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Sizzling switches, flickering lights - Google not answering my questions

Sizzling switches, flickering lights - Google not answering my questions


Old 05-07-19, 08:21 AM
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Sizzling switches, flickering lights - Google not answering my questions

Good morning all.

I cannot seem to find answers to my questions by much Googling and watching lots of YouTube videos.

I've been hearing sizzling coming from two light switches that control my overhead kitchen fluorescent light for a few months now. At first it was just sizzling, then it progressed to flickering, and now sometimes one switch will turn on the light and the other will not, and vice versa.

The first switch is in a box of three separate switches just inside my front door (my apartment opens directly into my kitchen). One controls the stairwell light outside my front door, one controls the ceiling light just inside the front door, and the third, the problem switch, controls the fluorescent in the kitchen ceiling. The other two light switches work just fine.

Across the room on an opposite wall is the other light switch that also controls the fluorescent. Also on this wall is the plug for my refrigerator.

Just recently my circuit breaker was tripped for these light switches - it happened twice in one week.

Last week, my refrigerator died. I have been diagnosing the problem myself, and have hopefully determined that the problem is a broken start relay. I have a replacement coming today.

This morning, for the first time, the table lamp in my bedroom did the flickering thing. I changed the plug from the upper plug to the lower and it does the same thing.

I have checked all my circuit breakers, and have turned them all the way off and back on the correct way - this hasn't changed anything.

After reading a couple of posts here, I located all my GFCIs, all of which had green lights, and switched them off and on. This has made no difference.

I would like to try to figure out how to fix these problems myself if that's possible.

My most important concern at this moment is that the faulty wiring may have been the cause of my refrigerator dying. The part cost $75 and I don't want to install it and immediately fry it because it was the light outlet that did the damage. After having the problem with the light in my bedroom this morning (outlet is located in the bedroom directly behind the refrigerator, though the outlet is on a different wall), I am really concerned that the fridge outlet may also be faulty. I tested the bedroom outlet with a different lamp that I know works just to make sure it wasn't the other lamp, and got the same result. I plugged the good lamp into both plugs on the refrigerator outlet and it worked on both so that outlet may be fine, I just don't know.

The last curious thing is that I have computer speakers plugged into a different outlet in the living room, and for the last several months, I get a periodic buzzing sound from them which goes on for a few minutes, then off, then repeats, over and over. I thought it was the old speakers going out. Later I noticed the same buzzing with rarely used different speakers which are plugged into the now-faulty bedroom outlet.

My landlord is my brother, and he is out of town for several weeks, so I can't authorize/call an electrician at this time. My main concern right now is my refrigerator, as I said, and, well, burning down the apartment. I would really like to get my refrigerator up and running today.

I hope this was sufficient information. Any help at all would be extremely appreciated. Thanks.
Old 05-07-19, 09:01 AM
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Crackling or popping noises are caused by very bad connections arcing, sparking and overheating. They are one step away from a house fire so this is not something that can wait.

If the problem is confined to one circuit, there is likely a loose or broken connection in a junction box on that circuit. Common causes would be a switch or receptacle that has failed or wire stabs that have failed on one of those devices. Other possibilities would be a wirenut or crimp that has burned off. Since you know the light switches are malfunctioning I would start there replacing those switches and remaking any connections in that box, then work out to other boxes if the problem persists.

Any burned wires need to be trimmed back to good metal and restripped. If you find aluminum wire stop and post back here because it's a much bigger problem.
Old 05-07-19, 09:01 AM
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Do you have any incandescent (old fashioned bulb) lights? Plug them into various receptacles as you did before and observe for abnormally dim (or abnormally bright which is an emergency condition) behavior.

Newer kinds of lamps (LED, CFL) might not reveal voltage problems as noticeably as incandescent lamps.

Ordinarily a sizzling switch means the switch itself is worn out.

If you use the hair dryer in one room and lights flicker in different rooms then there is a good chance the loose connection is in the breaker panel. Or you might hear the sizzling in a fourth location and that location has to be added to the list of places to check and fix, preferably to the top of the list.

While you are at it, tighten all of the small screws and set screws holding wires in place in the breaker panel. Flip off a breaker before touching the screw(s) on it. Do not use tremendous muscular strength as this will cause damage. Someone with a lot of experienced should unsnap and resnap in place each breaker (while it is flipped off) and tighten the lugs holding the big wires in place at the top of the panel.
Old 05-07-19, 09:31 AM
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The fact that sometimes one of the switches turns on the light and the other doesn't, and vise versa, indicates that one of the two traveller wires between the switches might be disconnected. Basically, this would leave only one combination of switch positions that would turn on the light, not two as there are in a pair of correctly operating 3-way switches.
Or equivalently, one of the 3-way switches could have a bad contact inside that connects to one of the travellers. This would have the same effect as a disconnected traveller wire. Also, this bad switch contact could have been sizzling before it eventually failed.

Last edited by engr3000; 05-07-19 at 09:54 AM.
Old 05-07-19, 10:33 AM
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(my apartment opens directly into my kitchen)

If you are a renter you shouldn't be touching any of the electrical system for liability reasons. Contact your landlord about the problem, it's the landlord's responsibility.
Old 05-07-19, 03:14 PM
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You need to have this looked at ASAP before it gets worse and starts a fire. The signs have been ignored too long.
Old 05-08-19, 06:13 AM
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Again, contact your landlord which in this case is your brother. Brother or not if you make any changes to the electrical systems yourself you will be personally liable for any and all damages.

Since your brother is the landlord I am sure he would take extra caution in protecting his brother (you) from any harm while living there. It is very important that he realize the importance of these electrical issues that you are having.
Old 05-12-19, 02:52 PM
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Thank you all for your responses, I really appreciate it. As I said, my brother is out of reach for a few more weeks, which is why I wanted to tackle this myself, if I could.

I was successful in replacing the part in my refrigerator, and it now works fine. I'm sure he'll be happy it only cost him $75.00 instead of having a repairman come out for much more than that, or buying a new refrigerator.

I bought an electric outlet tester thingie, tested all outlets and the only one that had an issue was the one with the table lamp and extra set of speakers. The outlet for the first set of speakers was fine, but I'm not using them just in case. I have unplugged everything from those outlets, and am not using the light switches that are crackling, and I have turned off the associated circuit breakers as well. I am using camping lanterns and other battery-powered devices for the moment in areas where I have no lights.

I have certainly learned a lot through this process.

Oh, and I am my brother's sister.

Thanks again everybody.
Old 05-12-19, 03:50 PM
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I bought an electric outlet tester thingie,
If it wasn't an analog multimeter it may give false results.

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