When or why should I have my electrics tested?
This is a common question. Firstly if you are buying a property (other than brand new) you should seriously consider getting a full inspection and test carried out. Many properties in the UK have outdated systems and when you ask for some work to be done that is not the time to find out your new home has major problems. It is recommended that domestic homes are tested every 10 years.
There many firms offering to do Electrical Installation Condition Reports (EICR's) sometimes called landlord reports. A full EICR on a 3 bedroom house will take at least half a day to do properly. There are firms offering cheap reports and they will do 6 tests a day!! All I can say is you get what you pay for.
When you get your report read it carefully, the key point is wether it is Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory. It is essential to get the engineer to explain what is written in the report before taking any action.
Any problems will be coded and requires the following action. Code 1 represents immediate danger and the engineer should make a code 1 safe if possible immediatly or informed the customer in writing as soon a possible. Code 2 indicates a problem which requires immediate attention. Code 3 indicates a problem that recommends improvement. F/I indicates a problem that requires further investigation. Although there guidance on coding it is ultimatly the decision of the engineer as to the severity of a problem
Put very simply if your earthing is not correct then your fuse will not operate as quickly as it is designed to, or operate at all. This can result in cable failure (melts and can catch fire) or potentially lethal currents flowing. It takes only between 50-80mA to kill a person. Even less for a pet. If you are unsure get an electrician to check for you.
Why is earthing so important?
Adding an extra socket or light to an exisitng circuit is a relatively straightforward job. However, as a registered electrician there are a number things that must be checked and comply with regulations before any work can be done. Failure to verify these can lead to a heavy fine and/or imprisonment for the electrician. Firstly the earthing must be adequate, this means the main earth must be connected and of the right size and that any services such as water and gas are also earthed with a correct size cable. Then we must check that whatever adddition we make will not adversly affect the installation. Then and only then can the work be done and once completed and tested a Minor Electrical Installation Works Certificate should be issued. So how can you tell if your earthing is correct, Well look at the examples below.
I have complete power failure - what should I do?
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I want a new socket or light fitting installed - is this a problem?
If you have a large (6mm diameter, actually a 10mm cable cross sectional area) green and yellow cable connected to your gas pipe and water pipe then you should be okay. Only actually testing will confirm correct connections, in December whilst checking an installation visual inspections showed a bond however testing it showed all was not right. Pulling the cable by the mains water showed that only a meter of cable existed shoved up behind the plasterboard the same was revealed at the consumer unit!!!
Also if we are working on a lighting circuit there will need to be an earth, if there is no earth it is at least 50 years old and needs to be rewired. Also most modern lights and switches require an earth!!. Also if you want extra sockets any existing circuit must be healthy and not already overloaded. Generally if you only have one socket and/or lighting circuit we will NOT be able to do any additional work. Again houses with this sort of arrangment really need to think about a rewire and should be fully tested.
Step 1 - Check your fuseboard to make sure all the switches are on, if not go to Step 2. If they are, check to see if your neighbours have power. If they have no power either this will be a problem for the electricity supplier, so you need to contact them.
Step 2 - If you have a 'trip' switch (Residual Current Device) and it is in the off position then turn all the fuses (Circuit Breakers) off. Then try to reset the 'trip' switch. If it will not reset you will need to call an electrician.
Step 3 - If it does reset, then turn on the fuses one at a time. If one of the fuses causes the 'trip' to operate, then start again and leave that fuse in the off position.
Step 4 - Identify what the fuse controls, most likely it will be a circuit with sockets. Unplug all the appliances on that circuit (don't forget all the built in fridges etc). Once this is done try turning the fuse back on. If the 'trip' stays on then it is a faulty appliance. A way to identify which one is faulty is to plug them back in one at a time. However if the 'trip' goes off again then you will need to call an electrician.
Please note that if your fuse board is a re wireable type then you should consider getting it replaced. Also if you are unsure of any step call an electrician.