Your home and every other home in Sydney has a safety switch that quickly cuts the power in case of an electrical fault.  This smart life saving device is compulsory for every house but sometimes, they cause unexplained power cuts.  Below I will take you through what is happening, why it trips, and how to identify the problem and hopefully fix it.

Note: This is only a guide to help you trouble shoot simple problems. It is actually against the law, not to mention dangerous to carry out electrical work in your home.  If unplugging appliances and checking switches doesn’t work, you should call a licensed Electrical Contractor to help you find the problem.

Look at your safety switch

The main safety switch is inside this box usually at your front door

Step 1 Check your Fuse Box:

Open your fuse box (usually near the front door somewhere).  In here you will see a number of similar looking  ‘circuit breakers’ these are simply fuses that are designed to blow if you get a power surge or if something in your home short circuits. If you can see one of these is broken there is a good chance you have found the source of your problem and you simply need to replace the fuse.  Be sure to see what that particular fuse covers.  It will be worth checking appliances or lighting associated with that fuse to ensure there are not more serious problems lurking.

If there are no broken fuses you need to look at the safety switch.  If your power is out, 9 times out of 10 this will be sitting in the off position.  If you place it into the ‘on’ position and it doesn’t stay on then you are going to need to start a process of elimination to identify the cause of the tripping safety switch.

Note the difference between a standard fuse and the Safety Switch.

Note the difference between a standard fuse and the Safety Switch.

Step 2 Identify the Problem: 

A safety switch constantly tripping can usually be traced back to one of the following areas. Below is a brief summary.

  • Old Electrical Appliances: This is by far the most common source of circuit breakers going off. The most common appliances to cause trips are old kettles, toasters, stove tops and fans, fridges and freezes.  Many aussie homes have beer fridges in areas where they rust and age.  The automatic on and off cycle of these fridges is why your safety switch only times sometimes.

 

  • Mystery Tripping: If your safety switch is tripping once a week or every few days there is a good chance it has to do with a power point or device that’s outside or near water.  Once unusual thing I have seen was a power outlet in a garden that was full of ants.  Everthing would be fine until just the right number of ants crawled into the socket and caused a connection between the power and earth connections.  In another situation an outdoor water pump had gotten full of grass and grime and burnt out.  When the pump switched on it would seize and cause a short that made the switch flick off.

 

  • Faulty Electrical Wiring: This is rare in newer home but if you home was constructed before 1970 the wiring is starting to age.  Modern cables and wiring are very strudy but back then wiring and standards were not at the same level they are today.  Rubber coatings on wires eventually break down and become brittle and sometimes even rodents can gnaw on the insulation causing the wires to be exposed.  If you have eliminated all the above options it might be best to get a professional electrician in to inspect your homes wiring and assess its age and condition.

 

  • Rain And Lightning: Rain would have to be the most common cause of short circuits and triggering safety switches.  A short shower usually means that your homes gutters and drains will take care of it but during a long rainy spell this is not enough.  Water may collect and drip into areas behind switch boards, into power outlets or even your roof cavity which is full of wiring for down lights etc. If your safety switch is being triggered during heavy rain please call an electrician and don’t try to fix or find the problem yourself.  Your safety switch is there for a reason and if it has switched off there is a good chance that the water causing the problem will be charged with electricity.
outdoor power point

Heavy rain can still get into these heavy duty outdoor power outlets causing problems

 

Laslty, If your power is switching off and the safety switch keeps tripping it isn’t broken, its doing exactly what it should be doing to protect you from a problem with your power supply.

Never try to stick your safety switch into the on position.  If you cannot identify any issues using the above process of elimination CALL AN ELECTRICAN.  We are trained to find problems and fix them safely without finding out what its like to receive a 240volt electrocution that could be your first and last experience on this happy planet.