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When Is an Electrical Noise in the House a Reason to Worry?


“Do you hear a buzzing sound? I could swear I hear a buzzing sound. Anyone else hear that?”

Have you said something like this before in your home? It may have been nothing—an “audio illusion,” it happens. It may have been minor trouble. Or it could have indicated a serious electrical concern. We’re going to look at household electrical noises and when you should call an Amherst, NY electrician to find out if there’s a repair problem that needs to be taken care of.

Electrical sounds are normal but usually quiet

Does electricity make a sound? Electrical appliances do—and these sounds are all around you in your home. However, you can’t hear most of them, and some people’s ears are more attuned to the sound of electricity than others. This sound is electricity itself, but the sound of alternating current moving through wires or appliances. Alternative current (AC) causes fluctuations in magnetic fields, and this causes vibrations. Most of the time, this isn’t harmful, and only the higher voltage appliances will create an audible sound.

Okay, but when should I worry about these noises?

The short answer to this is “whenever the noise is louder than normal.” The buzz of alternating current in your house from wires, monitors, lights, computers, and everything else forms a white-noise backdrop for your life. When the white noise becomes something more noticeable—and irritating—is when you should start to think about it.

If you detect the noise coming from a specific appliance or fixture, like a lamp, then you should unplug the appliance immediately. We also recommend you don’t plug anything else into that specific socket until you’ve had an electrician examine it. The appliance may also need to be examined. For larger lighting fixtures, you may need to replace the bulb, or you may have the wrong bulb in place.

A major source of worry is when you hear a buzzing sound coming from the electrical panel. The panel makes a dull humming noise like any other electrical component, but you shouldn’t be able to hear it standing a few feet away from the panel. If it is this loud, it’s warning of a major problem within one of the breakers. (Or the fuses if you still have an old fuse box. Please get that updated right away.) This is a case where trying to shut off the electricity is a bad idea, since you’ll have to shut it off at the panel, and touching a malfunctioning panel may deliver a high voltage shock. Call for a licensed electrician right away—you don’t want to take chances with a malfunctioning electrical panel.

You may also hear buzzing coming from the walls, which warns of damaged wires. If you know what breakers control what parts of the home’s electrical system (and it’s helpful to have the breakers labeled) you can shut off the power to those circuits and see if the noise stops. Call an electrician once you’ve either done this or you can’t determine the source of the noise.

Scherer Electric is Western New York’s Favorite Electrician! Call us 24/7 whenever you have an emergency electrical repair need. You’ll always get to talk to a real person when you call.

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