Aug 11, 2023
Why Is My Light Buzzing?
Hint: It has to do with the dimmer. Light fixtures bring a daylight glow and ambiance to any room, but they have to work correctly in order to be functional and safe. While most light bulb problems
Hint: It has to do with the dimmer.
Light fixtures bring a daylight glow and ambiance to any room, but they have to work correctly in order to be functional and safe. While most light bulb problems can be solved with a bulb swap, there's one so annoying it can drive even the nicest person crazy: buzzing. Light buzzing can happen with plug-in and hardwired fixtures, so your lamp or chandelier could be the culprit. Luckily, that low-pitched sound wedging right between your ears is often the result of wear and tear to the bulb and not a bigger electrical problem you need a pro to solve. You can probably stop it yourself.
Ahead, we explain the three most common types of light bulbs, what causes light buzzing, and how to fix it so you can get back to what you doing before you noticed the sound.
Before you throw away the light bulb (or the entire lamp), determine what kind of bulb, wiring, and fixture you're dealing with. The three main types of light bulbs are fluorescent, incandescent, and LED. Incandescent bulbs have been largely phased out due to their energy inefficiency—sales of halogen and incandescent bulbs will effectively be banned as of August 1, 2023—so if you have an old fixture, check for this kind of bulb. (Don't worry, the police won't come confiscate your buzzing light. It's not illegal to use incandescent bulbs you already have.) Fluorescent bulbs are most often used in commercial spaces and ceiling or built-in lighting. LED bulbs are now the most common type sold in stores. Like any bulb, LEDs come in a variety of light tones, called Kelvins, and brightness levels, or lumens.
The primary cause of a buzzing LED light bulb is a discrepancy between the bulb wattage and that of the switch or dimmer. While this isn't dangerous, it can be really annoying. The easiest way to determine if this is the cause is to temporarily disconnect the light from the dimmer and connect it to another switch. If your light is a plug-in, like a lamp or pendant, this is easy to do. If it's hardwired, you'll need to turn off the circuit breaker, disconnect the wiring from the dimmer, and connect the wires to a regular, non-dimming switch. If the buzzing stops, the dimmer is the cause. Most LED light bulb manufacturers create lists of compatible dimmer switches, but generally, you'll need a CL dimmer, a LED+ dimmer, or an ELV dimmer switch.
If the buzzing doesn't stop, it probably means that the bulb is getting ready to die. Simply replace the bulb with a new one to stop the noise.
A signature feature of a fluorescent light bulb is the subtle hum or buzz, but if it increases in volume or becomes too much, you'll want to check for a larger problem. The most likely cause is a bulb or ballast that's loose, old, or worn. The ballast is the thing that regulates the flow of electricity; it's a type of transformer.
To check for a loose fluorescent light tube, remove the diffuser (the clear acrylic cover) and test each tube to make sure that it's tight. To reseat a loose tube, rotate it 90 degrees in either direction.
If the light tubes feel tight, take a look at the ballast. If it seems worn, you may be able to order a replacement, depending on your light fixture. If that's not feasible, you should replace the light fixture entirely. A fixture housing that's bent or broken is another reason to replace the entire thing. Twisted, warped, or bent sheet metal is difficult to straighten out.
If your incandescent light is buzzing, the filament inside is probably vibrating. Moving the light off of a dimmer switch may help, but the best thing to do is replace the old incandescent bulb with an energy-saving LED. Trust us, you can find one that replicates its soft, golden glow. Look for one that's under 2900 Kelvins—it'll give off warm white light.
Kate McGregor is House Beautiful’s SEO Editor. She has covered everything from curated decor round-ups and shopping guides, to glimpses into the home lives of inspiring creatives, for publications such as ELLE Decor, Domino, and Architectural Digest’s Clever.
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Woman Found Her New House Was Infested With SnakesIncandescent bulbsFluorescent bulbsLED bulbsThe easiest way to determine if this is the cause is to temporarily disconnect the light from the dimmer and connect it to another switch.The most likely cause is a bulb or ballast that's loose, old, or worn.the filament inside is probably vibrating