Help! What Do I Do When My Safety Switch Trips? Step-By-Step Instructions

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You’re prepping dinner and you’ve got the oven set to pre-heat, ready for that delicious lasagne to start cooking. When the oven suddenly shuts off... 

The safety switch has tripped! 

As the kitchen falls silent, and the oven clock blinks out, you scramble to try to remember what to do!

It’s scenarios like this that prompt a flurry of phone calls to us at Kenner Electrics, with customers often asking in a mix of frustration and concern, “My safety switch has tripped! How do I reset it?”

Help, my safety switch has tripped. How do I reset it

It happens in homes all over the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, and it’s something that can be both puzzling and frustrating. Whether it's in the middle of preparing your family meal, getting ready for the day, or when you’re about to relax, a tripped safety switch is your home's way of sounding the alarm that all is not right with the electrical system. 

Luckily, Kenner Electrics has got your back with this detailed guide on what to do if your safety switch trips. Let's walk through the steps to diagnose and fix the issue, ensuring your home remains safe and your daily routine uninterrupted.

Quick Overview

  1. The Role of Your Safety Switch
  2. How Do I Know If I Have Safety Switches in My Switchboard?
  3. The Importance of Regular Safety Switch Testing
  4. What to Do If Your Safety Switch Keeps Tripping: Fault Finding Steps
    • Is It A Power Outage or A Tripped Circuit?
    • Tripped Safety Switch? Do This First!
    • Identifying the Problem Circuit When You Have A Single Safety Switch Protecting Multiple Circuits
    • Safety Switch Still Tripping: More Fault-Finding Steps To Try
  5. When to Call Kenner Electrics
  6. Additional Tips for Tripping Safety Switches
  7. Ensuring Electrical Safety: The Essential Role of Professional Expertise

1. The Role of Your Safety Switch

All the power in your home runs through the switchboard, so it is the most important place to have safety devices installed. That's where safety switches come in!

A safety switch is an essential component of your home's electrical system, and they are also called RCDs, short for 'Residual Current Device'. RCDs detect electricity leaking from a circuit and travelling where it shouldn’t (like through a person!). They are designed to disconnect the power quickly (‘trip’) if an electrical fault is detected, quick enough to prevent injury and death. Safety switches are the only devices that will trip in the event of an electric shock to protect humans. 

Without safety switches, your switchboard provides absolutely no protection against electric shock. Safety switches are the only devices that provide protection to humans, and the electrical system in your home is unsafe without them.

A safety switch (RCD or RCBO) installed in your switchboard by a licensed electrician will trip to prevent electric shock and injury

You may also have what is called an RCBO (a 'Residual Current Breaker with Overcurrent'). This is a combination device that incorporates a safety switch and a circuit breaker. RCBOs provide the greatest level of protection against electric shocks and the prevention of overloading the circuits.

For a more detailed explanation of the different roles of safety switches (RCDs), circuit breakers (CBs) and RCBOs, check out our blog, "What's Keeping You Safe? The Importance of Safety Switches In Your Switchboard".

When a safety switch trips, it's more than an inconvenience; it's a warning that your home's electrical system needs attention. It's crucial not only to understand how to reset your safety switch but also to identify why it tripped in the first place. 

2. How Do I Know If I Have Safety Switches in My Switchboard?

An easy way to identify if you have safety switches installed in your switchboard is to look for a button labelled 'TEST' on the device. If pressed it should cause the safety switch to trip (the switch will flick DOWN to the OFF position). 

Modern switchboard with safety switches

Other breakers in your switchboard that do NOT have the test button are usually circuit breakers. Circuit breakers provide overcurrent protection, so that if too much power is being drawn through a circuit the circuit breaker will trip to prevent the cable from overheating and starting a fire. But they do NOT protect humans from electric shock.

If you have an old fuse board with rewireable fuses, then you are much more likely to not have safety switches. If a fuse blows and you are trying to figure out why, we highly recommend calling an electrician to assist you with this fault find (and upgrade to a modern switchboard with safety switches). This is because working on a fuse board (such as removing fuses to rewire them) exposes live parts and is a significant electric shock risk.

An old fuse board is not compliant with current electrical safety standards in Melbourne
Old, unsafe fuseboard

Fuses can also become very brittle over time and might break when removed and expose live parts. Using a licensed electrician to upgrade your fuse board is the safest course of action, and the only option that complies with current electrical safety standards.

If you don't have safety switches in your switchboard, Kenner Electrics offers professional, high-quality safety switch upgrades through Melbourne's eastern suburbs.

3. The Importance of Regular Safety Switch Testing

Think of this as a preventive check-up for your home's safety. Just like smoke alarms, safety switches are there to protect you, but they can only do their job if they're working properly. Regular testing helps to catch any issues early and ensures the switch is performing its protective role effectively. 

