Why Do Light Switches Keep Shocking Me?

Electric shocks are no fun. We have all experienced that sharp zap of electricity at least once in our lives, and understand how unpleasant it is.

Let’s be honest, electrocution can be no joke.

So, if you are getting constant shocks from your light switches, you should be concerned. The first step in solving any problem is understanding it.

You have to understand whether the shocks you are getting are static electricity charges or actual electric shocks.

There are usually two main types of shock from light switches, static or electric. The static shock is due to electricity build up on the skin. Electric shock is due to electrical leakage from the switch. Static shocks are harmless while electric shocks can be fatal.

Lets have a look at how defects in your light switch can cause it to keep shocking you. So, how do you identify these defects? Keep reading to find out.

Small Static Electric Charge Or Painful Shock: Which One Do You Get?

Static electricity builds up in dry air because there is no moisture in the air to conduct the charges away from the body.

These charges escape when you touch metal objects, and you may feel a little zap. Apart from its unpleasantness, it is harmless.

However, direct electric shocks are usually as a result of current leakage and are usually quite dangerous.

How do the shocks feel? Are they just small jolts? Or are they quite painful kind? That is mostly how you tell the difference between static shocks and electric shocks.

Static electricity poses no danger. The painful shocks, on the other hand, put you in danger. Even when the charges are not high enough to kill, they could cause nerve damage.

Static electricity is a result of imbalances between positive and negative charges on a skin. These charges are accumulated until you create conditions for them to be released. Usually, the right condition is touching a conducting surface.

When you touch metal surfaces, or in this case, a light switch, you will feel a slight jolt. You might even see the electricity as light-blue sparks.

Static shocks are benign but might be uncomfortable. To prevent them from happening, all you need to do is buy humidifiers to raise the humidity in your house.

More humidity in the air will conduct static electricity from your skin. You might also want to consider touching metal objects more frequently to release charges before they build up significantly.

What Causes Electrical Shock From Light Switch

light switch

Electric shocks are caused by more diverse reasons. There are various ways by which electricity could leak from your house’s wiring into your light sockets.

This section will explain four of them and how you can detect and correct these problems.

#1 Switch Is Not Grounded

The 1999 National Electrical Code requires light switches to be grounded. Defects in light switches could cause them to become electrified and dangerous. Grounding helps to reduce that risk.

With a properly grounded switch, the current leakage will be conducted away from the surface, preventing electrocution risk.

When the current is high enough, grounding will cause the circuit breaker to trip, cutting off the electricity supply to that switch totally.

#2 House Wiring Might Be Damaged

You could be getting electric shocks due to damages in your house’s wiring. Damaged wiring causes electricity to leak, leading to electric shocks.

Watch out for flickering lights, smoke, or burning odors. Also, feel your switch for warmth (after switching electricity at the mains).

Any of these signifies that your house wiring might be damaged. Contact your electrician as soon as possible.

#3 Switch Has Metal Box

You could be getting shocked because your switch has a metal box. Metals are perfect conductors of electricity.

And if they are not properly grounded, they could conduct even the tiniest leakage of electricity to you when you touch them.

Light switches that are made of plastic or ceramic material don’t conduct electricity at all. And even when leakages occur, you will not be shocked as long as you avoid touching the metal screws.

#4 Defective Switch

Defects in your light switch could be responsible for the electric shocks you keep getting. Poor conductors, insulants, and capacitors as switch materials may cause electric leakage from the switch. They may be:

  • High resistance leakages. They pass a low amount of current when you touch the switches.
  • Low resistance leakage. Low resistance creates leakages with high currents. These leakages are usually hazardous.
  • Loose connections. Here, wires get totally out of place and make contact with the switch’s casing. This is also very dangerous.

If you suspect any of these defects, if you see any wires out of place or sparks flying in your sockets, you should contact your electrician as soon as possible and trip the power fuse.

Is It Dangerous To Touch A Switch With Wet Hands?

No matter how much you try to avoid such situations, you will face having to touch the light switch with wet hands, especially in the kitchen or bathroom.

You might need to turn on the light in your room shortly after a shower. Or you might just want to switch an appliance on in the kitchen shortly after washing some vegetables.

I am sure you already know that it is quite dangerous to touch a light switch with wet hands. However, the danger is affected by a lot of factors.

The first is the extent of wetness and whether the water is in contact with any of the terminals.

Water is a pretty good conductor. If the water extends from your hands to a terminal, you may get seriously electrocuted.

You should be safe if your hands are not dripping wet. However, that is only if the switch is grounded correctly, and there are no electricity leakages.

In the case of electricity leakages, you will be in danger of electrocution even without wet hands. So, insist that your electrician properly install grounding on your light switches.

Also, as much as possible, avoid touching light switches with wet hands.

Also read: Can Dimmer Switch Be Installed In The Bathroom?

Final Words

Electricity has become a vital part of our lives. An outage for as short as one hour is bound to cause widespread disruptions and economic losses.

Nevertheless, its dangers are very potent, and the mishandling of electricity has severe consequences.

Just make sure to avoid touching electric switches with wet hands. I’d rather stay off the switch with wet hands than leave my fate to a top-notch electrical grounding if you’d ask me.

Besides, anything could have affected your wiring overnight. It’s better safe than sorry!

That pretty much sums it up. I’m sure I’ve answered your questions and concerns on why your light switch keeps shocking you.

You should utilize the tips I have given to prevent further shocks.

  • What experiences have you had with electric shocks?
  • How did you deal with them?
  • Do you know any other tips that I have not mentioned here?

Please, share them in the comment section.

2 thoughts on “Why Do Light Switches Keep Shocking Me?”

  1. Thank you for this well written article. I recently had my bathroom fan go out. The light and fan were on independent switches. The apartment repairman said the wiring is bad. He decided to rig the fan to turn on with the light switch. Just the other day I noticed a small electrical shock after turning my light/fan off. I had just washed my hands. I held my damp fingers near the switch and it was constantly shocking me but very lightly. I’m assuming the repair guy didn’t ground the fan correctly or broke the switch. Again, thanks for the article. That little shock could turn into something bigger, and possibly fatal. I’m calling the apartment manager first thing in the morning.

    • Hi Dave,

      Absolutely, the culprit will be definitely within the wiring and grounding. Glad that nothing has happened to you, but make sure to get it fixed asap.


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