Why do I get a shock from my light switch? We get that question a lot and there is more to it than you think.
You are getting a shock from your light switch for two possible reasons. One it’s a static shock from sock feet on carpet and you have nothing to worry about. Two you have a grounded neutral in your electrical system and that is more serious.
So Why Do I Get A Shock From My Light Switch?
OK so your touch your light switch to turn it on and you get a small jolt.
It scares you more than anything but you’re not sure what to do about it.
One of the first things it could be as static electricity. Static electricity can be sneaky.
You are most likely have static electricity if humidity is low in the year and the conditions are warm and dry.
This most likely happens in the winter time. Especially if you have an electric heat source that dries your home out quite well.
If you have sock feet or carpet and you were walking across the carpet you will build up enough charge.
That is when you touch the light switch or anything else that you will see a small spark and a quick little zap.
This is nothing to be alarmed about.
It is just a little bit scary because it’s a light switch and you automatically assume it is electricity from the light switch itself which it is truly not.
Why Do I Get A Shock From The Light Switch Plate Screws?
The other major source while you may be getting an electric shock from your light switch or screw plate is a little more serious.
This is a condition known as a phantom shock which is what we call it.
If you’re walking by to turn the switch on and you rub your hand on the metal part of the screw.
You make good enough contact to ground through your feet you will get a tingle in your hand.
You’re getting this tingle in your hand because you have an issue with your electrical system.
At this point if it happens repeatedly and you will need to contact your local electrician to investigate further.
This means that you have a bonded neutral somewhere that is grounded out in the house.
This could mean that your water system is not correctly grounded.
Or there is a ground to the internal circuit conductors of the lighting circuit.
The worst part is it may not be the lighting circuit itself it could be the whole electrical system, so I could take the electrician a while to find it.
This issue must be corrected it is as it is could be potentially dangerous or even cause a fire.
Can You get A Shock From A Plastic Light Switch?
As mentioned above this is serious.
Most newer light switches are plastic, however behind the light switch the frame is metal.
This metal frame connects to your homes grounding system.
It also connects to the ground plate screws on the switch plate.
This is where you would get the shock from when you were turning light switch on or off.
The bonding issue that is related to this could be something as little as the light fixture itself shorting out.
It could be more serious which is why we strongly recommend having an electrician look at it.
If you were getting a shock from the light switch itself and it is plastic then it is most likely just a static shock.
Electricity does not travel too well from your homes electrical system through plastic so it be safe to say that this is purely static.
Is This Kind Of Shock Dangerous?
Static shock is not dangerous however the electrical shock issue from the screws can be dangerous especially if you make a good ground.
It is pretty hard for you to grab a hold of a ground screw although the back of your fingers will feel feel quite a tingle.
It is especially dangerous to older generation with pacemakers.
Any sort of electric shock and set a pacemaker into a frenzy.
Does It Mean My House Will Burn Down?
The shorter answer is, it depends.
If you have grounded neutrals within the house then you have serious electrical issues.
You need to get this sorted out by your local electrician.
No good can come of it and it could also mean that your breaker is malfunctioning protecting the circuit causing the issue.
Can I Fix This Problem On My Own?
No you should not try to fix this problem on your own.
You should always consult in your own local licensed electrician.
They are qualified to identify the issue is you should not be playing with electricity.
Why Do I Only Get Shocked Sometimes?
Depending on how well you were grounded when you touch the light switch is how often you will get the shock.
If you are in bare feet on a wet floor then you will most likely get a worse shock then you would if you had sneakers on.
This has to do with how well you were grounded and how well the electricity will flow through your body.
If you have wet hands and bare feet then look out.
Especially if there’s enough electricity flowing through the ground screw up the light switch that you’re touching this can give you a good zap.
Will The Shock Be Worse If My Hands Are Wet?
If your hands are wet and you touch a light switch then yes you will get electrocuted if you have a grounded neutral issue.
The shock and be more severe as water conducts electricity.
This is also why it is very important to get this looked at.
So What Is A Grounded Neutral
To keep this in layman‘s terms every circuit within an electrical system has internal insulated conductors which conduct electricity.
There is also a bare ground copper wire which grounds all of the metal devices switches plugs and boxes back to the main electrical panel.
This bare ground copper wire should be separated from the internal conductors that conduct electricity.
It is only joined back at the main source when it goes to the consumer service ground electrode.
The ground and neutral is when this bare copper conductor becomes partially grounded out through the insulated power conductors of the home.
This can be caused by incorrectly installing electrical equipment light fixtures outlets etc.
The power will try to feed back through the bare copper ground.
Even if there is a loose connection he will not completely go back to the ground source which will cause electricity to flow through some of the electrical boxes and devices and screw plates.
This is why you get a shock.
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