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surlygirl's avatar

Do i need some serious electrical work done?

Asked by surlygirl (363points) August 25th, 2008

there’s a dimmer switch in my living room that buzzes, esp when the light is turned down. sometimes it is quite warm to the touch. the ceiling light in my kitchen was humming today. then the light went out. when i touch it, it will briefly come back on and hum before going out. not sure if this is relevant, but i recently replaced all three bulbs in the fixture with those energy saving bulbs. they take a couple of minutes to warm up (a second after flipping switch, bulb comes on with very low light, then progressively gets brighter), whereas the traditional bulbs that were in there immediately came on.

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5 Answers

bodyhead's avatar

Not all florescent Edison based bulbs (which I assume you’re using if you are using those energy savers) are UL rated for dim-able fixtures. I would check to see if you even have the type of bulbs that are suppose to work in your fixtures.

On dimming from GEs website

Can I use a compact fluorescent light bulb with a dimmer switch?
To use a compact fluorescent bulb on a dimmer switch, you must buy a bulb that’s specifically made to work with dimmers (check the package). GE makes a dimming compact fluorescent light bulb (called the Energy Smart Dimming SpiralsĀ®) that is specially designed for use with dimming switches. We don’t recommend using regular compact fluorescent bulbs with dimming switches, since this can shorten bulb life. (Using a regular compact fluorescent bulb with a dimmer will also nullify the bulb’s warranty.)

Also, the delay in max brightness is standard for that type of bulb. What happens is the ballast (the white base part) actually ignites the gas in the twisty bulb part and it sometimes takes a bit for it to all ignite.

Even if you aren’t dimming the fixtures. If they have the ability to dim, you shouldn’t use standard energy savers in them.

If you still have hums and buzzes, I’d be glad to walk through the problems with you one at a time but this might be enough to get you started.

surlygirl's avatar

ahh…i do not have the correct bulb for my dimmer switch! although, the switch would get warm and buzz with a traditional bulb as well. i’ll definitely look for the appropriate one on my next store outing

the other energy eff. bulbs i have had would take a second or two to light up. but this kitchen light is much slower. coupled with the humming and turning off, i was concerned that it is a wiring issue. just a little scary. i did check my smoke detector today, so at least that’s working, should something bad happen…

bodyhead's avatar

It’s very unusual for a dimmer switch to buzz. Typically the buzz from a dimmer switch (with regular bulbs) is from the filament in the bulb vibrating. If you do feel that it’s too warm you might consider just replacing the switch if it’s fairly cheap. Be warned though, some lights just buzz. My dad is in the lighting business and the fixtures in his kitchen buzz if you dim them just right.

I would try to take all of the bulbs out of the fixture and see if you still hear the buzz. The switch will still have power so it should still buzz when turned on even with no bulbs in the fixture. (Assuming the problem really is the dimmer switch).

If your switch is the culprit, you might try replacing it with the exact same switch. It would be fairly simple to do as long as you know where the breaker box is. If it’s a single in-line dimmer, it’s probably attached with 2 screws and 3 wires. I can step you through it if you’d like.

or check out this howto on dimmers

I wouldn’t worry about your kitchen bulb. That’s probably just a little quirk with the bulb. The Edison based fluorescent technology isn’t perfect yet. Even if you have three bulbs on the same circuit, you’d probably notice that one is a little slower or faster then the others. It could also be a difference in wattage. Do you have the same wattage in all your fixtures?

RocketGuy's avatar

If you use a regular Compact Fluorescent (CFL) bulb with a dimmer, the ballast will overheat and catch fire! It will actually use more power the more you try to dim it, too.

We use dimmable CFL at home. They take several minutes to come up to full brightness, and can only dim from 100% down to 70% before blinking off. They cost a lot more than regular CFL. We live with it, knowing that each bulb uses 15W to produce the same amount of light as a normal 60W incandescent.

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