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Electrical Fault: Definition, Causes, and Types

Electrical faults are among the most dangerous issues that can happen in a home. They pose a significant risk to the safety of both homeowners and their properties. That’s why being able to recognise these faults early on is essential in maintaining a secure environment.

Working with experienced electricians in Melbourne ensures you’ll get prompt and effective solutions to any electrical dangers.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the definition of an electrical fault, its causes, and its 4 main types.

What is an Electrical Fault?

An electrical fault is a disruption within an electrical system that interrupts the normal flow of current. It typically arises due to issues like a short circuit, ground fault, or wiring irregularities.

Such faults can pose risks, including fire hazards, equipment damage, or power outages. Identifying these issues is vital for maintaining both safety and system efficiency.

Regular maintenance and attention to signs of electrical problems, such as flickering lights or frequently tripped circuit breakers, are critical. It’s also important to be aware of standard practices, such as the neutral wire colour, to ensure correct and safe electrical work.

What Causes Electrical Faults?

Electrical faults are caused by the following:

  • Overloaded Circuits: Too many devices connected to one circuit can exceed its capacity, leading to overheating and potential hazards.
  • Faulty Wiring: Deteriorated, damaged, or improperly installed wiring increases the risk of short circuits and electrical fires.
  • Defective Electrical Appliances: Malfunctioning or aged appliances can cause faults due to internal electrical issues.
  • External Factors: Environmental conditions such as moisture, dust, and pests can adversely affect electrical components.
  • Human Error: Mistakes in installation, maintenance, or operation of electrical systems can lead to various faults.
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4 Main Types of Electrical Faults

The 4 main types of electrical faults are open circuit, short circuit, unsymmetrical, and symmetrical. Let’s check out each one below.

Open Circuit

An open circuit fault occurs when there’s a discontinuity in the conducting path, leading to an interruption in the flow of current. This can be caused by broken wires, loose connections, or failed components.

Short Circuit

Short circuit faults happen when live and neutral wires come into direct contact, creating a low resistance path. This causes a sudden surge in current flow, potentially leading to overheating, damage to components, or even fires.


Unsymmetrical faults, also known as asymmetric faults, involve one or more phases in a polyphase system. They can take forms like line-to-ground or line-to-line faults.


Symmetrical faults involve all phases in a polyphase system equally and simultaneously. Often referred to as three-phase faults, they are characterised by equal fault currents in all phases.