My RCD safety switch keeps tripping
What to do when your RCD keeps tripping
Safety Switch won’t turn on? The DIY guide to resetting your RCD safety switch.
When your RCD safety switch keeps tripping it can cause great inconvenience in the day to day activities around the home. It also has an undesirable effect on computers, time clocks and other electronic equipment. The best solution for solving this problem is to find the source and it can be easy if you just pay attention to the detail.
Check your switchboard. The RCD switch should be in the up position. Check to make sure it is in fact an RCD and not just a circuit breaker which simply acts like a fuse. (Circuit Breakers can look the same but an RCD safety switch will have a test button located on the front usually with a ‘T’ symbol on it).
If the power is out due to an RCD tripping off and the RCD won’t reset, it is important to actually remove / unplug all cords from the affected power points first. (If lights are also affected make sure to turn off all lights if possible).
Pay attention to the following ~
All outdoor power outlets such as pool, water features, spa, sprinkler reticulation etc.
All concealed power outlets (dishwasher, gas stove, alarm, fridge etc).
After all appliances are unplugged, try to reset the RCD by firmly pushing the switch up. If it resets, great, now just plug your appliances back in and you may find the faulty one causing the trouble as the RCD trips off, for example as soon a kettle is plugged in and switched on.
If all power points are unplugged and the RCD won’t reset you will need to call a licensed electrician to attend to fix your fault.
Clients sometimes complain that the RCD keeps tripping at a certain time of day on a regular basis. This will give a savvy electrician a vital clue as to what may be causing it.
One of the most common causes for frequent and regular RCD tripping is the defrost cycle on a fridge, particularly the old “Beer Fridge”. Often this second fridge is an old clunker which is left out the back in a shed or under the back patio where it is prone to rusting away. The whole appliance is an electrical hazard and ‘down to earth’. Thankfully you had an RCD fitted and it has detected your faulty fridge, switched the power off and possibly save someone from getting an electric shock.
Electricians installing RCD safety switches walk away from a job well done only to be contacted the next day by irate clients who find all the power has been turned off by the RCD. When the electrician arrives on site the RCD simply resets only to have the same fault occur again the next day. What is happening here is usually a time clock program switching on an appliance which is faulty and causes the RCD to trip. In a secondary sense, it can also be things such as a reticulation system coming on at a programmed time which sprays water onto electrical accessories which are not adequately protected from water.
But often it is just the electrical defrost elements on the fridge which are built into it. These elements switch on at pre-programmed time set by the manufacturer and if these electrical elements are ‘down to earth’ it will cause the RCD to trip off. So the RCD is functioning correctly and telling you to have your fridge serviced. Remember, don’t blame the electrician, the RCD will detect faulty appliances and could save you from electric shock. I’ve installed plenty of RCD switches where clients have gladly had to service the fridge or buy a new one.
Don’t forget these simple steps. It is a process of elimination. You need to be thorough.
1. Find out what power and, or light is off and check that it is actually the RCD that has tripped and not a circuit breaker. (See the photos at the top to tell the difference between the two).
2. Unplug ALL socket outlets and if lights are affected by the RCD tripping off, turn off all light switches if possible as well.
3. Once that is done, now turn on the RCD by firmly pushing the switch up. You might have to flick it on, off and on again to reset it properly. Also check that the test button is not stuck in as it will prevent the RCD from resetting.
4. If power and lights appear to be on, go about restoring all power and light to see if it will stay on.
5. If the RCD will not reset, call a licensed electrician.