Tag Archives: Electrical Regulations

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.

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.

Those green and yellow coloured wires under the kitchen sink

Home owners may have noticed in their homes there are often quite large looking green and yellow coloured wires (cables) connected to the mains water pipe, often under the kitchen sink.  There are similar cables connected to the mains gas pipe as well, if there is gas in the house. Are they important to electrical safety? well yes most definitely.  In situations where there is a fault in the house electrical system or the importantly the electricity supply system outside the house, then these cables are to help protect the persons in the house from electric shock and the home itself from fire risk.

One problem I find is these connections can become loose or broken and occupants of the home could well not even notice. These connections could be improperly made and left for many years unattended to.  If one of the cables is loose, broken or has a poor connection then under normal circumstances those living in the house would notice no difference in the electrical supply to lights and sockets. But if these was a fault then a dangerous situation could occur.

These cables and connections are important for home electrical safety.  If a home has any electrical changes such as a socket moved or a light switch moved then a qualified electrician will always first inspect these cables to ensure all is OK. If no electrical installation additions or changes are made on the property for many years then a Periodic Inspection will spot any problems. Periodic Inspections should usually be performed no less than every 10 years on a Domestic property.


Do not remove or tamper with these connections. They are labeled with Electrical Safety  Connection Do Not Remove.

If you notice any damage or disturbance of these green and yellow cables clamped to pipes then call in an electrician to have a look.

Arrange with an Electrician for a Periodic Inspection of your home at least every 10 years.  Note there should be a label on the home Consumer Unit (Fuse Box) stating when the next inspection is due.


Old Fuse Boxes (Consumer Units)

I am surprised at the number of very old Consumer Units (aka Fuse Boxes) I come across in homes, the type with that has rewirable fuses.  Sure these old fuses boxes probably still do OK what they were supposed to do 30 years ago, but since then the introduction of more convenient and technically superior electrical safety protection devices for Consumer Units has been available. Also these new Consumer Units are not expensive compared to the value of a home or home improvement projects.

One example of a safety improvement with the new Consumer Units is dealing with the situation where a home owner hangs a picture using a screw or nail and accidently hits a  cable buried under the wall plaster. With a new Consumer Unit very little electricity flows (not enough to give an electric shock to a human) before a switch automatically trips out to disconnect the electricity. With a rewireable fuse there will be a lot of electrical energy that flows for a little longer and a noticeable pop from the fuse when it blows, worse still it could be the screw or nail will remain live and the fuse will not blow at all!

I also tend to find that if a home has one of these old fuse boxes then the rest of the electrical installation has either outgrown its original intended use or has been fiddled with as number of times over 30 years such that it has become a hazard in places anyway.

If you have one of these old fuse boxes and want to refurbish a kitchen or bathroom, then it very likely it sensibly should be changed at the same time anyway.

Having said that, if a home owner has only budget for either a full electrical inspection or a new Consumer Unit, but not both. Then certainly I would recommend having the inspection done as the priority.

Wire Suspended Extra Low Voltage Lighting Systems

I recently had the pleasure of a job to replace two sets of wire suspended lighting fittings in a barn conversion home.  The result was excellent and ideal for an exposed beam ceiling.  It is has similarities to a track lighting system but instead has a pair of exposed wires strung across the room ceiling with the adjustable light fittings suspended from the wires at points required.   These systems have had in the past a bad name due to poor reliability of some systems and installation design complications.  But with the availability of quality reliable LED  12V lamps this poor reputation has now changed.  These new quality LED lamped systems  are overall (including any plastering, redecoration and floors up/carpets lifted for downlighters) are probably about the same price as down lighters install.  The main stream wholesalers appear to be wary of supplying the wire suspended equipment possibly due to warranty risks they may have experienced with the similar older halogen lamps systems The halogen lamped systems I personally would avoid.

This kind of stylish system could suit your home if you have a room that needs new or improved lighting but have requirements such as: very high ceilings, orangery or conservatory style, exposed beams, building conservation requirements, no access to ceiling void through floor above, fire Compartment building regulation complications, no ceiling void, need a flexible lighting scheme or simply like the look of a wire suspended lighting system.  Here is an example bought from National Lighting in Chichester http://www.nationallighting.co.uk/branches/nw39 :-

Wire Suspended 12V Lighting

It could have its uses in a Retail display environment as well.

If you are interested in one of these systems then I suggest care is taken with the selection of your electrician to design, select the products and install it. Reasons being, there is a specific section in the UK Electrical regulations that covers these systems, matching the various components in the systems is important for reliability and finally but important to the resulting effect there are choices to be made on the colour and brightness of the light from the LED lamps.

Commercial Office Power Circuits, Safety

In the latest UK 2015 electrical regulations there has been an improvement to safety for power (13A sockets) circuits in commercial environments. For a new circuit it is more difficult to justify not using a RCD (Residual Current Device)  safety device in addition to the normal Fuse/Miniature Circuit Breaker. RCDs generally are considered a device that protects persons from accidental electrical shock. Whereas Fuses and Circuit Breakers protect against circuit overload that for example could either result from a live wire accidently touching earth or lessor level of overload that could cause a fire.

