Why Is My Light Bulb Buzzing?
When you flip on a light switch, you expect the room to illuminate, but you don’t want a buzzing sound to go with it. Besides being annoying, a buzzing light bulb could indicate a problem with your electrical system. While you may be able to troubleshoot some issues, others require professional repair.
Common Causes of Buzzing Light Bulbs
Sometimes, faulty or aging bulbs begin buzzing before they burn out. However, the most common reason for buzzing lights isn’t the bulb itself but the voltage being applied to it. Even other devices sharing the same electrical line can have this effect.
So, what does light bulb buzzing mean? Here are a few possibilities, depending on the type of bulb you’re using.
Buzzing Incandescent Bulbs
Most of the time, incandescent bulbs operate quietly. However, if they’re on a dimmer switch, buzzing becomes a more likely problem. Dimmers work by removing some voltage from the line so the amount of energy reaching the filaments decreases, therefore reducing the light output.
Unfortunately, routinely adding and removing voltage causes light bulb filaments to vibrate, resulting in that annoying buzzing sound. The buzzing doesn’t indicate an electrical hazard, but it may discourage you from using the dimming function on your light fixture.
Buzzing Fluorescent Lights
Older fluorescent lights are notorious for flickering and buzzing. You may simply need to replace the bulb, but that won’t help if you have an old ballast on your hands. This is a device that regulates the voltage of fluorescent lights. If the ballast can no longer properly regulate the voltage, buzzing may occur.
Buzzing LED Light Bulbs
Unlike incandescent and fluorescent lights, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) don’t have filaments or firing arcs. Therefore, they have no parts capable of producing a buzzing sound.
However, LED lights may still buzz if you attempt to dim a non-dimmable LED bulb. Electromagnetic interference from other devices on the same electrical line may also come into play.
How to Stop a Light Bulb from Buzzing
Try these troubleshooting tips to stop a light bulb from buzzing:
- Swap out the bulb with a new one: Since humming may be caused by a dying light bulb, exchanging it with a new one could be an easy way to fix the problem.
- Replace incandescent bulbs with rough service bulbs, CFLs, or LEDs: These have stronger, thicker filaments (or no filaments at all in the case of LEDs), making them less likely to vibrate and hum. Plus, low-wattage CFLs and LEDs have the added advantage of lower electricity bills.
- Use the right type of bulb: Not all bulbs are compatible with dimmer switches. If you want a dimming function, choose a bulb designed for this purpose.
- Remove a bulb or two from a multi-light fixture: If the buzzing stops, this means the dimmer probably can’t handle the wattage of running the lights all at once. To work around this, replace the bulbs with lower-wattage CFLs or LEDs.
- Upgrade your dimmer or ballast: Cheaply made dimmers and magnetic ballasts are likely to cause buzzing. Installing a higher-quality replacement may be necessary to stop your light bulbs from making this annoying sound.
Call an Electrician for Help with Buzzing Light Bulbs
When simple troubleshooting doesn’t solve your buzzing light bulb problem, you need help from a qualified electrician to set things right. You may need help upgrading your dimmer or ballast, or it could turn out that you have an electrical short in your wiring. Whatever the problem, our knowledgeable electricians are here to help.
Contact Jaffe Electric today to schedule an electrical inspection in Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, DC.
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