We receive a lot of phone enquiries surrounding this particular problem and typically the scenario is more likely to happen in winter months, after hours and at night. The first thing to remember is not to panic but look at what’s happened prior to the situation unfolding.
There are two central contributing factors that cause these types of problems, one being an overloading condition that can be attributed the total power draw on the circuit in question and the other being a safety switch fault. There are a number of variables to the above but we have found 80 percent of the time these two factors cause the majority of the problems.
Whilst power interruptions can affect both lighting and power circuits, it is predominately power circuits that we are covering in this article. Lighting circuit faults are typically a lot more involved to diagnose and usually will require an in home service attendance to resolve the associated problems.
The first response we have found from many years of experience is client’s going to the switchboard position thinking that resetting the circuit will resolve the problem. In the majority of situations that is incorrect and the wrong response because the circuit breaker or protective device has interrupted the supply for a specific reason.
We will delve deeper into this shortly, but an important thing to remember is what was happening just prior to the power interruption. How many area heating appliances were switched on and in use at the same time in your home and or was there an appliance in the kitchen just recently used?
To investigate the problem further we always advise our clients to locate the area heating and or kitchen appliances that have stopped working and where practical switch them off and remove the plugs from the respective power points.
Why waste time doing this you may ask – Simply what this achieves covers the two most common causes for power interruptions which include power circuit overloading and safety switch faults.
As previously mentioned there are a number of variations which we cannot adequately cover in this article but the important thing to remember firstly and before heading to the switchboard position is that you are countering what has likely caused the problem in the first place.
Once the above procedures have been achieved, it is time to head to the switchboard position and often what confronts many people is a very confusing number of devices, switches, circuit breakers all of which are commonly poorly labelled as to what they correspond to and what circuit cabling they are actually protecting.
Some older switchboards contain porcelain style re-wireable fuses together with a main switch and there are a number of specific safety requirements which need to be followed when working with these types of devices. We will look more at porcelain re-wireable fuses in a moment.
Modern style switchboards contain circuit breakers, safety switches or a combination of both types of equipment. They are much safer, make visually locating / identifying a tripped circuit breaker easier via the toggle position and subsequently much easier to reset for the associated power circuit.
It is at this point after you have followed the previous steps that you can try and reset a power circuit which has tripped but if the device immediately trips back down again don’t try multiple circuit reset attempts because there is still a fault associated with that particular power circuit.
Additionally resetting the device multiple times under a significant fault and or short circuit condition can significantly damage or render the associated protection equipment inoperative meaning it will have to be replaced by a licenced electrician.
With regards to porcelain re-wireable fuse faults we don’t recommend attempting the replacement of the fuse elements unless you a competent at it because there are some safety considerations that need to be followed to protect yourself against the risk of an electrical shock situation.
Additionally removing the wrong fuse cartridge whist under a loaded circuit condition can result in an arc-draw tracking around the fuse holder with the potential that the user may receive an electrical shock in some situations.
It is a safety consideration that all mains supply feeding the associated porcelain re-wireable fuses needs to be confirmed as switched off for safety considerations.
We recommend that you seek professional advice from a licenced electrician before proceeding with replacement of porcelain fuse elements if you don’t feel competent about undertaking the work. Please remember that if you are not competent in confirming the situation – then do not proceed because the wrong procedures could lead to a severe or fatal electrical shock.
It is additionally worth mentioning that sometimes main switches to an electrical installation at the switchboard position can fail in service. This means that although the main switch has been turned to the off position the mains supply is still actually energised to the re-wireable porcelain fuses at the switchboard position. We have come across this type of situation a number of times and this is potentially a hazardous and unsafe scenario.
If the listed steps above do not resolve the situation then it is time to reach for the mobile phone and give us a call.
We will guide you through the procedures but firstly we will likely need you to message some photos pertaining to the switchboard layout so that we can visually assess the actual situation.
If we don’t feel that the situation is considered safe then we will look at available alternatives including attending your home or office to address the situation in person safely.
As previously mentioned if you don’t feel confident about resetting circuits at the switchboard position, then call us for assistance – we will try to assist you over the phone as we have done countless times in the past for our clients prior to attending your home.
Finally please remember electricity is silent, you normally will never see it so don’t take chances and or engage in guess work style home repairs – call a professional licenced electrician when in doubt to resolve the problem.
Michael is the lead electrician at KM Electrical Pty Ltd and has 38 years of technical experience offering professional services, installations and repairs and delivering quality results ensuring on-time completion with guaranteed quality workmanship.