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Household wiring: Be on the right side of power safety

Fire brigades respond to more than 300 domestic electrical fires each year. Many of these fires are caused by old wiring that has degraded or is unable to cope with the demands of modern electrical equipment. In addition to the risk of fire, contact with degraded wiring can be fatal.

If your house was built more than 30 years ago, get your wiring checked by a licensed electrician.

Find a licensed electrician either on our Find a tradie listing, in your local newspaper or through an internet search.

Remember: Not all electricians are the same, like any large profession electrician’s licences are tied to their qualifications – so make sure you get an A grade electrician. Only an A grade electrician is qualified to inspect and install household wiring.

Electrical safety in the home

The insulated coating on household wiring degrades over time, and can leave bare wires exposed. If bare wires touch this can result in a house fire. You could also be prone to an electric shock from switches and appliances in your home. Look out for the following tell-tale signs that your wiring may be faulty:

  • Old switchboards, particularly those without a safety switch
  • Old power switches or power points, particularly broken ones
  • Flickering lights
  • Sparks from switchboards, switches or power points.

If your house is over 30 years old consider what could be behind your walls, and get your wiring checked.

How to test your safety switch

Your home should have a safety switch installed on the switchboard. It’s important to understand what this does and how to test it. This video provides step by step instructions.

The safety switch monitors the flow of electricity through a circuit and detects problems that may pose a risk to personal safety. If they detect a problem they cut the power off within milliseconds. It will only work if it is working correctly and is connected to the faulty circuit.

Safety switches look slightly different on each switchboard, but they are usually labeled ‘safety switch’

Follow these steps to check your safety switch every three months:

  • Let everyone in your home know you’re about to test the safety switch
  • Press in the test buttons on each safety switch which will cut the power and trip the switch into the off position. You may hear a clunking sound.
  • Check inside the home – there should be no power to lights, appliances and power switches on the circuit you are testing.
  • Once you’re confident that the power is off reset your safety switches by lifting or twisting the switch into the on position.
  • If lights or appliances don’t lose power then your safety switch may have failed. You should call a licensed electrician immediately to investigate.

If you are unsure if a safety switch is installed at your property, contact a registered electrical contractor – Find a Tradie.

Contact us

If you have any queries in relation to electrical safety around the home or safety switches please contact us on (03) 9203 9700 or at info@energysafe.vic.gov.au