HELP! Light switch hot to touch?!

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  #1  
Old 05-27-07, 12:40 PM
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HELP! Light switch hot to touch?!

I had an electrician install recessed can lights in my kitchen. He put in a new 20 amp circuit so all 11 cans are on their own dimmer switch. Before he left, we noticed that the switch was hot to the touch, not burning fingers but hot enough for everyone to notice.

He told me that it was because the dimmer was for 600 watts so 11 lights X 60 watts, okay sounded reasonable. Yesterday, I bought another much more expensive dimmer that says it goes to 1100 watts and just put it in. It too is HOT! after only 10 minutes of the lights being turned on. What could be the problem with this? I have never lived anywhere that the light switches were hot to the touch and it is scary! Thanks in advance for any help!
 
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  #2  
Old 05-27-07, 01:26 PM
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In my opinion your electrician should not have left without replacing the dimmer with the 1,000 watt model. 11 fixtures with 65 watt incandescent (standard size for recessed cans) adds up to 715 watts, far too much for a "standard" 600 watt dimmer.

The 1,000 watt dimmer should be okay. It is normal for dimmers to be warm, but not uncomfortably hot when in use.
 
  #3  
Old 05-27-07, 02:07 PM
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I so agree with you! And it was a fortune! Plus it cost me another big chunk of money to have the drywall repaired after he cut a few "boo boos" for the cans and for some reason I still don't understand, cut about 5 inches into the drywall ABOVE the light switch on the other side of the room! I certainly wouldn't call him back but now I am stuck wondering if it was done right and worried. Plus the inside of the box is such a mess, I could barely get the darn switch back into the box.

Then on top of it all, I can't get the face plate to go flush to the wall and cracked the darn thing because of all the mess inside the box. I can't get the ground wire of the dimmer switch to stay on to the copper wire either. It is a 2 gang box with a regular switch on the other side for a different ceiling light and I have no idea why there are so many other wires. There are two copper wires just twisted together and so thick with no cap that I can't see how to attach the new dimmer's ground to that! There was no ground on the original dimmer switch but this one has one. I guess I have to take the whole thing out and try again.Do I HAVE to attach the ground to those copper wires? Any help would be appreciated! It is almost as though the box is too small for all the darn wires and the big yellow cap things. Maybe I should switch out all the big yellow cap things for the smaller red ones that came with the dimmer?

Still, why is it so hot? I have 3 other light fixtures with dimmers and none of them are warm in the least. Is it just because there are 11 cans all on one switch? If it was going to burn the house down, what other indicators are there? I am worried!! At least it is not smoking!

At least I can reuse the new 600 watt dimmer in another room so I don't really mind that and just returned from the store and got the new face plate. Here's hoping I can get it all back together better and not crack it again. What is the trick to getting it straight and flush to the wall?
 
  #4  
Old 05-27-07, 04:43 PM
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If you have trouble getting the dimmer into the box then there are probably too many wires in that box.

The yellow "cap things" are called wire nuts. Usually the wire nuts supplied with a light fixture or dimmer switch are of lesser quality (although usually up to their task) than the ones that electricians use in the field. I do not advise trying to change out the existing wire nuts.

The grounding wires DO need to be connected with wire nuts. The wire nuts come in different sizes and you probably need a red one, or possibly a blue one, to hold all of the grounding wires. (The wire nuts that came with the dimmer are probably orange rather than red.)

You are correct in your reasoning that the other dimmers in your house don't get as hot as this latest one because they don't have as many light fixtures. If you want to try an experiment, try removing the bulbs from half of your new fixtures and see how hot the dimmer gets with only half as many lights.

I don't think that your new dimmer is a fire hazard but the too-small-for-the-number-of-wires box is a real problem. It because of too many wires that you cannot get the dimmer to properly fit and that is why the faceplate won't fit.

It will take a bit of work to replace that too small box and there is at least one option that I can think of that may work for you.

Do you want to get your hands dirty?
 
  #5  
Old 05-27-07, 09:17 PM
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From the OP's description of the switch box wiring I'm wondering if the electrician didn't make some connections in the switch box that would have better been made in the can junction box... but that is probably the option Furd is talking about. Bring the power to the can and only a switch loop to the switch box.
 
  #6  
Old 05-27-07, 10:01 PM
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what kind of dimmer is it, did you break the fins off the sides, did you ground it?
 
  #7  
Old 05-27-07, 10:02 PM
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Thanks so much for your replies! I figured out part of the problem while replacing the other dimmer switch and adding a new face plate. The face plate came with 4 screws and 2 were long and 2 were short. When I opened the nightmare box that I cracked the face plate, all the screws were short causing the plate to crack when I replaced it trying to get it flush so at least I figured that out.

