Popping light switch

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  #1  
Old 11-29-05, 01:11 PM
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Popping light switch

I have a 3-way light switch in my foyer which occasionally makes a "pop" noise when I flick it on. The other switch on the 3-way circuit is fine and does not seem to have any problems. Does this sound like a bad switch or bad wiring? Also, if I need to replace the switch, the wiring in the box is too short to work with after many years of use (1921 house). What is the best way to extend the wiring without running new cable? Can I just splice some extension wire onto the existing wiring and cover with electrical tape? Thanks.
 
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Old 11-29-05, 01:37 PM
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It may be a 1921 house, but it's not a 1921 3-way circuit. The "popping" sound means something is wrong - either the switch or the wiring. It could be just a loose connection (wire to switch) or it could be a bad switch.

If the wires are too short to replace the switch, you will need to either replace the wires or put in a junction box (near the switch) so that you can properly splice enough wire. Normally there should be about 8" of wire extending out of the switch box. Of course over time this could have been cut back as repairs/modifications were made.
 
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Old 11-29-05, 01:38 PM
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Many switches make a popping noise when flipped slowly, but not when flipped quickly. This is generally normal. But for a couple of bucks, you can buy and install a higher quality switch to give you more peace of mind.

And yes, you can use wire nuts (not tape) to splice on extensions to the wires. If you discover that the insulation is in poor condition, start saving your pennies for a whole-house rewire.
 
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Old 11-29-05, 02:48 PM
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Thanks, that is helpful advice. What guage of wire is customary to use for a light switch? What guague should I buy for the extensions?
 
  #5  
Old 11-29-05, 03:19 PM
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The gauge of wire required depends on the size of the breaker or fuse. If it's a 15-amp breaker or fuse, use #14 copper wire. If it's a 20-amp breaker or fuse, use #12 copper wire. If the existing wire is not copper, or if the breaker or fuse size is other than 15 or 20, post back.
 
  #6  
Old 11-29-05, 07:53 PM
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I was just mentioning something related in another thread. Your problem may be simple or it might be the tip of the iceberg.

You may want to make a chart of the switch positions (up-up, down-down, up-down, down-up) and figure out if the popping occurs consistently in all or just some configurations. Here's my two cents.

My sister's 1920s house had a 2-way circuit that was converted to 3-way at some point in the past. The symptom was that one switch would spark and pop sometimes. I replaced the switch, thinking it was just worn out and arcing, but the problem got worse: It tripped the breaker consistently when the switches were in two of the up-down configurations I charted.

It turned out that the problem was that the three-way switches were not switching the current from one traveler to the other, but reversing the hot and neutral. The new switch I installed was "make-before-break", or at least more so than the old one, creating a short circuit for long enough to trip the breaker.

It appears this was done to save the trouble and expense of adding necessary wiring. The temporary solution was to disconnect one of the 3-way switches until proper wiring could be installed.
 

Last edited by ArgMeMatey; 11-29-05 at 07:56 PM. Reason: Add close parenthesis
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