Is a Hot Light Switch Safe?
The Importance of Sizing Dimmer Switches for Light Fixtures: All dimmer switches are rated according to the number of watts that are being controlled. The most common size dimmer switch is 600 watts
Hot Switches, Electrical Safety and Remodeling
Electrical Question: I just had my kitchen remodeled, and have a question about a light switch that was installed. There are 3 switches. One is for the outside light, and is separate from the other two. They are all close enough to each other to be covered by one outlet cover. Here is my question. The cover is off right now, as I just painted the walls. The metal surrounding the switches is hot. It is too hot to keep your finger on it. I am a woman, and I don’t claim to know that much about electricity, but this does not seem right to me. What would cause this, and should I be concerned?
Background: Karen, a Homeowner from Lombard Ill.
Additional Comments: Glad to be able to ask questions to someone that really knows the answers!
Thanks for your electrical wiring question Karen.
Hi Karen – Great Question! and Thank you for your kind comments.
The Importance of Sizing Dimmer Switches for Light Fixtures
Karen, I’m assuming that the switch that you are referring to is a dimmer switch? If this is true then the reason why the metal area feels hot is because of the electronic components, one of which is attached to the metal and is designed to dissipate heat, because during the dimming process it is normal for the dimmer switch electronic components to warm up (I’m sparing you all the boring details.) All dimmer switches are rated according to the number of watts that are being controlled. The most common size dimmer switch is 600 watts, so in essence a 600 watt dimmer can take care of nine 60 watt bulbs, and I say nine because you never want to take a dimmer switch to 100% capacity, otherwise it could overheat and will most likely need replacing soon, and yes, some dimmers can cause other problems relating to heat, especially if they are not grounded properly, and yes, in such a scenario this could be a fire.
Well I always enter into the integrity of the project when I hear about a remodel project.
My first question is was there a permit for the work, the second question is was there an inspection?
This is the ONLY sure way of knowing first of all if the work was done by qualified individuals, and second, if the work was done according to code. Admittedly, there are some cases where inspectors are lacking in electrical knowledge and experience to do a thorough electrical inspection, but hopefully this is not the case with your project and inspection.
P.S. – Understand that I get a FLOOD of free electrical questions each day, several waiting right now, so I take the liberty to filter what I make a priority, and yes – I look for hazards that I can assist with and I sincerely recognize others first who have kind words about what I do here on the internet and are willing to take the time to share Ask-The-Electrician with others through Facebook, Twitter and the like.
The Following links will assist you further with your electrical question:
Kitchen Electrical Wiring Requirements
This wiring diagram and pictures explain the basic kitchen electrical code wiring requirements required for most new or remodel projects.
For more information about Electrical Safety
Home Electrical Safety
A new approach to keep kids and electricity apart with hopes to prevent children from being injured by electricity.
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Be Careful and Be Safe - Never Work on Energized Circuits!
Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all Electric Wiring Projects.