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Locate Your Safety Switch: This is typically found in your electrical switchboard, usually marked with a 'Test' or 'T' button.
  2. Schedule Your Tests: It’s recommended to test your safety switches every three months. To help remember, you might align this with daylight saving time changes or the start of specific seasons.
  3. Perform the Test: Press the test button firmly. A properly functioning safety switch will immediately trip, and the power will cut off to the connected circuit. A tripped switch will flick into the DOWN position.
  4. Reset After Testing: Once tripped, turn off all connected appliances to protect them from a power surge when you reset the safety switch. Then, switch the safety switch back on. Power should be restored.
Safety switches should be tested every 3 months to make sure they work properly
The TEST button on these Hagar Safety Switches is blue and on the top left corner.

If at any point the safety switch fails to trip during a test, it’s a signal that something isn’t right. This is when it's crucial to seek professional help. Kenner Electrics is equipped to assess the situation, providing the expertise needed to ensure your safety switches—and by extension, your home—are operating as they should. Regular testing not only gives you peace of mind but also ensures that if an electrical fault occurs, your safety switch will trip and minimize the risk of harm.

4. What to Do If Your Safety Switch Keeps Tripping: Fault Finding Steps

Is It A Power Outage or A Tripped Circuit?

If your power goes out, first figure out if all your power is off or just in some areas.

  • Everything's Off: Check your switchboard. If no breakers have tripped, it might be a problem with the power grid, not your home. Check out our blog on power outages to read more about the types and common causes of power outages. We also have some tips for surviving an unplanned outage if you’re faced with a lengthy power disruption. But if a safety switch has tripped in your switchboard, you likely have an electrical fault in your house. 
  • Only Some Areas Are Out: This isn’t a grid issue. It’s likely related to specific appliances or circuits in your home.

Identifying whether the power loss is total or partial is a crucial first step in resolving the issue.

Tripped Safety Switch? Do This First!

Now that you’ve confirmed that you’re facing an issue with a tripped safety switch, here’s an in-depth look at the initial fault-finding steps to take to restore power to the circuit.

  • Initial Reset: Try to reset the safety switch. Do this by pushing the switch back into the UP position.
  • If it trips again immediately, there might be a persistent fault in the system, like a faulty appliance plugged in. See the instructions below for more troubleshooting steps that you can follow.
  • If it stays on, press the test button on the safety switch itself to make sure it is working correctly. This will cause the safety switch to trip off again. You can reset the safety switch again and monitor it closely for any further trips. 
    • The initial tripped circuit may have been caused by a temporary fault in an appliance or the power supply. For example, you may have a faulty electric hot water booster that only turns on once every 24 hours, so your safety switch will stay on perfectly fine until the hot water booster reactivates the following day. Keep a note of the time of day that the trip occurred and what appliances were being used at the time. This will help an electrician to narrow down the issue more quickly if required. 
    • It is also possible that a momentary electrical disturbance cause the trip. This is a brief disruption in the electrical supply, such as a quick power outage or surge. The safety switch may have tripped in response to the disturbance, and can usually just be flicked back on.

Identifying the Problem Circuit When You Have A Single Safety Switch Protecting Multiple Circuits

If your home is set up with just one safety switch covering all circuits, a trip means you're suddenly without power everywhere. To tackle this, follow these steps to pinpoint the problematic circuit. This way, you can quickly get power back to the rest of your home while isolating the issue to address the faulty circuit separately.

  1. Identify the Tripped Safety Switch: Go to your main switchboard and find the tripped safety switch.
  2. Turn Off All Circuit Breakers: Leave the tripped safety switch off and turn off all other breakers protected by that safety switch.
  3. Reset the Safety Switch: Flip the safety switch back on to the UP position.
  4. Turn On Breakers One by One: Reactivate the circuit breakers individually by flicking the switch UP. If the safety switch trips when a specific breaker is turned on, that circuit likely has the fault.
  5. Try Just The Faulty One: Turn all the circuit breakers off again and reset the safety switch. Turn on the circuit breaker that caused the trip. If it trips again, you can be confident that the fault is on this circuit.
  6. Isolate the Faulty Circuit: Turn the problematic circuit off and turn the rest of the circuit breakers on. Then reset the safety switch. This should mean you have power to the rest of your home while you continue to follow the fault-finding steps below to identify the fault.

Safety Switch Still Tripping: More Fault-Finding Steps To Try

By now, you’ve isolated the cause of the tripping to a single circuit, but it’s still tripping even when you reset it! Here are some more steps to figure out what is causing the tripping safety switch.

If your safety switch has tripped again immediately after you tried to reset it, follow these fault-finding steps to try and isolate the problem.

