Electrical Wiring in the Home/Light switch

Advertisement


Question
Hello. My hallway light us controlled by two separate switches, one of which has recently started buzzing a bit when turned on. Occasionally the lights will flicker as well. I did a little research and realized this could be indicative of arcing and discontinued use of this switch. The other switch that controls the light operates fine. I hear no noise when the light is on and the light does not flicker. Is it safe to continue to use the functioning switch until I can get the faulty switch repaired or will doing so still allow current to pass through the bad switch.

Also, it is not practical for me to turn off the circuit breaker that controls the switch because it also controls several other vital outlets. If operating the light from either switch creates a hazard, will simply leaving the light off minimize the fire risk until I can get the switch replaced?

Thank you.

Answer
Fair question. Good thinking.
Yes and no... sorry about that, I couldn't resist!

You have a three-way switch so that the power to the light always goes through both switches [trust me on this-read more about three way switch installations].
The reason the one switch buzzes in one position is because the contact inside the switch IN THAT POSITION is not making a solid connection, so that you get arcing across the contacts inside the one switch IN THAT POSITION...so if you leave THAT ONE SWITCH in the position that doesn't cause the buzzing [internal arcing at contacts], because the other position is ok, and operate the one switch that doesn't have a problem, you will not have a failure at either switch and can get the bad one replaced [no big deal] at your convenience.

Any failure of the switch resembling arcing/fire due to the loose contact is supposed to be contained by the box [that is why it is required that devices and splices be installed in boxes!- slick, huh? One hundred-plus year-old electrical code, updated every three years. If they don't think of it ahead of time, they catch the mistakes quickly!] Switches fail in this manner all the time, and it will destroy the switch [which wasn't working right anyway...], sometimes damaging a comparatively microscopic bit of the wiring. General conflagrations from this type of failure are beyond uncommon, especially if your general wiring is properly installed.

But, better safe than sorry, I always say....
Good catch
About Electrical Wiring in the Home
This site answers questions related to home electrical wiring, home wiring, general electrical help,and other electrical questions related to aleternating current (AC). You can find help on the National Electical Code, home electrical issues, wiring electrical outlets, installing lighting, electrical grounding, and general electrical help for do-it-yourself projects not require an electrician. If you do not see your home electrical wiring question answered in this area then please ask your electrical wiring question here

Electrical Wiring in the Home

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Robert Wilber

Expertise

Licensed Philadelphia electrician serving Delaware, Chester, Montgomery and Philadelphia County in Pennsylvania. I install and repair residential, commercial and industrial wiring and lighting. Troubleshooting and repair of problems that stump other people is my favorite. I am willing to help people figure out why things don`t work. I understand motor controls, transformers and machine wiring. I do not teach basics to novices or do free design work.

Experience

Experience in the area I have 44 years experience in residential, commercial and industrial electrical construction and repair, 480 volts and below. This is not to be confused with one week repeated two thousand times.

Education/Credentials
44 years experience in residential, commercial and industrial electrical construction and repair

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.