The real problem now is the ground. The dimmer ground is thin and needs to connect somehow to the two fat copper wires that are twisted around and around together with no wire nuts. What do I do with that part? Just get a bigger wire nut, a blue one? Again there is none now at all on those wires and obviously the little tiny orange one ithat came with the dimmer is not going to fit over all that. Neither is the yellow one if I switched one of those for the orange one that came with the dimmer. Can I avoid a trip to the store and just tape the new dimmer ground to the copper bunch with electrical tape?

Thanks for the reassurance that at least the house is not going to burn down just because the dimmer switch is hot!!
 
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Old 05-27-07, 10:28 PM
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NO! Has to be a wirenut.
 
  #9  
Old 05-28-07, 09:40 AM
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Thanks hbsparky! I will run out and get a bigger wire nut but hmmm, doesn't it make you wonder what the heck kind of electrician I ended up with that didn't put a wire nut on to begin with?!

We are doing many projects at once and have gotten multiple bids for each thing. We had the popcorn ceilings scraped and retextured, all the bids were within a couple of hundred dollars and I was taught to always pick one in the middle. Then we had the inside of the house painted, all bids within a hundred dollars, new floors, etc...Until the electrical bids! The bids ranged from $600 to over $2000 for the exact same work! I picked the middle one and still.....all this trouble. I guess the electical work was the wild card this time. Not one told me to split the cans on 2 dimmers and I am sorry about that. It would have been so much nicer.
 
  #10  
Old 05-28-07, 10:35 AM
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Complain to this electrician and ask for at least a partial refund. If he does not give you something back, report him, and tell him you will do so. He has made mistakesand he does not sound like he knows what he is doing.
 
  #11  
Old 05-28-07, 11:12 AM
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How did you find this "electrician?" Friend? Friend's friend? Phone book? Licensed?
 
  #12  
Old 05-28-07, 11:15 AM
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electrician or handyman ?
 
  #13  
Old 05-31-07, 05:53 PM
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Had to come back and post a follow up especially for future searchers. The electrician was out of the phone book and coincidently had worked on my neighbors house. I know that I should call and complain and get a refund but honestly, I do not want him back in my house or have any more dealings with him. My neighbor was more than satisfied so apparently it is my house that is such trouble or my standards.

I replaced the plate and did finally get the larger wire nut and all is well although the dimmer switch still gets warm to the touch but at least I know that is normal. Apparently all the electricians who have ever worked in this house were bad! I just found out that a floor outlet has the wrong type of box so am dealing with that now-grrrr and will have to cut a bigger opening in my just finished installed new hardwood floor! Every electical thing I open has tons of wires just jammed packed into the boxes so either they all do it that way or it is normal? When I moved the first 600 dimmer to the other light, there were so many wires in that box too that I had to force them back in and hard. What the heck are all those wires anyway, there is just the dimmer and one other switch in there?! Each time we had any electrical work done, they just kept adding more circuit breakers because the circuits would trip. I now have a dedicated plug for the hairdryer-lol.

I think in a 30 year old house, an electrical upgrade is not far down the road...right now, I am replacing all the outlets because every time you plug something into the wall, it falls out!
 
  #14  
Old 06-01-07, 01:37 AM
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To let you know that you are not alone my house (which was built twenty years ago) was wired using all #14 wire except in those areas specifically requiring something larger. Amazingly I have a 10-3 w/g for the clothes dryer but they installed the 3-wire receptacle. They also ran #6 aluminum SE for the kitchen range.

All three bedrooms had their overhead light and the receptacles on one circuit. Not each bedroom having one circuit but one circuit for all three bedrooms.

All of the receptacles throughout the house, including the kitchen small appliance receptacles were back stab only, no screws at all.

The light and all receptacles in my front room are one circuit. (I rarely use this room so I haven't changed it yet.

One 15 amp circuit for the garage outlet, garage door opener, garage light, laundry room light, and receptacle in each of two bathrooms along with the outside receptacle on my deck. One GFCI in the garage for the bathroom's and deck receptacles.


The home inspector made a comment about so few circuit breakers in the panel prior to my buying the house but then commented that with a gas water heater it was probably okay.

Since moving in I have done a fair amount of re-wiring, splitting circuits and added additional circuits. I've still got a ways to go before I will consider it adaquate.


Remember that codes are MINIMUMS! I have no doubt that my house met the code in effect when it was built but that doesn't mean that it was adaquate even then.
 
  #15  
Old 06-01-07, 10:43 AM
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furd,

My house was also built 20 years ago. You just described the electical system in my house to a tee!! Until I added circuits in my garage, I couldn't do anything at all out there if my wife was ironing in the den.

Thank goodness codes have been updated to prevent this sort of thing from happening since then. Too bad they weren't in effect 20 years ago.
 
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