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Causes of Electric Circuit Buzz or Crackle


By Dave Rongey - Summary:

How to Locate the Cause of Electrical Circuit Buzz or Crackle: The Most Common Problems that Cause Electrical Circuit Buzz or Crackle and What Should Be Done


Circuit Buzz or Crackle May Indicate a Serious Problem

Electrical Question: If there is a loose connection somewhere in the electrical circuit will this cause the fuse box to buzz and crackle and cause problems with selected plugs.

  • Yesterday there were two plugs not working and now they are working.
  • Even without using these devices the noise from the fuse box is still there.

This electrical repair question came from: Anthony , a Handyman from Aberdare, UK.
See more about Electric Wiring in the UK

Additional Comments: Fabulous.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical repair question Anthony.

How to Locate the Cause of Electrical Circuit Buzz or Crackle

Skill Level: Advanced – a Licensed Electrical Contractor should be consulted.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools, Ammeter and Voltage Tester.
Estimated Time: Depends on age of the home, the condition of the electrical system and available access to the electrical components.
Precaution: Electrical troubleshooting of this level is best performed by an experienced electrical contractor service technician who can evaluate the problem and make the necessary repairs.

The Most Common Problems that Cause Electrical Circuit Buzz or Crackle and What Should Be Done

  • Loose Connections in Electrical Wiring
    • If there is a loose connection somewhere within an electrical circuit will this cause the fuse box to buzz and crackle and cause problems with selected wall plugs.
  • Isolate and Identify the Problem
    • To help isolate the problem  each circuit at the electrical panel should be turned off one at a time to see if the buzzing or noise stops.
    • If the noise does stop then make note of the circuit and identify the type of circuit breaker or fuse because it will need to be evaluate for potential problems.
  • Electrical Noise or Interference

    • Electrical circuit problems can sometimes produce line disturbances that can create noise that may be heard on a radio or other electronic devices in the home.
    • Attempt to isolate the circuit that causes the noise.
    • Begin unplugging other devices that are sharing the same circuit.The problem may be within a separate device that needs to be serviced or replaced.
    • Electrical line noise that is produced by other devices may sometimes be eliminated by installing noise filters,  line conditioners or surge suppressors.
    • If the problem still exists and is not isolated to a specific device then the circuit wiring and device connections will need to be inspected for burnt or corroded splices and connections and then repaired as needed.
    • Circuit devices such as outlet receptacles or switches that have burnt terminal connections should be replaced.
  • Circuit Breakers that Make Noise
    • Sometimes AFCI breaker and GFCI circuit breakers may produce a slight hum or noise which may be normal.
    • If a crackling noise or loud buzz is heard then the circuit breaker should be checked and replaced if necessary.
  • Electrical Panel Noise
    • A short within an electrical circuit could cause a buzz or hum sound at the electric panel right before a fuse blows or a circuit breaker trips off. The affected circuit should be identified so the circuit load may be identified and evaluated so the necessary repairs may be performed.
    • Overloaded circuits should be decreased by disconnecting devices that are causing the circuit overload condition.
    • If the sound you hear is a crackling sound then your electrical fuse box or panel should be checked out by a qualified electrician right away.
    • There may be a deteriorating electrical connection that can cause serious damage to the electrical panel and cause circuit failure as well.
    • A  loose connection of either a wire or a circuit breaker inside the panel could potentially create a big problem and should be evaluated and repaired by a professional electrician right away.

NOTE: Electrical panels are energized and pose electrical shock and arc flash hazards. Homeowners should not work with electrical panels. For best results contact a local licensed electrician.

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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

19 Responses to “Causes of Electric Circuit Buzz or Crackle”
  1. Tammie says:

    HELP! My main breaker is sizzling. We replaced all new circuit breakers. It is too late to call an electrician. Is this a problem that will be safe until the morning?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Tammie,
      The sizzling of the main circuit breaker will increase or decrease depending on how much electricity is being used. Reduce the amount of electrical devices being used as much as possible until the electrician can troubleshoot the problem and make the repairs.
      Be Safe,
      Dave

  2. Kat says:

    Every 10 seconds or so I heard a very loud POP sound coming from my entertainment system. After about the fourth pop I turned everything off and have not heard anything for about a half hour. I was playing a game on my Xbox 360, with my new Yamaha surround sound system and my new 70″ Flat screen TV on. All the electrical devices from my system are plugged into one power strip which is plugged into a wall outlet. I put my hand over the things that were turned on, and none of them were abnormally hot. The wall around the outlet felt cold. I am very worried because it is too late to call an electrician for advice, and I am not sure if the pops are coming from the devices or the wall.
    What should I do?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Kat,
      How to Isolate Electrical Components to Identify a Problem
      Here is a method to Identify the Cause of a Popping Sound:
      Try to identify which device is making the pop sound by unplugging one device at a time. The pop sound may be due to an internal component that is failing, or a problem with other devices connected to that device.
      Once the device has been identified then see if anything else is connected to it, and if so go through this isolation process again by removing the connected devices individually, one at a time. Once the problem device has been isolated check all the cords and connections for wear or damage to the cords and connectors. Also make sure all of the devices are connected properly according to the specifications.
      I hope this helps,
      Dave

