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Introduction to Light Switches

Lights and switches have forever changed how we can live life. With a simple flip of a switch, you can illuminate your home instantly. You hardly notice these amenities when they work well; we are so used to their functionality. But that all comes crashing down when switches stop working. Stay with us today as we explore the world of light switches, the problems that arise with lights, and how you can approach fixing the situation quickly and effectively.

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Common Types of Light Switches in Modern Homes

Light Switch and Santella Electric Logo

Single-Pole Switch

Your standard light switch. It will have a labeled “on” and “off” side that dictates the status of the attached light fixture, appliance, or outlet.

Three-Way Switch

For situations where you have multiple switches for the same light/appliance. Often seen at both ends of a staircase, in garages, or basements. 

Dimmer Switch

A switch that gives more nuance than just on versus off. Allows you to slide the dimmer to create the perfect amount of light for the situation. 

Smart Switch

Allows control of switches through voice activation or an app. Gives hands-free usage of lights/appliances. Set timers for automatic functions.

Motion Sensor Switch 

As it sounds, this switch will automatically activate a light when motion is detected.

Combination Switch 

When an outlet and switch are combined into the same wall box. This gives great functionality in a limited space.

Diagnosing a Non-Working Light Switch

When a light switch isn’t working, finding the reason behind it is key. But keep in mind that this answer may not be straight forward as there are a few ways a switch can fail.

Safety First: Precautions Before Troubleshooting

Before starting anything, make sure you are aware of safety concerns. Electricity is a dangerous media to work with so all precautions must be taken to avoid injuries and damages. Tread carefully, use certified tools, and be careful around metal and water. Make sure circuits are turned off when you are working with them.

Simple Checks

Some checks for a non-working light switch are quick and safe to perform. This includes basic ideas like checking to see if your light bulb needs to be replaced or if the circuit breaker tripped. Solutions here are relatively straightforward and should be a quick fix.

Tools Needed for Basic Diagnosis

Unfortunately, not all of your problems will be easy. In those circumstances, having basic tools like a multimeter or tester can help provide more context for figuring out why a light switch isn’t working as you investigate.

Common Causes of Light Switch Failures

Outside of a broken bulb, here are some of the most common issues you’ll experience when working with a failed light switch.

Tripped Circuit Breakers and How to Reset Them

For a few reasons, including surges and overloaded circuits, can cause a circuit breaker to trip. The simple fix here is to find your breaker, locate the tripped switch, and reset that circuit. This should restore power to the failed switch.

Circuit breakers trip for a reason; investigate why this would happen. Oftentimes, there is just too much power being drawn from an outlet.

Fault Switch Mechanisms

At its core, light switches are just effectively completing a circuit allowing for electricity to flow through to the light/appliance providing power. Sometimes, this connection cannot be completed due to damage or external factors resulting in switch failure.

Wiring Issue: Loose Connections and Aging Wires

Behind the scenes, wires can accumulate damage and begin to fail. Obviously, if the connection to power is severed, a switch won’t stand a chance. Power won’t be reaching its intended destination.

Step-by-Step Troubleshooting Guide

Diagnosing your problem is a large part of the battle. With the information on what’s wrong, you can attack that issue directly and restore power. Here are some quick ways to work through the troubleshooting process.

Testing the Switch with a Multimeter or Tester

One of the first steps you should take is to establish whether or not a switch is even receiving electricity. You can utilize a multimeter to give an electrical reading at specific locations. This will determine whether your light/switch is the issue or if they aren’t even receiving power to begin with.

Checking for Obvious Signs of Damage

When the switch isn’t working, checking for signs of obvious damage is the next step to work towards a solution. After using the multimeter, you can more precisely diagnose where the issue may be. Look for damaged wires around the connection and leading back into the wall. Make sure the switch itself actually functions as intended.

How to Test and Replace Faulty Light Switch

When you think you have found the issue, you can work through fixing the issue or replacing the faulty switch by wiring in a new switch. When you think the fix is in, you can first use your tools/multimeter to see if power is making it to the switch. When things look right, give the switch a trial run to see if your light works.

