Arcing troubleshooting tip needed

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  #1  
Old 06-02-07, 10:06 AM
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Arcing troubleshooting tip needed

Hi all,

My kitchen's chandelier (100W) has been replaced with 5 can lights (300W capacity, but 5x9W compact fluo) and now the two 3-way switches have taken to arcing when being toggled. It does not happen all the time but you can force it by holding either switch in the middle of their travel (which makes sense to me). We're talking normal, big box center switches here. All the tests I have done so far come up negative, so obviously I'm missing something and could use some advice. The lights otherwise operate properly.

I have access to the can lights from the top (attic) and could therefore verify each connection. This is a 15A circuit (breaker), 14/3 between switches, 12/2 elsewhere. Halo brand recessed lights with built-in back-stab, plastic pig tail caps to hook to built-in light wires (16ga?).

I'm not sure what to look at short of redoing all the connections. I can't find shorts between the hot and neutral wire anywhere. Can't find voltage on neutral wire. The neutral and ground have no resistance between them. Likewise, the switch box and can lights housing seem grounded. The only new wires are between the can lights. The circuit and switch wires haven't been touched.

What troubleshooting procedure would you use?
Thanks
 
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  #2  
Old 06-02-07, 10:26 AM
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Just curious, why are you holding the switch in the middle?

What wattage are these switches rated at?
 
  #3  
Old 06-02-07, 10:54 AM
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I only hold the switch in the middle (between on-off, though obviously that's not written on 3-way switches) to exacerbate the problem as a means to troubleshoot and to convince myself that I'm not hearing things. The snap/crackle/pop of arcing is faint at times.

I believe those switches are rated for 15A. I'm not sure there is a wattage rating.
 
  #4  
Old 06-02-07, 11:39 AM
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I'm starting to think there is nothing to troubleshoot and we're faced with user error. When I use either switch the way I think they were meant to be used, that is just by flicking them, they make their positive, mechanical "click" and there is no arcing. It's only when I grasp them and move them slowly that the arcing shows up. And that's probably normal, since opening an electrical circuit will always create some sort of arcing. Which is why most switches have this spring-like feel to them and only allow two physical positions: full open and full close, nothing in between. Thinking back, I "discovered" the "issue" late at night when trying to keep noise down and trying to avoid the somewhat loud switch "click".
 
  #5  
Old 06-02-07, 01:35 PM
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all switches arc to some extent. Some are more noticable than others and the closer (or over) the current is to the design limit, the worse it gets.

I didn;t bother to calculate your amp draw but simply out, I would go by some quality 20 amp spec grade switches. They will minimize the noticable arc and put your mind at ease.
 
  #6  
Old 06-02-07, 02:43 PM
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As nap said, every single switch on the planet arcs when you switch it under load. That's the main reason that the code requires the switch to be installed in an electrical box. If it really bothers you, buy more expensive switches, which will still arc but hopefully less. But you don't really need to do anything if you don't want to.
 
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