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Understanding What a Short Circuit Is and How It Happens

A “short circuit” is a term that is commonly used to describe wiring problems—but there is more to handling this issue that every homeowner should know. Learning about the correct definition of the term can help homeowners understand what to do when faced with such a situation.

Knowledge is power—and getting to know the causes of this electrical issue could help you prevent it from occurring. To help you in that regard, here is everything you need to know about the electrical short circuit.

Defining Electrical Short Circuits: How It Happens

Electric wirings are designed with a specific path that makes up the whole circuit. It starts from a source, goes through its course until it reaches its destination, and goes back.

A short circuit takes place when an electrical current goes out of its defined path or electrical circuit. In a short circuit, the electrical current takes a shortcut (or a shorter route) to reach its destination instead of the right and the designed path that it must travel.

To give a clearer image, the electricity should flow from the service panel and travel through the utility wires and find its way back to the service panel. In some cases, however, some of these wirings may loosen or break. When this happens, the electrical current would leak and travel to other destinations instead of following its respective circuit. It could travel through other flammable materials or other objects that can conduct electrical currents, such as the human body.

Simply put, when there is an interruption in the flow of electrical current, and it is because of the wiring or connection, a short circuit may transpire!

The Two Types of Short Circuit

A short circuit is categorized into two types: the short circuit and the ground fault.

● A short circuit happens when a wire that carries a live flowing current suddenly gets in contact with a neutral wire. When the two touch, there is little to no electrical resistance. As a result, you would observe any of the following effects:

  • You see electric sparks.

  • You hear crackling sounds.

  • You see flames or see smoke coming from the wires.

● The ground fault occurs when a live wire carrying a flowing current gets in contact with a grounded wire or a grounded part of the system. Similar to the short circuit, there is an immediate impact that causes sudden reduction resistance. As a result, the current would flow in an unrestrained fashion. It often causes the circuit breaker to trip. This short circuit type could lead to more chances of shock instead of flame.

Why a Short Circuit Happens

A short circuit happens for many reasons, but here are the three most common causes:

  1. Usage of Appliances With Faulty Wiring - When you plug an appliance into an outlet, the live current would immediately flow through its wirings. If there is damage to these appliances' wires, a short circuit may happen. Make sure to have electricians check your appliances' electrical wirings, especially those of older units.

  2. Wire Connections That Are Loose - Live and neutral wires are not meant to touch. However, they would end up touching each other when there are loose wires.

  3. Exposed Circuit Wirings - When mice, rats, or squirrels decide to gnaw on your wirings, your circuit’s inner wire conductors would be exposed. That could also cause short circuits.


Short circuits can be dangerous, especially when there is a high voltage of power sources or high currents traveling through them. They are a major type of electrical accident that could seriously damage your electrical system. The worst things you could experience with a short circuit are appliance damage, electrical shock, or even a house fire. You should not take short circuits lightly and always make sure that your wirings are safe and in good condition.

Do you need a professional’s help to check your home and ensure a short circuit won’t bother your electricals? DHT Electrical Inc. is a qualified and certified electrical company filled with a team of qualified electricians and apprentices that provides electrical services in London, Ontario. We are your premium provider of a wide range of electrical services for residential or commercial needs—and we can ensure that all electrical wirings in your home would be correctly placed or repaired. Contact us today at 519-854-6286 to book a service!

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