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The Truth About Safety Switches

I’ve had a few questions from clients lately about safety switches. Most people don’t understand the difference between safety switches, circuit breakers or surge protectors –  so I thought I’d spell it out here.

Why You Need A Safety Switch In Your Home

Safety switches are designed to prevent injury or death by monitoring the flow of electricity through a circuit. They automatically shut off your electricity supply when current is detected leaking from faulty switches, wiring or electrical appliances in your home. This stops the chance of current flowing to earth and through a person and electrocuting them.

Installing a safety switch is an inexpensive safety measure that protects you, your family and visitors to your property.

The Legal Requirement

In Victoria, it is mandatory for safety switches to be installed on both the power and lighting circuits in new properties – and older properties when extensive renovations are carried out. If it’s important to have safety switches in new homes, then it makes a good deal of sense to install them in older properties too.

More Gadgets Increases Load

Today more than ever we have more electrically powered gadgets in our homes. Most of us have the very latest in labour saving devices like cooking appliances, cleaning appliances, heating/cooling appliances and a range of indoor and outdoor lighting. And then there’s the ever increasing range of entertainment systems. TVs and computers in just about every room of the house!

  • Can the wiring system in your home cope with all these extra, high tech appliances?
  • Are you completely sure that your wiring system has not deteriorated and become faulty?
  • Are all the appliances in your home safe – the old ones and the new?

Before you find out the hard way – through a serious electrical incident – get a safety switch installed on your switchboard.

How To Recognise A Safety Switch

If you’re not sure whether or not you have a safety switch fitted to your switchboard, check by looking at your switchboard for a “test reset” button. That tells you that you have a safety switch installed. When you open your switchboard you should see something like this.

Typical switchboard with the main switch, safety switch with test button, and four circuit breakers.

All homes have circuit breakers or fuses. These are designed to protect the wiring and appliances within your home. Only safety switches are designed to protect people.

Which Switch Is Which?

Safety switches are often confused with circuit breakers and surge protectors. Here is a quick guide to help understand the differences.

Surge Protectors

Surge protectors safeguard your appliances and wiring from voltage surges like a lightning strike. Safety switches and surge protectors play entirely different roles. Surge protectors protect electrical appliances, safety switches protect people.

Circuit Breakers

Circuit breakers cut the power off when electrical wiring has too much current flowing through it. Too much current flowing through a circuit will your wiring heat or perhaps one of your electrical appliance’s wires to unsafe levels and potentially cause an electrical fire.

Fuses work in the same way as circuit breakers. Both fuses and circuit breakers do not protect people from electrical shock.

Safety Switches

Safety switches monitor the flow of electricity through a circuit. They automatically shut the electricity supply when current is detected leaking from faulty switches, wiring or electrical appliances. This stops the chance of currents flowing to earth, through a person, electrocuting them.

Are Safety Switches Failsafe?

Nothing is failsafe. You should regularly check your safety switch. Just like a smoke detector or other safety device, it cannot protect you if it is not working properly. It is also important to make sure your electrical appliances, wiring, extension leads, and all other electrical equipment are regularly checked and kept in good working order.

How To Test Your Safety Switch

We recommend that you testy your Safety Switch at least every 3 months. Here’s how:

  • Press the “test” button – this should automatically trip the switch to the “off” position.
  • Reset by pushing the switch back to on.

If it doesn’t work, contact us immediately.

What To Do When Your Safety Switch Trips

If your safety switch turns off your power, then it means there’s a fault somewhere – either in your wiring or with an appliance. Here’s what to do:

  1. Reset the safety switch.
  2. If it trips again, unplug the last appliance used.
  3. If everything now works and it doesn’t trip again, take the appliance you unplugged to a licensed electrical contractor or appliance repairer to be checked.
  4. If the safety switch keeps tripping, disconnect all appliances and plug them in one at a time until you locate the faulty one.
  5. Avoid touching appliances while doing this process.

Contact us if problems persist.

How To Get A Safety Switch Installed

No matter how handy you are around the house, electrical work is never a do-it-yourself job! It’s dangerous and illegal.

Only a licensed electrical contractor can install a safety switch, so give us a call for a fast quote. We’ll look after you and keep you safe!

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