Most Common Light Switch Problems

Common Light Switch Problems

A malfunctioning light switch may not seem like a big deal. However, it can be a sign of other electrical issues in your home, like a wiring problem. Underlying issues or a defective switch can contribute to additional electrical damage or worse. According to FEMA, half of all home electrical fires in the US involve home wiring or lighting equipment. Here are some of the most common light switch problems and answers to frequently asked questions to help you realize when to call a professional electrician.

1. The light doesn’t turn on right away

If there’s a delay between when you flip the switch and when the light turns on or off, parts inside the switch are wearing out. The electrical contacts may not be making the connections they’re supposed to. Even if the issue occurs sporadically, a loose connection or short circuit may be to blame.

2. Mechanical problems

Light switch issues are often caused by a broken mechanism. If there are any mechanical issues, the switch will likely need replacing. Signs of mechanical failure include:

  • The light doesn’t turn on: Regardless of how many times you flip the switch, the light won’t turn on
  • The toggle is loose: If the toggle wiggles back and forth, excess movement can wear out, fray, or damage the wiring behind the switch
  • The switch sticks: If the switch sticks, the mechanism may be worn out or outdated

3. Flickering lights

A light bulb may flicker at random or when you walk by. There can be various causes. The bulb may need to be tightened, or there may be a loose wire connection. Many people pass off a flickering bulb as no big deal, but the underlying reason may be a significant electrical problem like abnormal voltage fluctuations or inadequate wiring.

4. Tripped circuit breakers

It’s not always easy to tie a tripped breaker or fuse burnout to a problem with a single switch. The issue isn’t always with the breaker or fuse. The light switch might have gone bad. If there isn’t anything wrong with the electrical panel, a malfunctioning switch may need to be replaced. Other times, the fuse or breaker might need to be changed. An electrician has the knowledge and tools to find the source of the problem and make repairs.

5. Sparks

Electricity normally arcs between the contacts as they move apart, so you may see tiny sparks when you turn a light switch off. However, if the spark is large, makes a distinctly audible sound, or is accompanied by smoke, the problem must be addressed immediately. Call for help if there’s a big spark or any type of spark if you’ve never seen one before with the switch in question.

6. Noise

A light switch that buzzes, sizzles, or pops may have loose wire or switch problem, but dimmer switches can also buzz because of the dimmable light bulb design. The dimming effect sometimes causes vibration in a bulb’s filament, so check the bulb first.

7. Heat

While a dimmer switch may feel warm as it dissipates heat, a typical toggle-type switch should always feel cool. A warm switch can mean: 

  • An issue with electrical flow: Damaged wiring can cause electricity to arc or leave the circuit, or something is causing an abnormal current flow. 
  • The switch isn’t rated for the application: If the device isn’t designed to handle as much current as is present, it can be overloaded.
  • A wire connection is loose: Loose wire connections can also cause switches to feel warm. In any case, an overheated switch is a fire hazard and should be replaced.

8. Burning smell

If you turn on a light switch and it smells like it’s burning, the switch mechanism or a connected wire may have gone bad. A burning odor can also indicate a short circuit or other electrical issues. Turn off the power to the switch and contact a professional.

9. Cracked switchplate

Wear and tear can lead to cracks forming on the switchplate, which can stress and damage the switch. Cracks can indicate a more serious mechanical or electrical problem. The quality of the material or installation can impact susceptibility to cracking.

Light Switch Stopped Working

If your light switch has stopped working, the best thing to do is call a local electrician for assistance. There are many reasons for a malfunctioning light switch, and a professional can safely diagnose and solve the issue. 

Common Dimmer Switch Problems

Some of the most common dimmer switch problems happen because the wrong size dimmer switch was installed or you’re using the wrong bulbs. Issues may also come up if something interrupts the electrical current, causing the light to flicker.

 If you want to install a dimmer switch in your home, call Express Electrical. Our qualified electricians will get the job done right the first time. 

Light Switch Won’t Turn On

If your light switch won’t turn on, you may have:

  • damaged or loose wiring
  • a broken or faulty switch mechanism
  • a tripped circuit breaker

If multiple switches aren’t working, it’s most likely a problem with the electrical system, which can be a safety hazard. If your light switches aren’t working, call for help right away. Express Electrical is available 24 hours a day, and we’ll arrive at your home within 60-90 minutes for emergency service if you’re in the Southern California area. 

DIY vs. Professional Assistance

Calling a professional is safer than trying to DIY an electrical project, including light switch replacement. Whether your local municipality requires a permit for such work or not, don’t take a chance. An electrician is familiar with all types of electrical switches, best practices, building codes, and safety standards and will avoid costly mistakes.

Aside from causing an electrical shock or fire, an incorrectly wired light switch may not work at all. The light may flicker, and an improper current flow can damage the switch and the light fixture. There are also nuisance issues, such as if the switch is wired backward. In this case, the light will turn on when the switch is in the “Off” position and off when it’s in the “On” position.

A reputable electrician will check for potential wiring issues when they replace a light switch. They’ll look for frayed or damaged wiring and exposed wires that have lost their protective coating. Cracked insulation is a serious problem that can lead to an electrical fire. For less obvious issues, they may use a voltmeter or multimeter to measure a wire’s performance and determine if it should be replaced. 

If you DIY a light switch installation and accidentally switch the hot and neutral wires in a circuit, the light fixture may seem off but have a live current running through it, which is a serious shock or fire risk.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What could be causing my light switch to flicker?

Flickering lights are a possible symptom of many problems, some of which could lead to an electrical fire or shock. If you’re unsure what’s causing your light switch to flicker, it’s best to call a local electrician. 

How can I fix a light switch that feels loose or wobbly?

A wobbly light switch may have a loose terminal screw, which could be a fire hazard. In most cases, this issue should be evaluated by a professional electrician.

Why is there a delay in my light switch response?

Dirty or loose light switch connections can affect light switch response time. An electrician can ensure all connections are clean and tightened properly. 

What should I do if my light switch makes a buzzing noise?

Buzzing light switches typically aren’t a serious issue, but they can still be a symptom of a dangerous problem. If your light switch is buzzing, call an electrician to be safe. The fully licensed electricians at Express Electrical can repair any electrical outlet or switch in your home. 

How do I troubleshoot a light switch that sparks when turned on/off?

A sparking switch may not indicate a problem, but if it’s a new issue or has worsened over time, you may need to replace it. If you’re unsure if there’s a problem, call Express Electrical and have one of our electricians check it out for you. Depending on where you’re located, our LA County electricians can be at your home within the hour.

Why is my dimmer switch not adjusting the light properly?

You may have the wrong type of bulb, or the switch may not have the correct wattage attached. If you’re unsure how to fix your dimmer switch, call a professional for help.

Call Express Electrical For Electrical Repair in SoCal

As a premier electrical services company in Los Angeles, we’re familiar with all possible light switch issues. Our licensed, trained, and certified electricians provide a comprehensive range of electrical services, including professional light switch repair and replacement. We’re available 24/7 for emergencies. However, our team is also experienced in lighting design and automation. For light switch help from a qualified electrician in the Los Angeles area and other parts of Southern CA, contact us at (855) 590-8785 or request service using our online portal.