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North Shore Electrician Explains Safety Switches


Was your home built before 1991? If so, it is very possible that your home is lacking a key piece of electrical equipment that could save your life one day.

We’re talking about safety switches. In 1991, a law was introduced to install these devices in every new home but older homes may not have them. Even if your home is newer, it’s important to know what a safety switch is and how to test that it is working properly.

Intrigued to learn more? Let’s delve into everything you need to know about safety switches.



What Is a Safety Switch?

A safety switch is a handy little device that can detect fluctuations in electrical current. Upon detection, the switch will cut off the electrical current with astonishing speed — about 0.3 seconds.

Why is this helpful? Let’s say you drop your hairdryer in the bathtub or stick a knife in the toaster to get your bread out (don’t do that!). As the electrical current is diverted by the new contact point it causes a fluctuation that will trip the safety switch.

This means that instead of you getting electrocuted and suffering injury or death, the electricity harmlessly shuts off. Now you have time to fix the issue that caused the fluctuation at your leisure.



Safety Switches vs Circuit Breakers

Like safety switches, circuit breakers interrupt the electrical current and prevent it from flowing. So, you might be wondering what is the difference between these two devices? At first glance, it seems like they do the same thing but there are slight, important differences.

Circuit breakers are designed to protect electrical circuits and appliances from power surges. Though your home experiences many small power surges each day, big ones can damage the delicate internals of an electronic device or even start a house fire.

Circuit breakers detect this surge of electricity and interrupt the circuit. If you were about to get shocked by a power surge, the circuit breaker would be helpful in protecting you.

However, this scenario isn’t super common and circuit breakers don’t directly protect people.

Safety switches, on the other hand, are tripped by fluctuations in the electrical current. Electricity being routed from the circuit, through your body, and into the ground counts as a fluctuation.

The safety switch detects this fluctuation and stops the electricity, thus protecting you from serious injury or death by electrocution.



Working Safety Switches

How do you know if you have safety switches installed in your home? If you do, is there a way to test the switches and make sure they are working properly?

You can call a licensed electrician to help test and install your safety switches. Though the likelihood of electrical shock is low, the risk of not having a safety switch in place simply isn’t worth it.

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