Five reasons why your safety switch keeps tripping – The electricians point of view

safety switch won't turn back on

Five reasons why your safety switch keeps tripping – The electricians point of view

5 Reasons Why Your Safety Switch Keeps Tripping

The electricians point of view.

I express “point of view” because of the large amount of articles I have read on the internet by home improvement company’s that come up with misleading jargon just to capture leads for their job ads,  and good on them. I just wish they could follow up with their research and put forward  factual articles to help the internet savvy consumer and not mislead the consumer to receive as many leads possible.

Safety Switches tripping – Not good

Safety Switches should be installed in all homes to protect you and your family this should also extend to all business in the work place. Homes and Businesses without safety switches can have an electrician easily install a RCD (Residual Current Device) to some existing switchboards and this will depend on the switchboards age and condition. It is important to protect all power points and there circuits including lighting circuits. Introducing a safety switch in your home and business will reduce the risk of electrocution.

Safety switch double pole
Safety switch double pole

Safety Switch tripping can be annoying especially nuisance tripping but think of what its really doing, its protecting you from an electrical injury or death. When your RCD has tripped it has detected a difference of amps between the active conductor and neutral conductor with electricity leaking to earth. When this difference has been detected your safety switch then trips. So why is your RCD tripping and how can you resolve this issue, well I have come up with 5 common reasons that I have found on some emergency call outs .

Faulty Electrical Appliances

Electrical appliances tend to wear and not function properly with extended use over a period of time. If appliances are not maintained they will be one of the biggest causes of your safety switch tripping. You will find electric kettles, toasters, range-hoods, clothes iron fridge and freezes to be possible issues.

Unplug Faulty electrical appliances
Unplug Faulty electrical appliances

How to find the electric appliance causing the problem. Once tripping has accrued you will try to reset you safety switch, if it trip’s again in a short period of time then you will need to unplug all your electrical items from the power point. Then reset your safety switch and if it holds then go back and plug in your electrical appliances one at a time until you have found the faulty appliance. You know this once the faulty appliance is plugged in the power point then it will trip your safety switch again. When found remove the appliance and dispose of appropriately.

Nuisance Tripping

I would describe nuisance tripping when your safety switch trips occasionally about every one to two days, I have had customers even saying once a week. Nuisance tripping is caused by two different issues. I will use thee examples of this.

First there had been nuisance tripping on a power circuit and I found an outside power point in the back yard, when disconnected there were hundreds of ants and bugs inside.The second a water feature with a submersible water pump in the water pond and found the electric motor has seized.The third example was a dish washer in the kitchen, I was told by the owners that tripping accrued every two days and what I found was a small leak in the electrical panel enough to trip a safety switch.

These three examples show how electrical appliances can trip a safety switch and clear themselves of an electrical problem only to return again until the problem becomes constant and apparent. Nuisance safety switch tripping will be hard to find since the faults do not present themselves all the time. An electrician can use their insulation resistance tester to find a reading to earth fault, this will only work if the electrical hazard is present at all times. So serious visual inspection and experience will help determine these tripping conditions.

Faulty Electrical Wiring

If it has been established that electrical appliances is not the cause of safety switch tripping then faulty wiring can be another issue. Old electrical wiring deteriorates over time and the insulation around the wiring become brittle and unsafe.

poor or faulty electrical wiring
poor or faulty electrical wiring

This will be common with older homes (1940 – 1960s) that have black rubber insulated cables or split metal conduit with cotton cables as there electrical system. The only way to overcome this is to have your property rewired and replace the electrical cables. If the age of your home is within 10 to 15 years old things like rodents eating into cables and possibly 240 volt wiring for garden lighting can be damaged.

Safety Switch Myth Busted

When safety switches tip the most common question asked by customers is “my safety switch keeps tripping does it need replacing or is it broken“. No it does not need replacing, its actually doing what its should be doing.

Rain / vermin getting in outside plugs, leads and lighting.
Rain / vermin getting in outside plugs, leads and lighting.

If your safety switch is broken then it probably wont trip at all when there is a fault. You should test your safety switch once a month and if it doesn’t trip when testing or the test button gets stuck and won’t release then this is a good sign that it will need to be replaced.

Rain And Lightning

Severe storms and long periods of rain can cause safety switch trip’s. This happens when excessive water get’s in behind electrical items such as outside light fittings under eaves and external power points. There have been many times I have found trees draped over external power points dripping with water leading straight inside the power point terminals. Thunder and lighting will also cause safety switch tripping. Safety switches don’t like voltage fluctuations and the imbalance in electrical supply will trigger a trip.

This is a guide only, it is illegal and dangerous to perform electrical work and always contact a licensed Electrical Contractor to perform any electrical woks.

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Safety Switch Testing , Installation, problem solving
Service Type
Safety Switch Testing , Installation, problem solving
Provider Name
United Electrical Group,
Greater Melbourne
Safety Switches should be installed in all homes to protect you and your family this should also extend to all business in the work place.