Hot Switch Box

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  #1  
Old 07-27-05, 09:26 AM
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Hot Switch Box

Hi all, first time visitor here! I have a question - and even searched a few times but couldnt find it:

- Getting our basement finished by a contractor who I trust. Bugt I noticed something last night that raised a red flag: one of the electrical boxes he wired for a light switch seems to get hot to the touch after only a few mins.

Now, I'm a novice but I think this is bad? The other thing is that, I'm sure eventually he is going to install a dimmer switch in its place and I know dimmer boxes do get hot. Right now its just an On/Off switch.

Is this ok or should I be alarmed?
 
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  #2  
Old 07-27-05, 09:35 AM
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one of the electrical boxes he wired for a light switch seems to get hot to the touch after only a few mins
I'm not quite sure what this means. Is the box getting hot or the switch, or both? Is the box metal or plastic? A few minutes after what? How hot?

For an ordinary switch, there is nothing in there that should be generating any heat at all.
 
  #3  
Old 07-27-05, 09:40 AM
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Sorry, here's some more detail:

Q: Is the box getting hot or the switch, or both?

A: the "fixture" itself is getting hot. The part that houses the plastic switch, not the plastic box that houses the electric wirring for the switch.


Q: Is the box metal or plastic?

A: the fixture is defintiely metal.

Q: A few minutes after what? How hot?

A: a few minutes after I turn on the light. the metal part of the switch is cool, then I turn it on, and a few mins later the metal part is hot. not enough to burn the skin, but hot enough to make me worried.


I'll see if I can get a pic.
 
  #4  
Old 07-27-05, 09:44 AM
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I'm trying to upload this pic.


<img src="http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a290/bheron/adi413_9ff_e.jpg" alt="Image hosted by Photobucket.com">

See the metal part where the guys thumb is? this is what's exposed right now - no switch cover is on it yet. This is the part that gets hot - the metal around the toggle switch do-hickey.
 
  #5  
Old 07-27-05, 10:06 AM
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Those wires are backstabbed, i.e. stuck in the spring loaded holes instead of the screw terminals. Those type of connections are not that secure, and can create heat. Move the connections to the corresponsing screw terminals making a "shepherd's hook" of the wire and tightening the screw down.

Try it out with the better screw terminals for a while. If your contractor did this at all of the electrical deivces, I would change them all to screw terminals. You can do it or have him do it, although he may charge extra. Backstabbed connections are very fast to install (so contractors love them), but will fail over time.
 
  #6  
Old 07-27-05, 11:31 AM
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wow, thats amazing information! thanks! i will have to check on that ASAP - it'll be great to throw around some knowledge with him. i assumed you could only hook up to the screw terminals with the shepherd hook style anyways - didnt know about the "shortcut".

PS - how could it "go bad"?
 
  #7  
Old 07-27-05, 11:53 AM
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I can't really say that the backstab connections are wrong. They are approved by UL when the receptacle/switch was listed, so they aren't a safety issue; they are really a quality of installation issue. For this reason, the contractor may charge extra to rewire the receptacles. The professional electricians on this forum all seem to say that backstabbed wiring is low quality workmanship, and there are at least 3 posts a week from people who have circuits with failed backstabs.

Every time you plug something in to the receptacle, the wiring will heat up a little bit and cool off when you unplug. Repeat thousands of times and the spring holding the wire in loses some of its strength resulting in a weaker connection to the wire. A weak connection has higher resistance, which causes the wiring to heat up more, which worsens the problem over time. Conversely, the screw terminal would literally have to melt to slag before it released the wire.

Additionally, jerking plugs out of receptacles has the effect of knocking the spring loose. Vacuum cleaners are a very common killer of backstabbed receptacles; they have a large load (heat) and the cord usually gets yanked around.

Back to the original problem, however. Toggle switches should never heat up like that. If the screw terminals don't cool it down, perhaps you have a bad switch. It's only $0.49 to check a new one.
 

Last edited by ibpooks; 07-27-05 at 12:04 PM.
  #8  
Old 07-27-05, 11:59 AM
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How many watts are being controlled by the switch?
 
  #9  
Old 07-27-05, 12:32 PM
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IPBooks - thanks so much. that explanation is exactly what I needed. What a great forum! Great knowledge.

John- I dont know? How would I find out?
 
  #10  
Old 07-27-05, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by bheron
John- I dont know? How would I find out?
Add up the wattage of all the light bulbs that come on with this switch.
 
  #11  
Old 07-27-05, 02:07 PM
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got it. well, I could guess: the switch will operate 6 recessed light bulbs. Not sure of the wattage but probably around 60 watts or so. So thats like 360W?
 
  #12  
Old 07-27-05, 08:34 PM
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Update: I went home and checked and, low and behold, it appears my contractor did connect the wires correctly! They're connected to the screws in the shepherds hook fashion.

So maybe I'm just overreacting
 
  #13  
Old 07-27-05, 09:08 PM
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As IPBooks stated above.
Change the switch !

dont get the same maker.
 
  #14  
Old 07-28-05, 03:18 PM
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got it. thx. I found the same on the other switch as well. I'll check into it.

PS - the total wattage is 6 x 65 watts of lights. not much.

thanks!
 
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