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DIY fault-finding tips

Most of us take electricity for granted. It’s not until we don’t have it, that we realise how reliant we are on it. Power outages mostly occur during a storm, maintenance by line-workers or even a car accident taking out a power pole. However there may be times when your property alone experiences a power outage. It might be that some of your lights won’t switch on or perhaps some power points aren’t working. There are some basic things you can do that might help to narrow down the cause, and sometimes even solve the issue without having to call an electrician.

To begin, it helps to understand the various components of a switchboard; refer to our previous blog on fuses, circuit breakers and safety switches. Understanding the function of each component will help to identify the cause of the fault. The most common causes of faults occur from:

  • water getting into outside electrical equipment such as light fittings or power points
  • too many high current drawing appliances on at the same time
  • faulty appliances
  • faulty power boards or extension leads
  • damaged cable from other tradesmen, DIY work around the home or even rodents

If a circuit breaker has tripped then the most common problem is overloading of the circuit, so try limiting or staggering the use of high current drawing appliances. For example, a typical power circuit allows up to 16amps yet a toaster can use about 10amps when in use so that doesn’t leave much for other appliances to be used at the same time.

The most common problems however are from safety switches tripping. If you do want to have a go at diagnosing an issue yourself, start by following the steps below:

**The following steps are basic guide only and do not require you to expose or work with live cables.**

 Under no circumstances should you ever remove a cover off a switchboard or take off a light switch or power point and expose live cables.


  1. Turn off the safety switch that is tripping. Also turn off all circuits protected by that safety switch. These are usually all circuit breakers to the right of the safety switch.
  2. Turn on the safety switch then turn on one circuit at a time until the safety switch trips. This will identify which circuit is causing the problem.
  3. Turn everything back on except the problematic circuit.
  4. Unplug all appliances on the problematic power circuit, including things like dishwashers, power boards, garage door motors, hotplates, hot water systems etc, or turn off all light switches if the problem is on a lighting circuit.
  5. Turn on the problematic circuit.
  6. Plug all appliances back in one at a time and turn on until safety switch trips; or turn on light switches one at a time until safety switch trips.
  7. If the safety switch trips as soon as you plug in a particular appliance and turn on then it is likely that appliance is faulty however continue until all appliances are plugged back in to be sure the problem is confined to the one appliance. If the problem is on a particular light fitting, turn the switch off and leave off and call an electrician.
  8. If the problem still persists after all appliances are plugged in and turned on then you will have to call an electrician to investigate the problem.

If you do need to call an electrician, try and take note of any details that may help to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, which will save you money. Things such as time of day, was there a link with something you’ve done around the house, has it happened before, the circuit you think is causing the problem. Anything you think may help, no matter how small can save an electrician a lot of time and therefore a lot of money.

So if you are experiencing any electrical problems now, or at any point in the future it’s best to contact us and we’ll come out to investigate and fix the problem.


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