“Can you please come out? My safety switch has tripped and I can’t make it turn back on.”
“Sure. Before we head over to you, have you tried unplugging every appliance from every wall plug and socket and then tried resetting the circuit breaker?“
“Yep. Tried that and I still can’t turn the breaker back on. Can you please hurry? Nothing is working in my house and the fridge is starting to defrost all over the floor.”
We have this same conversation a few times every day with people across Brisbane. Tripped safety switches that don’t turn back on are our number one electrical call out.
What we find when we arrive is nine times out of ten, when we go in and unplug everything there is one appliance that the person forgot to unplug in their panic, and that’s the one that is causing the circuit breaker to trip.
How To Find The Problem Causing Your Safety Switch to Trip
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.
Common culprits are kettles, dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, tank pumps and fridges (the all-time number 1 culprit) that get a bit of humidity in the wrong place. 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, do another check in case there is an appliance you forgot. Think about your stove rangehoods, your clothes dryers, and gas cooktop igniters. There is often one appliance in a hard to reach place that is the culprit.
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. We have had some embarrassed, and in some cases annoyed, people when we turn up and reset the breaker in 30 sec.
If after you have unplugged everything, reset your circuit breaker and the circuit breaker stays on – happy days! Now you can go through the house plugging back one item at a time and check when the circuit breaker trips to identify the problem appliance.
We recommend plugging in a radio first and turning it to a loud music station, that way you can hear when it turns off while you are plugging appliances back in.
What Can You Do If Not All Your Wall Sockets Are Working?
If your lights are working, and part of your home’s power points are not working, then you have narrowed down the problem appliances to within that particular electrical circuit. Follow the tips above to unplug and then replug the appliances on that circuit to see if you can find the problem child.
Safety Switch Tips – When to Call An Electrical Contractor
If the safety switch clicks off and there is nothing left plugged in, then give us a call as there may be a problem with your wiring.
If it clicks off with a “pop” or a “flash,” don’t touch it anymore! This is an indicator of a “hard fault” which could cause the breaker or the appliance to explode if you keep trying to close the breaker. This needs an urgent call to an electrical contractor to check out.
Circuit Breaker Tripping Prevention
You will never be able to stop circuit breakers from tripping. They are doing what they are supposed to do – and turning off the circuit when there is a problem. What you can do is minimise the problem.
Most people don’t know that every home has 2 to 3 wiring circuits in them for their wall sockets. Your home isn’t one continuous wiring circuit, but a number of different circuits.
Older homes typically have one safety switch installed across all circuits, which means when one socket/appliance trips the whole house goes out. Newer homes have safety switches across one or a few circuits.
By installing a combination safety switch/circuit (RCBO in tech speak) breaker on each of the separate wiring circuits, it means that when one socket trips, only a third or half of your house will go out, which means in case of emergency you can always run an extension cable to keep your fridge running.
Safety Switches – The Ultimate Protection
Circuit breakers (also called MCB’s) protect your home from short-circuits and overloaded circuits. A safety switch protects the people in your home.
A safety switch (also called an RCD) 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 (RCBO) be installed on every circuit of your home, and not just your power sockets. Install one on your stove circuit, your pool circuit, your light circuit, your hot water circuit, and your air-conditioning circuit for the ultimate peace of mind.
Safety Switch Troubleshooter: If your circuit breaker has tripped and won’t turn back on:
- Unplug EVERYTHING (including dishwashers, airconditioners, gas stove igniters).
- Click your safety switch all the way off (for newer safety switches).
- Turn your safety switch back on and see if it stays on.
- If it clicks off and there is no appliance plugged in, call an electrical contractor.
- If you hear a pop or see a flash when you try to reset your safety switch – STOP and urgently call a licenced electrical contractor.
- Plug appliances back in one at a time to identify the problem.
- Get a combined safety switch/circuit breaker installed on each of the circuits in your house to reduce problem tripping.