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Why Is My Circuit Breaker Making a Crackling Noise? A Phoenix Electrician Answers

2018 Jul 20
Posted in:
circuit breaker sparking

This is a common question we get from Scottsdale and Phoenix homeowners. First off, a slight hum could be normal if it’s coming from a high-amperage breaker (50 amps or higher). The humming/soft buzzing is the sound of electrical current vibrating as it travels to large appliances.

But if you hear a loud and disruptive buzzing, crackling or popping noise (some homeowners even describe it as a “sizzling” or “frying” noise), then you might have one of the following 2 problems:

  1. A loose connection
  2. A bad circuit breaker

We’ll explain the 2 situations above. But first, DO THIS: Call an electrician ASAP.

A loud popping or crackling noise coming from your circuit breaker is often a red flag for a potentially dangerous electrical problem. Do not attempt to inspect your breakers or solve this problem on your own unless you are a licensed electrician in Phoenix.

Need help from a Phoenix electrician? We respond fast with 24/7 service—just contact us.

Problem #1: A loose connection

If you hear a loud popping noise coming from your circuit breaker or see sparks coming from a breaker, you most likely have a loose connection between your circuit breaker and your home’s wiring.

Loose connections are dangerous because they lead to a problem called “electrical arcing”. You see, electrical current is designed to travel through the circuit breaker first then into your home’s wiring. But, if the circuit breaker isn’t securely attached to your home’s wiring, that electrical current will “jump” through the air (an electrical arc) from the breaker to the wire.

Electrical arcing is dangerous because arcs are as hot as lightning and can easily cause fires and/or severe injuries.

Loose connections can be caused by:

  • Bad electrical work. An electrician may not have fully tightened the lug that connects your circuit breaker to your home’s wiring.
  • Damaged wire insulation. If electrical wire is exposed, live current may jump toward a nearby grounded object.

The bottom line? Electrical arcing due to loose connections is an extremely dangerous problem that can harm you, your home and your family. If you hear popping noises coming from a circuit breaker, you need a professional to repair/replace your breaker immediately.

Problem #2: A bad circuit breaker

Circuit breakers don’t last forever. And when they go bad, they might start buzzing due to high amounts of electrical current running through your home’s wiring.

Circuit breakers have one job: to trip and cut power when it senses an electrical overload. If a breaker loses the ability to trip, it could allow too much current to run through wiring that isn’t designed to handle the load. Eventually, an overloaded wire will overheat, which can cause an electrical fire.

Signs that your circuit breaker has gone bad include:

  • The breaker is very hot to the touch
  • The breaker has burn spots or smells like it’s burning

overheated fuse box humming

Thermal vision of an overheated breaker inside a main electrical panel.

If you think you have a faulty circuit breaker, you need to have a professional replace it immediately.

Not sure if your circuit breaker is “bad” or not? Just check out our blog, “How to Tell If Your Circuit Breaker Needs Replacing”.

Still not sure why your breaker is buzzing? Ask a Phoenix electrician

Having breaker problems? We can send out an electrician to inspect your breaker, diagnose the problem and fix it.
Just contact us