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Old 10-11-2010, 10:11 AM   #1
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Why do old switch smell burnt.


I've seen this in a few homes that I've lived in. After awhile the 2 or 3 way switches smell burnt. Replacing the switch solves the issue for many years, but then they start to smell burnt again. Is this because the switches are cheap or is this normal for all switches? I usually use Leviton switches but have tried others as well and have seen similar results. Is there a better brand?

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Old 10-11-2010, 07:36 PM   #2
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Why do old switch smell burnt.


every time a switch opens and closes there is a minature (explosion of) arcing taking place, as full current is trying to travel through contacts not quite fully closed or opened. this arcing is cause of contact deterioration and eventually contact failure. this is likely the odor you smell. the next time you replace one open it up and examine the contacts.
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Old 10-12-2010, 08:01 AM   #3
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Why do old switch smell burnt.


Thanks for the reply. A few follow up questions.

So is this normal? I replace the switch when it smells burnt. Should I be doing this? And finally is there a better choice of switch that doesn't do this?
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Old 10-12-2010, 08:31 AM   #4
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Why do old switch smell burnt.


You can buy spec-grade switches which will last maybe twice as long as a normal switch.

You don't really need to replace them based on smell. I'd replace them when they start to get "mushy"... like you can easily put the switch in the middle where it's not quite on or off and it's making a buzzing noise.
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Old 10-12-2010, 08:36 AM   #5
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Why do old switch smell burnt.


Thanks for the reply. So I guess the smell is not dangerous and this happens to everyone?
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Old 10-12-2010, 08:38 AM   #6
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Why do old switch smell burnt.


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Originally Posted by liquidvw View Post
Thanks for the reply. So I guess the smell is not dangerous and this happens to everyone?
I guess that depends on how bad the smell is. If you can smell it in the room then it's probably something that should be fixed.

If you are putting your nose on the switches, then a slight burnt smell wouldn't be unusual or dangerous.
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Old 10-12-2010, 09:38 AM   #7
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Why do old switch smell burnt.


Thanks. You can't smell it in the room. I put my nose to the switch to smell it. I thought it was a problem, but I guess not. Thank you very much.
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