Yesterday I went to turn off my light switch (rocker style) and accidentally didn’t apply pressure in the correct spot, which then caused me to push it more slow/gradual to adjust and it make a crackling sound for a second or two. I had never heard anything like that before, so I tested it a few more times to see if was now consistent. It was not, but I purposely pushed it slow to recreate it a time or two more to make sure that was the cause and it did in fact so it again in those instances.

After some research, I learned this was most likely the switch arcing from not toggling the switch on/off as quickly as designed and I shouldn’t have been messing with it, as this is bad for the switch.

It’s currently working as designed and not making any noise (and this might just be me being paranoid), but I wanted to ask if making this happen a few times possibly caused any damage to the switch? I saw it can cause switch failure and possibly a fire hazard. Early thanks to anybody for guidance.

  • By moving it slow, you are making a tiny spark just like a welder does. The spark over time will burn the contacts in the switch and probably cause excessive heating before it stops working.
    – crip659
    Aug 9, 2021 at 15:42
  • It sounds like possibly a bit of dirt got on the contacts which burnt free. The noise was the arcing from the corona burning the dirt. A slow moving contact can also do this, depends on the actual design of the switch. This happens occasionally and is nothing to be concerned about unless it keeps happening consistently.
    – Gil
    Aug 9, 2021 at 16:22
  • What type of lights does this switch control? Incandescent/halogen are more prone to switch arcing due to high inrush current vs. CFL/LED. It doesn't directly answer your concerns, but the load type plays a contributing role.
    – HikeOnPast
    Aug 9, 2021 at 17:00

2 Answers 2


It's probably fine but...

You won't know if anything was damaged unless you turn off the circuit breaker, remove the switch cover, pull out the switch (don't disconnect any cables), and visually inspect both the switch and the box for damage.

If anything smells burnt or looks damaged/burnt then I would leave that circuit turned off until that switch gets replaced.

Even if there is no visible damage make a plan to get that switch replaced; this assumes there is no additional arcing.

To prevent future arcs from causing damage you should put that circuit on a combo GFCI/AFCI circuit breaker so that a future arc will cause a trip rather than allowing for an ongoing arc.

  • 2
    Considering that even the "industrial" grade switches are probably $5 or less, it's definitely worth replacing the switch if there's any hint of damage. It's far cheaper than having a house fire - no matter how good your homeowners (or renter's) insurance is. (Unless, of course, you're just looking to get rid of the clutter... :D )
    – FreeMan
    Aug 9, 2021 at 17:31
  • Any arcing was likely current limited by LED bulbs/fixtures, so that incident was unlikely to damage the switch, but otoh, a decor switch should snap and sounds like it could use replacing.
    – dandavis
    Aug 10, 2021 at 7:00

A full exploration of the hows and whys of your experience can be found in this 15 minute video.


If you are using the switch normally, and it is behaving normally, I wouldn't worry too much about it.


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