What causes an electrical fault and how do I find one?

What causes an electrical fault and how do I find one?

Blackouts and power outages occur when there is a disrupted supply of electricity to your home and appliances.

This disruption is often referred to as an electrical fault and can occur from a transmission tower at a distant location, a power line on your street, or most likely within your individual electrical circuits at home.

Our electricians in the Upper North Shore can determine the type of electrical fault as well as the repair required to prevent it from happening again.

This is essential, as electrical faults are very dangerous. Read on to discover why.

What is an electrical fault?

Electrical faults occur when there is a sudden power outage in your home, generally due to a short circuit.

Short circuits can produce:

  • High voltage
  • Under voltage
  • Unbalanced of phases
  • Reversed polarity (incorrect wiring)
  • Overcurrent

What is a short circuit?

To understand short circuits, you need to understand closed and open circuits.

Closed circuits are produced when you flick a switch for a light, outlet, or appliance like a fan. Flicking this switch generates a complete, uninterrupted circuit between the switch and the appliance – and this is what gives it power.

An open circuit is present when the switch is off, creating a stoppage in this circuit – preventing your electricity from powering the appliance.

A short circuit is when a closed circuit tries to power the appliance despite not being capable to do so.

This is why you experience flickering lights, buzzing, and overheating as the circuit struggles to provide voltage without a complete circuit.

Ground faults

A ground fault occurs when there is a fault in a closed circuit by electricity bypassing the circuit to the ground or into your home.

This can cause electrocution for people standing near the affected area and for those that touch the outlet the circuit is a part of.

A ground fault can also be considered a type of short circuit since it bypasses the normal circuit pathway.


What is the most common electrical fault?

Open circuits are the most common electrical fault, and the most common type of short circuit is a ground fault.

One other type of electrical fault is a “transient fault”, which occurs due to external factors such as power line dismantling or fallen power poles.

Open circuit faults generally happen because of:

  • Rust/ionisation
  • Faulty power outlets
  • Water ingress
  • Old or damaged wiring
  • Wire insulation degradation

Electrical faults can be extremely dangerous as they can cause electrocution and electrical fires.

This is why during any electrical fault, even if you believe you’ve “fixed” the fault, you need to call an emergency electrician in Neutral Bay to assess your circuits properly.

Electrician Upper North Shore

Circuit breaker board displays many switches. A finger is about to turn it back on

What are the steps to fault finding?

Hopefully, when you experience an electrical fault, you will be aware immediately from the circuit breakers cutting all electricity to your home.

Once there is a power outage, you and your electrician can follow a few steps for electrical fault finding:

1. Turn off all the circuits

Your switchboard is generally mounted on an outside wall of your home.

When you open it, you should see that the main power switch has been turned off (these switches physically turn off themselves), but the circuit breakers for each circuit in your house should still be switched on.

You will still have zero power because of the master switch being off. You need to turn off each circuit breaker as well.

2. Turn on the main safety switch

The next step is to turn on the main safety switch that was initially the only switch off when you first opened the switchboard.

Your home will still not receive any power since the circuits are all off. If any power turns back on, check to see which circuit switch hasn’t been turned off and turn it off.

3. Turn on each circuit breaker

Turn on each circuit one by one, checking your home each time to see if the power correctly corresponds to each switch.

4. Find which circuit was tripping

By using the previous step as a process of elimination, you will discover which circuit has the fault. Eventually, one circuit you turn on won’t have corresponding power.

5. Turn off all circuits again

As soon as you’ve discovered which circuit is faulty, turn off all circuits and then the master supply switch – in that order.

6. Turn on electricity

Then, turn on the safety switch followed by every circuit except the faulty one.

7. Call a fault finder

An emergency electrician near you can attend to your property to find the cause of the fault.

You will most likely need a new circuit to replace the faulty one and perhaps new circuit breakers as well, depending on how quickly they responded to the fault.


What is the first step to take when there is an electrical fault?

Call Plateau’s emergency electricians anytime of the day or night!

Need help with electrical safety checks in your home?

Plateau Electrical can diagnose the circuit at fault in your home and repair and upgrade it to safeguard your house.

We can also assess your electrical switchboard to ensure that it is up to date and as safe as possible.

Plateau can also assist with a range of less urgent electrical needs all around the house, such as:

  • EV charging station installation
  • LED downlight installation
  • Smoke alarm installation
  • Dimmer switch installation
  • TV wall mounting
  • Ceiling fan installation
  • And so much more!

If you find yourself searching for a Level 2 electrician in the Northern Beaches, call Plateau Electrical 24/7 on (02) 9982 8668.

For less urgent matters, we invite you to give us a call or get in touch online, and we will get back to you!