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What to do if You Find a Live Wire in Your Home

The electricity that is piped into your home or business premises is not something to be taken lightly. Should a human come into contact with a live wire in an average home, they should be protected by the safety measures that are often a matter of regulation. However, if those safety measures fail, or if they are absent for some reason, a nasty shock is the best-case scenario for that person, with severe or even fatal injuries being a very real possibility.

Beyond the very real human danger, there is also substantial risk of property damage. If a live wire comes into contact with something conductive, it can damage appliances, cause breakers to trip, and even start electrical fires. As with the risk to humans, there is a lot of range in the severity of the risk, but you don’t get to choose whether a live wire just trips a breaker or starts a fire that burns down your home, so it is best to deal with this kind of thing immediately.

How do You Know if a Wire is Live?

The short answer is; you don’t. If you happen upon an electrical wire that is exposed, you should treat it as though it is live. If you have the tools to test for electrical current and know what you are doing, you could perhaps test the wire, but for everyone else, just assume the wire is live until you have good reason to believe otherwise.

What to do When You Find a Live Wire

If you come across an exposed wire and, as we said above, you have made the wise choice to treat it as live regardless of whether it actually is, what do you do next? We’ve put together a little step-by-step guide for how to tackle this problem.

This is crucial. If you touch a live wire in your home, you could just be on the receiving end of an unpleasant tingling sensation and a momentarily quickened heart rate. However, if you are not so lucky, you could be on the end of severe electrical burns and potentially cardiac arrest as your heart stops.

Needless to say, it’s not worth taking the risk on the off chance you just get a mild shock rather than hospitalized!

Stay well clear of the wire until you can carry out the next step in our little guide, but, equally importantly, make sure that everyone else is aware of the wire and that they also stay away. If you have small children or pets, take steps to ensure that they can’t get to the wire.

Cut the Power

Once you have made sure that no one else will inadvertently (or intentionally) touch the wire, your next task is to cut the power going to it. Depending on where the wire is and what part of the electrical systems in your home, it is part of, you may be able to isolate it. For example, the lights should be on a circuit of their own, so if the live wire is part of the lighting circuit, you can cut the power to that without turning everything off.

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That being said, no matter how confident you are that the wire is part of a particular system, you should test that it is no longer live before doing anything with it. If you do not have the means to safely test it, just cut all the power, because, as we’ve established, it is not worth the risk if you are wrong.

Cover the Ends

If you have the means and knowledge to put the wire back where it should be, that will obviously be your next step. However, for the rest of us, it’s time to make things safe until the problem can be dealt with.

Once you are certain that the wire is no longer alive, you should cover the ends. The easiest way to go about this is using electrical tape, though any tape should do if you have no other option. If you don’t have an electrical tape but would like to use some, still cover the ends of the wire with whatever you have in the meantime.

It is important to wrap each individual wire separately. If you wrap them all together and then switch your power back on, it will immediately short out and trip a breaker or RCD in your fuse box. Once you have made sure that the individual wires won’t be able to touch each other, generously tape up the whole end of the wire. The goal here is to make sure that the tape around the individual wires is secure.

Make Sure the Wire is Out of the Way

If the live wire is somewhere it could be easily caught or accidentally touched, do what you can to move it out of harm’s way. You may have eliminated the risk of electrocution by covering the ends, but the wire could still catch people, perhaps being pulled further from the wall or ceiling it is sticking out of. It is even possible that something could catch the wire and pull the tape from the end.

If necessary, coil the wire up or tape it out of the way so that there is no danger of someone tripping over it or catching it with their hair or other parts of their body.

Call a Professional

As we mentioned above, if you are a professional, you can just take care of the problem. However, we doubt any professional electricians would need to read this article. So, on the basis that you probably aren’t a qualified electrician, your next step will be to call someone who is.

They will be able to come out, assess the problem, let you know what needs to be done to fix it, and put the problem right for you. You still need to go through the previous steps to ensure no one is injured before the electrician can get there to deal with the problem, of course

Probable Causes of Live Wires in Your Home

The most common cause of a live wire in your home is a project that has gone unfinished. This could be from a previous owner in a house you have just moved into, or perhaps a DIY-happy spouse who has a penchant for not finishing what they start.

Live wires don’t just fall out of light fittings by themselves so someone starting a job and not finishing it is a good bet, but it could also be because of an accident. Perhaps someone pulled a light fitting from the ceiling, or a loose electrical outlet got caught on someone’s trousers and pulled from the wall.

Another cause could be something severing the electrical wire of an appliance, however, this would only be live if the appliance was plugged in, and simply unplugging the severed wire would be all that was required to make the situation safe.

Finally, live wires could happen as a result of some enthusiastic-yet ill-advised remodeling work. Electrical wires run all through a home, so it is important to check for them before drilling or knocking holes in a wall.

In Which Part of Your House Can You Find a Live Wire?

There really is no one place in a house where you would expect to find live wires more than any other. Every room in a typical house has electrical wires in the walls, and it is just as unlikely that you would find a live one hanging around in any of them.

If you have any construction work underway, there is a higher chance that you would encounter a live wire in there, but this would presumably be a temporary state of affairs, and it would be best to not go in the area that is being worked on until your contractors have assured you that it is safe.

How Can You Find Hidden Live Wires?

If you need to locate live wires behind your walls or above your ceilings, you naturally don’t want to have to start ripping plasterboard out of the way to do so. Fortunately, there are plenty of options on the market in the form of wire trackers, tracers, and locators. These devices can detect wires behind the walls, and allow you to follow the path of an electrical wire without having to see or touch the wire itself.

Non-Contact Voltage Detector

Conclusions

The most important thing to remember about live wires in your home is that they are dangerous. If you find a wire that has been severed, disconnected from its fixture, or is of completely unknown origin, you must treat it with the utmost caution.

Follow the steps mentioned above to ensure that the wire is safe before you even consider looking into how the wire could have got to be there in the first place. And, remember, if you don’t have the expertise, don’t attempt to fix the problem yourself. A live wire can cause property damage and seriously injure; it is not worth not having it fixed properly.

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