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Our light switch and electrical plates get hot to the touch if left on or something is plugged in for a few hours or more. The house is only 25 yrs old but this causes me to be concerned about our wiring. Does anyone know what this means or what we should do? It doesn't strike me as normal! Thank you!
It is possible that your house has aluminum wiring, although it is somewhat newer than the time when aluminum was widely used. Aluminum expands and contracts more than copper, which, over time, causes the connections to come loose. Arcing results, and could be the cause of the heat you feel.
Whatever the cause, a good electrician should be consulted, and the true cause should be discovered and dealt with. It is an unsafe situation.
You might take the opportunity to have the electrician install arc-fault interrupters on all circuits serving all bedrooms. They are not expensive, and are required by code in many jurisdictions on new work and alterations. They will detect arcing and shut off the circuit until the cause can be corrected, possibly preventing a fire.
Architect (NY) and Home Designer (PA)
Posts: 2870 | Location: Tobyhanna, PA | Registered: 24 October 2005
Hot plates are usually indicative of loose connections, improper loading too large of a breaker and wire too small, arc-fault breakers are an excellent idea but the heating problem needs to be resolved otherwise a lot of nuisance tripping will occur. Moisture in the walls can also cause heating.
Posts: 1 | Location: wisconsin | Registered: 15 November 2005
Wow, just an hour ago, my son alerted me of his switchplate on his wall. I could not hold my hand on it over a few seconds as it was so hot. The house is not very old. I guess the first step by reading here is to replace the switch plate? And also, not to use the switch until repaired?
Frequently, switches and outlets are "back wired", which means that the wire is stripped about 3/4", and then inserted into a little hole at the rear of the switch or outlet, displacing a spring-loaded contact leaf within. This is poor practice, and is forbidden in many jurisdictions, since there is only a point-contact within the device to the outside diameter of the wire. This means that the total load capacity of the device is going through that little contact point, whenever there is a load present. It's somewhat like trying to get the total water volume of your garden hose though the hollow shaft of a ball point pen refill. With electricity, the result is a high resistance condition, which is what generates the heat you feel. As the others have mentioned, this is a potentially life-threatening situation, so you will need to get the situation remedied A.S.A.P. However, make certain that you INSIST that whomever does the work of changing out the device NOT BACK-WIRE, OR YOU MAY WELL END UP WITH THE SAME SITUATION. Instead, ask the electrician to use the screw terminals that are on the sides of the switch or outlet device, looping the wire clockwise around the screw terminal, so that the process of tightening up the screw acts to close the loop of wire which is wound around it. There should never be an extra charge from a conscientious electrician for doing the work in this fashion, since that's the right way to do it in the first place.
Posts: 105 | Location: West Haven, Conn. | Registered: 15 November 2005
Heated switch plates usually mean one of two things. 1. Turn off current to switch plate. Check to make shure that terminal screws are tightly torqued down. check that unused screws are thightened to switch body. 2. If switch plate still is heated after this action. turn off current again and inspect to see if wiring sheath it self is heated if so there is exessive current draw. Call an electrician.
Ok I see the BACK WIRE issue has reared its ugly head. Never back wire or use the insert feature of an electrical device. Let me tell you why. When my home was professionally rewired I ended up with a receptacle in the basement that when a 3 pronged plug was pluged in to it behaved perfectly but when a 2 prong receptical was pluged in blew the breaker. I replaced the receptacle and the problem was cured I could find nothing wrong with old receptical. I wrorked for TRW at the time as a designer so I brought the suspect receptacle to our lab for furthur examination. We disasembled the receptacle and found the following. The electrican had back wired (used the insert holes) for wiring. But he used a diagonal cutting device and instead of cutting straight across the wire he had effected a chisle cut. This chisle cut, coupled with a slight curve in the stripped wire, upon insertion jumped the barrier and contacted the central ground sheath of the unit. Never use the insert feature of wiring devices
I had the same problem with a dimmer switch right after my home was built. We called the electrician back and he said there was nothing wrong with the wiring or the switch. We changed the stwitch and have not had a problem since. We have a newer type of dimmer switch.