Electric shocks are unpleasant because they strike by surprise and can be severe enough to hurt or discomfort.
Mild and frequent shocks that pinch your finger every time you turn the light switch can be irritating.
So, Why Are Some Light Switches Giving Shocks?
Get started by assessing the nature of the shocks. Is it a massive jolt or a measly shock? It is usual for mild shocks to strike occasionally when you turn the switch. There are two kinds of shocks worth knowing about: electric and static.
Understanding Static and Electric Shocks
A static shock is a product of accumulated electric charges on clothes, skin, and conductive surfaces.
Static shocks are usually harmless but can build up to cause slight discomfort.
There are two primary sources of static shocks at home:
- static shocks discharged from the metallic parts of the switch, such as crews and similar surfaces,
- and those induced by home fabrics, such as carpets.
Static Shocks From Metallic Parts Of The Switch
You might ask: “how do static charges from the switch pinch the finger?”
Your body acts as a capacitor for the static charges produced by an imbalance between negative and positive demands in the switch.
If you touch a grounded light switch, the amount accumulated in the body is released, causing the familiar tingling sensation or shock.
Static charges may get to thousands of volts in some situations.
Fortunately, they usually last for a concise time and wouldn’t cause harm other than a slight zap.
Static shocks are common in the summer when the air has very little moisture. That’s why you should turn on your humidifier if the static charges refuse to subside.
Static Shocks From Large Home Fabrics
Sometimes large home fabrics such as carpets produce static charges that may end up on nearby surfaces such as light switches and glass windows.
If your floor has a carpet and you are sure the home circuit is trouble-free, the static charges may emanate from the carpet.
This type of static shock is the easiest to identify. If you can detect it on the light switch and the door knob, your carpet is the likeliest culprit.
Carpet-induced static shocks are brief – they usually stop while your hand is still on the light switch.
The remedy is to turn on your humidifier or avoid wearing shoes indoors.
What Are Electric Shocks?
If the shock felt a little more powerful than static shock, say, strong enough to cause a poke, pinch, twinge, jolt, or muscle spasms, then that’s an electric shock.
Electric shocks are dangerous and are likely to be caused by a fault in the light switches or somewhere in the rest of the circuit.
The following might be the causes of your electric shocks:
Are Your Hands Wet? Water Is a Good Conductor of Electricity and May Be the Cause of the Shocks
If you only feel the shock when you touch switches with wet hands, the water on your hands is likely completing the circuit with the terminals in your switch.
Notably, well-grounded switches can be safely operated with damp hands, BUT dripping wet hands would be dangerous.
Nonetheless, always dry your hands before touching any electrical equipment, including your switch box.
If Your Light Switch Is Metallic, Improper Grounding Might Be the Cause of the Shocks
There are three classes of switches in construction material:
- and metallic.
Plastic and ceramic options are the most common of the three types.
While metal sounds like a crazy idea for electrical equipment, metallic switches are strong, easily groundable, and never melt in the event of a severe electrical accident.
One of the reasons they’re not popular is they are costlier than plastic switches. Metal boxes are actually safer than plastic switches.
However, if not grounded properly, they tend to leak tiny quantities of electricity, often manifested as electric shock.
Your metallic switch could be the culprit behind the repeated shocks, and you should hire an electrician to ground it properly or replace it entirely with a plastic option.
Plastic Switches, Too, May Leak Electricity Due to Poor Grounding
National electrical codes require all electrical switches to be grounded regardless of their construction material.
Absence of grounding, or poor grounding, may leak electrical current in the metallic screws that pin the switch on the wall, which can be significant to be felt when you touch it.
Defective Switches Won’t Just Produce Shocks but May Start a Fire as Well
Is your switch defective? Sometimes the innards of a wall switch can fail to work in harmony, leaking electrical current on the wrong surfaces.
Poor conductors, insulators that no longer work, and faulty capacitors may set the stage for shocks individually or cause a more severe accident.
Damaged House Wiring Could Be Leaking Electricity On the Switch’s Screws
Your home circuit could be damaged.
Problems with the home circuit usually lead to more serious issues that can be felt throughout the house.
See Also: Do You Caulk Around Light Switches???
If the shocks are accompanied by flickering lights, the smell of burnt plastic, or smoke, it could be a sign of a larger problem in the rest of your house wiring.
Also, if all the light switches in the house are affected, the whole circuit might be damaged.
Something Might Not Be Right with Your Home’s Electrical Grounding
If your switch and the rest of your home wiring are okay, but you still experience shocks, your home wiring is likely poorly grounded.
Grounding issues usually result from two events happening simultaneously along your home circuit.
- Firstly, the ground wire opens along the circuit supplying your light switches.
- Secondly, a short circuit is created between the ground/earth conductor and the hot/live conductor.
A short circuit would usually trip the circuit breaker but won’t in this case because the open ground will prevent it.
Alternatively, if you are getting a mild shock from your switch, you could be a conductor of the current leaking from an electronic device plugged somewhere “downstream” of the open grounding wire.
If so, consider hiring a qualified electrician to rectify the issue because it is a severe safety hazard.
Static shocks are common and harmless, whereas electric shocks are rare but dangerous.
Electric shocks originate from electrical faults in your light switch or somewhere on the home circuit.
For instance, a defective switch with open wires will leak current on the wrong surfaces to produce dangerous electrical shocks.
Frequent or severe shocks should be investigated and rectified.