You are here



What is an electrical short circuit?

short circuit is a condition where electricity flow completes its circuit journey by a shorter distance than what was established in the electrical system. Normally, electricity flow to the ground for the circuit to be complete, and in an accurate functioning circuit, this implies that current travel through the established wiring circuit, back to the electrical distribution board panel, and continues back to the service mains cable. However, if there is a loose or break the connection in the wiring system.

In this situation, the current suddenly seeks to flow back to the ground by a shorter pathway with low resistance. That pathway may be through flammable materials, a human being, or any other material with a very low resistance. Which is why a short circuit presents the risk of fire or lethal shock.

For example, if a light switch or receptacle with faulty wiring or a loose wire connection or if the bare copper hot wire touches the metal electrical box or a metal faceplate on the switch or receptacle the current will seek to travel toward whatever path of least resistance that exists which might be through the finger, hand, and body of whoever touches or goes in contact to it.

Though the term short circuit is often used incorrectly to refer to any wiring problem in an electrical system. Correctly then, a short circuit refers to a specific condition in which electric current strays outside the established pathway of an electrical circuit or system. So, are there types of short circuit? Yes! Continue reading to know more.


what are the Types of Electrical Short Circuits?

 There are two specific conditions that are known as short circuits in the electrical wiring system in your home, although they carry different names:


Ground Fault

A ground fault occurs when the cable carrying current comes into contact with some portion of the system that is grounded, such, a grounded metal wall box, or a grounded portion of an appliance or a bare copper wire that is grounded. When a ground fault occurs it forces resistance to instantly reduce, which allows a large amount of current to travel through the unexpected pathway. Though, when this occurs there is less chance of flame and fire, but a high chance of electric shock.


Neutral to Live Fault

This is a situation in which a live wire carrying current comes in contact with a neutral wire. When this occurs, resistance reduces automatically and a large amount of current flows through an unexpected pathway. This type of short circuit causes, sparks which sometimes jump, and a sparkling sound is also heard and most time smoke and flames imaged.


what are the Common Causes of Electrical Short Circuits?

Faulty Circuit Wire Insulation

Damaged or old insulation could allow neutral and live wires to touch each other, and thus result in a short circuit. Nail and screw punctures, and also age can cause wire casings or insulation to be damage and allow short circuits. Or, if animal pests such as mice, rats, or squirrels keep biting persistently on circuit cable, the inner wire conductors can be exposed and if it’s in contact with neutral can result in a short circuit.


Loose Wire Connections

 Loosen wiring connection in an electrical wiring system sometimes cause neutral and live wires to be in contact. Correcting faulty wire connections is tricky and is best a professional handle this for an accurate result.


Faulty Electrical Appliance

When an appliance is plugged into a receptacle and is power. its wiring system effectively becomes an extension of the circuit in the electrical wiring system of the building, so, any fault in the appliance wiring becomes part of the electrical system problems. Old or broken appliances may develop inner short circuits over time.

This short circuit might be visible in the appliance plugs, in the power cords, or inside the device itself. It’s best to have a professional technician to look at shorts circuit fault in larger or smaller appliances such as microwaves, dishwashers, etc.


what are the Protective Device That Can Be Used Against Electrical Short Circuit?

When a short circuit occurs it poses a danger of electrical shock and fire outbreak. There are various means in which the electrical wiring system can be protected against Short circuit and thus preventing danger. The following protective devices can be used;


Circuit Breakers or Fuses

what are the Protective Device That Can Be Used Against Short Circuit? Circuit Breakers or Fuses


From the 1960s onward virtually all new or updated wiring systems circuits are controlled and protected by individual circuit breakers that are house in the main service panel which is part of an electrical system component.

Fuse is used to provide similar protection in Older wiring installations. This fuse is of particular ratings of amperage, when short circuit occurs current of high-value flow and when this attempt to pass through the fuse it gets blown off and protects the system from damage and user from electrical shock. Whereas, Circuit breakers use a type of internal springs or compressed air to detect changes in current flow, and break or interrupt the circuit connection when irregularities occur.


Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs)

what are the Protective Device That Can Be Used Against Short Circuit? Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs)
image credit: Amazon


Starting 1971, Electrical Codes began requesting for ground-fault protection in any wiring installation, either by a special GFCI circuit breaker or GFCI outlet receptacles. These devices work just like a circuit breaker, in that they detect changes in current flow, but they are very sensitive than circuit breakers. The immediately shut off the flow of current when they sense very minute fluctuations in current. GFCIs are most reliable in protecting against electrical shocks that can result in ground-fault type short circuits.


Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)

what are the Protective Device That Can Be Used Against Short Circuit? Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)


Beginning in 1999, Electrical Codes began requesting another new type of protection against arcing that is the sparking that occurs when electricity jumps between metal contacts, such as when a wire connection is loose but not fully separated. So, an AFCI is a device that interrupts and shuts off the power before it can reach the short circuit condition. Unlike GFCIs, which are designed to provide protection against shock that may result from ground fault, AFCIs are most useful for preventing fires that may result from arcing. AFCI circuit breakers or AFCI receptacles can provide arc-fault protection


Read also:


>Light bulbs: what causes light bulbs to burn out very quickly?


Leave a Reply

Enable Notifications    OK No thanks