A static electricity shock is a rather unpleasant surprise, even when you’re positive that it isn’t indicative of any bigger issues.
If your light switch gives you an electric shock from time to time, we can understand your frustration and even fear in these extremely uncomfortable situations.
In this guide, we will explain why these static shocks occur and talk about the most effective ways of preventing this from happening in the future.
Why did your light switch shock you?
The electrical shock you feel when you touch your light switch is in fact caused by the static discharge from the metal screws in the light switch.
Static electricity is accumulated electricity that remains on the surface of any object, including your light switch.
The static shock you experience from a light switch is considered harmless, and it is quite different from the electric shock you’d get from an electrical appliance or electrical wiring.
However, if the intensity of this shock is quite worrying, this probably means that you have a severely damaged light switch that should be replaced immediately.
Let’s dive into some of the most common reasons why you experience a static shock when you touch your light switch.
1. Faulty light switch
A light switch that gives you an electric shock may simply be malfunctioning.
The issue could concern any of the elements of the light switch, including the wiring. Since a light switch gets electrical currents by being connected to a box, if any of the box wires are loose, this could be causing the shock.
It is also possible that the wiring inside the switch itself is loose or damaged, which could also lead to unstable electricity and electrical shocks.
Another issue with your light switch could be that there is a damaged electrical outlet nearby, creating resistance to electricity, which is affecting the switch and causing these shocks.
There could also be damaged or low-quality capacitors, insulants, or conductors in the light switch producing electrical leakage.
2. Metal switch box
Metal is the ideal electricity conductor, which may be the reason why you’re getting shocked pretty much every time you touch your light switch.
If your light switch has a metal box and isn’t properly grounded, the metal will conduct the electricity, and you’ll get shocked.
Speaking of materials, keep in mind that plastic or ceramic light switches do not conduct electricity, and in this case, you won’t get shocked unless you touch the metal screws on the switch.
3. Light switch isn’t grounded
According to the National Electrical Code, it is necessary for light switches to be grounded. Skipping this step in the electrical work could seriously jeopardize your safety.
While light switches are generally always grounded, any defects in the switch structure could cause current leakage.
As long as the light switch is properly grounded, the grounding will act as protection against possible electrocution if there is current leakage.
Thanks to grounding, the circuit breaker will trip in these potentially dangerous situations, shutting off the electricity supply for this switch.
4. Damaged house wiring
Just as the wiring inside the switch and its box could be damaged, so could the house wiring.
However, keep in mind that defective house wiring could lead to serious issues and big electricity leaks.
In case you notice any burning smell, lights flickering, or smoke, it is necessary to contact the electrician immediately and have the house wiring checked.
5. Wet hands
It’s possible that you’ve noticed that you usually get shocked by your light switch if you touch it with a wet hand.
Just like metal, water is a good electricity conductor, so you should remember to wipe your hands before touching the light switch.
In case the water from your hand reaches the terminals, you could experience a pretty painful, serious electric shock.
As long as the light switch is grounded and not defective, you can touch it with a damp hand, but remember never to touch a light switch with a dripping wet hand, even if you’ve never been shocked by that switch before.
How to fix a light switch that shocked you
Now that you’re well aware of all the potential hazards of a defective light switch and its components, it is time to discuss some of the most effective methods of fixing a light switch that shocks you.
However, it is important to emphasize the fact that, in most cases, it is recommended to contact an electrician and have them inspect and repair or replace any of the defective elements, especially if you suspect that the problem might be serious.
1. Have the light switch replaced
The best way to deal with a defective or malfunctioning light switch is to have it replaced. While this is something that you can do yourself, we suggest hiring a professional in case you’ve experienced a static shock.
Not only is this a matter of safety, but you also want to make sure that all the connections are properly installed in order to avoid this issue in the future.
We also recommend installing a plastic or ceramic light switch instead of a metal one. As we’ve explained, metal is an excellent electricity conductor, and you’re more likely to get shocked by a light switch with a metal box.
2. Ensure that the light switch is grounded
If you’ve experienced painful shocks from your light switch, it is necessary to have a professional inspect it and make sure that it is properly grounded.
Grounding the light switch is essential when it comes to preventing electrical shocks, especially those that could be extremely dangerous.
That being said, we recommend having an electrician take a look at the light switch, including all the wiring and other important elements that could be damaged.
3. Use a humidifier
If static electricity is something you deal with in other areas of your home, the problem may not necessarily come from your light switch.
In this case, using a humidifier in your home could prevent electric charge on static surfaces by balancing out the humidity in the air.
4. Have outlets and wiring inspected
In some cases, the problem doesn’t have to be in the light switch or its wiring. It is possible that the current leakage is coming from a damaged outlet, defective house wiring, or a malfunctioning appliance that is causing havoc in the circuit breaker.
Serious issues such as faulty house wiring will usually be manifested through burning odors, smoke, and overheating in certain areas.
In case you notice any of these signs of electrical damage, it is necessary to contact your electrician immediately and have them inspect the house electrical to locate the core issue.