How to Handle a Lasting Electrical Short Circuit
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Posted September 12, 2022
Do your circuit breakers trip often? Do you have flickering lights? Did you know that those can be signs of a lasting short circuit issue in your home?
Short circuits refer to a specific electricity issue that stems from an established pathway of the electric circuit. Unfortunately, because so many homeowners don’t know what causes short circuits or how to fix them, many problems go unfixed until it’s too late.
To get to the heart of your lasting short circuit problem, you need to be aware of the signs and causes of short circuits so you can issue can fix the issue before a disaster happens.
In this article, we’ll explore the warning signs and solutions for a lasting electrical short circuit. But first, let’s review what an electric short circuit is.
What Is an Electrical Short Circuit?
An electrical short circuit happens when an electrical current flows through the wrong pathway with little to no resistance. Here’s how it works.
Electricity is always searching for grounding. When your circuit is working as it should, electricity will return via its usual established pathway of electrical wires and then return to the service panel.
A short circuit happens when the pathway is faulty or damaged. When the electricity encounters a broken path, it still seeks a way to ground itself, so it returns through a shorter route. The cause of an electrical short circuit is due to a low resistance connection between the two conductors that are supplying electrical power to the circuit.
Essentially, it’s called a short circuit because the electricity has a quicker trip down the electrical pathway than usual, which means it gets derailed by interaction with something other than its normal pathway. When a short circuit is detected, your circuit breaker will trip and shut off the power. However, breakers wear out over time.
If you don’t check on your outlets and breakers via regular inspections, a short circuit could happen at any time. Ultimately, a lasting short circuit can cause a fire which may result in property damage, injury or death.
Types of Electrical Short Circuits
There are two main electrical short circuit problems—a standard short circuit and a ground fault. Both involve a broken connection in the electrical wiring, which causes the electricity to flow in the opposite direction, but they do have a few differences. So let’s take a look.
As we’ve discussed, a short circuit happens when electricity passes through an unintended path, but it also can occur when a wire is loose or touches another wire. After this happens, resistance decreases, and electricity will immediately flow in the opposite direction.
Call an electrician immediately if you notice sparks, hear crackling noises, see flames, or your breaker trips every time you use the outlet. When the electricity flows in a different direction than intended, it can cause sparks, fires, and serious harm to property and people. In some cases, it may even explode. Therefore, a short circuit should always be handled by a certified electrician.
Ground faults occur in the same way short circuits do but with one key difference—the electrical current makes contact with a grounded part of the system, like a metal box, frame, appliance or wire.
Because there is less resistance, the amount of voltage flowing in the opposite direction increases. This means you’re at serious risk for an electrical shock, but the chance of fire does decrease.
What Causes an Electrical Short Circuit?
You have to find the cause of your electrical short circuit problem before you can fix it. Below are a few of the most common reasons short circuits happen. Read through these to learn how to find a short circuit and how to take preventative measures to avoid future electrical shorts.
Faulty or Outdated Wiring Insulation
Older homes may have wiring and wiring systems with damaged wire insulation. Without the proper protection, wires can touch more easily, causing an electrical short circuit. However, even newer homes can have damaged wire insulation over time, especially if work has been done to the house.
Loose Wire Connections
Loose connections and attachments in wiring systems can be a huge problem that leads to an electrical short circuit. The short circuit happens when those loose connections touch, so ensuring you keep up with maintenance and regularly scheduled inspections is a must to keep the home safe.
Faulty Appliance Wires
Older or faulty appliances run the risk of an electrical short circuit when the wiring or plug is damaged or outdated. Even if the fault is in the device itself and not the wire, the appliance is an extension of the wire and will lead to a harmful short circuit.
If you’ve ever heard a scurrying noise inside your home, there’s a good chance that you have some sort of critter running around in your walls or attic. Unfortunately, this can lead to damaged wiring and wiring insulation, meaning you’ll end up with a short circuit.
How to Prevent an Electrical Short Circuit
Short circuits are common, but there are ways to prevent them from happening. Doing preventative maintenance checks at home and being mindful of how and when you use your electricity can help minimize the risk of a short circuit. Here are a few of the top ways you can prevent an electrical short circuit.
Get Your Home Inspected
Make sure you reach out to a certified technician to conduct yearly inspections. This is especially important if you have an older home, as they are more likely to have outdated wiring.
Be Mindful of Electricity Use During Storms
Using electricity during storms can be dangerous, especially when lightning is present. In addition, the risk of a short circuit increases during rough weather, and it can damage equipment and belongings. Consider limiting your use of appliances and other devices that draw from your home’s electrical system during storms.
Keep an Eye on Outlets
If you have an older home, keeping an eye on your outlets should be part of your preventative maintenance routine at home. Check for buzzing, clicking, sparks or burn marks around or coming from outlets.
How to Repair an Electrical Short Circuit
Being able to identify the source and cause of your electrical short circuit can be helpful for homeowners. But if you can’t figure it out or you have a circuit that needs replacement or repair, you should hire a professional licensed electrician. A short circuit can be fixed by:
- Finding which breaker is tripping
- Checking all outlets, cords, wires and plugs
- Turning your appliances off and on to figure out which one is giving you issues
- But most importantly, call your local, trusted electrician
You should never perform electrical work by yourself. Always have a licensed electrician fix the electrical short circuit instead to minimize the risk of electric shock or fire. Electrical work can be dangerous without proper knowledge. Reach out to Hiller’s friendly and certified technicians to get the job done right the first time to keep your home and family safe. We offer financing options so no one is ever left to deal with electrical issues alone.