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Causes of Electric Circuit Buzz or Crackle


By Dave Rongey - Summary:

How to Locate the Cause of Electrical Circuit Buzz or Crackle: The Most Common Problems that Cause Electrical Circuit Buzz or Crackle and What Should Be Done

Circuit Buzz or Crackle May Indicate a Serious Problem

Electrical Question: If there is a loose connection somewhere in the electrical circuit will this cause the fuse box to buzz and crackle and cause problems with selected plugs?

This electrical repair question came from: Anthony, a Handyman from Aberdare, UK.

Additional Comments: Fabulous.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical repair question Anthony.

How to Locate the Cause of Electrical Circuit Buzz or Crackle

Application: Electrical Troubleshooting the Cause of Electrical Buzz or Crackle.
Skill Level: Advanced – a Licensed Electrical Contractor should be consulted.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools, Ammeter and Voltage Tester.
Estimated Time: Depends on age of the home, the condition of the electrical system and available access to the electrical components.
Precaution: Electrical troubleshooting of this level is best performed by an experienced electrical contractor service technician who can evaluate the problem and make the necessary repairs.

The Most Common Problems that Cause Electrical Circuit Buzz or Crackle and What Should Be Done

NOTE: Electrical panels are energized and pose electrical shock and arc flash hazards. Homeowners should not work with electrical panels. For best results contact a local licensed electrician.

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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

35 Responses to “Causes of Electric Circuit Buzz or Crackle”
  1. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Darren,
    From what you have described the internal house wiring is usually not the problem. However, the 200amp electrical panel should be checked by a qualified electrician for faulty connections or a problem with a circuit breaker. This should be done as soon as possible to avoid further damage and electrical circuit failures.
    Be Safe,
    Dave

  2. Darren says:

    My electrical panel is making a cracking, sizzling noise when something is being used from the 120v outlets, like a corded drill. Its a 200amp panel. The lights also are dim. I tested the voltage at the panel and one phase was jumping from 70 – 90v. The other phase would jump to 160v at times depending on certain breakers that were flipped on. Does this sound like a problem at the panel or in the internal house wiring? Any ideas?

  3. Dave Rongey says:

    Crackling Noise in Electric Panel
    Hi Billy,
    If a crackling noise is heard coming from the electrical panel then this is typically an indication of a failing electrical component or loose electrical connection. This could be a serious matter that could cause further damage and loss of electrical circuit power. A qualified electrician should be contacted as soon as possible so the problem can be identified and resolved.
    Please Note: Due to the Danger of Electric Shock, Electrical Panel Problems are best repaired by a Qualified Electrician.
    Be Safe,
    Dave

  4. Billy says:

    House Has Dimming Lights
    My entire house has been having “dimming” lights. I didn’t think much about it until today when multiple power flashing episodes started. TV, refrigerator, AC, lights going off and on. Went to the breaker box and heard crackling. Would the main breaker be needing replaced?

  5. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Jeff,
    There are several things that could be causing RFI with your radio transmissions, and it sounds like you are going in the right direction to identify a possible source connected to one of your panels. The best way to find the specific source of RFI would be to turn all the circuits off, and then bring them back on one at a time while monitoring using the radio or a RF meter. You may find a specific device that is connected to a circuit, or a component within a electrical circuit that has started to develop a problem that can cause RFI. Electrical connection failures can become progressive until the point of complete breakdown in some cases. Ambient temperature as well as electrical load fluctuations can also have an impact on electrical components. Ground loops can be a problem as well, but they can be prevented by making sure all the grounds are well bonded and ultimately connect to a single source at the main electrical service where the earth ground originates.
    Keep us posted about what you discover, and I hope this helps you!
    Be Safe – CQ,
    Dave

  6. Jeff Crawford says:

    I am an amateur radio operator. When both my 200 amp entrances are turned off and running from batteries, no RFI ( radio frequency interference ) is present on the radios when either one transmits. As soon as one or the other of the main panels is turned on, the interference is extremely bad. Mind you, this ONLY occurs when one radio is transmitting on one frequency, like 7 MHz, and the other one listening on 14 or 21 MHz. The interference can be 50 kHz wide; this is not just a simple harmonic problem. This happens even with ONE watt of power. Also, this occurs ONLY when the yagi antennas (directional) are pointed at the house. When they point in other directions, no problem.

    With one of the two panels off, I have found a breaker on the other panel which when turned on/off makes the interference ( during transmitting ) come and go. As soon as the other panel (that had been off entirely) is turned on, turning the troublesome breaker found earlier on/off makes no difference.

    I believe I have a yet discovered ground loop. Opinions?

  7. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Allan,
    The circuit power should be turned off so all of the power connections may be inspected, one at a time. If burnt or deteriorating connections are found the wiring should be trimmed back and restored to shinny bare surface material. New connections should be made using a corrosion resistant inhibitor and new wire connectors should be applied.
    Be safe,
    Dave

  8. Allan says:

    My electric cooker has a hissing noise, it’s coming from the electric cooker box connection. I checked and tried to tightened the connection but I see nothing wrong with that. Do I need to disconnect it from the socket and reinstall it?

