My dining room chandelier is operated by a dimmer switch, but every time we dim the lights, there’s an annoying buzzing or humming sound. What’s wrong and how can we fix it?
Talk about mood lighting! If you don’t like serving dinner with a nice buzz, the good news is that you can probably fix the problem either by replacing the bulbs or the dimmer switch itself.
Dimmer switches work by chopping up the AC current flowing between the switch and the light. Rather than literally “dimming” the light itself, these switches actually cause the current to undulate or flicker extremely rapidly, so that to our human eyes, it appears that there is less light. The interrupted current can produce a vibration in the electromagnetic field within the light bulb filament or within the switch itself, which can cause a humming or buzzing noise.
Here are some steps you can take to reduce or eliminate the annoying sound:
- Change Light Bulbs: If the sound is coming from the light fixture itself, you might try a different type of bulb. Decorative bulbs, with their long, delicate filaments, are more susceptible to the changes in magnetic field. Standard and rough service bulbs, such as those used in workshops and appliances, have tougher filaments that might stand up better to the choppy current.
- Upgrade Dimmer Rating: If the sound is coming from the dimmer switch, you may be overloading the switch’s capacity. Dimmer switches are rated according to the maximum wattage they can handle. If you’ve installed high wattage bulbs in your chandelier, the switch may be over capacity. You can check this by removing a few bulbs and seeing if the buzzing gets better. Or by checking the wattage rating on the switch against the sum of the wattage of all the bulbs. If so, reduce your overall wattage, or look for a dimmer switch with a higher wattage rating.
- Upgrade Dimmer Switch: With dimmer switches, you get what you pay for. Buzzing is more common with cheaper triac-based switches (a triac is the gizmo inside the switch that chops up the current). Better quality triac dimmers have an internal choke or filter that evens out the current and can reduce buzzing. Or, you can go for an even higher quality dimmer that uses an autotransformer, rather than a triac, which causes much less interruption to the current.
- Consider Lighting Usage: If you always use the lights on a dimmed setting, consider installing lower wattage bulbs so the dimmer doesn’t have to work as hard.
Also, don’t forget that incandescent bulbs are phasing out! Dimmer switches won’t work with CFL bulbs unless the bulb is rated as “dimmable,” and even then older dimmer switches may not work properly with CFLs. So if you’re replacing your dimmer switch, be sure to get one that’s designed to work with compact fluorescents and LEDs, such as these from Lutron, and choose bulbs that are rated as dimmable.
- How to Install a Dimmer Switch (video)
- Installing a Dimmer Switch (video)
- How to Install a Chandelier and Dimmer Switch (video/article)
Thank you so much for this posting! I’m a single woman and my brother-in-law replaced my kitchen light fixture for me. I had put i the energy saving bulbs and my dimmer switch was buzzing like crazy! Who would have thought it would be such a simple fix. If changing the light bulbs did not work, I was going to have to call an electrician to figure out what the problem was. The buzzing sound made me nervous like my light switch was going to electrocute me or catch on fire or something. Your posting was so helpful and appreciated!
Glad we could be of help!
Me too! Thank you soooooo much for the info. changing the CFL to an incandescent light bulb did the trick. Wish I had known before changing the dimmer switch back and forth with a new one. Not to worry though you have saved me paying an electrician!!!!
humming sound is coming from bulb fixture even when it is switched off. it is making me nervous as if something will happen in the wiring. please help how to fix it. Is the sound coming from bulb or wiring???i am worried because of the sound after every single minute even when it is switched off. please answer
My mother inlaw has an oyster light. Circular fluoroscent tube. My wife and myself replaced the old tube with a new one. The one made tv pixelate. The new as well as pixelate there was a buzzing/humming. Not being an electrician but a old chippy. I thought an electrician job. Or switch/wiring. Could this be the problem.
Thanks for the info. Now my 5 LED chandelier is quiet.
I recently switched my lights in my home to LED. they are all rated for being dimmable. Now in my bedroom light, the lights are constantly buzzing. They are driving me nuts. Can you advise anything?
We just replaced the wall switch in our dining room which controls the chandelier with a dimmer. Now, the triple wall switch in our den does not work. Two control the ceiling fan, and the other controls the hall lights. They den and dining room outlets share the same wall, back to back. The other outlets in the den work.
Thank you so much! This explanation you have given has given me some peace of mind! I have been so nervous since having a new dimmer switch installed, I thought I was going to be electrocuted, or a fire would start!
Will sort out in the morning, PHEW!!!
Once again thank you!
I’m having trouble removing a old dimmer switch
When I switched from CLF to fluorescent bulbs in the fixture the humming sound in the dimmer switch went away. Thanks
CFLs are fluorescent bulbs?
Buzzing is always caused by the switch, not the bulb. Although changing the lamps fixed the problem, it actually indicates the switch as the problem. It usually means the dimmer/switch is not designed for CFL or LED fixtures.
I have echo smart recess light and led dimmer install but my light are making a humming sound. What can it be? thanks.
Ok I must comment because I know it can’t be because of the switch only. I changed the light bulbs in my bathroom and discovered they’re now humming, I generally keep them dimmed. I’ll lower the wattage of my bulbs to fix.
My new house has some flourescents but mostly incandescents installed. While most of the canisters floodlights are CFLs, and they don’t get hot which is good for my A/C bill, the low-cost, quick-lighting incandescents are very cheap and readily available, so I’ve stocked up on them as I’m told the government eventually wants people to buy the more expensive LEDs. The worst offenders, I think, are halogens…they get very hot and don’t last long. I’ve had some incandescents in my old house for 10 years and LEDs would last longer but more expensive.
Recently fitted nine new Down lighters with low energy bulbs,after 24 hours buzzing/humming noise started.was advised to fit new dimmer switch. No change,noise coming from bulbs.any thoughts on this problem.
I had a buzzing sound in my just-installed dimmer switch, so I followed your advice to unscrew one or more of the bulbs. I did so with the center/ceiling light in the room, which I was only using as a junction for the recessed lighting I had installed previously and it did the trick. I didn’t need the extra center light anyway, so I’m all set. Thanks for the badly needed advice!
I have moved to LED’s and the first light nearest the switch buzzes so bad, my tree hugging self is going to go back to incandescent bulbs throughout if I can’t stop the noise! I have replaced switches in the bedroom and bathroom with dimmable LED rated switches and no change at all. All other lights in the room on the same switch are quiet, but the one closest to the switch in both rooms is unbearable. It’s not the switch.
To be honest about the upgrading a fixture not true. I’ve bought brand new $600.00-$1200.00 fixtures that have done that. I chalk it upto one of two things poor quality bulbs nowadays or all new fixtures are poor quality coming out of places in the U.S and China. There are fixtures from the 60’s 70’s 80’s and 90’s that are way better in terms of quality. I also can’t count how many flawed ones that the bulbs get cross threaded no such thing as that happened back in the day. They cheap out on materials nowadays and increase the price 3-4 times just like led and some incadesant light bulbs. Your thinking you’re getting a quality product for what your paying but more than likely your not.