My Light Switch Sizzles. Do I Need an Electrician?

“My light switch sizzles. Do I need an electrician?” This question shocked us one day. (Though not literally.)

It seems this caller noticed one particular light switch in his stairwell that gave a little “sizzle” or “pop” sound sometimes. “Not every time,” he assured us. “Just every once in a while. It’s probably alright, don’t you think?”

This is a common question, or a version of a question we get a lot.

The underlying assumption is that so far, everything has worked out okay, so we can probably just keep doing things the same way, right?

Nope.

Arcing is a problem every time

Every time you hear a pop or a sizzle or see a light flash from inside a switch, you have witnessed a problem, or a potential catastrophe.

Those flashes are “arcs” of electricity, leaving where they are intended to go in order to get somewhere else more attractive.

Remember that electricity wants nothing more in the world than to get to the ground. It wants to take the shortest and fastest route there, every time.

When it escapes from a switch in the form of light or sound, for a moment that switch was NOT the most efficient path for the electricity.

The problem is that the electricity is incredibly hot, over 10,000 degrees fahrenheit. It is capable of starting a fire. Constant arcing into places not designed to handle electricity increases the chance that your building will catch on fire.

Not to mention that arcing means that the appliances that depend on that switch might get more or less power than they need, which shortens their life span and costs you money.

Get the sizzle fixed

So the short answer is “Yes. Get the sizzle fixed.”

This is often a relatively simple repair, needing the homeowner or electrician to turn off power to that area of the house and replace the offending switch, or perhaps to adjust the wiring inside to eliminate the arc.

A moderately confident homeowner could do this repair in an hour, including the trip to buy the replacement hardware at the store.

Most homeowners will want to pay to have an electrician do the work.

Price Electric offers free estimates, and can examine other hot spots in your house so that you are confident that your whole system is working efficiently.

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