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Old 12-14-2010, 10:28 AM   #1
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Single Pole Switch is "Hot" to the Touch


How bad is it for a regular single pole switch to get warm / hot to the touch? I noticed it in the guest bathroom today, I could hold my finger to the screw so its not burning hot but it is mildly hot. The switch is powering a light bar that draws 39 watts of CFL bulbs.

Both upstairs bathrooms are on the same 15a circuit. I did some remodeling in the master bathroom about 2 months ago and did some minor electrical work in the attic that would have affected everything on this circuit. The outdoors outlets are also on this circuit, I assume to take advantage of the GCFI.

The "hot" switch is in the non-remodeled bathroom. I assume the switch is original to the house (25 years old). I added up all the lights, bath fans, heated floor, etc for everything on this circuit (both bathrooms and outdoors) and it comes to 641.6 watts if everything is on at once, so I don't think I'm drawing too much.

I do not think I took any shortcuts with my electrical work in the attic and this recent work might be unrelated to this one hot switch, but it is worth mentioning. I was very careful as I respect electricity since I'm not a pro. Tight wire nuts, electrical tape, etc. Perhaps timing of the "hot" switch and the remodel are a pure coincidence.

I am hoping the switch might be going bad since it is 25 years old and in a bathroom / exposed to moisture. I am obviously not an electrician, so this is a hopeful guess. My other thought is that since the outdoors is powered off this circuit, could that have something to do with it? I think the line that runs downstairs to the outside is connected in this switchbox since there are a ton of wires in there. The only thing I have running on the outdoor switch is a photo sensor thing for my two, 40w Christmas decorations. Maybe it is the photo sensor drawing all the time? Again, an uneducated guess.

I see my options as:
1) Replace switch (I plan to do this as soon as I get home tonight)
2) Bring in an electrician to review my work in the attic and properly diagnose the hot switch

Any advice would be appreciated. Just wondering if I am over worrying the problem or if I have a fire risk on my hands.

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Old 12-14-2010, 10:38 AM   #2
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Single Pole Switch is "Hot" to the Touch


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Originally Posted by mbaudler View Post
How bad is it for a regular single pole switch to get warm / hot to the touch? I noticed it in the guest bathroom today, I could hold my finger to the screw so its not burning hot but it is mildly hot. The switch is powering a light bar that draws 39 watts of CFL bulbs.

Both upstairs bathrooms are on the same 15a circuit. I did some remodeling in the master bathroom about 2 months ago and did some minor electrical work in the attic that would have affected everything on this circuit. The outdoors outlets are also on this circuit, I assume to take advantage of the GCFI.

The "hot" switch is in the non-remodeled bathroom. I assume the switch is original to the house (25 years old). I added up all the lights, bath fans, heated floor, etc for everything on this circuit (both bathrooms and outdoors) and it comes to 641.6 watts if everything is on at once, so I don't think I'm drawing too much.

I do not think I took any shortcuts with my electrical work in the attic and this recent work might be unrelated to this one hot switch, but it is worth mentioning. I was very careful as I respect electricity since I'm not a pro. Tight wire nuts, electrical tape, etc. Perhaps timing of the "hot" switch and the remodel are a pure coincidence.

I am hoping the switch might be going bad since it is 25 years old and in a bathroom / exposed to moisture. I am obviously not an electrician, so this is a hopeful guess. My other thought is that since the outdoors is powered off this circuit, could that have something to do with it? I think the line that runs downstairs to the outside is connected in this switchbox since there are a ton of wires in there. The only thing I have running on the outdoor switch is a photo sensor thing for my two, 40w Christmas decorations. Maybe it is the photo sensor drawing all the time? Again, an uneducated guess.

I see my options as:
1) Replace switch (I plan to do this as soon as I get home tonight)
2) Bring in an electrician to review my work in the attic and properly diagnose the hot switch

Any advice would be appreciated. Just wondering if I am over worrying the problem or if I have a fire risk on my hands.
It may simply be a loose connection behind the switch plate, or the switch itself is starting to fail. The load you have described does not sound excessive. Start be replacing the switch and ensure that all connections are tight. That will probably do the trick.

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Old 12-14-2010, 11:04 AM   #3
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Single Pole Switch is "Hot" to the Touch


I'm assuming the answer is no, but is it a dimmer switch?
Those can get hot.
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Old 12-14-2010, 11:31 AM   #4
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Single Pole Switch is "Hot" to the Touch


It's not a dimmer, just a regular old single pole.
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Old 12-14-2010, 02:21 PM   #5
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Single Pole Switch is "Hot" to the Touch


Okay well there's an obvious glaring violation going on with the circuit size and assignment, but I'm willing to ignore that.

650 watts is not enough to overload ANYTHING, so that's not the issue. You have a bad connection behind the switch, or the switch is defective.

All other explanations relate to absolute miswiring, so I won't bring up any of those unless you come back and tell me that all connections are tight (using the screw terminals) and a brand-new switch.
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Old 12-15-2010, 02:52 AM   #6
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Single Pole Switch is "Hot" to the Touch


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Originally Posted by emolatur View Post
Okay well there's an obvious glaring violation going on with the circuit size and assignment, but I'm willing to ignore that
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Originally Posted by mbaudler View Post
The "hot" switch is in the non-remodeled bathroom. I assume the switch is original to the house (25 years old).
Assuming he is right and the house is more that 25 years old what is the violation?
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Old 12-15-2010, 05:20 AM   #7
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Single Pole Switch is "Hot" to the Touch


Assuming you are in the USA, each bath is suppose to have its own 20 amp circuit, GFCI protected. The bath circuits should not be shared with the exterior receptacles. If the bath remodel was (or should have been) permitted, that bath should have been brought up to that code.
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Old 12-15-2010, 12:28 PM   #8
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Single Pole Switch is "Hot" to the Touch


One of my 2011 projects is to have an electrician get the exterior outlets off the bath circuit. It makes sense that it is not up to code plus it is very annoying when the GFCI trips and I have to run upstairs to reset it. This is not a project I'm up for as a non-pro. I have good reference for a licensed electrician in my town who I plan to use.

I replaced the switch and it seems fine now, no warmth to the touch. Hopefully that was all it was.

The remodel was mostly a lipstick job, no walls moved, no plumbing moved, nothing with the roofline / windows / doors etc. Only one electrical switch was added for a night light that was on the new bathroom fan.

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