We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is a Short Circuit?

By Alan Rankin
Updated Feb 09, 2024
Our promise to you
AllTheScience is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At AllTheScience, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A short circuit is a type of malfunction in electrical systems. It occurs when an unintended connection is created between two components that are supposed to be isolated. This can be caused by faulty wires or parts or by external elements such as moisture or foreign materials. The resulting surge of power can damage the system and any devices that are attached to it. A short circuit can be dangerous, as overheating and wayward current can cause fires and other hazards.

Electricity is harnessed by directing electric current from a power source into a system of wires and conductors; devices are powered by connecting them to this system. In the language of electrical engineering, an open circuit results when electricity is prevented from flowing throughout the system. In a closed circuit, current flows freely, and the system is said to be hot. Electricity from a closed circuit will flow into any conductive material that is available. When conducting materials create a closed circuit where none is supposed to exist, the result is a short circuit, sometimes abbreviated as “short” or “s/c.”

Electrical wires are encased in insulating materials to reduce the chance of a short circuit. If the insulation is removed or the wires are otherwise compromised, the flow of current in the system may make an abrupt detour. External factors can also create these detours, such as tree limbs falling across uninsulated power lines during a storm. The wet wood conducts the current from one line to the next, creating an unintended surge of power. The result can be a power failure, as the system automatically shuts itself down to prevent further damage.

Water is a highly conductive material. A single trail of liquid from one uninsulated component to another can create a short circuit. This is why most electrical devices should be protected from moisture and should not be used if they do get wet. Likewise, any device or electrical system must be shut off if a short circuit is detected or suspected. A qualified technician should be consulted as soon as possible to avoid the chance of equipment damage or even worse consequences.

A short circuit has low resistance, meaning the current has a stronger flow than the components were designed to handle. Consequently, the affected area can overheat or even generate an arc of uncontained electricity. This can result in severe damage to components and devices, electrical shocks, or even fires. For this reason, most electrical systems are equipped with fuses, circuit breakers, and similar safety devices. In the event of a power surge, these devices create an open circuit, shutting off the electricity in the whole system.

AllTheScience is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

AllTheScience, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

AllTheScience, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.