How to troubleshoot electrical wiring.

To show how to troubleshoot using a multimeter

What is troubleshooting? This is the process of finding an electrical problem that is causing your appliance or circuit not to work properly. I am going to walk you through the process I take to carry out a successful fault finding. Basically, I will talk about wiring troubleshooting in house wiring.I will talk through these topics listed below.

  • Lighting circuit interior
  • Lighting outdoor (photocell)
  • Power circuit, sockets
  • Cooker circuit
  • Geyser circuit

Table of Contents

Troubleshooting lighting interior.

When I talk about lighting circuit interior, I am referring to lighting and wiring concerns that are found inside your home. This includes light fittings found in your :

  • Kitchen
  • Bedroom
  • bathroom
  • Television room
  • Dining room
  • Lounge.

To carry out successful electrical wiring troubleshooting exercises, you must know the parts or components that make up a lighting circuit. The parts that make up lighting circuits are:

  • Circuit breakers
  • Cables
  • Switches.
  • Light fitting

When your lights in a room are not turning on when you switch on, what is the first thing that you do? For me I open the switch that controls the light that is not turning on, then I go ahead to check if there is power reaching that switch.

When I find that there is power, I go to check at the lighting point or bulb holder to see if there is power as well. If there is power, I check the neutral line, it might be broken.

How do you know if the neutral wire is effective or not? For the purpose of identifying whether the neutral is effective or not, I prefer using a neon tester. If the neutral line is not effective, the neon tester will indicate that there is current in the neutral wire.

How do you correct current in a neutral wire problem scenario? Where the neutral wire is not effective. The first step is to look or check the nearest point where there is a neutral point to check it. Most of the time I have found that ineffective neutral wire is caused by losing connection.

The best way to resolve the current in the neutral wire problem is to check through all junction points where there is a connection, tighten the connections, and then check the neutral wire with the same neon tester.

When you find that there is no power at the switch, you must check at the distribution board, maybe the circuit breaker supplying power to the light has tripped, If it is in a tripping position, reset it.

If it trips after resetting it, there are two things involved, either there is a light point that is causing a short circuit, or there is an overload. If it’s a short circuit, you proceed by checking what is causing a short. When you find it, correct it and then reset the circuit breaker.

If it’s an overload, identify the load that is causing an overload, ascertain why it is causing an overload then correct it and reset the circuit breaker. At times a circuit breaker can trip not because of either a short circuit or an overload. A circuit breaker can trip because it has outlived its life span and its usefulness. In this case, you are advised to replace the faulty circuit breaker.

A summary of steps to take when troubleshooting lighting circuits.

The following steps are the steps that I take in the exact order

  1. Open the switch box that controls the lighting in question and measure the power.
  2. Open the lighting fitting or the bulb holder, then test for power.
  3. Check the circuit breaker controlling the lighting circuit in question.
  4. Replace or correct the faulty section of the circuit.

Lighting outdoor(Photocell)

What is an outdoor lighting circuit? This is basically a lighting circuit, that illuminates your outdoors, that is, your garden area, street lights, and any other lighting circuits that do not illuminate your interiors.

Basically, the procedure is the same as the lighting interior. There are two common ways of wiring an outdoor lighting circuit. These are the one whereby you incorporate a magnetic contactor in the circuit and the other where you do not incorporate a contactor in the circuit, you control the light directed with a photocell.

When you are trouble troubleshooting an outdoor circuit that uses a contactor, you start by checking the photocell that energizes the contactor if it is in a working condition. Allow me to give you a brief explanation of how this type of circuit works. Before I give you the explanation, let me give you a list of components needed to wire this circuit.

  • Circuit breaker.
  • Magnetic contactor.
  • Photocell
  • Load(lights)

Here is how the above mentioned, circuit works. The circuit breaker is a part of the circuit that supplies power to the contactor and the photocell. The magnetic contactor is the part of the circuit that carries the load. Then a photocell energizes the contactor. Below is a logical sequence of how this circuit works.

The photocell is a switch that is controlled by light, it closes when there is no light and opens when there is light. In other ways, a photocell is switched on when there is darkness and it is switched off in the presence of light, hence the name photocell.

