Here is a guide that details how to prevent short circuits. The use of electrical appliances has been the fundamental cog in most modern-day inventions.
Today, living without them is impossible, and all this is possible because of electrical power.
But, electricity can be fatal when things get out of hand in cases where there are loose connections.
Electrical fires resulting from these scenarios are widespread and often result from simple mistakes.
This is why today, our guide focuses on educating you on short circuits and how you can steer clear of their impacts.
What Is a Short Circuit?
Let’s first define Ohm’s law.
V= IR whereby V is the potential difference, I is the current, and R is the resistance.
This equation shows that when the resistance decreases, an electrical current will surge at that specific point in the circuit.
Consequently, the increase in circuit current completes the circuit without the power getting to the load hence the name short circuit.
Therefore, a short circuit means electric current flows through a short path rather than usually passing through the right conductors.
This current flow is so powerful in specific areas that it will likely burn the conductor and lead to a circuit failure.
Types of Electrical Short Circuit
Short circuit at the switchboard.
We classify short circuits depending on the components involved and how the disruption affects the flow of electricity in each scenario.
Normal Short Circuit
Hot wires are common when there’s a mishap in the electrical connection.
If such a conducting charred wire contacts the neutral wire, there’s a significant disruption in the normal current flow leading to blowing up as excess current is in the wrong path.
This is an example of a normal short circuit, and it is usually the most common type of short-circuiting in electric circuits.
Ground Fault Short Circuit
Take the case whereby a current-carrying cable overheats and, by fault, contacts the ground wire or grounded parts in the system.
This will lead to short-circuiting, commonly called ground fault short circuits.
Electrical Short Circuit Causes
Below are some of the typical reasons contact between wires leads to short-circuiting.
Faulty wire insulation
The colored wires we use in electrical circuits are prone to breakages or wear out.
This exposes the conducting part of the wire that is usually protected underneath, and it can affect the overall efficiency of the wire in carrying current.
If the damage is significant, there is a high probability of short-circuiting.
The solution to faulty wire insulation is immediately replacing your current carrying cords if you note charring or breakages. Also, avoid using wires for an extensive time.
White electric square switch with loose connecting wires.
Avoid loose connections in electric circuits, as this increases the chances of the wires touching each other.
This also applies to loose box connections. The solution is to ensure that all cables are firmly connected and that no part in the meter box is loose.
As a safety precaution, don’t attempt to fix the wires yourself if you don’t have the know-how. Instead, involve a professional electrician.
Short circuit when plugging an electrical component.
Electronic appliances with faulty wiring can also cause short-circuiting.
This is because the electrical appliance is, in this case, the load; therefore, any issue with the wiring means some parts will have excessive current accumulation.
Faulty appliance wiring is common, but most manufacturers install circuit protection features to curtail electrical shorts.
Most quality expensive appliances have these properties and are thus immune to short circuits.
Rodents are one of the causes of wire damage, and when this occurs, there’s a likelihood of contact between wires leading to short-circuiting.
Therefore, you can mitigate this problem by exterminating the pests.
Damaged Switches and Outlets
Is your socket not performing responsively when you want to use it?
Or do you have a switch that sometimes fails to light up a bulb or an electrical appliance when you turn it on?
If you experience either of the two issues, that’s a recipe for a short circuit.
Replace the faulty switches and outlets before they become a giant menace and cause irreparable damage to your circuit connection.
Like any other system, electrical circuits have the maximum limit of components they can support.
If you connect more components to them than necessary, they will probably snap and burn up.
To avoid this, it’s essential always to be considerate of the electrical power needs of each appliance you connect to the circuit.
Also, make a habit of disconnecting the appliances that you’re not using from the power supply.
Power Cords Contact with moisture
Electricity can be easily transmitted via water, so you should always keep your power cords away from this medium.
So dangerous is a short circuit resulting from water contact that it can lead to electric shock or even a fire.
Hence, always avoid this problem by using quality power cables that have impenetrable insulation.
Nails or screws
Finally, if you pierce the power cables when driving in screws or nails, you expose the wires to short-circuiting.
But this is easily preventable when you use a stud finder to locate power cables on the wall.
Signs of Short Circuit
Fuse box short.
Buzzing Sound or Foul smell
Is your switch or socket yielding an unusual buzzing sound, especially when the power is on or after connecting an electrical appliance?
Then there’s a significant chance that you’re dealing with a short circuit.
The same applies to cases whereby electrical sockets produce a smell akin to burning a plastic material (the insulation of the electrical power cord).
Both cases are prevalent when there’s a circuit overload, so the first step is removing appliances from the power line.
Next, engage a licensed electrician to check the circuit.
Sparks Coming off an Outlet
If you notice sparks after plugging in an appliance, again, there’s a high likelihood that you’re experiencing a short circuit.
The sparking results from larger than usual current moving through the specific part of the socket or power extension cable.
How To Prevent an Electrical Short Circuit?
A short circuit.
- Check your outlets and power cables for signs of tear and wear. Also, even if everything is in good condition, you shouldn’t use power cables extensively. Consider replacing them after some time or immediately if you sense the short circuit signs we gave above.
- If your electrical circuit is not earthed correctly and you use the electricity heavily during a storm or lightning. You risk causing a short circuit. Lightning attacks on power lines will flow onto your house appliances and can lead to massive damage. Therefore, always switch off or limit electricity use during such conditions.
- Thirdly, using electronic components that curtail short circuit occurrence would be best. These include circuit breakers, Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs), and Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs). These auto circuit breaker components will trip whenever there’s a power surge to prevent damage to components on the power line.
- Lastly, ask a licensed electrician to inspect your electrical lines regularly. Yearly checks are the best, and this is also the best time to assemble basic circuit breaker maintenance circuits if the former one is damaged.
Why Short Circuits Are Dangerous
- A short circuit happens when power follows a path of least resistance, which can be a human body part leading to electrocution.
- Most electric fires result from short circuits.
How to fix Short Circuits
If you experience regular circuit breaker trips, there’s a probable short circuit. Here are means to fix the problem.
- Turn off the circuit breaker box and allow power to flow without the shield so that you can identify the specific point where there’s a problem.
- Next, after identification of the point where there’s a short, replace the wire or apply insulation if the damage is not too profound.
- Cover the power cable, preferably with an electrical conduit, to shield them from future damage that can result in another short circuit.
- Finally, fix the circuit breaker or fuses to prevent appliance damage if a short happens.
In 2021, the US Federal Emergency Management Agency reported about 24,200 electric fires.
These often result from short circuits and every year, such accidents lead to many deaths.
What we can do to prevent them is to deal with all short circuits, no matter their degree, as they can be severely damaging.
We have listed down all the measures you can undertake to achieve this. Follow them and stay safe from electrical accidents.