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Old 10-10-2011, 09:57 PM
 
Location: South Shore Nassau
167 posts, read 246,195 times
Reputation: 100

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Last night I turned off my Decora switch in the dark and i saw the switch light up with a spark inside. A friend of mine installed these so I know what is behind that wall and the switch was new. Wiring was good and not ancient.

This is not the first switch I have seen do this in my home. So I am wondering if it's normal, or not? Such as when you unplug something quickly and you see a spark...sort of reminds me of that. Doesn't do it all the time though, for each switch it varies (and no, the same person did not install all of the switches, some were new and some were here).

So do I need to be concerned or is this normal when you flick off the power in some switches that actually make a click?
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Old 10-10-2011, 10:12 PM
 
Location: VAB
3,108 posts, read 3,550,513 times
Reputation: 2892
Mine don't so that. I think I'd get it checked out.
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Old 10-10-2011, 10:28 PM
 
Location: Nebraska
4,179 posts, read 5,751,495 times
Reputation: 9219
It is not normal. A good wiring system is tightly connected, grounded, and has no stray threads of wire to touch anyhing other than what it is supposed to. It sounds like you have a loose wire, which means that the switch is not wired or grounded properly. This kind of thing happens; a thread of the wire gets knocked loose and 'grounds out' on the nearest available metal - even the screws holding in the switchplate. Yes it can start a fire.
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Old 10-10-2011, 11:12 PM
 
Location: Seaford, Delaware
3,360 posts, read 10,442,961 times
Reputation: 2202
To fix it remove the switch and make sure the connections are tight. The loose wire is making an arc. Just check that and any other new swicthes and outlets and make sure they are tight. Sometines they work loose just by use and being new.
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Old 10-10-2011, 11:18 PM
 
Location: Grosse Ile Michigan and Sometimes Orange County CA
15,819 posts, read 32,425,087 times
Reputation: 11867
Sometimes switches go bad. It costs about 45 and takes ten minutes to replace one. Just replace it. You can get some really cool switches now with remote controls, motion sensors, or internet communications, all kinds of wild stuff
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Old 10-11-2011, 07:13 AM
 
20,797 posts, read 32,810,594 times
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In our old house we had one switch that did this every time we turned it on. After we closed on the house we were doing some major remodeling before moving in and part of that was an electrical upgrade (house was built in the 1940's). Turned out that the house did not have a ground wire. Once that was installed, no more sparks.
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Old 10-11-2011, 08:48 AM
 
Location: Grosse Ile Michigan and Sometimes Orange County CA
15,819 posts, read 32,425,087 times
Reputation: 11867
Quote:
Originally Posted by golfgal View Post
In our old house we had one switch that did this every time we turned it on. After we closed on the house we were doing some major remodeling before moving in and part of that was an electrical upgrade (house was built in the 1940's). Turned out that the house did not have a ground wire. Once that was installed, no more sparks.
You should not need a ground to prevent sparks. The ground is for an emergency only and should not be regularly in use. It provides an alternate path for shorted out electricity to go rather than through you. If your switch is shorting out to the ground every time it is flipped, then you still have a problem. Did you replace the switch? If not, probably should
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Old 10-11-2011, 09:36 AM
 
Location: Johns Creek, GA
6,833 posts, read 21,956,687 times
Reputation: 5354
If all the connections are tight there usually isn't a problem.
Push in connectors are hit-n-miss- I much prefer the screw connector.
Can contacts wear to the point of a bad connection- sure. That would require replacing the switch.
A little understanding of how a switch works would probably help a lot of people-


As you can tell from the diagram the switch is in the on position. The circuit is being completed by the contact (B) mating with contact (A). When the switch is in the off position it pushes contact (B) away from contact (A).
There are also different types of switches- there are the click type; positive on/ positive off. And there are the quiet type- which tend to roll the contacts on and off. I can "make" these type switches arc all day long.

SCGranny- multi-strand wire can not be used for household wiring systems- so your theories went out the windows.
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Old 10-11-2011, 10:01 AM
 
Location: Grosse Ile Michigan and Sometimes Orange County CA
15,819 posts, read 32,425,087 times
Reputation: 11867
Quote:
Originally Posted by K'ledgeBldr View Post

SCGranny- multi-strand wire can not be used for household wiring systems-

Which makes it really annoying when specialty switches (motion sensor, dimmer, remote control, etc) come with stranded wires built in instead of screw connections. It is very difficult to connect stranded to solid and get a good connection. to make matters worse, the stranded wire is usually much smaller than 12 or 14 GA. Why do they do that?

Also why do they make those danged specialty switches so big? They barely fit in the standard boxes, but if you break open the big plastic case, there is hardly anything in there. A lot of outlet are also in ridiculously big plastic cases. Some will no even fit in the older metal boxes. The outlets with no giant plastic housing actually seem to be better quality. Does the big housing serve some purpose?
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Old 10-11-2011, 11:30 AM
 
20,797 posts, read 32,810,594 times
Reputation: 9904
Quote:
Originally Posted by Coldjensens View Post
You should not need a ground to prevent sparks. The ground is for an emergency only and should not be regularly in use. It provides an alternate path for shorted out electricity to go rather than through you. If your switch is shorting out to the ground every time it is flipped, then you still have a problem. Did you replace the switch? If not, probably should
I think the electrician did something...it's been a while. We upgraded the breaker box, added some outlets in some rooms, upgraded wiring, etc. Not sure if he changed that switch or not but it no longer sparks so probably.
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