Have you noticed that a light switch in your home just isn’t working right? If you think that one or more of your wall switches are in need of repairs, you may be able to do the fix yourself! If you have a screwdriver, voltage tested, insulated pliers, and a wire connector, you can likely troubleshoot your light switch problem and maybe even replace the switch yourself. Replacing a light switch takes very little time as long as you do it properly and safely.
While this may sound great, remember that you should always be very careful when working with light switches and electrical systems as they can be very dangerous. Read on to find out when it is okay to DIY your repair, and when it might be time to call in a professional.
Types of Switches
First, let’s go over the basic types of switches that may be controlling light fixtures and electrical outlets in your home:
- Single pole switch: these switches control light fixtures or outlets from a single location.
- Three-way switch: these systems control lights or outlets from two locations (ie. two switches for one fixture or outlet).
- Four-way switch: Some larger homes may have four-way switches that can be used to control lights and outlets from three or more locations.
When a switch stops working or you notice a difference in the way it looks or sounds, it’s time to do some troubleshooting and repairs as soon as possible.
Troubleshooting a Faulty Light Switch
Before doing any work on a wall switch, turn off the power supply at the electrical panel. You can also use a circuit tracer to identify the circuit breaker or fuse that needs to be switched off.
First, you will want to determine if it is the light switch or the wiring that is the problem. If the switch is faulty, it is always best to replace it entirely. If your switch isn’t working at all, there may be a lack of power to the circuit. Make sure that the breaker to the switch looks normal - if everything there is in order you may have a bad switch or wiring issue at the connection itself.
Once you are sure that the breaker and electricity is off, you can remove the cover plate and unscrew the switch. Use your insulated pliers to pull the switch out and take a closer look. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Use your voltage tester to check if the terminals are receiving power before handling the switch.
- If you notice that the black wires coming from the switch are loose, tighten down the terminal screws to tightly secure them.
- If you notice any melted plastic in or around the switch, it must be replaced.
- If the black wires are tightly secured and you want to check if you have a bad switch, disconnect both wires from the switch and twist them together using your pliers. Screw on your wire connecter, switch on the breaker and check to see if your light or device powers on. If it does, your switch likely needs replacing.
- Call an electrician if your troubleshooting reveals that there may be an issue elsewhere in the circuit.
Here are some of the most commonly experienced problems with electrical wall switches:
- Light fixture or appliance does not work: If you are trying to figure out why a light, appliance, or other device does not work when you turn on the switch, it could be either a problem with the wall switch or the device itself. Check for burnt out bulbs and ruined wires on the outside of the appliance or light, and if you cannot find anything it may be that your device is faulty.
- Flickering light fixture: Do you notice a light bulb in your home flickering at random times? This is an annoying problem that may have multiple sources. The simplest solution is to try tightening the bulb, but if that doesn’t work then you may be in need of a professional opinion.
- Switch feels warm: Place your hand near your switch or outlet - does it feel overly warm or hot to the touch? This is a very serious issue that requires immediate attention by you or an electrician. It is okay if switches (particularly dimmer switches) feel a little warm, but they should not be overly hot.
- Tripped circuit breaker or blown fuse: When you turn on a switch, do you hear a popping nose? This is likely your circuit breaker tripping or fuse blowing. If this keeps happening, the issue could be a loose wire, short circuit, or a whole variety of other problems. Short circuits happen when the hot (black) wire touches another hot wire or a white neutral wire. If you can’t identify the source of the continued issue, call in a licensed electrician to take a look.
- Switch buzzes while in use: If you can hear a slight buzzing white your switch is in use ,it may be due to a loose screw in the switch or an overloaded switch. Note that this does not apply to dimmers while they are set to the lowest light setting.
Our final tip is the most important of all: If at any point you are unsure of the work you are doing, always call in a professional electrician for a second opinion. If you aren’t comfortable working with electrical fixtures, switches, and outlets, speak to a local electrician. Electrical systems can be dangerous if not handled properly, so don’t hesitate to call Onda for help! If you need a second opinion on your electrical wall switch repair, contact us today.
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