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I have a 3-way switch that controls 6 recessed CFL floods.

One of the switches consistently makes a loud crackling / popping noise when used slowly. The other switch if played with slowly enough will make a quiet pop after several trys.

Should either of these switches be repaired / replaced?

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2 Answers 2

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Almost any switch if moved slowly enough will make that noise. Its arcing between the contacts inside the switch. In some you can even see the spark in the dark. For a properly working switch the only way it usually happens is if you intentionaly hold the switch in the middle.

This arcing will eventually damage the contacts of the switch, causing it to fail prematurely. If the switch got stuck in that position long enough the heat from the arcing could potentially cause a fire. Usually the switch will simply fail without causing a fire, but it is a possibility.

If the switches feel lose or don't quickly snap between on and off positions, they need to be replaced.

If you are just intentionally moving the switch between positions very slowly - stop doing that! The switches may still need replacing from the damage the arcing has already caused.

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Yes, I would replace any switch that is consistently making the "popping" noise. This noise is from sparking of the switch contacts and is a bad thing and could lead to switch failure or even a fire.

When choosing a new switch choose one that has a quality snap action to it.

Lastly stop teasing the switches by moving them slowly. This is a bad practice and should be avoided. Operate the switches as they are meant to be used - snap on - snap off.

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+1 Wish I could award both of you the answer, especially since I fond your's to be a bit more clear; However the Grant's mention of all switches arching gave me a tiny bit better understanding. –  virtualxtc Feb 10 at 8:55

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