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Electrical Wiring in the Home/Clicking Noise Riddle -- Outlet, Fluorescent Fixture???

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Bob:

Later one night about 2 weeks ago, I began to hear a clicking noise in my kitchen. I was able to isolate it to an area near a counter that has an outlet, and switches for the garbage disposal and an under cabinet fluorescent light (all controlled by different breakers).  It sounded like it was coming from behind the wall.  The click was loud and random and initially did not appear to be related to whether the light was on or off.  I ended up turned off the breaker for the outlet and disposal and the click stopped.  I think the light had probably been turned off too, but the breaker remained on.

Since the clicking did not return after several days of the breakers being off, I turned on the disposal breaker and waited a few days and the clicking did not return so we concluded that the outlet may have been bad, so we switched it out to a GFCI (which was not originally installed with our remodel five years ago, but probably should have because it is only about 3 ft from the kitchen seat).

The new outlet has been installed for about a week now and, again late at night, the clicking returned at random intervals.  I first turned off the breaker to the GFCI and the clicking continued.  Then I turned off the breaker to the disposal and the clicking continued.  I started to wonder if it was coming from the under cabinet light (which is mounted right above the outlet/switch box), so I turned off the breaker that controls that circuit.  There were a couple more clicks, but it eventually ceased.

1.  Does it seem reasonable to assume it is the fluorescent under cabinet light that is clicking?  Would it continue to click a couple more times after the power was cut?  

2.  Given that the problem seemed to be solved initially by replacing the outlet, but then returned again late at night, could the problem only be occurring when the light has been on for a very long time period?

3.  If the problem is with the light fixture, is it safe to turn it off at the fixture (there is an on/off switch) and reset the breaker so that I can power up all the other outlets and switches that it controls?

4.  If the problem is the light fixture, does it make sense to repair/replace or switch over to an LED system?  These were not widely available when my remodel was done or were prohibitively expensive.  There are two hard-wired lights on the switch and I'm not sure if this would be a DIY project or we would need to hire an electrician.

Thanks for any input!!

Answer
Elizabeth,

You've pretty much narrowed it down to the under cabinet light. Yes leave the rocker switch off and turn everything else back on. If you don't hear it any more you most likely found your problem. Some flourescent fixture's utilize a "starter" which can make a clicking noise or possibly the "ballast" in the fixture is doing it some how though in my over 40 + years of doing this I've never heard one make a clicking noise.

Anyway as far as replacing that unit with LED, unless your ready and want to change the rest of them I would either fix that one or get a new one so they all match. It will be easier to replace it with whats there or something very similar due to how its wired from the back of the fixture which helps hide the cable and connector.

Bob
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PASCACK VALLEY ELECTRIC Bob Mossman

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Licensed Master Electrician (32 years) 6165B Contractor in Closter New Jersey with 40 years total experience in Residential - Commercial - Industrial work. Emergency Service - General trouble shooting and repair work - ONAN & GENERAC generator installation - Paddle fans - Kitchen & Bath exhaust fans - AC lines - Smoke detectors - Telephone lines - Cable TV lines - Computer network cabling - Exterior lighting - Recessed lighting - Security lighting - (200 - 150 - 100 amp service up grades) - Electric Heat - New circuits - New appliance hook ups - and more ! FREE ESTIMATES 201-358-1552 Fully Insured

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Licensed contractor in Closter New Jersey.

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"The Frank Williams School of Electrical Construction". My dear old boss is 100 ! and still going God Bless him. I started working for "Tenafly Electric" right out of high school at 19. He was tough but I learned more working for him in 8 and half years than most guys. We did mostly industrial work while doing some commercial and residential so I was fortunate to be exposed to all 3 areas of electrical construction. The guys I worked with were all good guys and I stay in touch with some of them still. Most of us went into our own buisness's which says something about the caliber of the guys I worked with. We had some interesting clients : Wella Corp. of shampoo fame, Farah Fawcett etc, I didn't buy shampoo for 10 years. It was a great place to work. Pan Am the former airline just before they went under, another great place to work, nice clean environment. C&C Metals, the largest button manufacturer in the US at that time, a not so clean environment but a very interesting place to work, lots of machine's cranking out buttons of all kinds but you had to be on your toes, it was a potentially dangerous place to be . All kinds of action going on around you.

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