As annoying as it may be, if your safety switch has tripped, it has done exactly what it was meant to do: keep you safe from electrical issues and, potentially, a fire!
If your electrical switchboard has tripped, the next step is to do some detective work and find out what has triggered it. The causes can include appliances, wiring, light switches, etc. Once you find out, you may take action by fixing or eliminating whatever is faulty.
In this article, we will look into these causes and solutions.
Why does my safety switch keep going off?
On the odd occasion that your safety switch trips, it’s nothing to be concerned about. Just reset it and carry on with what you were doing. However, if your safety switch starts to trip on a regular or semi-regular basis, then you have to find the remedy, as not only can it be a telling sign of a potential hazard, but it can also just be annoying, constantly losing power and having to reset it.
The following are some of the most common reasons for regular safety switch tripping.
- Damaged or Defective Appliances
Over time and use, frequently used appliances which require a lot of power to operate, such as your washing machine or dishwasher, need to be replaced, and a telltale sign of that is when they start to leak extra current.
Your safety switch is designed to detect any extra current in the circuit and turn off the power immediately. Some trial and error is required to figure out which appliance is causing the issue. First, note when it happens and which appliances are being used. If you still can’t work it out, then unplug all the appliances and operate each appliance one by one till you catch the culprit.
- Worn out Wiring
As with appliances and most things electrical, over time, the insulation of wiring can get worn out or damaged without us realising it. This damaged wiring can trigger fluctuations which then lead to the safety switch kicking into action and cutting off all the power.
Faulty wiring carries more threat due to its exposed, live electrical nature. So if the first step of checking appliances doesn’t yield any results, inspecting the wiring should be your next port of call. However, it’s very important to be very careful when doing this, and we highly recommend calling in experts to inspect and identify the problem before implementing a solution.
- Nuisance Tripping
Named due to its annoying nature, this reason isn’t due to faulty wiring or damaged appliances, but simply because too many things are running at the same time. Appliances can all leak tiny amounts of currents, which usually doesn’t cause the safety switch to spring into action, however, when running simultaneously, those trace amounts can add up and trigger the safety switch.
It requires some guesswork, so take note of which appliances are running when the safety switch kills the power and time it so that you don’t use all the heavy-consuming appliances all at once.
- Disruptive weather
If you live in an area prone to experiencing storms with heavy winds, thunder, lightning and intense downpours, then there’s a good chance it can affect the safety switch. Particularly, if lightning strikes power lines or a power station which supplies your area, then expect to lose power, sometimes for as long as it takes till the damage is repaired.
Unfortunately, mother nature’s moods are out of our hands, and there isn’t much we can do about it except wait it out. If your electric box is outdoors, however, wait until the storm is over and things have dried before turning the switch back on.
- Faulty Switches
Sometimes, the safety switch itself can be defective. However, when this happens, it can have more serious consequences as, as opposed to cutting the power, the switch will stop working and not cut the power when it is needed.
Though this doesn’t happen often, it’s important to have the switch checked out from time to time, so whenever you have an electrician come around to fix something, tell him to take a quick look at the safety switch and test it to make sure it’s operational and doesn’t need replacing.
What should I do if my safety switch trips?
While a safety switch trip can mean an unwilling trip to the breaker or electricity box, the fix is fairly simple.
When opening the electricity box door, you will see a number of switches. If labelled, you will see that these switches are for various parts of the home, some for lights, for plug sockets, for the cooking hob etc. and of course, the main power source switch. One of these switches will be the safety switch, and whilst all the switches will be facing one direction, the safety switch will be facing the other. Just flick it back on, and power should return.
Always be sure to take all appliances, such as your refrigerators, toasters, microwaves, washing machines and UPS, off the power circuit when resetting the safety switch. Simply turning off the power points might not be enough to avoid an overload, and if you’re not sure about the reason for the power trip, any of your heavy-weight appliances could be the culprit.
This also makes it easier to identify if any of the home electrical products contributed to the tripped safety switchboard.
However, if the problem persists or occurs at an alarming frequency, it’s best to get a professional involved. Particularly, if it fails to reset, or if you successfully identify the appliance or cause of the safety switch trip – do not attempt to fix it yourself. You must avoid touching it and call a licensed technician.
What does a safety switch do?
A safety switch is designed to monitor the current flowing through and reacting within 0.03 seconds of detecting any alteration or fluctuation in the voltage to shut off all power.
This is a key component in keeping us safe from electrical fires breaking out or suffering from electric shock, amongst other injuries, which could happen quite regularly if it wasn’t for preventative pieces of equipment such as safety switches and surge diverters, as increases in electrical currents happen quite regularly, though we are not aware of them due to the presence of these vital accessories.
Even if the extra current surges are not strong enough to cause fires, the absence of a safety switch or a surge diverter can lead to the extra voltage blowing the motherboard of a number of your electronics or appliances which can lead to permanent damage and costly replacement or repairs.
Where do I find the Safety Switch?
When the power suddenly shuts off without warning, the first place you should check is the electricity box. It is located in various places in every home but can usually be found near the main door of the home or building with a flat and smooth cover, painted the same colour as the walls so that it does not stand out and be an eye soar in the room.
Upon opening the cover, you will find a number of switches which will include the main power switch for the entire home/building, individual switches for wall sockets, lights, the kitchen hob etc. and the safety switch.
How Often Should Safety Switches Be Tested?
It’s best to keep a frequent check on your home’s safety switches and do checks about every few weeks to once a month. While this can be impractical, as people only usually see them when they check their electricity box, it’s best advised to call a professional who can run a check and inspection and test them out every couple of months.
How Many Safety Switches Do I Need?
While one safety switch can do the trick, it’s best for heavier appliances, ceiling lights and any major electricity fixtures to have their own separate safety switches to help avoid overloading, any damage to your appliances and also make it easier to identify electricity issues.