“Can you please come out? My safety switch has tripped and I can’t make it turn back on!”
This is a phrase we often hear from our Auscan customers. Tripped safety switches that don’t turn back on are a major customer concern, and a popular electrical call out we often receive.
What we usually ask prior to attending a customer’s property is the following:
Have you tried unplugging every appliance from every wall plug and socket and then tried resetting the circuit breaker?
Often customers in a state of panic forget to perform basic troubleshooting prior to calling an electrician, and 9 times out of 10 it’s a customer forgetting to unplug all appliances and try troubleshooting. Prior to our team attending your property, we ask customers to carefully and calmly troubleshoot their household appliances, as safely as possible.
If the amount of current flowing in matches the current flowing out, safety switches remain on and the power supply is uninterrupted. If they keep tripping or going off, there may be a few reasons why this is happening:
1. Faulty or damaged appliances
Old, damaged or faulty electrical appliances can leak extra current, and safety switches will trip when they detect the excess flow. With heavily used appliances, wear and tear is the main reason for performance issues, so you need to maintain them properly.If a switch goes off, first try resetting it. If it trips again, unplug all your appliances, reset the switch, and then reconnect them one at a time to discover which one is causing the trip.
2. Damaged wiring
Electrical wiring and its insulation gets worn out and damaged over time. Fluctuations caused by damaged wiring will be detected by the safety switch, which will immediately cut off the power supply to reduce the risk of wiring or insulation burning out. If appliances are not causing safety switches to trip, old or faulty wiring could be to blame. You may need to have your home rewired with new electrical cables, especially in an older property. Contact us to find out more about re-wiring your property and organising a FREE property safety inspection.
3. Nuisance tripping
When too many appliances are running, each appliance can leak tiny amounts of current, which adds up to a significant amount. As a result, safety switches will always be close to going off, and even small fluctuations in the power supply can cause them to trip every couple of days or so.Start by disconnecting a few appliances, and if nuisance tripping continues, call an electrician to check for old wiring, water leaks, accumulated debris/insects in electrical fittings, etc.
4. Bad weather
Heavy rain and lightning can also affect safety switches, especially if lightning strikes your property, power lines nearby or the station supplying power. The resulting electrical surge and voltage fluctuations can trip switches, and you need to wait till the storm ends before you reset them.Rain water can also get into power points, terminals, outdoor fittings and other electrical items during extended or severe storms. Wait till they dry before resetting them.
5. Defective switches
Occasionally, a faulty safety switch may also cause tripping. Most of the time, however, broken or worn out safety switches will stop going off (which is what they are supposed to do in the first place). Check if they are working, and if they get stuck or don’t trip, replace them.Whether you use single phase safety switches or three phase safety switches, test them regularly to make sure they’re working. This reduces the chances of nuisance tripping and lowers the risk of shock or fire.
To help work out if it is an appliance or a wiring problem, go room to room and unplug everything. That includes the TV and powerboards from behind the cupboard, your microwave oven, the dishwasher … everything.
There also are a few common culprits that we often see causing trouble, that get a bit of humidity in the wrong place. These have been listed below, which fridges being a MAJOR culprit. Other common culprits are the pool pumps, igniter powerpoints for gas cooktops and water heaters.
When you are 100% sure that everything has been unplugged, then try resetting the circuit breaker. If it instantly clicks off again, check to see if you have forgotten any other appliances (think about your stovetop range hood, clothes dryer and gas cooktop igniters). There is often a hidden appliance that is the culprit causing you havoc!
Some newer types of safety switches only click off to a middle intermediate position when they trip, and you need to switch them all the way “off” to reset before switching them back on. This is another opportunity for customers to manually troubleshoot a tripped safety switch, and where employing us to attend to their property can result in a quick 30 second fix by reseting the breaker.
If after you have unplugged everything, reset your circuit breaker and the circuit breaker stays on – you’re good to go again! You can then go through your home, plugging back in your appliances one at a time, checking to find which circuit breaker trips to specifically identify the problem appliance.
Circuit breakers protect your home from short-circuits and overloaded circuits. A safety switch protects the people in your home.
A safety switch picks up that the electrical current is running through a person and not just the property, and clicks in faster than a heartbeat to stop a person being electrocuted.
That’s why we recommend a combined circuit breaker/safety switch be installed on every circuit of your home, and not just your power sockets.
Installing safety switches on each of your home’s circuits; lighting circuits, hot water circuits, air-conditioning circuits and your pool’s circuits will provide you not only with ultimate peace of mind, but protect your property from your safety switches tripping.