How to Trace a Short Circuit

How to Trace a Short Circuit

A Short circuit usually happens when a hot wire touches any of the other two wires. This causes extra current to flow through the circuit, which causes the circuit breaker to trip or the fuse to blow. However, this is not the only reason for short circuits to occur. There are many potential problems in electric circuits, such as faulty wiring, broken insulation, circuit overload, as well as defective plugs, switches, cords and receptacles.

A short circuit is a low resistance connection between the conductors supplying electricity to a circuit. It can take place in both direct and alternating current circuits. Short circuits can be dangerous, as they can produce very high temperatures due to the high current flow through the circuit, which may cause the wire to explode and catch fire. Arc welding uses the same principle to generate huge amounts of heat.

The use of safety fuses and circuit breakers, which disconnect the electricity in reaction to an excessive current, can fairly reduce the damage that a short circuit can cause and are also very helpful in isolating the exact location of the short circuit.

Sometimes, it is not possible to know the cause of the short circuit. Although it is easy to ascertain a short circuit (turning on a switch or plugging in a particular electrical appliance causes the lights in the rest of the house to go out), the exact position of the short circuit in the electrical system can be difficult to trace.
Tracing a Short Circuit

To trace a short circuit, all the electrical switches should be turned off. All lights and other electric appliances should be unplugged. The tripped circuit breaker should be reset. A replacement should be completed if there is a fuse instead of a circuit breaker. After ensuring that all the electric appliances have been unplugged and all the switches turned off, the following steps have to be followed:
Step 1: Check for Short Circuit in Receptacle/Switches

After resetting the breaker, if it trips again immediately, there is a possibility of a short circuit in a receptacle or a switch.
Step 2: Identify the Receptacle or Switch Responsible

If the circuit breaker does not trip, each switch should be turned on, one at a time, until the breaker trips again. When the breaker trips upon turning on a particular switch, it is evident that there is a short circuit in a fixture or receptacle controlled by the switch.
Step 3: Identify a Particular Electrical Appliance

When the circuit breaker does not trip even after turning all the switches on, a problem with a particular appliance can be assumed. All the electrical appliances and lights need to be plugged in one by one. As soon as the breaker trips, the particular appliance that triggered the event can be identified as problematic and isolated. There can be a problem with the plug, cord or the appliance itself.

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