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Discussion Starter #1
I was out of town recently during an electrical storm. When I got home, two separate lights in the kitchen were not working. Both lights are powered with 3-way switches with one end of each in a 4-switch box near the door with the front porch and living room lights - both of which still work.

When I turn on the 3-way switches in that box I hear arcing inside.

A few months ago, I had that problem with the living room light. Sometimes when I turn it on, nothing happened, other times I heard arcing. I replaced the switch and it has worked fine since.

I have nothing to lose by changing the two seemingly-failed 3-ways now so I will do that tomorrow but my question (well, one of them) is how long should modern light switches last? I was dismayed that the only 3-way switches at Lowe's today were 1.69 each. The last ones I bought were around 5 or 6 dollars. Just how cheap can they go? I'd rather pay 10 dollars for a quality switch than 1.69 for a fire starter. All of the switches in this box are less than 4 years old and are rarely used (they're at the lake house and we're there most weekends at most). Is that what I should expect from modern, cheap, Chinese made electrical parts?

Second question, what else might be causing the symptom? If I hear arcing in the switch, could it be further down the line or is it going to be the failed switch for certain?
 

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I was out of town recently during an electrical storm. When I got home, two separate lights in the kitchen were not working. Both lights are powered with 3-way switches with one end of each in a 4-switch box near the door with the front porch and living room lights - both of which still work.

When I turn on the 3-way switches in that box I hear arcing inside.

A few months ago, I had that problem with the living room light. Sometimes when I turn it on, nothing happened, other times I heard arcing. I replaced the switch and it has worked fine since.

I have nothing to lose by changing the two seemingly-failed 3-ways now so I will do that tomorrow but my question (well, one of them) is how long should modern light switches last? I was dismayed that the only 3-way switches at Lowe's today were 1.69 each. The last ones I bought were around 5 or 6 dollars. Just how cheap can they go? I'd rather pay 10 dollars for a quality switch than 1.69 for a fire starter. All of the switches in this box are less than 4 years old and are rarely used (they're at the lake house and we're there most weekends at most). Is that what I should expect from modern, cheap, Chinese made electrical parts?

Second question, what else might be causing the symptom? If I hear arcing in the switch, could it be further down the line or is it going to be the failed switch for certain?
Some types of loads do tend to promote arcing more so.
These are known as "re-active loads".
They are usually inductive or capacitive in nature
rather than just being straight resistive
as would a standard incandesant light be.
So any light with electronics in it we be re-active
that includes LED,CFL, Floro tubes and any low voltage
light with an electronic type power supply.

There is no easy way out except to use good quality switchs.
The bigger the better so a 20A switch rather than a 5A.
 

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In my opinion switches, even cheep switches. have a remarkable life span.
When I turn on the 3-way switches in that box I hear arcing inside
Arcing, indicates a poor connection.
I was out of town recently during an electrical storm.
Electrical storms tend to cause power surges.

Suggestion,
Remove the switches and see if they were wired using the "quick connect" holes in the back. Since you installed the switches you may know.
The "quick connect " tend to develop poor connections over time. Perhaps a power surge caused a poor connection for you. Rewire using screw terminals.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I replaced the two bad switches today. There were no loose connections; the problem was definitely the switches. Just pure Chinese garbage.
 
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