Home & Design

Lights Out? 4 Common Light Switch Glitches and Fixes

Did you know that lighting controls, including switches, last for at least ten years? Depending on their type and the care they get, they may even last for 30 years or more!

However, despite their sturdiness, many common light switch problems still occur. These are especially prevalent in switches that see a lot of use or, in some cases, misuse.

Fortunately, not all switch-related woes immediately require replacement. Depending on the issue, you can try troubleshooting and fixing it yourself.

This guide discusses such problems and what you can do to address them, so read on. 

1. Delay in the Light Turning On

Fun fact: Electricity travels at about 167,770 miles per second (about 90% of the speed of light).

That’s why when you flick on a working light switch, the light bulb connected to it should turn on instantly. If it doesn’t, or you have to toggle it several times before the bulb lights up, it may have a loose connection. 

Loose Connections Explained

To understand this issue better, it’s best to have a basic knowledge of how light switches work.

A light switch has electrical contacts that control the flow of current. Contacts are small electrically conductive materials usually made of metal.

When two contacts touch each other, they allow current to flow. In a light switch, this is the ON position responsible for powering the bulb. In the OFF position, the contacts don’t touch, so the bulb doesn’t turn on.

Over time, electrical contacts can wear out or loosen. This can then disrupt their connection to each other. As a result, they may need more time (or effort from you) before they can touch each other to turn the bulb on. 

The Fix

If your bad light switch with faulty contacts is over a decade old, it may be time to replace it.

Replacing a light switch involves tinkering with electrical wires, though. So unless you’re handy or comfortable with such work, it’s best to call an electrician. 

2. Light Switch Isn’t Working at All

If your light switch doesn’t work, no matter how many times you flick it, it may have broken contacts or loose wires. However, it may also be due to a burnt-out bulb.

How long it takes for a bulb to last depends on its type; for example, an incandescent bulb burns out after 1,000 hours. A CFL lamp lasts between 8,000 and 10,000 hours, while an LED can last 30,000 to 50,000 hours.

Troubleshooting a Non-Working Switch

You can troubleshoot this issue by replacing the bulb connected to the switch. You can use a working one you have at home from another fixture.

If the replacement works, the bulb is the problem, so you only have to change it. 

But if the replacement doesn’t work either, it may be the switch or the wirings inside. Call a pro to fix or replace these faulty components. 

3. Broken or Loose Toggle

The toggle switch, or toggle for short, is the part of the switch that you press to turn the lights on or off. This is what separates the electrical contacts or makes them touch.

Over time, all that up-and-down or side-to-side movement can wear out the toggle, break it, or loosen it. Therefore, a light switch not working may be due to a broken or loose toggle.

This problem may also cause another common light-related issue: flickering bulbs. It may also occur due to problems with contacts.

The Fix

Like worn-out contacts, a broken switch may already need replacing, too. But if it’s not even ten years old, you may only have to tighten its screws. To do this, prepare the following:

  • A screwdriver
  • New screws (in case you need to replace damaged ones)
  • A voltage detector

Once you’re ready, turn off your main circuit breaker. This stops the flow of electricity, so it’s for your safety. The last thing you want is to be part of the statistics in which 30,000 non-fatal shock injuries occur in the U.S. yearly.

Next, use your voltage detector to ensure no more current flows in and out of the switch’s socket. Only after you’ve confirmed this should you open the switch plate. Use your screwdriver to open it and tighten all the screws inside (or replace damaged ones).

After that, screw the plate back into place and try pressing the toggle switch. If it’s no longer jiggly, turn on your circuit breaker to see if you’ve resolved the problem. 

4. Warm or Noisy Switch

A warm switch or one that makes a buzzing/humming sound may signal current or wiring issues. A burning smell or actual burn marks on the switch plate may also accompany these sounds.

A current-related problem may be due to an overloaded switch. A loose or damaged wire may result from wear and tear or a shorting or overloaded circuit. 

The Dangers Posed by This Problem

Regardless of the cause, you should never ignore this problem as it can pose hazards. This is especially true if you have multiple light switches not working. It’s a symptom of an electrical short circuit that warrants a professional inspection.

A short circuit can cause electrical shocks or appliance damage if left unresolved. Worse, it can start a deadly building fire. These dangers can happen at any time of the day. 

The Fix

If you notice any of the signs above, wear rubber gloves before turning the switch off. Then, please call a licensed electrician immediately. Avoid touching or using the lighting control until the pro fixes it (and the cause of the problem).

The good news is you can get 24/7 electrical services, according to these electricians in West Chester, PA. Find and contact one near you to get this potential hazard removed from your home.

Don’t Ignore These Common Light Switch Problems

While common light switch problems aren’t always dangerous, some are, such as if they get hot or are noisy. So if you ever experience these issues, please follow our tips or call a local electrician ASAP.

For more informative reads like this, browse our latest home and living guides! 

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