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Household wiring

Information about wiring and switches for home safety.

Beware old household wiring – don’t let a renovator’s dream turn into a nightmare!

When buying a home built before the 1980s it is imperative the wiring is checked by a licensed electrical inspector or registered electrical contractor prior to moving in.

Fire brigades respond to more than 300 domestic electrical fires each year. Many of these fires are caused by old wiring that has degraded or is unable to cope with the demands of modern electrical equipment. In addition to the risk of fire, contact with degraded wiring can be fatal.

If your house was built more than 30 years ago, the wiring should be checked.

Find your local registered electrical contractors and licensed electrical inspectors in your local newspaper or via the internet.

Switches, leads and powerpoints

Safety switches are an additional form of protection to be used with circuit breakers and fuses. They may not protect all wiring and electrical appliances and will not prevent all electric shocks. Fuses and circuit breakers protect against short circuits and current overloads.

It is important to understand the differences between these three devices.

What’s the difference?

Safety switches

Monitor the flow of electricity through a circuit and detect a problem that may pose a risk to personal safety and turn the power off within 0.03 of a second,.

Always have a test button and 30ma printed on them. They are also sometimes labelled with the words ‘safety switch’.

A labelled photograph of an electrical safety switch, showing 4 small panels with a switch set to the
Circuit breaker and safety switch

Circuit breakers

Provide short-circuit and over current protection such as when a power point is overloaded.

Surge diverters

Protect the property from voltage surges such as those resulting from a lightning strike. The surge diverter captures the voltage spikes in the wiring that would otherwise be transferred into the equipment within the property.

A photograph of a surge diverter, a piece of equipment made of white plastic in a semi-rectangular shape.
Surge diverter

Surge diverters and circuit breakers do not act as safety switches for personal protection against electric shock.

If you are unsure if a safety switch is installed at your property, contact a registered electrical contractor.

Date: 08/02/2023 9:14

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The currency and accuracy of this document cannot be guaranteed once printed or saved to a storage device. If in doubt, please check the ESV website for the current version.

Reviewed 29 January 2023

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