  9. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Alan, The loud buzzing may be from a transformer where the main service is located and the sound emanating through the conduit. The loud bangs may be caused when large equipment starts up, but typically this does happen in a rhythmic pattern. This could be an indication that equipment may not be performing normally, however this could only be determined by a careful study of the electrical systems, and then making various circuit observations and meter readings. This is where preventive maintenance and periodic electrical system readings and thermal scans are invaluable for preventing equipment failures that may ultimately lead to downtime and high repair costs.
    Be sure you have plenty of flashlights and batteries on hand just to be prepared.
    I hope this helps,
    Dave

  10. alan says:

    Hi Dave.
    I live in an apartment building that has all the electrical wiring coming up from the basement and running through an enclosed metal box which then feeds the individual apartments.
    The enclosed box randomly emits a loud buzzing noise or “bangs” loudly and rhythmically; sometimes it is silent.
    The maintenance people think that the noise is coming from the 220 lines that run to a few of the apartments, and that when the lines are in use, the noises occur.
    They think there is nothing wrong here. Do you?
    Thanks for your help.

  11. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Shirley,
    The cook stove outlet circuit should be turned off, so an inspection can be made for loose wire connections, damage to the circuit components, or factors that will be causing the buzzing noise. The necessary repairs should be made to the affected circuit components, and a new 220volt receptacle outlet should be installed if the old one has been damaged.
    This type of repair is best performed by a licensed electrician to ensure a safe repair job.
    I hope this helps,
    Dave

  12. Shirley says:

    I have a loud buzzing noise coming from my 220 outlet to plug my cook stove. We shut off the 220 at the box and unplugged the cook stove and we still have that buzzing noise. Any idea?

  13. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Tamao,
    I am wondering to what extent you have cleaned up your air conditioner? Keep in mind that not all of the parts or components are waterproof, therefore water and cleaning agents should be avoided. For best results follow the recommended maintenance procedures as provided by the aircon manufacturer guide or owners manual.
    Thanks for sharing your electrical question,
    Dave

  14. tamao says:

    I decided to clean up my aircon (air conditioner) today, so I turned off my aircon wall outlet, then when I turned it back on I realized the button is loose and heard crackling noise so I quickly turn it off and sort of play around with the button. Afterwards I turn it back on and the crackling noise is gone. I’m wondering whether its alright now since the noise no longer there or should I get someone to check it out?

  15. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Enrique,
    The hissing and buzzing sound is most likely due to a deteriorating connection of the electrical wiring of the circuit, or the circuit breaker and panel components. The circuit and panel should be evaluated by a qualified electrician who can accurately assess the fault and make the appropriate electrical repairs. Until the problem is corrected the devices should be disconnected from the circuit and the circuit breaker should be turned off.
    Be Safe,
    Dave

  16. Enrique says:

    Last night while watching TV, my TV flickered a bit and turned on and off. Then I heard Hissing sound from the Breaker Box, and then the Wall outlets where I have the TV connected. I disconnected them and nothing happened, but as soon as I connected them the Hissing and Buzzing started up again. I need to know what might his be, and what needs to be done?

  17. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Tammie,
    The sizzling of the main circuit breaker will increase or decrease depending on how much electricity is being used. Reduce the amount of electrical devices being used as much as possible until the electrician can troubleshoot the problem and make the repairs.
    Be Safe,
    Dave

  18. Tammie says:

    HELP! My main breaker is sizzling. We replaced all new circuit breakers. It is too late to call an electrician. Is this a problem that will be safe until the morning?

  19. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Kat,
    How to Isolate Electrical Components to Identify a Problem
    Here is a method to Identify the Cause of a Popping Sound:
    Try to identify which device is making the pop sound by unplugging one device at a time. The pop sound may be due to an internal component that is failing, or a problem with other devices connected to that device.
    Once the device has been identified then see if anything else is connected to it, and if so go through this isolation process again by removing the connected devices individually, one at a time. Once the problem device has been isolated check all the cords and connections for wear or damage to the cords and connectors. Also make sure all of the devices are connected properly according to the specifications.
    I hope this helps,
    Dave

  20. Kat says:

    Every 10 seconds or so I heard a very loud POP sound coming from my entertainment system. After about the fourth pop I turned everything off and have not heard anything for about a half hour. I was playing a game on my Xbox 360, with my new Yamaha surround sound system and my new 70″ Flat screen TV on. All the electrical devices from my system are plugged into one power strip which is plugged into a wall outlet. I put my hand over the things that were turned on, and none of them were abnormally hot. The wall around the outlet felt cold. I am very worried because it is too late to call an electrician for advice, and I am not sure if the pops are coming from the devices or the wall.
    What should I do?

  21. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Chris,
    My first thought would be to swap out the buzzing light with one that does not buzz. This way you will know if the light fixture is the cause, and if so you may want to exchange it for a new one.
    Let us know what you discovered,
    Dave

  22. Chris says:

    There is a slight audible buzz in my newly wired recessed led lights. I have 2 other rooms with the same lights that do not buzz. I am not using a dimmer switch and there is nothing else on the circuit. Thoughts?

