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Crackling remediation

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http://boards.diynetwork.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/4691013504/m/4673931377

Aug 18, 2013, 11:40 AM
GardenSprite
Crackling remediation
These questions relate to what could cause crackling and/or fizzing, what I should be prepared for when the electrician comes, and how much access is needed to troubleshoot the problem.

Yesterday I heard some crackling type noises, which I think were coming from the storage room, where I changed out a switch a few months back. The crackling at that time was much quieter and barely noticeable without getting close to the light switch.

Yesterday’s crackling happened so quickly I wasn’t even sure I hadn’t imagined it, but I don’t think I did. It hasn’t happened since yesterday. I heard no sounds when I listened at the switch, even with a stethoscope (don’t laugh - it’s great for amplifying inner wall noises and especially for detecting ants).

Questions 1 and 2: I’ll be calling my electrician tomorrow but wanted to know what range of possibilities could be causing it, so I don’t get played by someone who sees an opportunity to fool an elderly woman into paying for more repairs than are needed.

And while I do trust this company, I know that it's not unreasonable to anticipate that they may want to do more than is necessary just to solve this problem.

Third question relates to the fact that this room is used only for storage, and is filled with boxes and other stuff from my sister’s house that we took when we didn’t feel like going through all her things. There’s clear access to the light switch; I’m thinking I should clear a path to the ceiling fan as well, but other than that, I’m hoping I can just move the boxes aside. Other than the light switch, there are just 2 electrical outlets in the room, one of which is behind a lot of stored stuff.

This room was also subject to water damage some years back when a roof leak went undetected until water began coming down through the exterior wall. The worst damage was on the exterior wall, where there are no electrical outlets. The light switch is on an interior wall.

Obviously I’m not turning on the light or using any electrical appliances in the room.

Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

This message has been edited. Last edited by: GardenSprite,
Aug 18, 2013, 12:21 PM
Jaybee
The very first thing i would check would be that switch. Especially if you replaced it recently. And, if it was YOU who replaced the switch, you could make the repair without bringing in an electrician.

An electrical crackling sound is usually a loose connection. Any wiggling of the connection can cause it to crackle, spark and make a burning smell. This could be from touching the switch or just caused by electrical vibration within the wiring. It's easy enough to check and repair (especially if you already know how to replace a switch): Turn off the breaker to that circuit, remove the switch and tighten all connections. While you are in there look for any tell-tale signs of minor burning - this would be small flash marks on the metal or plastic of the switch housing near the wire contacts. In some cases, you may need to disconnect the wire and clean off any carbon residue from burning that may be on the wire.

Also consider that even new switches can be bad. Once the contacts arc inside, they can continue to do so. It's a small thing to replace a 69 cent switch.

If you bring in an electrician, you will likely have to pay a minimum fee just to get him in the door. This would be true even if all he does is tighten a loose connection. As to them taking advantage of an "old lady" maybe you should just casually inform them that you are the SPAMINATOR - just so they know who they are dealing with. Smile


Jaybee
Aug 18, 2013, 03:34 PM
swschrad
69 cent switches are the devil. put in a good spec-grade unit, under 3 bucks at the home center. fasten the wires into a loop and tuck it under the screws so tightening the screw tightens the loop (open end to the right.)

I had a crud switch somebody put in on the furnace serviceman cutoff. fiddled with everything else, furnace guy was out twice, and finally decided to check the switch. junk gas-station switch and back-wired to boot. replaced it, no problems since. I used a good motor-rated switch because hey, you want your heat in the winter up here in the frozen tundra. cost under 5 bucks.

any gouged or burnt-appearing wire on the end of the conductors, cut it back and restrip to good clean stuff.

do, of course, shut off the breaker first. we want you alive and well.


sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
Aug 18, 2013, 04:56 PM
GardenSprite
quote:
Originally posted by Jaybee:

As to them taking advantage of an "old lady" maybe you should just casually inform them that you are the SPAMINATOR - just so they know who they are dealing with. Smile


Hahahahahahahahaha!! Big Grin Big Grin



quote:
Originally posted by swschrad:

do, of course, shut off the breaker first. we want you alive and well.


As do I!!! I'm not ready to go yet!


Thanks to both of you for your quick and thorough responses. I have to go to either Lowes or HD tomorrow so I'll just get a new switch, taking care of the tightening and other aspects all at one time. (And yes, I'll cut the power before I leave just to be on the safe side.)

