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Light switches are so common in our homes and they last so long that it becomes easy to forget about maintenance. But you may have heard a sound from your switch or have a flickering light in the house that you can’t seem to fix. So you begin wondering if it’s gone bad. Below we’ll show you the signs of a bad light switch and how to tell if your light switch has gone bad. 

Light switches might be bad if there’s a sound when you flick the lights on. For example a snap, pop, or other sound. 

What Makes A Light Switch Go Bad? 

Like any other thing in the world, they break down over time. Every light switch, at some point, will go bad. But they’re a simple device that doesn’t have a lot of moving parts so they’re built to last and don’t break down often. In fact, they typically last so long that we often think it’s the light instead of the actual switch. 

Signs It’s Time To Replace Your Switch

  1. Your lights don’t turn on, take a minute to turn on, or flicker, and putting a new bulb in doesn’t fix it. It’s common that some bulbs, like the incandescent tube lights, take a minute to turn on. We’ve all been there with those. But normal light bulbs should turn on instantly. If it takes a minute or the bulb flickers, try replacing the bulb. If the problem is still there, there’s a good chance you need a new switch. 
  2. The switch makes noise. The only sound you should hear is the one that the switch makes when you flick it. If you hear any buzzing, clicking, or any other out of the ordinary sounds that originate inside of the switch, you might need to replace it. 
  3. Sparks. If it sparks when you flip the switch, then you need to replace the switch. Now, there is a natural spark that can happen within the switch but you won’t notice it unless you turn the lights off and look into the switch. That being said, if you can see a spark, or it pops or smokes, you need to replace the switch.  
  4. It’s warm to the touch. Dimmer switches get warm and that’s totally natural. However, a standard light switch shouldn’t be warm to the touch. If it is, it’s time to replace the switch. 

Testing Your Switch

electrician holding a multimeter

It’s strongly recommended that you don’t do anything electrical unless you really know what you’re doing. You need to know how to turn your power off at the circuit breaker, how to unwire/rewire the switch, and how to test the switch to ensure the power is in fact turned off before doing anything with it. If you don’t know how to do these things and you live in Richmond, VA, call us. If you don’t live in Richmond, call your local licensed electrician. 

Assuming you know what you’re doing, here are the steps: 

  1. Get a multimeter and set it to continuity or ohms reading. 
  2. Make sure your power is turned off at the circuit breaker. 
  3. Test to ensure the power is turned off with your multimeter. 
  4. Remove the light switch cover and take note of the wire colors attached to each terminal before unscrewing. 
  5. To test, make sure the switch is in the off position and touch each of the multimeters leads to one terminal. With a single pole light switch, you’ll see both terminals on the one side. You may also notice a green ground wire. 
  6. Once the leads are touching the terminals, flick the switch to the on position. You should get a reading of 1 or close to it. If you don’t, the switch has gone bad and needs to be replaced. 

When To Call A Professional

If you’re not familiar with a multimeter, don’t know how to turn off and test your electricity, or you’re simply not comfortable, call a professional. An electrician can replace your light switch very affordably and it only takes them a few minutes. And if you live near us and need a Richmond electrical company, give us a call for help with your light switch and any other electrical needs.