Several electrical outlets in two rooms started making a ticking sound last fall. I checked the receptacles and tightened the wires on two of them and replaced two of the receptacles. The circuit breakers to the rooms don't trip and the outlets still work without affecting the devices plugged into them. Also, the ticking increases when the furnace turns off and it repeats only a few times after that until the furnace, again, turns off. I did have a master electrician check the outlets, but he found nothing. My neighbor, who is a journeyman, told me it could be a sign of a breaker going bad - he also told me to get a different electrician. Any suggestions?

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    Does it make the ticking sound when the breaker is turned off? What about if the furnace is turned off? Sounds like it may just be expanding/contracting pipes/ducts from your heating system.
    – BMitch
    Dec 30, 2014 at 15:50
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    No electrical box should tick and if they do, then there's probably something else doing the ticking. Assume for a second it is the receptacle, just replace them because they are very cheap. Secondly pull everything out of the box and see if there's something else in there. The only thing I recognize as having ability to tick is an electrical timer. Most likely it's something else. Dec 30, 2014 at 21:52
  • Since it's only happening when the furnace is on, it could be an airflow issue -- some air pressure differential may be sucking or blowing air through the outlet box, causing the noise, when the furnace is on, the fan alters the air pressure throughout the house, which affects the ticking outlets.
    – Johnny
    Apr 6, 2015 at 6:58

2 Answers 2


Here are some possible scenarios:

True story: I was called out to troubleshoot a chirping outlet. My first thought was just a bad GFCI outlet. To my surprise the outlet was indeed chirping and not a GFCI. The source was 5 computers, monitors, and other electronic devices all daisy chained off one outlet that had become loose or was never tighten good.

Electronic devices will "chop" up the electricity, some worse than others. And apparently can become audible with the right conditions.

Easy fix: just tighten the screws on the outlet or replace the outlet all together as it may be defective.

Also keep on mind some GFCI outlets will make a buzzing noise, and sometimes but rarely will chirp very loudly due to the internal parts failing.


Doesn't sound right and is possibly dangerous.

You said you tightened the screws on the receptacles. Did you check the ground screw in the box and also check that the wire nuts are all tight? Are the receptacles on the same circuit as the furnace (wouldn't be right, if they were)? Or is the furnace connection just a coincidence?

A number of years ago, my parents lived in a condo that was built when aluminum wiring was permitted. As aluminum wiring "flows", you have to make sure that any high-current switches are checked regularly. (I was glad when my parents moved because I was concerned about the risk of electrical fire.)

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