What do I need safety switches for?

Posted in: Electrical Tips for the Home

Safety switches are an extra safeguard against electrocution in your home or office, and are especially important outdoors. Safety switches keep a close eye on the flow of electricity through the circuit they’re attached to and will shut it down in an instant if there’s a sudden surge, saving you a call to both the emergency and electrical services. Here’s what you need to know about safety switches.

What is a safety switch?
Although they are commonly referred to as “Safety Switches”, the technical name for these life-saving devices is a ‘Residual Current Device’ (RCD). There are three main types of safety switch. Firstly, the switchboard-mounted safety switch, which, as the name suggests, attaches to your switchboard. These switches protect any selected circuit and any appliances that may be plugged in to them. Switchboard-mounted safety switches are mandatory in new homes. Secondly are power point safety switches. These are safety switches that have been installed in older homes that do not have switchboard-mounted safety switches. They are attached to an outlet and will protect any appliance that is plugged into that outlet. For maximum safety, power point safety switches should be installed on the first power point after the circuit board. These are best put to use in specific areas where there may be a higher risk of danger, such as workshops and bathrooms. Lastly are the portable safety switches. These devices are essential for anyone working with a power tool outside. They work in the same way as an extension cord, attaching directly to the power point on one end and offering a female opening (usually two) at the other. Using old appliances that may be dirty or dodgy could trip a safety switch.

How do they Work?
If a person comes into contact with a faulty circuit, they may provide a path to earth, meaning they are at a huge risk of a dangerous electrical shock. Safety switches are a go-between, a middle man that stands between your appliance and your house’s power source. They are designed to monitor current flow. If a shock current or residual current flow is detected, safety switches are required to shut off the circuit within 300 milliseconds.

What do I need them for?
Safety switches will protect you from faulty wiring, faulty appliances and wet or damaged areas that you are using appliances in. You will need safety switches in areas where there is a high risk of you becoming a conductor, and therefore a path to earth. Such situations include working outdoors with appliances or working in wet areas of your house such as the bathroom. Never assume that the circuit you are working on will contain a safety switch; always check there is one included. If you are unsure then always use a portable safety switch.

Safety should be your biggest concern around your house, and there is little more dangerous than the invisible electricity. Safety switches eliminate this danger from your home, increasing you safety and the safety of those around you. Check your house today for safety switches or call your electrician for advice.