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How to tell if your switchboard is faulty

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

The electrical switchboard is vital for ensuring that each circuit in your home receives the right amount of power. Not only does this allow you to keep all your electrical appliances running without disturbance, it also prevents the risk of electrical fires. A fully functioning switchboard is essential to the safety of everyone in your home but sometimes a switchboard can develop problems.

Faulty switchboards can be easy to identify so you should make yourself aware of the most common switchboard problems so you can take steps to prevent and repair any issues before they become a danger for your home.

What is a switchboard and how does it work?

A switchboard should be easy to find and is where the electricity in your home is controlled and distributed.

Everyone should know where the switchboard is located in your home in the event that the electricity needs to be turned off in an emergency. Switchboards contain three things – the main switch, Residual Current Devices (RCD), and circuit breakers.

  1. Main Switch – this allows the electricity supply to be turned off at your property. You might have more than one main switch.

  2. Residual Current Devices (RCD) – these are switches that trip a circuit under dangerous conditions, and instantly disconnect the electricity.

  3. Circuit Breakers – these are automatic safety devices in the switchboard that turn off the circuit when they detect a fault. When they trip, you can reset the supply at the switch once the fault has been dealt with.

Tell-tale signs of a faulty switchboard

Circuit breaker tripping regularly

It’s not uncommon for a circuit breaker to trip and turn off the electrical circuit automatically. If this occurs, you just have to turn the switch back on. However, if a circuit breaker is frequently tripping it is generally a warning sign of a more serious problem.

Burning smell coming from the switchboard

There are several different issues that can cause a burning smell from your switchboard.

If the wiring in your circuit breaker has become loose then the smell indicates that the insulation of your wiring is burning. However, if the circuit breaker is faulty, the insulation of the wiring could be burning while the circuit breaker itself melts due to an electrical overload which is extremely hazardous.

Buzzing noise coming from switchboard

While a gentle humming noise from your switchboard is normal, a buzzing or sizzling noise is generally a sign of loose or damaged wiring. Alternatively, it could indicate that the circuit breaker is not functioning normally and it is not tripping even when there is a serious underlying problem.

The most common switchboard problems

Now that you know how to detect a faulty switchboard, you should also be able to identify what’s causing the problem. Let’s investigate the most common problems associated with faulty switchboards.

Faulty appliances

Sometimes a seemingly faulty switchboard is actually the result of a single electrical appliance. This could be a dishwasher, washing machine, or laptop. Having an electrical fault can cause your switchboard to trip repeatedly, causing frustration to those living in your home. To identify a faulty electrical appliance, you should unplug everything in each room and plug them back in one by one until the switchboard trips and identifies the faulty appliance.

Bad wiring

Electrical systems generally require maintenance and additions throughout the years which can result in poorly installed wiring. Damaged wiring is the number one cause of electrical fires and needs an electrician to rectify the problem immediately.

If your electrician determines that the wiring is secure, it’s probable that the switch is faulty and needs to be replaced. If you see signs of scorching or melting, you will need to have your switch replaced.

Overloaded circuits

If your circuits keep tripping it may be an indication that there are too many electrical appliances plugged into a single electrical circuit and the total amps are more than the circuit is rated for.

Modern households use a lot of electrical devices which can put significant strain on your switchboard causing it to overload, especially when power boards are being used. An overloaded switchboard can be unsafe, so you should take note of how many devices are running off each circuit.

Circuit breaker issues

Let’s explain the danger of this in more detail. When your home’s wiring gets overloaded, the only thing preventing those wires from catching fire is the circuit breaker. If the circuit breaker is faulty, it will not shut off the electricity, allowing a high current to continue to flow through the circuit causing it to overheat and melt.

Stay safe with Real Electrical Solutions

Are you having problems with a faulty switchboard? We are Level 2 ASP Certified electricians operating in Newcastle, Maitland, Central Coast, the Hunter Valley, and surrounding regions. Give one of our expert team a call today on 0403306842 or read more about our switchboard upgrade services here.

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