Causes of Light or Switch Delay

By Dave Rongey - Summary:

Why a Light Fixture or Switch May Have a Delay When Turning On – There may be a loose connection or splice within the wiring of the light circuit.

Why a Light Fixture or Switch May Have a Delay

Electrical Question: Why is there a time delay when I turn on a light switch?

  • I have a light on a ceiling fan that is operated from two 3-way switches.
  • When the light is turned on, there is an approximate 1 second delay before the light actually lights.
  • Doesn’t matter which switch is used or whether the pull cord on the fan is used – the delay still exists.
  • Installed new ceiling fan and new switches and it still does the same thing.
  • Maybe it’s nothing bad, but it’s kind of annoying and a little disconcerting.
  • It’s a just purchased house, so I have no idea how long this may have been going on.

This electrical wiring question came from: Walt, a Homeowner from Dallas, Texas.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical wiring question Walt.

Causes of a Light Switch Delay

  • In my experiences there are two possible causes that would make a light switch delay.
    1. The light switch is getting worn out and needs replacing. The internal contacts can break down over time due to arcing. The arcing can eventually cause the contacts to fail completely, and the arcing can produce a residue which can affect the initial flow of electricity between the switch contacts.
    2. There may be a loose connection or splice within the wiring of the light circuit. This is a problem that would eventually cause the circuit to stop working completely or worse, because loose electrical connections can produce heat and arcing, which can become a fire danger.

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6 Responses to “Causes of Light or Switch Delay”
  1. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Tony, One thing to consider is light bulbs. If the porch lamps do not have standard incandescent light bulbs then there could be a start delay. This is especially true for CFL bulbs that are used in outdoor light fixtures where the temperature is cold.

  2. Tony says:

    I have a porch light switch with 2 sconces, both have 60 watt incandescent bulbs in them. When I flip the switch it can take anywhere from 3 to 20 seconds for the light to come on. After reading, I’m inclined to stay by replacing the switch and then trouble shoot from there. Thoughts or suggestions?

  3. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Jonathan,
    The light fixture wiring should be inspected for a possible connection problem or a possible pinched wire which can occur when the light fixture parts are reassembled.
    I hope this helps,

  4. Jonathan Schaefer says:

    Thank You that should help. However, I do realize I may have forgot a detail. The fan in question still works, just not the light.

  5. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Johnathan,
    The circuit wiring should be checked and voltage readings observed to look for a possible fault. Intermittent problems like this can be challenging to find, however in a case such as this, the starting point should be the electrical circuit.
    I hope this helps,

  6. Jonathan Schaefer says:

    I also have one light in my home that has a delay. There is a ceiling fan that is effected. The ceiling fan is connected through a SPST switch. There is an additional issue on top of this I think. The light kit on the ceiling fan will stop working after a while. There was a different ceiling fan installed that worked fine for about a year and a half. At this point, the light kit would stop working, first for a few hours, then longer, and then not at all. I replaced the fan, and the problem seem to go away, except the delay. Then the other night, the light stopped working, it turned out to be the bulb, but I replaced this last night, everything worked. When I tried to turn the light on this morning, the new bulb immediately blew.


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