Category Archives: Electrical Installations

Useful news and comments on commercial and domestic electrical installations.

Electrical Installation Regulations

The current 18th Edition Regulations have taken Domestic home electrical installation design another step up in complexity. In some ways it is not so much the increases in safety in design that have been introduced, but instead more about ensuring safety of new technologies, appliances and devices that are available and in common us in homes.

Some of the new devices available for increased safety were created by manufacturers in response to Fire Brigades asking for them. An example of this is a new safety device that can detect electrical arcing (sparking) in damaged cables and connections. This being a very useful safety feature to reduce the risk of fire.

Many other regulations or modifications to regulations stem from new energy saving and convenience technologies. The most obvious example of this is Electric Vehicle (EV) Chargers. One of the recent changes that was welcomed was a change to try to make it easier to install EV chargers.

As an example our homes are increasing being filled with relatively expensive communications, computer, CCTV, home control and media equipment. Also energy generation and energy savings systems are now very common and these include computer controlled systems. As consequence of these changes the manufacturers and regulators have fortunately responded with cost effective options for over voltage surge protection devices that will prevent damage should the Energy Distribution network have a fault or lightning strike that could normal damage sensitive equipment in a home.

To add to this changing picture is a recent new BS standard for Fire detection and Alarms, which applies to domestic homes and larger premises.

The end result of all these changes is good for safety, low energy use and convenience for home. The downside for us electrical designers is life is somewhat more complicated than it used to be. In a typical low ish technology home, the impact of these changes on costs of electrical work is small, perhaps in some cases insignificant. But as homes become more modernised and more home convivence features are introduced, the costs of these recent regulations usually do start to have an impact on installation costs. The most obvious extra costs is the training we electrical designers require to keep abreast on the new techniques.

My first message here is that I recommend homes owners choose their electrical installation tradespersons carefully. The Nexelec Competent person scheme is operated by NICEIC and there are other scheme providors that are similar. The NICEIC do keep and eye on my training, installation and testing skills with annual checks. But they cannot keep an eye on every job a tradesperson does and is much easier now for an electrician to come across something a little different they have to work with.

My 2nd important point is I recommend home owners take the time to explore what the latest options that are available for energy saving, carbon foot print reduction, micro generation and heat generation schemes, Smart EV Chargers and home automation. I reckon they are all good in the right place and well worth considering.

Replacement LED Light Fittings

Lately I have noticed there are some excellent LED light fittings available for homes. In particular for bathrooms, wall lights and outside lights. The advantages are obvious as they use less energy and importantly do not need lamps (bulbs) changing. The first generation of low energy light fittings were often fiddly to install, fiddly meaning time consuming. But lately there are a few available, if carefully selected, that are well designed from an installation perspective.

If choosing recessed LED downlighters then I would recommend a type that has plug in connectors to the supply cables. The reason being they are easy for electricians to disconnect for testing and fault finding purposes, which would save the home owner labour costs if a wiring fault developed in the future or a formal Inspection and Test was required.

18th Edition Electrical Regulations

From January 2018 all Home (Domestic), Industrial and Commercial electrical installations are to be designed and then installed to new updated UK British Standard. The changes compared to the previous regulations are generally an incremental improvement to safety, takes account of new technologies or trends (such as Electric Vehicle charging) and improved presentation or clarification in the Standard documentation itself.

Hilarious Lighting Fault Petersfield

Recent fault I attended to in a small block of flats.  When the outside light by the front door was switched on, all the remaining lighting in the home was switched off!  It was dark at the time I attended which made it even more of a surprise.  Someone previously had decided to repair a broken plastic back box on the outside light switch with end result that wires were put in the wrong connections on the switch! All the time the outside light was not used there was no problem with the in home lighting.

EV (Electric Vehicle) Get Me Home Charging on 13A sockets

Owners of certain electric cars will likely to have a “Get Me Home” cable which can be plugged into a standard domestic 13A socket.  Useful if visiting friends or relatives and you have misjudged the power in the car batteries needed to get you home.

Take a little care with these charging cables because they often need a fairly continuous 10A of electricity while plugged in.  A 13A socket is designed to provide 10A of electricity but be aware this socket could be on the primary downstairs sockets circuits of a home which is designed for 32A maximum.  Where this same circuit could have high energy use tumble drier, washing machine, portable heaters or similar. Maybe in a busy home with guests present so more occupants than usual as well.  So suggest apply some common sense  to enquire as what you are planning to plug a Get Me Home Lead into.

Also if the property at which this lead is being plugged in happens to be an old small terraced house or flat that has not been renovated of late, be aware there are still quite proportion of old electrical services that are rated at 60A maximum for the whole house, and old Consumer Units (Fuse Boxes) with a maximum limit of 60A for the whole house. More modern installations will have 100A capacity for a whole house.

Electric Wall Heaters

OK, sure electricity for heaters on a normal day rate is expensive compared to say using gas energy, but electric heating does have it proper place in many homes.  However if an unsuitable heater, or heaters, are installed in the wrong place then annual running costs can be very expensive and/or the results for warmth may not as expected.

As an example, in my experience the heating systems that stand out most that have surprised tenants in rented homes are systems that have “wet” electric radiators where the circulated water is heated by electric energy on normal day rate prices.  These systems look the part when viewing a home to rent but when the winter energy bills come in then tenants begin to look at their exit clauses. For these systems even the Energy companies can underestimate what monthly direct debits needed which makes the situation even worse still for tenants.  On a lessor scale I have seen: large wall heaters plugged into normal power ring sockets which overload the circuit, and internet connected “smart” wall heaters that are connected to an off peak electricity supply only which means they can only be controlled from a smart phone between midnight and 7am!  For an all electric energy home there is even a risk of overloading the electricity supply into the house!

To avoid wasting money and causing inconvenience I suggest that if a homeowner is looking for a new or replacement heating solution then ask a suitably experienced independent electrician for advise, to either choose the heaters or at least suggest options for heaters that would be suitable. Most of the likely heaters a home needs can be sourced by tradesman direct from normal electrical wholesalers at very good prices.  Note that if a complete electric home heating solution is required then some heating manufacturers will offer a design service free of charge to electrician installers.

“Shocking” Kitchen Problem

I was recently called out for a reported minor electric shock incident.  Discovered a Double Socket Outlet plastic front had been incorrectly replaced by a DIYer. Worse still the DIYer must have been colour blind and or had  bad eyesight because the wiring into the back of the socket was exactly wrong;  The live wire was screwed into the Earth terminal! Luckily no one was injured, including me.  It was a quick job to repair and test. All safe now.