You may notice that, after leaving your light switch on for a few minutes, the switch feels warm or even hot to the touch when you go to turn it off. Is this a problem, or simply part of the natural switch operation? Well, it depends on what kind of switch you’re using. Things like dimmer switches, for example, operate slightly differently from traditional on/off switches. There are situations, however, where a warm switch can be a very bad sign.

The Cause

No matter what kind of switch you’re using, heat coming off the switch is a sign that it has electricity running through it. This might seem obvious, but in most cases a traditional switch should never have enough electricity coursing through it to become warm.

Traditional Switches

If your on/off switch is warm or hot to the touch, it’s a good sign of too much power running through it. This can be caused by bad installation, hooking up a switch to a circuit with a higher amp load than it can handle. It can also be caused by a bad wire bottlenecking the electrical current, which will cause it to give off heat. This is a very real fire hazard! If your on/off switch is giving off a lot of heat, turn it off and call an electrician.

Dimmer Switches

As mentioned above, dimmer switches operate a bit differently. When a dimmer switch is set to a lower light setting, the same amount of electricity is moving through the circuit. The dimmer switch redirects some of that electricity to dim the lights, which causes it to warm up from the extra charge. This isn’t a problem unless the switch is smoking or too hot to touch. If you see something like that, turn off the electricity and call an electrician right away.

So, depending on what kind of switch you’re using, a warm switch could be nothing or a serious problem. If you aren’t sure, better to call an electrician to be safe. If you are experiencing issues with your electrical system, call Mister Sparky. Our electricians cover all of Santa Rosa.