Why Your Light Switch Is Buzzing (And How to Fix It)

Homeowners frequently trace a buzzing sound back to their light switches. This sound can be normal at times, but it can also be a sign of a bigger issue. Continue reading to learn why your light switch is buzzing and how to fix it!

Why Your Light Switch Is Buzzing

First of all, we’d like to highlight an important fact. If your dimmer switches make a faint buzzing or humming sound, this may not be an indication of a serious problem.

You see, dimmer switches operate in a specific way. They primarily rely on changing the cycle or direction of the electrical current to alter the intensity of the light. These variations in electric current can produce insignificant noise along the way.

However, if the buzzing becomes noticeable or is accompanied by a crackling noise and a warm feel to the switch, this could be a sign of a problem.

In any case, if you have a standard switch or a dimming switch and are hearing buzzing sounds, you should look into it.

These noises should never be ignored because they can lead to dangerous complications. One of them is that a fire can easily start if the switch and its wiring overheat as a result of the electrical arcing explained below.

Now, let’s go over the three most common causes of buzzing switches and how to fix them:

High Bulb Wattage

The first thing you should look for is any installed light bulbs with wattages that are higher than recommended. It’s possible that you used one or more high-wattage light bulbs in the light fixture. This overloads the switch, which can cause a buzzing sound.

In this case, you can reduce the number of bulbs assigned to the switch or replace them with light bulbs that are compatible with the light fixture’s wattage.

You might be wondering how to determine the maximum wattage of a light fixture. That’s simple; there are three places where you can find this piece of information:

  • On the packaging of the light fixture
  • In the light fixture’s light bulb socket
  • In the user manual

If you threw away the packaging for the light bulbs and are unsure of their wattages, don’t worry. The wattage rating of all light bulbs is either printed on the bulb or the bulb’s metal base.

Switch and Light Bulb Incompatibility

The next thing to investigate is the type of light bulb and its compatibility with the switch you have. The thing is, most old switches were designed to work with incandescent, or traditional, lighting.

When you install other types of lighting, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), worrying signs may start to appear. After all, unlike LEDs and CFLs, incandescent lighting requires a higher amount of energy to function properly.

As a result, if you have an old switch operating newer types of lighting, you may notice a buzzing sound. The light may also begin to flicker, and you may notice that the light bulb itself is overheated.

In this context, there are two solutions to overcome this issue. The first option you have is to install light bulbs that are compatible with your existing switch. The second option is to upgrade your current switches so that they can work with newer lighting technologies.

Electrical Arcing

Simply put, electrical arcs are caused by electrical current discharging or jumping from one connection to another, rather than flowing smoothly in its designated direction.

Electrical arcing is usually accompanied by a popping sound and, in some cases, visible sparks. It can also cause the switch to overheat, resulting in the burning or melting of its components and, eventually, a fire.

Let’s take a look at the top three causes of electrical arcs:

Overloading

To begin, you’ll need to see how many light fixtures your switch is currently powering. Electrical arcs can take place if the switch operates more light bulbs than it should. When you turn on a switch that’s overloaded, you’ll most likely hear the popping sound and see the spark mentioned earlier.

There are two approaches to dealing with this problem. The first is to add more than one switch to power the existing light fixtures.

The second approach is to purchase a switch with a higher amperage. The majority of residential homes in the United States have built-in switches rated at 15 amps, so if you want to upgrade, look for ones rated at 20 amps.

Loose Wiring

Loose wire connections in the switch can cause electrical arcs. To see if this is the source of the buzzing, the power from the main service panel needs to be turned off in the area you’re investigating before the switch’s cover plate can be removed.

Then, the screw connectors can be inspected to see if they’re loose. If they are, they need to be tightened which often causes the noise to disappear.

Wear and Tear

The last possible reason for electrical arcing is that your light switch may be worn out. When a switch’s internal components and wiring experience normal wear and tear, the overall performance of the switch can suffer.

The good news is that you won’t have to replace a worn-out switch regularly. Switches have a long lifespan that can last up to 20 years or more if they’re not damaged or misused.

That said, once their parts begin to deteriorate, there’s no turning back; the switch must be replaced with a new one.