  3. Chris says:

    There is a slight audible buzz in my newly wired recessed led lights. I have 2 other rooms with the same lights that do not buzz. I am not using a dimmer switch and there is nothing else on the circuit. Thoughts?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Chris,
      My first thought would be to swap out the buzzing light with one that does not buzz. This way you will know if the light fixture is the cause, and if so you may want to exchange it for a new one.
      Let us know what you discovered,
      Dave

  4. shavonne says:

    I’ve been renting my home for almost 2 months and have had an issue with flickering/dimming lights from the beginning. Recently 3 of the 4 outlets in my living room stopped working. Now I hear a sizzling/crackling noise in the breaker box that comes and goes. The landlord said that he will look at it next week. How dangerous is this and what should I do?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Shavonne,
      The flickering lights are directly related to the sizzling and crackling noise that is heard from the breaker box, and most likely the outlets that have stopped working. The danger is that the condition will continue and could cause damage to electrical components in the panel as well as continued loss of electrical services in the home.
      The electrical panel should be checked by a qualified electrician and repairs made as needed.
      I hope this helps,
      Dave

  5. April A says:

    This morning one of the GFCI outlets in my kitchen started making a loud buzzing sound and then popped. Nothing was plugged into it, and no appliances in the same circuit were being used. We bought an older home and had the GFCI outlets installed about 2 yrs ago. I haven’t checked to see if the outlet is working but I checked the main circuit breaker and nothing was tripped. How serious is this, and should I call the electrician right away or is it safe to test the outlet?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi April,
      Given the circumstances, I would have the outlet checked by an electrician. It may be that the GFCI outlet is going bad and needs to be replaced, and if so then the GFCI outlet may not be providing ground fault protection to at least that outlet if not others in the kitchen as well.
      So yes, this should be taken care of right away.
      Be Safe!
      Dave

  6. Sherrie says:

    What would cause a crackling sound behind the light switch when I turn it on in the bathroom?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Sherrie,
      A crackling sound coming from a light switch may be due to a deteriorating wiring connection to the light switch or an electrical wiring splice that may be deteriorating. Other indications may be flickering lights or the exhaust fan may work erratically. The circuit should be turned off and the switch should be removed so the components may be inspected to reveal the problem, and then the appropriate repairs may be applied, which may include replacing the light switch.
      I hope this helps you,
      Dave

  7. H. Thomas says:

    There is a crackling sound coming from the extractor above the shower in our bathroom.For a while now, there has been short-circuiting from somewhere that flicks one of our mains switches off. I now think it’s probably triggered by this bathroom extractor. Is the extractor crackle an immediate fire hazard? Will get it checked by electrician asap but wondered if we need to do emergency callout tonight or not? If you can help with this it would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks!

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi H.T.,
      I would definitely encourage you to have this crackling condition checked right away. It would be best to NOT use the shower and turn OFF the circuit until a qualified electrician can have a look at it, find out the problem and then make the necessary repairs.
      Be Safe!
      Dave

  8. Marbert says:

    When the outdoor part of our HVAC system at our house turns on we hear a heavy buzzing sound for a few seconds. We’ll hear this at the main electrical panel or in our bedroom, which has the blue plastic conduit with the wiring running across the ceiling of this room. We have Bryant units that are of the heat pump type. I’m wondering why we hear the lines buzzing. It’s a harsh, loud and somewhat alarming buzzing that happens.

    Would you say this is normal or an indication of the wire sizing being inadequate?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Marbert,
      When large electrical equipment starts there may be a slight sound which is produced by the inrush of the electrical current. Wiring inside the electrical conduit may buzz if the level of current is excessive or an abnormal electrical condition is occurring. I would certainly have the circuit wiring checked, the electrical connections and the size of the circuit breaker and any fuses as well. If the circuit wire and circuit protection is found to be correct then the buzzing sounding noise that you are hearing may be from a condition with the relay, the condenser fan or the compressor that needs to be identified and repaired. In any case I would contact a qualified HVAC technician who can examine the unit completely and perform some electrical checks and circuit load tests and make any necessary repairs.
      Dave

      • Marbert says:

        Thanks, I’ll check the wire gauge versus length of run versus conduit size versus appliance requirements. It’s been running like this for 10 years, but it seems to be getting a little louder with each passing year. Hard to quantify that. I need to do some homework. Thanks.

  9. r gibbons says:

    I have a screw type fuse box in my home. One of the 15 amp fuses has been blowing periodically as well as becoming loose in its socket. Recently I checked the fuse and found it was very hot so I removed it immediately. this fuse supplies a section of the house with minimal power needs for lamps and clocks. Do the fuse box sockets get loose with age and would this cause overheating?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi RG,
      While it is possible that a Edison based screw-in fuse may loosen up a little, I would be more inclined to think that the loosening may be affected by temperature changes which can certainly have affect electrical circuit connections because fluctuations in temperature will produce expansion and contractions of the metal parts and electrical circuit components which can produce a deteriorating condition which can result in a bad connection that can eventually cause arcing and circuit failure. Be sure the socket of the Edison based screw-in fuse is free from any objects that may interfere with the electrical connection and operation of the fuse.
      Dave


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