Basic Electrical Knowledge Every Australian Should Know

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Written by Tristan Cameron

Are you familiar with the electricity flow into your home? Do you understand where it comes from and how it’s accessed?

What about safety switches and circuit breakers? Would you know what to do in an electrical emergency?

Here are 5 basic electrical tips every Australian should know to protect their home and family.

1. How Electricity Gets to Your Property

There are two ways electricity can get to your house, either by overhead or underground cables. While 93% of Australian homes currently get their power from overhead wires, many new developments opt for underground cables.

Look in your street; if you can see those unsightly power cables everywhere, check how they reach your property and switchboard. Does your house have its own power pole, or does it come directly from the street?

If your street has no overhead power lines, you probably have underground cables; check the switchboard to see how they’re connected.

2. What Causes a Short Circuit

The chances of getting electrocuted in your home increase with the amount of technology that’s plugged into the power supply. Our homes weren’t prepared for the influx of devices we now use.

Older homes, in particular, may have loose or worn wiring. Additionally, the insulation that protects the wires can be eroded by the elements or damaged by animals like rodents who gnaw into it.

Dangerous electricity flows out of broken wires and into objects, or worse, people. This is a short circuit. 

Appliances are another cause of short circuits. If they’re attached to a powerpoint that’s experiencing an electricity overload, or if the device itself is faulty, it could deliver an electric shock if touched.

Short circuits indicate that something significant is coming and that you’re using more electricity than you need to, costing you more money. 

Short circuits can happen anytime, and there are ways to protect your property from these.

3. Safety Switches and Circuit Breakers

Circuit breakers save lives. They’re installed in your switchboard, and if they detect a power surge, they immediately break the electricity connection to whatever appliance or device is experiencing the issue. Typical Australian homes will have a minimum of four or five circuit breakers on their switchboard. 

Safety switches are similar to circuit breakers but turn off the power to an entire area. The instant the power is cut, the emergency ceases. 

Have you ever inspected your switchboard? It’s time to take a look. Would you know how to tell the difference between a safety switch and a circuit breaker?

If you’re looking at a whole lot of unmarked switches, then you have a small problem. It appears the installer hasn’t done their job correctly, as they should have marked which is which. 

However, you can immediately identify a safety switch as it has a test button on it, either marked as ‘test’ or with just a ‘T.’ Circuit breakers do not have these. 

Neither circuit breakers nor safety switches should be installed or removed by a DIYer. This is a task for a qualified professional only. 

If your switchboard doesn’t have any, or enough, or they’re unclear, it’s worth doing a switchboard upgrade

4. How to Perform Safety Inspections

It’s imperative that you know how to check your home for electrical faults; this can significantly reduce the chances of shocks or fires.

We probably plug in more devices than our home’s switchboard can handle. It’ll let you know when it’s had enough in the form of power surges when the circuit breakers and safety switches will kick in.

However, you can do routine checks to see if one of these will occur. Inspect every power point in the home. If they’re warm to the touch or have brown marks or cracks, or you hear a crackling sound, that unit is on its way out and needs to be replaced

Don’t attempt this yourself; it’s time to call an electrician.

5. Why You Shouldn’t DIY Electrical Issues 

Familiarising yourself with how the power works differs from fixing any issues. Without proper education — YouTube videos don’t count — you could put your life at risk. 

For example, the colour-coded wires in your property may be old or new versions or a combination of both. You could blow the entire switchboard if you’re not 100% and disconnect or reconnect the incorrect ones.

Always entrust electrical repairs and installation to professionals like us at North Shore Electricians.

Be Aware and Take Care

By familiarising yourself with how electricity comes to your property and works and spending a few minutes every month doing a quick maintenance check, you can ensure you and your family are safe from electrical emergencies.

Understand how the power comes to your house, and confirm that your switchboard has the required amount of circuit breakers and safety switches. Be familiar with what causes a short circuit and what to look for in the power points to prevent an incident from happening.

The alternative is to get the professionals at North Shore Electricians to perform a complete electrical safety inspection for you. At the end, we’ll present you with a certificate giving you peace of mind that your home is safe for you and your family. 

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