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5 Steps to Trace Electrical Faults and How to Prevent Them

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Every property has some essential utilities, such as electrical, plumbing, and heating systems. Electricity powers numerous appliances in your home and enables you to live a comfortable life. The electrical network, however, is not to be taken lightly, as your safety and home are closely associated with your electrical network. Malfunctioning and electrical system failures can result in different electrical hazards, including shocks and fires. They can damage your appliances and threaten your life. Therefore, these risks associated with electrical networks should be minimised to ensure a safe home and workplace environment. Various electrical problems can result in damages and injuries, including short-circuiting, overloading, faulty circuit breakers/fuse, sparking, loose connections, faulty appliances, etc. Before an electrical problem is resolved, the root cause of the problem should be identified to prevent future threats and damages. Fault finding, therefore, is a vital step in fixing electrical problems in your circuit. While you can resolve ordinary electrical issues at home, we highly advise hiring professionals to inspect or resolve serious electrical problems. Follow the simple steps and tips below to trace electrical faults and fix them safely.

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Step # 1: Find the Tripped Circuit Breaker

Your home electrical network is divided into several electrical circuits. Many of these are protected by circuit breakers. Usually, when there is a fault in the circuit, the circuit breaker will trip, cutting off the electricity supply to that circuit. However, your main power switch may trip instead of cutting off an isolated circuit. This usually happens if your circuit breaker is not working properly or the electrical fault is not localised but affects the entire circuit of your home. An example is a surge in voltage from the national grid, which prompts your main switch to trip. If you see a tripped circuit breaker, you have identified the faulty circuit, but if the main switch has tripped, you first need to know if you are receiving electricity from the grid. You can confirm this with your neighbours. If there is no power outage, you must move to the next step.

Step # 2: Turn Off All Circuit Breaker

With your main switch already turned off, the next step is to switch off all the circuit breakers in your electric panel. Why do you need to do this? If you turn on the main supply without turning off all circuit breakers, the power may trip again, and you will not be able to isolate the faulty circuit. Turn off all the breakers with the help of a switch on their side or the front.

Step # 3: Turn the Main Switch On

With all your circuit breakers turned off, you can safely turn on the main power supply switch. You are now connected to the main power supply, but because all circuit breakers are off, you cannot use any electrical appliances or fixtures.

Step # 4: Switching on/off All Your Circuit Breakers

Turn on all the circuit breakers one by one. The ones that stay on have no apparent fault, while the ones that trip again are faulty circuits. If the circuit breaker trips the main supply again, you should turn off all the circuit breakers before turning on the main supply. With the faulty circuit identified, it is time to identify what is wrong with that circuit.

Step # 5: Finding the Faulty Circuit

You should only perform this step if you are a qualified and experienced electrician. There could be numerous issues with the circuit. You might have overloaded the circuit by using too many appliances on the same circuit. The wiring of your home might be old or faulty, and the wiring might be suffering from short-circuiting. You may have loose connections or sockets. Identifying and resolving these issues require professional skills, which only a certified and experienced electrician has.

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Common Electrical Faults

An electrical network can be complicated. It has numerous components such as wiring, sockets, appliances, circuit breakers or fuses, lights, and many more. Even the least significant of faults can end up tripping your circuit. Some of the highly common electrical problems include:

  • Short-circuiting
  • Overloading
  • Sparking
  • Loose Connections
  • Old, Damaged, or Low-quality Wiring
  • Burning Smell
  • Electric Shocks
  • Flickering Lights
  • Others
  • Short-Circuiting

Short-circuiting has been cited as one of the leading causes of electrical fires. It is estimated that more than 19 thousand fires in the United Kingdom originate from electrical fires yearly. These accidents have resulted in several casualties and countless injuries. The loss of property and assets is inconceivable. What exactly is short-circuiting? Short-circuiting occurs when a circuit runs short of its intended path or when current flows into a path it should not. For example, when two oppositely charged naked wires come in contact. The consequences of short-circuiting may vary. If you are lucky, it will simply trip the corresponding circuit breaker. However, short-circuiting can also result in burning your appliances and electrical fixtures. It can also result in electric shocks and fires. The best thing is to call a professional electrician if you suspect short-circuiting. At times you would be able to hear or smell it.

  • Overloading

Overloading a circuit is the most common mistake people make, and that’s because it is easy to make. Using several high-power appliances on the same circuit is the most common cause of overloading. When a circuit built to handle a specific power is pressurised to provide more than it can, the result is overloading, which will most probably trip your circuit breakers. Buzzing sounds and constantly flickering lights indicate overloading, especially when you turn on a high-powered appliance. The best way to avoid overloading is to have your high-power appliances on separate circuits, such as dishwashers, washing machines, and vacuums. An overloaded circuit usually requires only best practices to avoid and may not require professional help. However, if the structure of your circuit has to be changed to avoid overloading, you will need a professional electrician.

  • Old, Damaged, or Low-quality Wiring

Old, damaged, or low-quality wiring is another electrical problem often cited as the primary cause of electrical failures, shocks, and fire hazards. Good quality and good condition wiring are considered so important by electricians and the authorities that there is a separate chapter for best standards and practises. The BS 7671 of the IET wiring regulations provides national standards for best wiring practices regarding electrical installations. Old and faulty wiring should be replaced if you want a safe property for its occupants and to prevent the loss of valuable property. Many issues like short-circuiting and sparking are addressed when you replace your old wiring with a new and better one.

Best Household Electrical Practises

You can prevent many electrical faults in your home by following some good practices:

  • Always hire electricians who are certified. For example, an NICEIC-certified electrician with at least five years of experience is a good bet.
  • Domestic electrical testing or getting the EICR report provides you with detailed insight regarding the condition of your electrical network. The EICR has to be carried out by a certified electrician.
  • Inspect your electrical installation, including wiring to check for any damages.
  • Don’t use all your appliances on a single circuit