Is there a way I can test a switch before I buy it, and can I test the old switch once I remove it? I'd like to find out for sure what's causing the problem.

It was me who changed it a few months ago, and I remember now that the screws were very, very loose. I also remember one of the wires was quite stiff and the insulation had worn off, something I had forgotten to take care of. So I'll tape it up before I change the switch.

Maybe the screws worked loose again. Most of the wiring in the house is from 1950, so who knows what's going on in the walls? Maybe those ants that invaded were making their own adjustments - after all, they were carpenter ants. Big Grin

I really didn't want to hire an electrician but I thought that since I had changed the switch, that wouldn't be the problem. It never occurred to me that it might be.

I had forgotten that even critical components like electrical switches are manufactured offshore, and who knows what if any quality control exists?

Thanks again for taking the time to help me.
Aug 18, 2013, 07:08 PM
CommonwealthSparky
Actually you can find devices made in the good old USA. NAFTA-Compliant work dictates that American made products be installed through out the job. {Well they could be from Canada or Mexico methinks}. Now I am not saying you will find them at the local Big Box store. Just saying they are out there.
Follow the advice posted by others on board and you will be fine.
You can test for a bad switch if you have multi-meter to check Ohms {or resistance}. Or a continuity tester will work as well.
{Nor would I go the route of a heavy duty switch if it is a little used storage room. A 69 cent switch will last for about 40 years in use light use}. But that is just me, others can disagree and that is fine.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: CommonwealthSparky,


Popeye only reached for the Spinach can as a last resort...
Aug 18, 2013, 07:12 PM
CommonwealthSparky
quote:
Originally posted by swschrad:
69 cent switches are the devil. put in a good spec-grade unit, under 3 bucks at the home center. fasten the wires into a loop and tuck it under the screws so tightening the screw tightens the loop (open end to the right.)

I had a crud switch somebody put in on the furnace serviceman cutoff. fiddled with everything else, furnace guy was out twice, and finally decided to check the switch. junk gas-station switch and back-wired to boot. replaced it, no problems since. I used a good motor-rated switch because hey, you want your heat in the winter up here in the frozen tundra. cost under 5 bucks.

any gouged or burnt-appearing wire on the end of the conductors, cut it back and restrip to good clean stuff.

do, of course, shut off the breaker first. we want you alive and well.

Furnace guys are great at furnace work. Big Grin
Not so great with electrical trouble shooting though. But certainly glad the problem was solved.


Popeye only reached for the Spinach can as a last resort...
Aug 18, 2013, 07:25 PM
GardenSprite
CS, thanks to you as well for the reply and advice.

I have a multifunction tester but it's not here with me so I'm not sure what it actually tests, but I'll give it a try. I suspect my father has a continuity tester as he wired his shed and had to do some troubleshooting. I'm really not very knowledgeable about all these issues. Confused

But we'll see if we can find the culprit!

Seems like a $.69 switch will likely last longer than I will. Big Grin But I will check out sources other than HD or Lowe's just as a matter of principle; I dislike having little choice as to manufacturing source in what I purchase.

Thanks again for your response.
Aug 18, 2013, 08:18 PM
Jaybee
I've rarely found a bad switch out-of-the-box but I have seen some that will arc across their contacts soon after install. I haven't found any reliable way of testing short of just the 'feel' of how solid the switch feels when you flick it from one side to the other.


Jaybee
Aug 19, 2013, 08:01 AM
CommonwealthSparky
I agree. Snap switches are basically bullet proof out of the box. Can you happen to be the one who purchases the runt of the litter? Sure, it happens.
{Spam bumping}. Razz


Popeye only reached for the Spinach can as a last resort...
Aug 19, 2013, 10:29 AM
GardenSprite
CS, thanks for the heads-up on the generator guy, reincarnated once again.

Anyone know how to create the equivalent of a stake through the heart for this character who won't give up?

FYI, I've reported him again.

And in answer to your query:

"Divide by ZERO, and what do you get?" .

I have a corollary: Multiply by zero, and what do you get? the generator spammer.

You can multiply, divide, add or subtract this spammer but it still keeps coming back, like Dracula.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: GardenSprite,
Aug 19, 2013, 11:20 AM
swschrad
unlike his generators


sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?