The occasional short circuit occurs in nearly every home, but what do they mean, and should you be concerned? Electrical problems can be some of the most frustrating issues homeowners face. A short circuit is a sign that something is wrong with your wiring, and this problem may pose a serious fire hazard to your home.
Responding to short circuits correctly can mean the difference between lights switching on as intended and an emergency situation. Read the information and tips below so that you can keep your home safe.
Understand Short Circuits
A short circuit happens when a wire comes into contact with another conductive material, such as another wire. The electricity transfers between the two materials. Any excess electricity, if it
cannot flow into the new material quickly enough, lashes out as an electric arc. These arcs appear as the flashes that accompany short circuits.
During this brief moment, the extra electricity is converted into both light and heat. A large surge of energy next to any flammable material can spark a fire, which is why homeowners need to investigate each short circuit. Your electrical system is designed to recognize these dangerous failures and shut itself down through the circuit breaker. The circuit breaker is your home’s first line of defense against electrical fires.
Handle Potential Fire Hazards
Whenever you suspect that there is a fire hazard in your home, your first priority should be to protect your family and belongings. Once your circuit breaker shuts down, take a moment to check for signs of fire. Leave the home immediately and call an emergency response service if you notice smoke, flames, or heat.
Replace fuses at this time if your system uses them. As you reset your circuit breaker, you may experience further shorts. Pay attention to which switch causes the failure; this will tell you where the short is occurring in your home.
Do not restore power to that area permanently until you are confident it will not short again. Call a certified electrician if you have any concerns about safety or do not feel confident in your ability to resolve the issue alone.
Rule Out Appliance Failure
Older appliances are a common cause behind short circuits, and you can investigate these first to rule them out. Check any electrical devices in the affected area. You might find evidence of a short circuit around the outlets or along a worn-out cord: look for melted rubber, scorch marks, and other indicators that the device has short-circuited.
If you find these signs of a short circuit, you can fix the problem simply by replacing or repairing the broken appliance. Fixing the problem will keep your home safe and prevent the appliance from sparking an electrical fire in the future.
Track Down the Faulty Wiring
If you’ve checked your appliances and haven’t found anything, you need to keep investigating. Once you are sure that the wiring issue doesn’t start and end with an appliance, inspect the wiring deeper in your home. In these cases, the most likely culprit is the insulation of outdated wiring. Older homes, built before the dramatic increase of electric devices, often run on inefficient and aging wiring. Insulation wears away over time, allowing wires to cross, swap currents, and form a short circuit.
You may not be able to easily pinpoint the location of broken wires behind walls. If you have recently installed a wall item with nails or screws, be sure they have not damaged wiring out of sight. If you have ready access to your wiring, check the length of cables for signs of damage. Always shut off power before inspecting wiring in your home.
You may not feel comfortable inspecting your home’s wiring or even know how to get to it. If the cause of a short circuit is not immediately visible, many homeowners choose to call an electrician to look into the problem. Though these professionals’ services will cost more than doing the work yourself, you’re more likely to get good results when you call an electrician — and keep your home safe.
Repair Short Circuiting Wires Safely
If you’ve found the faulty wiring that led to the short circuit, the final step in the process is to repair these worn or broken wires. Electrical work carrying even minor risk should always be completed by a licensed electrician. This will not only protect you from the dangers of electrical work, but also from future risks. If you do attempt a repair yourself and end up with fire damage or medical bills, your insurance company may dispute your liability.
For the sake of everyone involved, electrical work should be left to trained professionals like those at A to Z Electric Co. We’re ready to help you and your home stay safe, so give us a call any time.