What is Short Circuit?

A short circuit is when there is a low resistance connection between two conductors supplying electrical power to a circuit. This would generate an excess of voltage streaming and cause an excessive current flow in the power source. The electricity will flow through a ‘short’ route and cause an electrical short circuit.

What Are the Types of Electrical Short Circuit?

There are two types of Electrical Short Circuits:

1. Normal Short Circuit

This is when a hot wire carrying current touches a neutral wire. When that happens, the resistance will go down instantly and a large volume of current will flow through an unexpected pathway.

2. Ground Fault Short Circuit

Ground fault short circuit occurs when the hot wire carrying current comes into contact with some grounded portion of the system. It can be a grounded metal wall box, bare ground wire or a grounded portion of an appliance.

What Are Main Causes of Electrical Short Circuit?

The main causes of Electrical Short Circuit are:

1. Faulty Circuit Wire Insulation

If the insulation is damaged or old, it may allow the hot wires to touch with neutral. This will cause a short circuit.

Age of the wire, nails or screws can damage the insulation and allow short circuit. There is a risk of pests of gnawing the insulation and exposing the wire conductors too.

2. Loose Wire Connections

If there are any loose wire connections or attachments, it will allow the live and neutral wires to touch. If you see faulty wire connections, do not try to fix them on your own and call a professional immediately.

3. Faulty Appliance Wiring

If you plug an appliance into a wall socket, its wiring essentially becomes an extension of the circuit. Therefore, if there are any problems in the appliance wiring, it will become circuit problems.Short circuits can occur in the power cords, plugs or inside the appliance. Make sure you get short circuit protection for all the appliances.

4. Pets Chewing Down the Wires

Pests like rats, cats, and squirrels chewing on electrical wires is one of the leading causes of short circuits. This problem is widespread in older homes where the wiring may be more exposed. These pests can cause a lot of damage to your home and your electrical system.

5. Electrical Wiring Coming Into Contact With Moisture

When water or another type of fluid comes into contact with electrical wiring, it can cause a short circuit. This is because the water can conduct electricity, which can cause the current to flow through the water and into the ground. This can damage the wiring and potentially cause a fire.

6. Damaged Outlets, Switches, and Electrical Appliances

If your lights are flickering or you have to jiggle your plugs to keep them working, it may be time to replace your outlets, switches, and lights. Old or damaged electrical devices can cause a short circuit, a dangerous situation where electrical current bypasses its intended path.

7. Abnormal Build-up of Electrical Currents

Another reason for a short circuit is overloaded circuits. This happens when too many appliances or devices are plugged into one circuit, causing the electrical current to overload the system.

8. Nails or Screws in Live Wire

Nails or screws pierce through walls and come into contact with live electrical wires can cause a short circuit. This is a serious hazard that can lead to fires and electrocution.
Short circuits can occur in the power cords, plugs, or inside the appliance. Make sure you get short-circuit protection for all the appliances.

Signs of Short Circuit

You likely have a short circuit if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Burn Marks or Burning Smell From Outlets

One sign of a short circuit is if the outlet has burn marks or emits a burning smell. An overloaded circuit usually causes this. It can be a fire hazard.

  • Buzzing & Popping Sound From the Outlet

Another sign to look for is if you hear a buzzing or popping sound from the outlet. An overloaded circuit can also cause this, and it’s definitely a cause for concern.

  • Sparks Coming Out From the Circuit

Sparks emitted from the outlet also indicate an electrical short circuit. If you see sparks, it means that there is an excessive amount of current flowing through the circuit, which can be dangerous.

How Can You Prevent a Electrical Short Circuit?

1. Monitor Outlets & Appliances

Every outlet has a network of wires connected to it. If there are any faulty wires, loose box connections or if the outlet is over 15-25 years old, it may lead to a short circuit. Look out for possible signs that indicate faulty outlets, which include:

  • Burn marks on the outlet or a burning smell
  • Sparks emitting from the outlet
  • Buzzing sound from the outlet

Similarly, check the appliances and their wiring too. Faulty appliance wiring or cracks in the appliance can cause a short circuit. Repair such appliances or replace them altogether.

2. Use Less Electricity During Storms

A short circuit caused by a lightning strike can be extremely dangerous as the sheer amount of electricity can lead to damage. Reduce electrical usage during a storm as it can help prevent short circuits and lessen the damage in case of a power surge.

3. Get a Yearly Electrical Inspection

Call a certified professional and get an electrical inspection done at least once a year. They can identify critical issues and resolve them before they can get dangerous because they know how to fix a short circuit.

4. Install Devices that Prevent Short Circuit

  • Circuit Breakers or Fuses: A circuit breaker is a switching device in a circuit that interrupts an abnormal flow of current. It uses an internal system of springs or compressed air to sense any changes in the current flow. It will ‘break’ the circuit open and cut the flow of current. A fuse is a device that provides overcurrent protection. It has a metal strip or wire that melts when a large amount of current flows through it. This interrupts the circuit.
  • Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs): GFCI works by comparing the amount of current flowing in and out of a circuit. If there is a ground fault or imbalance between the currents flowing in and out, the GFCI will shut off electrical power.
  • Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs): An AFCI breaks the circuit when it detects an electric arc in the circuit. It helps in preventing electrical fires.

Check out our blog AFCI vs GFCI for more information on where you should install AFCI and GFCI.

How to Fix Short Circuits?

Here is a step-by-step guide to the actions you may take when you experience an electrical short circuit. However, be very careful while dealing with electricity. And don’t forget to call a professional electrician to inspect and resolve the issue.

1. Locate and Expose the Short in Your Line and Turn Off the Circuit Breaker

One of the first things you need to do is locate the short in your line. This must be done by turning off the circuit breaker. Once the breaker is off, you can expose the wire causing the issue.

2. Repair the Shorted Line

Once you have located the wire, you can then repair it. This may involve splicing the wire or adding a new piece of wire. If you are not comfortable doing this, you may want to hire an electrician to do the job for you.

3. Add Conduit for Higher Safety

Once the repair is complete, you can then add conduit to the area. This will help to prevent future shorts.

4. Return the Wire and Turn On the Breaker

Finally, you can turn the breaker back on and restore power to the area.