Troubleshooting Electrical Circuits
NAVIGATE ELECTRICAL TROUBLESHOOTING FOR YOUR FACILITY
Electrical control system issues usually happen with the worst possible timing. It’s wise to be prepared with a troubleshooting plan. Often, we are quick to jump directly into fixing a problem when, in fact, it would benefit us to be methodical with our process. Here, we share a troubleshooting process that can help you navigate electrical troubleshooting for your facility.
- Gather Information. The first step of any electrical system troubleshooting exercise involves gathering as much information about the problem as possible. Instead of immediately diving in and haphazardly attempting anything to get the equipment running, first step back and determine how is the equipment supposed to operate, what technical documentation is available for the equipment, and is there someone familiar with similar equipment who may have experienced this same issue.
- Understand the malfunction and the role the malfunctioning equipment plays within the entire process. When you understand how the equipment and process is supposed to work, you can better understand what part of it is not functioning correctly.
- Identify what can be measured so that you can identify items that are outside the acceptable range. For example, are there voltage readings or temperature readings that would help you evaluate the source of the problem?
- Identify the source of the problem using available data and analytical tools to isolate the defective component. This could involve isolating components and evaluating their circuit parameters or isolating the circuits by group when dealing with a complicated circuit.
- Correct/repair the damaged component.
- Verify the repair after completion. Once the repair has been performed, start the system to ensure it now runs as required. This is important because there may have been other underlying problems. For example, there may be an issue with a circuit causing a fuse to blow (such as a shorted electrical connection). If this is the case, additional troubleshooting will be required.
- Perform root cause analysis to determine what really caused the problem. Since one of the objectives of troubleshooting is to ensure the problem doesn’t reoccur, it is important to determine what really caused the malfunction and take action to ensure a permanent solution is found.
Circuit Breaker Trips Frequently
When a properly working circuit breaker trips frequently and there are no malfunctioning loads on the circuit, it means the circuit is overloaded. Using more than one space heater or hair dryer at the same time is a common cause of this problem.
- After the circuit breaker trips, test for power at nearby receptacles. Any receptacle that still has power when a breaker trips is located on a different circuit.
- Try moving one of the loads to one of the other receptacles that still have power.
Troubleshooting is the process of tracing and rectifying faults in electric/electronics circuit.
If there is a problem in electric circuit then possible causes may be;
- Open Circuit– A connection may be broken i.e. open circuited. This fault can be traced with continuity test.
- Short Circuit– A connection that may be closed is called short circuited. This leads to flow of excessive current in circuit resulting in the damage of components. Short circuit problems are normally caused by weak/damaged insulation which can be detected by insulation test.
To troubleshoot a circuit for fault, all following things should be checked.
- Channel resistance
- Potential difference between two points
- Flow of current
What it means: Increased risk of electrocution in wet areas, such as baths and kitchens. GFCIs (ground-fault circuit interrupters) shut down circuits in 4 milliseconds, before current can cause a deadly shock.
Solution: Replace old receptacles with GFCIs (about $12 each). This is a simple job that many homeowners do themselves. Electricians charge about $20 per outlet. (There will likely be a minimum job charge.) Note: As an alternative, GFCI breakers ($25) can be installed on the main panel. But then every time one trips, you have to go down to the basement to reset it.
What it means: You have a type of wiring, used in the 1960s and ’70s as a cheap substitute for copper, that is no longer considered safe.
Danger level: High. Aluminum corrodes when in contact with copper, so connections loosen, which can lead to arcing and fires.
Solution: Retrofit a dielectric wire nut approved for aluminum wire (a pair sells for less than $1) onto each copper/aluminum connection in light fixtures. These nuts have a special grease that stops corrosion while maintaining conductivity. Make sure any replacement switches and receptacles are labeled AL-compatible.
Plug Falls Out of Receptacle
What it means: Worn contacts in receptacle no longer grip the prongs firmly.
Danger level: High. Loose contacts can cause arcing, which can ignite dry wood and dust.
Solution:Replace the old receptacles as soon as possible. (A new one costs about $2.) Many homeowners feel comfortable doing this themselves. Electricians will charge about $8 or $10 per outlet, although there’s likely to be a minimum charge for small jobs.
Understand how the circuit works.
This consists of understanding the operation of all the components that are used in the circuit. This could include such components as: push buttons, contactors, various types of switches, relays, sensors, motors, etc.
Electrical circuits typically control or operate mechanical systems and components. You also need to understand how these mechanical aspects of the equipment operate to carry out the work.
You need to be able to determine how the circuit works under normal conditions and what effect changing one of the circuit inputs has on the circuit operation. For example, what happens to the overall circuit operation when a push button is pressed; which relays energize, which lights illuminate, does the pump start or stop, etc. You also need to be able to determine what effect a faulty component may have on the circuit operation.