Some light switches in a home get used dozens of times a day, and their state can tell you a lot about the health of the overall electrical system. Be on the lookout for the following symptoms and address them immediately.
If any of these symptoms sounds familiar for any of the lighting control points in your home, have the electrical system inspected by a qualified electrician as soon as possible:
• The home is more than 40 years old and has aluminum wiring but has not recently undergone a safety inspection by an electrician.
• A wall plate is hot to the touch.
• There is discoloration on or around a switch plate.
• You hear crackling, popping or buzzing from an outlet or switch.
• Lights dim and/or flicker without cause.
• Breakers trip or fuses blow often when a switch is turned on.
• You detect an odor—especially of chemicals or burning—when a switch is used.
• A switch leans to one side or feels loose when operating.
• You often experience a shock when operating a switch.
• Lights get dimmer or brighter when other appliances switch on or off.
Cracked, broken or missing cover plates should be replaced immediately to prevent accidental contact with wiring.
All switches and lighting equipment should bear the mark of a nationally recognized safety testing laboratory such as UL, Intertek or CSA.
There are numerous ways to update your light switches and make them safer. Upgraded features also can be used to achieve different effects. Dimmers set lighting at desired levels and can extend the life of lightbulbs. Timers provide added security and improve safety. Motion sensors enhance security, add convenience and can save energy. Remote controls and smart panels offer flexibility and control over your lighting, sometimes remotely via smartphone.
If you want to switch up your lighting controls or improve their safety, contact a qualified electrician.