All Safety

What a turn off: 5 big reasons to fix that broken switch urgently

Broken switches are among the most serious electrical safety risks in our homes, yet the easiest to rectify. So why don’t we get them fixed?

Unless you’re a crazy electrician, it’s not the most exciting piece of equipment in our homes. A properly functioning switch for a light or power point doesn’t command any great attention.

So what about a switch that still works, but just doesn’t feel right? A dolly (toggle) that’s cracked, or looks like it’s trying to break free from it’s wall plate?

My experience with the mechanisms commonly used in Australian domestic switches reveals 5 reasons to get these dying switches replaced without delay.

1. Shock Hazard

By far the primary reason to replace a failing light switch is the electrical shock hazard it presents.

The switch dolly is all that’s in between your finger and the live, high voltage contacts behind.

The most common failure on an Australian switch, as pictured above, is with one of the two plastic pins that hold the dolly in place. Once one pin breaks, it takes very little for the remaining pin to fail, exposing live contacts.

2. Using Switches in the Dark

While most broken electrical equipment is easily visible to someone about to touch it, under what circumstances is a light switch likely to be used?

Blind, in the dark.

If that switch fails in the dark, and the light does not come on as a result, guess where the fingers are going for a repeat attempt?

3. Risk of Fire

To make a good electrical contact, the switch depends on pressure exerted on it’s contacts from the switch dolly via a spring.

When the dolly is loose, the pressure, and thus the strength of the contact, is reduced.

A poor connection within the switch can lead to arcing, and ultimately fire.

4. A Simple, Inexpensive and Convenient Repair

The replacement of a light switch or power point switch is one of the simplest and least expensive jobs an electrician could ever be called out to.

For example, here is a typical cost breakdown for Definite Electrical to replace a broken switched double power point in Inala, QLD 4077, as of 12 May 2023.

Return Travel Time (Hour)0.33$39.47$13.16
Travel Distance (Km)11.6$0.12$1.39
Clipsal C2025 Classic Double Power Point 10A1$6.95$6.95
Please see for comprehensive and current pricing.

Power will need to be turned off briefly to the affected circuit.

5. No Need for Costly Upgrades

In order to perform some electrical work, older installations may need to be overhauled to current standards, and at great expense.

However, there is no legal requirement for any upgrade to existing equipment to replace a broken switch or power point. This applies even if the installation is equipped by an old fuse board and no safety switch.

In the course of replacing the switch, other safety issues may be discovered. However, replacing the switch is not itself going to lead to any forced expensive upgrades to other equipment.

Upgrading a house or unit to today’s safety standards is highly recommended, and is required in Queensland anyway if the property is sold or leased. But where this is not possible, replacing a broken switch is still a step in the right direction.

Don’t put it off any longer!

It’s one of the most common and dangerous electrical defects I have encountered in domestic electrical work, and the simplest and cheapest to repair.

So whether a homeowner, landlord or even a tenant, for safety’s sake, book online here and switch that switch without delay.

All Case Studies Safety

Fuse Board Fire – Safety Beach, VIC

Problem: No power one one household power circuit.

Diagnosis: A loose connection between a 1980’s fuse wedge and it’s holder had heated to the point of burning the incoming wiring to the fuse holder, and even the front of the fuse board. This came very close to becoming a house fire.

Solution: This was the perfect opportunity for a major upgrade, eliminating this common fault with fuse wedges while simultaneously providing earth leakage (RCD) protection to all circuits for the safety of residents of this household.

The fuse board was removed and replaced with an all new switchboard. A new earth electrode was installed, and the new switchboard was inspected, as required under Victorian legislation.

End Result: The resident and their family can now sleep easy knowing that circuits are protected for earth leakage, in the event of a trip fuse wire does not need to be replaced, but most importantly, the risk of a fire starting in this switchboard has been reduced by orders of magnitude.

All Safety

The Need for Surge Protection

Are power surges a real risk to you and your belongings?

As Melbourne leaves behind a particularly hot summer for misty Autumnal mornings, conditions are matchless for sparking dangerous and destructive fires on power poles.

In the electricity distribution network, electricity is carried in wires that must be “insulated” from the poles which support these wires. This is achieved by supporting bare cables on insulators, which are in turn supported by the pole. These insulators are designed to ensure contaminants such as dirt and water can never accumulate to the point of providing a conductive path from the wire to the pole.

Under certain “perfect storm” conditions such as what much of Melbourne will soon experience, the insulator will be unable to keep itself clean. Dust and other particulate contaminants will have accumulated on the insulator due to the lack of heavy rainfall, and while not enough to wash the insulator, gentle mists and light showers will turn the formerly dry dust into a conducting soup of charged ionic particles. If the insulator fails and electricity leaks from one wire to another through the pole (or from one wire to the ground), parts of the pole can heat up to the point of catching fire.

If ever you have heard a crackling noise coming from a power pole, this is electrical current getting past the insulator and through the pole. Usually, it’s not too much, but it takes very little for that current to increase to the point of a fire starting in the pole.

Not only can such fires be dangerous in themselves (faulty electricity distribution equipment has started some of the most catastrophic bushfires in Victoria), they can (and often do) lead to power “surges” that cause thousands of dollars of damage to appliances and electrical wiring. Often, owners of such damaged property will never know that a power surge was responsible.

All it takes is, as a result of a pole fire, for a high voltage line to fall onto a lower low voltage line. Then, tens of thousands of volts could quite easily pass through your appliances that are designed to operate on between 220 and 240 volts. And who’s to say this couldn’t end up passing through yourself or someone dear to you?

Burned 22 kV distribution cross arm
Burned 22,000 volt cross arm. The lower wires are directly connected to your home or business.

For residents of bayside suburbs and the Mornington Peninsula, conditions are even more problematic. Sea salt is notorious for conducting electricity when mixed with a little water. Without wanting to criticise the fine work of the local distributor who work tirelessly to prevent this, Definite Electrical has noted burn marks on more than 8 poles in one suburb alone, visible for all to see. If we were to include the evidence which has been removed through pole and/or cross arm replacement, the number would be significantly higher.

Let’s not forget that pole fires are only one potential cause of power surges. Other potential causes, which each deserve an article to be written about them in their own right, include:

  • Lightning
  • Windy weather
  • Flora and fauna on powerlines
  • Traffic accidents
  • Vandalism
  • Transformer explosions
  • Substation faults

Of course, such an event need not take place directly in front of your property for this to be a problem to you. It could happen streets or even suburbs away, with the surge flowing effortlessly along the wire at close to the speed of light.

The solution?

Surge protectors are designed to redirect excessive voltages away from your property and harmlessly into the ground.

Definite Electrical can supply and professionally install a high quality surge protector in your switchboard.