The power from the circuit breaker is fade directly into the main contacts of the magnetic contactors, while the wire that switches on the light is fade to the load side of the main contacts of the contactor.

The wire from the photocell is fade to the coil of the magnetic contactor. Now, this is how the circuit works, When the photocell closes, it energises the magnetic contactor. When the magnetic contactor is energized, it closes its main contactor contacts as a result, it supplies the power to the load the outdoor light.

Back to our subject matter. after verifying that the photocell is ok, you proceed to check the magnetic contactor then the light fitting and finally, you check the condition of the circuit breaker supplying power to the outdoor lighting circuit.

Troubleshooting power circuits(sockets).

A power circuit is a circuit that controls all the sockets in your home. Sockets where you plug in your television set, smartphone, toaster, refrigerator, airconditioner and either a laptop or a personal computer.

Here is how I proceed when I am troubleshooting electrical outlet wiring problems with power circuits. First I take my tester, either a neon tester or a multimeter, and then I test the affected socket to find out if it has power. When I find that there is no power, I open the best quality sockets and switches to have a physical inspection of the state of the cables in the sockets and switches.

At times you can find that one of the cables supplying power to the socket is loose and it is not in contact with the socket. In this scenario, I just tighten the loose cable and the job is done.

When I discover there is power in the cables supplying the affected socket, I examine the socket. When it’s faulty, I will replace it with a new socket. There are times when the socket is ok and there is no power in the cables supplying the sockets, what do you do?

The next thing that you do is to check the circuit breaker that is supplying power to the affected circuit. If you find the MCB is ok, you proceed to check each and every socket in that socket. In this way, you will be able to pinpoint where the problem is coming from.

Troubleshooting cooker circuit.

A cooker circuit is probably the most important circuit of your house. I say so because each day of the year, you have to eat. Meaning we use the cooker each and every day of our lives. I must admit that I am limiting this discussion to electric powered cookers.

In a cooker circuit, you basically have three main parts.Namely.Circuit breaker, cables, cooker control unit and the cooker itself.The first thing that I do when troubleshooting a cooker circuit, I check to find out if there is power getting to the cooker. When power is present in this circuit, the problem is with the cooker. What do you do then?

you open the cooker and check the switches then proceed to check the state of the elements. I know you may be asking how you check the cooker elements or the switches. A multimeter is a good companion in times of troubleshooting.

Take your multimeter and select the ohmmeter. Then do a continuity test on the cooker elements, when there is continuity, then your element is ok. Always make sure that you do a continuity test on a dead circuit. When either the cooker element or the switch is faulty, you do well to replace it.

Geyser circuit troubleshooting.

Below is a step by step guide on how to troubleshoot a geyser by ecological time.

Video by ecologocaltime.

A geyser is important cause it helps you and me to bath warm water. When the geyser is not working properly, there are two things involved. It can either be an electrical fault or a plumbing fault. I will limit my discussion to electrical related faults.

Electrical faults in a geyser circuit. It can be caused by a number of component failures. It can be a faulty element, thermostat, switch or circuit breaker. At times you can find that all the components are okay but the water is not heating.

The first thing you do is to check the geyser switch wiring. Here you open the switch you test for voltage using a multimeter or neon tester. When your tests confirm that the switch is fine, that’s when you proceed to the next step.

The next best step to take is to open the geyser and do a physical check of the geyser element. When the water has a lot of calcium, you may find that the element is covered in calcium. In this case, you clean the geyser and remove all the calcium from both the geyser element and the geyser cylinder.

How do you know if a neutral wire is bad?

It is a fairly difficult question, I will answer it from my own experience of working with electricity. First, you need to have a neon tester. You first test the line that is life with your neon. Then test the neutral wire. When it indicates that there is power or that the wire is live, then it is faulty. If its the machine or an appliance, look at the indicator lamp or neon indicator. When the indicator lamp is faint, then your neutral wire is faulty.

If you have other ways of troubleshooting in house wiring feel free to share with me in the comments section below.

How to troubleshoot electrical wiring.

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