Electrical Fault: Definition, Causes, and Types

An electrical fault is one of the biggest hazards in homes today. They pose a significant risk to one’s safety, which is why it’s important to know how to recognise them early on.

Working with qualified electricians in Cairns can help ensure you get prompt and expert resolution. Doing so will safeguard your property against possible electrical dangers.

In this post, we’ll discuss the definition of an electrical fault, its causes, and its 4 main types.       

What is an Electrical Fault?

An electrical fault is a problem occurring in an electrical circuit due to irregularities in the flow of electric current. This can result from various issues, such as damaged cables, faulty connections, or compromised insulation.

These faults often lead to unwanted electrical behaviour, which might pose safety hazards, including electric shocks or fires. Identifying and rectifying these faults is crucial for maintaining electrical safety.

One key aspect of fault detection is understanding wiring standards, such as the neutral wire colour, which helps in correctly identifying different conductors. Regular inspections and adherence to safety standards are essential to effectively prevent and address these electrical faults.

An Electrical Fault Definition Causes and Types

What Causes Electrical Faults?

The following are the common causes of electrical faults:

  • Power Surges: Power surges occur when there’s an unexpected spike in voltage, which can damage electrical systems and lead to electrical fires.
  • Improper Connections:  Faulty connections in wiring or devices often result in malfunctions and potential hazards.
  • Overloaded Circuits: Overloaded circuits happen when too many devices draw power simultaneously, exceeding the circuit’s capacity.
  • Faulty Appliances: Problematic appliances can introduce unsafe conditions by disrupting the electrical current flow.
  • Damaged Wiring: Damaged wiring, whether due to age, wear, or external impact, poses a significant risk of short circuits and other faults.

4 Main Types of Electrical Faults

The 4 main types of electrical faults are open circuit, short circuit, unsymmetrical, and symmetrical. Let’s take a closer look at each type below.

Open Circuit

An open circuit fault happens when a path that should be conducting electricity is disrupted, causing a break in the flow of current. This is often due to broken wires, loose connections, or damaged components.

Short Circuit

In short circuit faults, an unintended low-resistance connection forms between two points in an electric circuit, allowing a large flow of current that can cause overheating and damage. These faults are hazardous as they can lead to equipment failure and electrical fires.


Unsymmetrical faults, also known as asymmetrical faults, involve one or two phases in a three-phase system. They are the most common types of faults, including single line-to-ground and line-to-line faults, causing unbalanced current distribution.


Although less common, symmetrical faults are severe, affecting all three phases equally and simultaneously. These faults result in a significant rise in current, which can severely strain and damage electrical systems and equipment.