Learning about Electrical Short Circuits and Their Causes

Author: Passey Electric. | | Categories: Electrical Wiring


Electrical short circuits are more than simply an inconvenience; they can be an indication of more significant problems with your home's electrical system. Read on for the causes of and solutions to ground faults and short circuits.

First of All, What Is an Electrical Short Circuit?

When a "hot" wire carrying live current touches a neutral wire, either directly or through arcing, the current flows in the wrong direction, creating a short circuit. Since the circuit wiring is no longer needed, the electrical current simply follows the path of least resistance back to the ground. Dangerous shock, electrical fire, or even minor explosions can result from this situation, which poses a threat to both people and property.

What Are the Main Causes of a Short Circuit?

a) Worn-Out Insulation on the Wires

Polyethylene or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is commonly used as insulation for electrical cables. A short circuit between live and neutral wires can occur if the insulation breaks down, melts, or is damaged (often by a nail or screw or rodents chewing on the insulation).

b) Faulty Wire Connections

Increased electrical resistance occurs when wires are broken or not securely connected. As a result, the wiring will heat up, which could create a fire or an electrical shock.

c) Appliances with Faulty Wiring

Not only is your home's wiring to blame for a short circuit, but appliances can also be the culprit on certain occasions. There could be a problem with the appliance's power cord, socket, or outlet. Burned, melted, or frayed electrical wires and plugs are telltale signs of malfunction.

Comparing Short Circuits and Ground Faults

A classic short circuit occurs when a live wire touches a neutral wire. In contrast, a ground fault occurs when live electrical current makes contact with a grounded part of your electrical systems, such as a grounded appliance part, grounded metal wall box, or grounded copper ground wire. Although electrical fires can result from ground faults, severe shock or electrocution is the greater risk, especially in wet environments.

There are a number of potential sources of ground faults, including leaking water into the electrical box, loose or damaged wires, and inadequate insulation on appliances or power tools.

Preventing Electrical Short Circuits

  • Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs)

Electrical current is quickly cut off if a GFCI-protected outlet or circuit detects even the tiniest spike or dip. The Canadian Electric Code first required ground fault circuit interrupter protection within 1.5 meters of a sink, tub, or shower in kitchens, bathrooms, wet bars, laundry rooms, etc., in 1971. Today, this requirement has been extended to outdoor locations within 2.5 meters of the finished grade.

Installing GFCIs without the assistance of a competent electrician is a risky endeavour that could endanger the occupants of the home. Then, once a month, check them to make sure they're still providing enough security.

  • Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)

Protect your home from electrical fires with AFCIs, which promptly cut power if they detect a disruption in the normal flow of electricity. Many hardwired appliances, as well as bedrooms, living rooms, hallways, dining spaces, unfinished basements, and adjacent garages, have mandatory AFCI receptacles or electrical circuit breakers installed by law.

  • Circuit Breakers

The breakers in your home's electrical service panel allow you to turn on and off electricity to individual circuits. Houses constructed or renovated after the 1960s employ circuit breakers instead of fuses (though the term "fuse box" is still in use occasionally to refer to the service panel). Whenever a circuit breaker detects an abnormality in the current flow, it immediately turns off, protecting your property from potential damage.

You should replace outlets older than 15 years and have your circuit breakers checked by a professional at least once a year or more if a breaker continues tripping.


Electrical short circuits can occur for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, they are caused by faulty wiring or electrical components. Other times, they may be caused by weather conditions or accidents. Regardless of the cause, it is essential to be aware of the dangers of electrical short circuits and how to prevent them.

Be sure to hire an expert if you notice something fishy about your wirings at home.

If you are looking for a company that offers electrical services in Lethbridge, look no further than our expertise here at Passey Electric. Whether it be new construction or maintenance, we have the tools and ability to help you with your needs. From new services and new homes to Hot tubs and lighting upgrades, we can do it all! Call us today, and let us tend to your short circuits in no time!