  • Unplug All Appliances: Turn off and UNPLUG all appliances on that circuit from power sockets. You’ll need to actually pull the plug out from the wall entirely. This eliminates the possibility of your appliances causing the trip.
  • Attempt Reset Again: With all appliances unplugged, try resetting the safety switch again.
  • If the safety switch continues to trip even with no appliances plugged in, call an electrician. It is likely that some part of the electrical installation is faulty, such as the wiring or the safety switch itself. A licensed electrician will be able to identify the fault and repair or replace the affected part so that you have complete confidence in the functionality of your safety switches!
  • If the safety switch stays on without any appliances plugged in,  the issue might be with an appliance rather than the switch. Plug in one appliance and turn it on. Check if the safety switch trips. If it doesn't, plug in the next appliance and repeat the process until you find the one causing the problem. 
  • If the safety switch trips when you plug in an appliance, the appliance you just plugged in is likely faulty. Stop using this appliance until you can have it repaired or replaced.
  • If you identify and remove a faulty appliance and the safety switch is still tripping, it is possible that the trip was cause by ‘accumulated leakage’. This is a technical term that is used to describe a situation where small amounts of electrical current leak from the normal pathway within multiple appliances or electrical components. Individually, these leakages might be too minor to cause a safety switch to trip. However, when several appliances with minor leakages are used at the same time, their combined effect can be significant enough to trigger the safety switch. It's an indication that while no single appliance is necessarily at fault, the collective electrical integrity of connected devices could be compromised, necessitating inspection and possibly repairs. If you need immediate use of your appliances, you can try rearranging your appliances by plugging some into other circuits. A longer term solution would be to have each appliance tested for potential earth leakage faults, or have another power circuit installed.

5. When to Call Kenner Electrics

Encountering a persistently tripping safety switch can be a sign of deeper electrical issues that require professional intervention. If you've followed the troubleshooting steps—such as resetting the safety switch, unplugging and testing your appliances, and still find yourself facing tripping issues—it's time to reach out to the experts at Kenner Electrics.

At Kenner Electrics, we specialise in diagnosing complex electrical problems that may not be immediately apparent to homeowners. Our team of licensed electricians has extensive experience in handling all types of electrical systems, particularly focusing on switchboard repairs and upgrades in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

6. Additional Tips for Tripping Safety Switches

Keeping your home's electrical system in top shape goes beyond just flicking a tripped safety switch back on. Here are some additional recommendations to ensure your safety switches will continue to work correctly: 

  • Routine Appliance Checks: Regularly inspect your electrical appliances for any signs of wear or damage. Frayed cords, cracked casings, or unusual performance can be early indicators of potential problems. Address these issues promptly to prevent safety hazards.
  • Appliance Testing: High-use items like kettles, toasters, and irons are often culprits in triggering safety switch trips. If you’re having problems with a tripping safety switch, consider having these appliances professionally tested, especially if they're older or showing signs of wear. This can help identify hidden faults that might not be immediately obvious.
  • Manage Moisture: Keep electrical devices away from water sources and ensure areas like kitchens and bathrooms are well-ventilated to prevent moisture build-up. Water and electricity are a dangerous mix, and damp environments can contribute to safety switch activations.
  • Test Regularly: Make it a habit to test your safety switch regularly, as recommended. This simple action can be a key preventative measure, ensuring your switch is always ready to protect you from electrical faults.
  • Seek Professional Advice: If you're ever uncertain about an electrical issue in your home or if you notice something out of the ordinary, don't hesitate to consult with an expert. Kenner Electrics offers professional inspections and advice, helping you to address any concerns and maintain a safe electrical environment.

7. Ensuring Electrical Safety: The Essential Role of Professional Expertise

A tripping safety switch should never be ignored. It serves as a protective measure, indicating that there is something amiss with your electrical system. By following these detailed steps, you can isolate the issue and take corrective action. 

If you're experiencing ongoing issues with a tripping switch, don't hesitate to reach out to the professionals. Kenner Electrics is the trusted expert in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, ready to assist with all your switchboard needs. Ensuring your electrical system is safe and functional is their top priority, giving you peace of mind in your home. 

Remember, dealing with electrical problems promptly can prevent more serious issues down the line. By following these straightforward steps and knowing when to call in the experts, you can address the common question of what to do when your safety switch keeps tripping. Safety is the priority, and a well-functioning safety switch is key to protecting your home and family from electrical hazards.

Why Choose Kenner Electrics?

Kenner Electrics is your trusted local electrician. We have a friendly and professional team of highly qualified, experienced and licensed electricians ready to handle all your commercial and residential electrical needs.

We provide up-front pricing with a clear explanation of the work required to avoid cost overruns. We provide prompt and efficient service and prioritise safety on each and every job. We are fully insured, licensed and accredited, we're a member of the National Electrical & Communications Association, and we are a registered electrical contractor with Energy Safe Victoria. We always provide compliance certificates for all completed electrical installation work.

We're one of the top rated electricians in Melbourne with over 250 genuine 5-star reviews from residential and business customers just like you.

Call our friendly team on (03) 9996 0663 or contact us online now.

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