When to Call a Professional Electrician

While some electrical work can be DIY if you have some confidence and skills, there will always be situations where a professional is needed. When in doubt, always reach out to a professional to ensure your safety and security.

Situations that Require Professional Help

Some situations absolutely require professional help. This is especially important in situations surrounding circuit breakers and large scale electrical voltages. If you’re adding more circuits to your breaker or laying a large amount of wire, you must absolutely reach out for a professional to avoid major health accidents and damages to your home.

Benefits of Hiring a Licensed Electrician

Hiring a licensed professional comes with some great benefits. Have peace of mind with your electrical fixes. Rely on their years of experience to quickly diagnose and fix your problems. Take solace in the fact that they have insurance for their work, further protecting you from any issues that may arise.

What to Expect from a Professional Electrical Inspection

During a professional inspection, expect a thorough examination of your electrical system with particular focus on your circuit breaker and major wires, especially in areas susceptible to damage like basements and attics. They will use devices to read the power flowing as well as looking for damages/irregularities that can cause problems down the line.

Simple Checks

Preventing Future Light Switch Issues

Regular Maintenance Tips for Home Electrical Systems

The best practices for safe, long-lived home electrical systems is regular maintenance. This includes simple things like turning switches off when not in use to preserve them to replacing switches and wires after they have aged and accumulated damages. Keep tabs on any animals that may eat away at a wire. If you see an issue, get it fixed as soon as possible!

Upgrading your Switches for Enhanced Safety and Functionality

Especially in old homes, upgrading to modern switches will provide additional functionality and enhanced safety features. Upgrading switches is relatively easy and provides a great benefit once installed.

Smart Switches: Are they right for you?

At the forefront of switch technology is smart switches. These switches combine a ton of functionality into a tiny package. You can find voice activation features to speak your lights on, app functionality to give you remote access to your switches, and timers to have automatic, time-configured presets to turn on certain lights/appliances. If you’re looking to upgrade your switches, consider going all the way and getting smart switches.

Conclusion

Lights and switches are so monumentally important for most of our lives. Having proper functionality is key for working, living, and thriving. Keep tabs on your switches, replace them and the wires around them when the time calls. Seek professional electrical help if you are in over your head. And if switch replacement is in your future, consider getting that extra functionality from smart switches to upgrade your house to modern times!

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Fairfield County: All along the Gold Coast, up to New Milford, Santella Electric, Inc. covers all of Fairfield County, CT. Connecticut is our home and we love serving the residents of the Nutmeg State. We are headquartered in New Canaan and have a full fleet of trucks all over the county at any given time. Fairfield County trusts Santella Electric!

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Google Reviews

Santella Electric
4.8
Based on 95 reviews
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Aimee ShieldsAimee Shields
15:54 21 Nov 22
We had a fantastic experience with Santella. Tony came to our house and was incredibly knowledgable, professional, and friendly. He not only knew exactly what to do, he also consulted me for decisions about how to position all my new fixtures and outlets. As a person who really cares about the details and aesthetic, I appreciated that more than I can say. A few of our projects were tricky due to our house layout, especially adding outdoor outlets, but Tony worked hard to make it all work and look good. I'm very pleased with our updated lighting/power and will definitely ask for him again next time we call Santella!
Brian StapletonBrian Stapleton
00:24 19 Nov 22
Tony at Santella Electric is the best. Professional, responsive, courteous and intelligent. I trust his work and highly recommend him.
Jan HilgemanJan Hilgeman
13:00 19 Oct 22
This we our first time using Santella Electric at our new home. The office personnel were responsive and friendly, and we loved the electrician who came to troubleshoot and do the repairs we need. Courteous, friendly, respectful and resolved the problem easily. He took the time to explain the problem so I could understand it.
Karin SchrammKarin Schramm
14:31 07 Oct 22
Johan was on time, professional & explained all the work he did. Thank goodness, he had the circuit breaker’s we needed + the updated GCFI outlet for the kitchen. Now, my Mom can use her stove, oven, washer & dryer, again. SO grateful.
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