  23. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Shavonne,
    The flickering lights are directly related to the sizzling and crackling noise that is heard from the breaker box, and most likely the outlets that have stopped working. The danger is that the condition will continue and could cause damage to electrical components in the panel as well as continued loss of electrical services in the home.
    The electrical panel should be checked by a qualified electrician and repairs made as needed.
    I hope this helps,
    Dave

  24. shavonne says:

    I’ve been renting my home for almost 2 months and have had an issue with flickering/dimming lights from the beginning. Recently 3 of the 4 outlets in my living room stopped working. Now I hear a sizzling/crackling noise in the breaker box that comes and goes. The landlord said that he will look at it next week. How dangerous is this and what should I do?

  25. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi April,
    Given the circumstances, I would have the outlet checked by an electrician. It may be that the GFCI outlet is going bad and needs to be replaced, and if so then the GFCI outlet may not be providing ground fault protection to at least that outlet if not others in the kitchen as well.
    So yes, this should be taken care of right away.
    Be Safe!
    Dave

  26. April A says:

    This morning one of the GFCI outlets in my kitchen started making a loud buzzing sound and then popped. Nothing was plugged into it, and no appliances in the same circuit were being used. We bought an older home and had the GFCI outlets installed about 2 yrs ago. I haven’t checked to see if the outlet is working but I checked the main circuit breaker and nothing was tripped. How serious is this, and should I call the electrician right away or is it safe to test the outlet?

  27. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Sherrie,
    A crackling sound coming from a light switch may be due to a deteriorating wiring connection to the light switch or an electrical wiring splice that may be deteriorating. Other indications may be flickering lights or the exhaust fan may work erratically. The circuit should be turned off and the switch should be removed so the components may be inspected to reveal the problem, and then the appropriate repairs may be applied, which may include replacing the light switch.
    I hope this helps you,
    Dave

  28. Sherrie says:

    What would cause a crackling sound behind the light switch when I turn it on in the bathroom?

  29. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi H.T.,
    I would definitely encourage you to have this crackling condition checked right away. It would be best to NOT use the shower and turn OFF the circuit until a qualified electrician can have a look at it, find out the problem and then make the necessary repairs.
    Be Safe!
    Dave

  30. H. Thomas says:

    There is a crackling sound coming from the extractor above the shower in our bathroom.For a while now, there has been short-circuiting from somewhere that flicks one of our mains switches off. I now think it’s probably triggered by this bathroom extractor. Is the extractor crackle an immediate fire hazard? Will get it checked by electrician asap but wondered if we need to do emergency callout tonight or not? If you can help with this it would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks!

  31. Marbert says:

    Thanks, I’ll check the wire gauge versus length of run versus conduit size versus appliance requirements. It’s been running like this for 10 years, but it seems to be getting a little louder with each passing year. Hard to quantify that. I need to do some homework. Thanks.

  32. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Marbert,
    When large electrical equipment starts there may be a slight sound which is produced by the inrush of the electrical current. Wiring inside the electrical conduit may buzz if the level of current is excessive or an abnormal electrical condition is occurring. I would certainly have the circuit wiring checked, the electrical connections and the size of the circuit breaker and any fuses as well. If the circuit wire and circuit protection is found to be correct then the buzzing sounding noise that you are hearing may be from a condition with the relay, the condenser fan or the compressor that needs to be identified and repaired. In any case I would contact a qualified HVAC technician who can examine the unit completely and perform some electrical checks and circuit load tests and make any necessary repairs.
    Dave

  33. Marbert says:

    When the outdoor part of our HVAC system at our house turns on we hear a heavy buzzing sound for a few seconds. We’ll hear this at the main electrical panel or in our bedroom, which has the blue plastic conduit with the wiring running across the ceiling of this room. We have Bryant units that are of the heat pump type. I’m wondering why we hear the lines buzzing. It’s a harsh, loud and somewhat alarming buzzing that happens.

    Would you say this is normal or an indication of the wire sizing being inadequate?

  34. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi RG,
    While it is possible that a Edison based screw-in fuse may loosen up a little, I would be more inclined to think that the loosening may be affected by temperature changes which can certainly have affect electrical circuit connections because fluctuations in temperature will produce expansion and contractions of the metal parts and electrical circuit components which can produce a deteriorating condition which can result in a bad connection that can eventually cause arcing and circuit failure. Be sure the socket of the Edison based screw-in fuse is free from any objects that may interfere with the electrical connection and operation of the fuse.
    Dave

  35. r gibbons says:

    I have a screw type fuse box in my home. One of the 15 amp fuses has been blowing periodically as well as becoming loose in its socket. Recently I checked the fuse and found it was very hot so I removed it immediately. this fuse supplies a section of the house with minimal power needs for lamps and clocks. Do the fuse box sockets get loose with age and would this cause overheating?