Electrical Short Circuit: Types, Causes And Prevention
With the ever-advancing technology in progress, the need for electricity in every household has transformed from luxury to a necessity as almost every product, appliance, or any new invention today runs on electricity. As useful as it may seem, electric currents are also sources of major accidents, fires, and shocks.
Did you ever witness a short circuit? It is almost imperative for humans to come across an electrical short circuit at least once in their lifetime. And though every individual must know the consequences; of a short circuit, they fail to understand what causes it in the first place.
This very reason brings us to what we have to present before you.
The following content will explain how to understand an electrical short circuit, what causes a short circuit; its different types or forms, possible consequences, and most importantly; how you can prevent a short circuit. Every human must learn these basic tips to keep them safe in case of a sudden mishap while indoors or outdoors.
Definition Of Electrical Short Circuit
An electrical circuit refers to a pathway intended for the flow of current from the power source to its destination. Either due to faulty wiring, switches, breakage in cords, and electrical overload, this pathway causes problems. This default causes the flow of current through an unintended low-resistance pathway.
In turn, it increases the volume of current flowing through the circuit resulting in overheating, fire, or explosion. An indoor short circuit usually occurs when a hot wire falls in contact with an active electric circuit resulting in blowing off the fuse. You can prevent it using an electric standoffs about which we will discuss later.
Types Of Electrical Short Circuits
There are predominantly two types of electrical short circuits that you can commonly witness around the world.
- Normal Short Circuit– A normal short circuit is what humans commonly witness in their daily lives. It happens when a current-carrying hot wire comes in contact with a neutral wire. This contact results in electrical resistance falling, which ultimately increases the current flow through an unintended electrical pathway.
- Ground Fault Short Circuit– The occurrence of a ground fault short circuit is due to a current-carrying hot wire with a grounded portion of the electrical system. This portion can be grounded bare wire; a grounded portion of an appliance, or even a grounded metal wall box.
The use of electric standoffs in the circuit creates a high level of resistance that ultimately prevents the excessive and unintentional flow of current from the power source to its surrounding objects. It means that standoffs break any direct contact of electrical current with the conductors surrounding it, preventing a short circuit.
Causes Of Electrical Short Circuits
There can be various reasons for the occurrence of a short circuit; most cases are incidental though there are even instances of an intentional short circuit caused in mechanical industries.
The most common causes of electrical short circuits are:
- Loose Wire Connections– One of the most commonly witnessed causes of an electrical short circuit. The existence of loose wire attachments or connections allows the current-carrying live wire to contact the neutral wires. If you come across or witness a loose connection, it is imperative that you immediately call an electrician for help; rather than sorting out the problem yourself.
- Faulty Circuit Wire Insulations: Insulations affirm a healthy flow of current through the electrical circuit. When insulations turn old or become damaged, the possibilities of short circuits increase; as it may allow the hot wires to contact the neutral wires. Low insulation causes short circuits.
- Faulty Appliance Wiring: Short circuits are not always the cause of damaged or faulty connections and insulations. The operating appliances also have a crucial impact on the electrical circuit. The appliance cords, when plugged into a socket, act as an extension of the circuit.
So, suppose there is a damaged cord or plug or an internal default appliance, the possibilities of electrical short circuits increase; hence. In that case, you must make sure that all your electronic devices or appliances become short circuit protected.
Prevention Of Electrical Short Circuits
1. The most immediate response to the prevention; of an electrical short circuit is installing an electric standoff that increases electrical resistance and interrupts any electric current contact with the surroundings.
2. Old appliances and connections are more vulnerable to short circuits, so it is important to take note of the following that indicates a faulty connection;
- Electrical sparks from the socket or the appliance outlet
- Burn marks or smell or buzzing sound from the outlet
Any appliance that displays faulty connection or damaged wiring; must first be repaired completely before use to avoid any chances of a short circuit.
3. We all know how dangerous lightning strikes can be. Hence, you must always minimize electricity use during heavy storms as lightning strikes; can damage your homes’ entire power circuit system and cause major house fires.
Installation of Short Circuit Friendly Devices
- Circuit breakers and fuses are the most commonly used devices to prevent short circuits. The circuit breakers break down as soon as it detects an abnormal flow of current through the circuit. Simultaneously, a fuse is a strip of metal wire that melts down due to the excessive flow of current.
- Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) help prevents; electrical fires by breaking the circuit as soon as it detects an electric arc.
- Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) takes note of the flow of current in and out of the circuit. The detection of any imbalance within the circuit will immediately shut down the main power source.
The advancement of technology leads to innovation every day. Initially, the fuse was brought into use to prevent short circuits, followed by circuit breakers. Later the GFCIs for high powered electrical systems were introduced that shut down even before a mishap. AFCIs followed this, and the latest invention is electric standoffs.
Standoffs are additional equipment mounted at a distance and are required only in highly powered; electrical devices and conductors depending on the conduction strength, insulation material, and sensitivity of the appliance or device.