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Why is My Light Switch Hot?


flickering

If one or more of the light switches in your home are warm or hot to the touch, it's usually a sign there's too much electrical power running through it. There are several reasons why this happens.

When a Light Switch Feels Warm

One of the most common electrical questions we get asked is if it's normal for a light switch to feel warm.

It's perfectly normal for light switches, particularly dimmers, to feel a little warm when the lights are on. The warmth you feel comes from an electrical component called the triac (triode for alternating current) which varies the amount of electricity that passes through to the light fixture. If the dimmer switch is dedicated to a single bulb, or a load of 100 watts or so, you might feel a little heat. Once the load gets above 300 watts, though, it's not unusual for the heat to be more noticeable.

When a Light Switch is Hot

If a light switch is too hot to touch, it's likely a more serious problem. The top three reasons this happens are:

  • The switch is overloaded. Just like wall outlets, light switches are limited in how much power they can handle. Different switches are rated for different power levels and if the switch is overloaded there's a serious risk of fire. The switch should be replaced with one that's designed to handle the amps a fixture requires.
  • The switch is failing. Light switches wear out and when this happens small sparks on the electrical contacts are emitted when the light is turned on or off. Over time, the contacts don't meet properly and electricity flows more freely, creating heat. This, too, is a fire hazard.
  • Faulty or improper wire installation. Even if the wiring was professionally installed, it can become loose or broken due to age. These bad connections can then cause the wiring to spark and generate heat. They can also bottleneck the current flow, which also gives off heat. Faulty wiring should always be replaced by an experienced, licensed electrician.

When to Call For Help

There are electrical problems you can usually fix yourself but, as electrical work can be dangerous, it's almost always recommended to call in a professional. Along with a hot light switch, it's a good idea to call in the pros if:

  • The lights dim when using a major appliance or when the HVAC unit goes on.
  • One socket of an electrical outlet's not working.
  • A light switch doesn't solidly connect in the on or off position.
  • You have an old "fuse" system in your home.

A qualified electrician will also check to make sure your home's electrical panel is able to safely handle powering everything in your home.

Hot light switches in your Jacksonville home can usually be easily and quickly fixed, but you should never ignore the problem as it could indicate a bigger electrical issue. To learn more or to schedule a home electrical inspection, contact one of the qualified and skilled electricians at David Gray Electrical Services today. You can also call us at (904) 724-7211.

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