, or pop, then it's pretty clear that your switch is defective and it's time to replace it. In fact, switches will sizzle like a fine T-bone steak when the contact get really worn.

If you hear the sizzling sound, chances are the contacts are arcing and the switch is heating up. Not good! Get it shut off A.S.A.P. and shut of the circuit. You'll actually be able to smell the plastic burning as the contacts get hot enough to melt the plastic switch parts. I know, it doesn't smell like burnt steak, but close.

You will also notice the lights flickering if the contacts are weak or burnt. This is accompanied by the sizzling sound also. You may also notice that the switch handle is loose and may wiggle towards one side or the other. This may indicate a cracked or broken switch. Yet again, a crackling or sizzling sound can also be as simple as a loose wire connection to the screw terminal of the switch. This connection could be taken loose, cleaned, and reinstalled.

The point is, these are all very specific warning signs that a switch is getting bad and is likely defective. There is a need to change them right away when these warning signs rear their ugly heads. And I know what you're going to say, "I'll get to it tomorrow." The only problem is that tonight might be the night it gets hot enough to start an electrical fire and burn down your home. So if you identify the problem, fix the problem. At least, if you don't want to tackle it yourself and you want to call in a professional, turn off the power to the circuit. That way, you and I both can get a good night's sleep.

Photo: Timothy Thiele

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