RCDs are a significant improvement to electrical safety but surprisingly in commercial (office) environments they have not been installed a commonly as one might expect.  Besides the fact the previous regulations did not demand an RCD should be fitted so to save money they were left out, there also has in the past been a concern that numbers of computers on one circuit with an RCD could trip accidently with very unfortunate consequences.

RCD devices are now more readily available for three phase commercial Distribution (fuse) Boards and at more reasonable prices.  Also careful design of the number of sockets on a single circuit can avoid the problem of accidental or nuisance tripping out of an RCD.

In the depths of our winter is the time when office staff may bring in from home or buy extra portable heaters for use at their desks.  Particularly with electrical installations without RCDs this would be a very unwise practice.  The office provided equipment would only be plugged into circuit that was designed for that use and that equipment would have been PAT tested regularly anyway.  If a non PAT tested old heater is plugged into a socket that was intended for low power electrical load and does not have an RCD, then it can result in safety issues.

A few days ago I attended on a fault where an office user reported a smoking and sparking 13A socket outlet.  In this case there was a portable heater plugged in and the heater had been PAT tested.   But the circuit with everything else plugged in was just into overload levels which in turn had stressed what was probably a loose connection in the wiring. The connection had overheated and burnt the back of the 13A socket and wiring.

Those in small businesses responsible for requesting and engaging electrical maintenance should  perhaps make enquires as to whether RCDs are installed on the office 13A sockets, ensure PAT testing is undertaken regularly, do not allow non business provided heating equipment to be plugged to office 13A circuits and importantly when arranging the Periodic Testing of the office electrical installation ensure that part of the brief is for a realistic sample of the wiring connection screws to be checked.


Sale Priced Consumer Units

I have noticed a couple of the major building suppliers/trade suppliers are offering at “sale” prices Consumer Units (Fuse Box) for homes that will not be compliant to the updated Electrical Regulations that will be in force from January 2016.  These Consumer Units offered are plastic cases instead of fire resistant steel. These “sale” prices are no surprise because the suppliers will need to get rid of old stock before they become obsolete.

Because the new regulation steel cased Consumer Units are available already then any home owner needing a new one may as well have the  new steel cased unit. They are a little more expensive but safer! The difference in price is will probably be about the same as an annual gas boiler service or a meal out for two. So why not pay a little extra.

Home Owner and Changes To Electrical Regulations

Starting June this year there will come into force a number of changes to the British Standard electrical wiring regulations for all homes and other premises. These changes will affect home owners planning to make certain types of changes to home electrical wiring. Electricians offering to undertake these changes, or new installations, will need ensure the work is compliant to the updated BS7671 Amendment 3 regulations. Currently both the new and the previous versions of regulations can be applied because the changeover is gradual between now and January 2016.   To avoid any problems resulting from this regulation change then home owners would be wise to ensure any electrical work is undertaken by a business that is registered in a Competent Persons scheme such as the NICEIC Domestic Installer scheme.

The main changes in the regulations are to improve safety. The most significant is that new installed or replacement Consumer Units (also known as mains Fuse Boxes) will need to be of a non combustible construction. For many years Consumer Unit (Fuse Box) cases in homes have been manufactured from plastic materials and are often installed in a location that is the means of escape from a home. There has been enough incidences of home fires caused by overheating Consumer Units that lobbying by London Fire Brigade of the British Standards has resulted in this safety improvement where all new Consumer Units installed after January 2016 at the latest will have steel construction cases.

Another important change has been introduced as a result of requests by Fire Brigades after an incident involving loss of life in property fire.  A contributing factor to this loss of life incident was wires that had been exposed to heat were drooping down to block a fire escape route. Quite simply the plastic fixings holding up wires melted. Fire officers and persons escaping had problems getting out of smoke filled rooms because the wires blocked the doorways. The simple change in the new regulations is to ensure that cables installed over escape routes are secured with metal fixings, this will keep the escape routes clear in the event of fire damage to cabling.

Here is an example of the problem that resulted in these changes to the regulations for securing cables:-

Fire Damage

Besides a welcome increase in safety how else will these change affect homeowners?  In the case of the new Consumer Units there is unfortunately an small increased cost. Not only for the item itself but also there is an increase in the labour required to install them.

On a related subject, there are still homes in the UK still have much older versions of Consumer Units (Fuse Boxes), what some might recognise as the old style fuse box with removable/plug in wired or cartridge fuses. These were probably installed between 1950 and perhaps as late as 1990.  Assuming correctly installed and the installation has not been in expertly tampered with since, then these are often still serviceable as they were intended.  But home owners and occupiers should be aware that some of the very old Fuse Boxes are beyond their original expected service life and more importantly a considerable improvement in safety can be achieved by replacing these older style units with a new Consumer Unit containing modern safety devices.  Electrical safety for domestic installations has improved considerably in the last 25 years, in particular the introduction of devices called RCDs which are considered to be of such great benefit that almost all new domestic installations and new circuits legally have to have these RCDs installed.

NexElec Limited would be pleased to offer inspection and installation services for home electrical safety improvements including replacement Consumer Units.