How to Identify a Short Circuit and What to Do

A short circuit can happen when electricity follows a path it wasn’t meant to go down. This path creates an electrical connection where there shouldn’t be one, leading to circuit breakers being tripped and your fuses are blown. You may also hear the sound of popping as a circuit shorts out.

When you have a circuit short out, it is essential to investigate the cause immediately since this electrical shortage could mean there are serious issues such as melted wires, damage on the circuit or a short can even trigger an electrical fire. To help you identify, assess, and address your short circuit, HedgeHog Electric is here to help.


Before you start thinking the worst when you have a short circuit, start by making a review of your circuit breakers and GFCI outlets. These electrical devices are designed to cut off the flow of electricity when overloaded or if the electricity isn’t flowing properly.

You can start with your circuit breaker panel and see if any of your circuits have moved to the off position. If you have labeled the areas of your house that are connected to the popped circuit, you will be able to know where to start looking for problems. Common areas are kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms, as these areas often have appliances that draw a lot of power that causes the circuit to blow.

As for your GFCI outlets located in your kitchen and bathrooms, you can simply see if they have popped, much like you would with your breakers. Your problem GFCI circuit may be outside, so be sure to check out there.


Before you return power to the circuit or GFCI, it may be best if you unplug all the appliances plugged into the area where the circuit was tripped. By doing this, you will be able to see if the plug is hiding any damage, such as scorch marks around the outlet, and check to see if the appliance’s wires have become damaged by the surge of electricity.

After everything is unplugged, you can look for other signs of electrical damage that can indicate a more serious electrical problem. Some things to look for are:

  • Odd smells such as burning or melted plastic
  • Humming or crackling sounds
  • Heat on or around your outlet
  • Discoloration around your outlets or light fixture

Should you see, hear, or smell any of these signs, you likely need our electrical services. We can assist with troubleshooting and repairing most electrical issues in your home. However, if you are experiencing an electrical fire, call 911 for emergency responders.

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If you have found no visible signs of damage that needs to be taken care of, you can reset your shorted breaker or outlet. We recommend you reset your breaker or GFCI outlet before plugging things back in.

With the breaker, make sure it is completely turned off before you switch it back on to the “ON” position. Sometimes, when breakers are tripped, they only go partly into the “OFF” position, making it difficult to turn them back on. If you turn it back on, and it stays on, then the breaker was likely overloaded by an appliance or something else which was plugged in.

With a tripped GFCI outlet, a little button will be popped out. To reset the outlet, all you need to do is press the button back it. If there is a persistent issue that you can’t see, then the GFCI button may not go back in.

Be careful as you plug appliances back into your outlets. If your GFCI outlet or circuit becomes overloaded again as you power up your appliances, you will need to rearrange things to keep from overloading the circuit.


Should you run into an issue as you identify what the source of the electrical short is or find that your circuits will not reset, you can always call HedgeHog Electric.

We offer an over the phone electrical troubleshooting service which can help you fix your electrical problem without having to schedule an electrician to come out. One of our licensed electricians can walk you through the troubleshooting process and see if the issue can be resolved with just a bit of help from us. However, if the electrical problem is serious or you aren’t comfortable with going further with over the phone help, you can always call for one of our electricians to come to you.

Whether you need our troubleshooting assistance or one of our licensed electricians, we are ready to help you with your home’s electrical needs when you contact us.