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Why Does My Light Switch Smell Like It’s Burning?

We turn light switches on and off several times a day without a second thought. The biggest complication from this normally mundane task is occasionally changing a burned out light bulb. However, if you notice a light switch is hot to the touch or smells like it’s burning, don’t ignore it. Call a professional electrician immediately to stop this potential fire hazard in its tracks.

Need a reliable electrician in the Kansas City area? Contact Top Notch today!

Reasons for Hot or Burned Light Switches

Overloaded Circuits

The main reason a light switch feels hot or shows signs of heat damage is from circuit overload. This happens when too much current flows through the switch. If the light switch is rated for 600 watts but 1,000 watts is flowing through it, the switch will get hot and possibly lead to a fire. This scenario is most likely to happen when a homeowner installs a new light fixture that requires too much wattage for the existing switch rating. A trained electrician can inspect the light switches in your home and suggest the appropriate switch rating for your lighting needs.


Another reason your light switch may show signs of smoke or fire damage is arcing. Arcing occurs when wires don’t make a strong connection with terminals inside the switch plate. When you turn on the switch, sparks can ignite the plastic switch plate, resulting in smoking, melting, and burning. If you see sparks coming out of your light switch, turn off the power and call an electrician immediately.

Wear & Tear

Just like electrical outlets, light switches are prone to wear and tear after years of use. Wire connections inside the switch can loosen over time, leading to possible arcing. If you notice problems with one light switch, it’s a good idea to have all of them replaced at the same time to avoid the possibility of fire.

Corrosion or Dirt Buildup

A less common reason for burned or damaged switch plates is corrosion and buildup of dirt and dust. These conditions can lead to heat resistance and arcing.

Additional Causes

  • A low-quality switch was installed
  • The switch is cracked or suffered other outward damage
  • The switch or wiring was improperly installed
  • Inadequate wiring for the amount of needed current (bottlenecking)

Rely on Top Notch for Electrical Services in Kansas City

Don’t let a faulty light switch cause a fire in your Kansas City area home. Most electrical fires can be prevented by responsible homeowners who know how to identify electrical problems before they end in disaster. Our trained professionals can pinpoint the cause of the problem and make the necessary repairs to keep your home safe for you and your family.

If you’ve noticed burned, melted, or otherwise damaged light switches or outlets in your home, contact the professionals of Top Notch Heating, Cooling & Plumbing right away.