The Most Annoying Sound in Your Home Might Signal a Bigger Problem

published Feb 6, 2024
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There are a number of household issues that are universally frustrating, whether you’re an experienced DIYer or you’re just getting new projects underway. It could be a squeaky wood floorboard, or a loose door knob that you have to use every day. All of these little hiccups add up, and no matter how small they may be, they can easily get on your nerves. A buzzing light, though, can be both annoying and intimidating, as electrical work is no small task.

Quick Overview

What causes a buzzing light?

A buzzing light could be an electrical problem, like loose wiring, an overloaded circuit, or a faulty electrical component. It could also be caused by using a light bulb that’s incompatible with the fixture.

After all, one often-repeated adage is to leave electrical work to the pros, no matter how seasoned a DIYer you may be — unlike painting or caulking, doing electrical work wrong can actually be dangerous. And yet, with each second that you hear that light buzzing, you may feel even more inclined to do something about it sooner rather than later (even if that solution includes a baseball bat). 

So, if you recently changed a lightbulb and thought, “Hm, why is the light buzzing?” and then, “Seriously, why is that light buzzing?” don’t panic. Take a deep breath and read on for answers from a pro about what can cause buzzing lights and how to deal with them.

Why Is My Light Buzzing?

Mallory Micetich, Angi’s home expert, says that a buzzing sound emanating from your lightbulb can point to a few problems, starting with an electrical issue. “It may indicate loose wiring, an overloaded circuit, a faulty electrical component, or a mismatch between the light fixture and the bulb or dimmer switch,” she says. 

And yet, this sound could also be just part of your light’s supposed charms. “In some cases, buzzing may be a normal sound from certain electrical devices, such as dimmer switches or fluorescent light fixtures,” Micetich says. If the sound changes or becomes louder in this instance, then you can likely retrace your steps to the “electrical issue” problem. 

Most of the time, though, the buzzing sound is a sign that your lightbulb is incompatible with your fixture. So to make it stop, you’ll likely need to do one important thing: Read your lightbulb’s instructions.

Your Light Bulb Might Not Be Compatible with Your Fixture

It may seem that every light bulb should be able to work with every fixture interchangeably, but unfortunately, that’s not the world we’re living in.

“Every light fixture, switch, and bulb is different, so it’s important to check the manual that came with each to see what’s compatible,” Micetich says. New LED lights are likely not going to work with older dimmer switches, which often illuminated bulbs that required more electricity.

“As incandescent and halogen bulbs are phased out, this may mean you need to update your dimmer switch to be compatible with updated bulbs,” she adds. You’ll want to call in a professional for help. 

If a need for modernization was the culprit, then this issue may have turned out to be a silver lining — older types of lightbulbs are becoming harder to find, so this job was inevitable. “As incandescent and halogen lights are phased out, it’s a good idea to start moving to LED lights, fixtures, and dimmers that are compatible with these types of bulbs,” Micetich says. “There are big benefits to LED lights: They save on energy, have a longer lifespan, contain no mercury, and are made from stronger materials than incandescent light bulbs.”

Call a Pro to Deal with Electrical Panels or Fluorescent Fixtures

While electricians are likely needed to install dimmer switches to today’s standards, they should also be on hand for buzzing that comes as a result of an electrical panel or a fluorescent bulb. You can be a promising DIYer and still know your limits!

Here’s how to know if an overloaded circuit breaker or loose wires are causing that buzzing sound. “First, you’ll want to shut off all the circuit breakers,” Micetich says. “If you can’t hear the buzzing anymore, then you can confirm the electrical system is causing the noise. You can then turn each circuit breaker on one by one until you hear the noise again, which will determine which circuit is causing the issue. An overloaded circuit can lead to a fire or electrocution, so you’ll want to keep the circuit off and call in an electrician.”

As for the increased or changing buzzing sound coming from a fluorescent bulb that Micetich mentioned earlier? She says it’s safest to just call an electrician, too. “The sound may be due to the ballast, which regulates the electrical current that runs to the fixture,” she says. “To switch out this light fixture to an LED one, which uses less electricity, it’s a good idea to call in a pro who can properly install it and ensure that it eliminates any other issues.”

In other words, a light that makes a buzzing sound can sure be frustrating, but for most cases it’ll be satisfying to watch a professional make it go away.