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Advice and Tips about electrics


The RCD (what is an rcd? see the section on the home page) or circuit breaker on my consumer unit has tripped - what do I do next?

Periodic Inspections - When should my household electrics get inspected or tested?

Home Improvements and getting the electrician in - when to plan your electrical changes

Part P of the Building regulations- what are "Notifable works"

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The RCD (the wide switch with the test button) or circuit breaker (the narrow switch with no button) on my consumer unit has tripped - what do I do next?

The trip has occured because one of these breakers is detecting a fault somewhere in your electrics. This is sometimes called "nuisance" tripping, because you were not aware that anything was wrong. Where is the problem? It is often difficult to determine, but there are some simple steps to take before you call in Red Kite Electrical. Here is how to proceed;

  1. Determine whether the rcd or the individual circuit breaker has tripped.
  2. If it is the circuit breaker attempt to reset it (turn it back on). It may well successfully reset. You will probably find that a lamp (bulb in English) has blown somewhere on the particular circuit. This is not a fault with the breaker. In fact it proves the breaker is working effectively to keep you safe. When a lamp blows, the filament inside breaks. When this happens one side of the filament will still be connected to the electrical supply. As this charged part of the filment drops it may touch part of the metal base of the lamp. This creates, for a moment, a short circuit (a huge damaging flow of current). It is this the breaker detects, and trips to protect the circuit. By the time you reset the breaker the filament will almost certainly have burnt away because of the short circuit, solving the problem. Don't forget to open the switch (switch off) when you change the lamp.
  3. If the breaker will not reset, open all the switches (switch off) if it is a light circuit, or dedicated circuit (cooker, boiler, immersion etc). If it is a socket circuit, remove all the appliances. Try again to reset.
  4. If the breaker now resets, close all switches (switch on), or plug in appliances in turn. If a particular light fitting again causes the trip, open its switch, and leave it open. You can then reset the breaker and use the other light fittings on that circuit. Call Red Kite Electrical to investigate the problem. If a particular appliance causes the trip discard the appliance.
  5. If the breaker will still not reset, call Red Kite Electrical.
  6. If it is the rcd that has tripped open all the breakers protected by the rcd. Hopefully which circuit breakers this is, is clear from the labels on the cover of your consumer unit. If it is not the relevant circuit breakers will be those to one side or the other of the rcd (unfortunately it is not possible to say which as different manufacturers have different layouts for their boards). If you are unsure open all the breakers -but have a torch handy if it is dark.
  7. Attempt to reset the rcd. If the rcd will not reset with all the breakers open call Red Kite Electrical. But be aware that some manufacturer's rcd's (such as MK brand) have a mid-position. After a trip the rcd's switch will be in the mid position. To reset you must move the switch to manually to fully open. You can then close the switch.
  8. If the rcd stays reset, close all the circuits in turn.
  9. You will probably find that one of them causes the RCD to trip again. You have now isolated the likely cause of your problem to a particular circuit. Follow steps 3, 4 and 5 above to attempt to isolate the fault further within that circuit. If it proves impossible to isolate the cause to an removable appliance call Red Kite Electrical. Clapped out fridges, freezers, hairdryers, vacuum cleaners and anything else with electric motors inside them are notorious causes of tripping in rcd's. So make sure you have disconnected them when attempting to isolate the fault. When the faulty appliance is re-connected the trip will occur again. Get rid of it!

Disclaimer

These tips are NOT intended to substitute for a full investigation by a competent, qualified professional. They are provided as common sense advice for householders to determine if you need to call a professional. If you are in any doubt please leave the RCD off and call Red Kite Electrical.

On no account remove the cover of your consumer unit, or switch or socket outlet. Do not get involved in touching the fixed wiring. Please call Red Kite Electrical to resolve any problems that involve getting inside electrical enclosures.


When should my household electrics get inspected or tested?

A periodic inspection (often abbreviated to PIR) is the formal description for a thorough test of your electrical system. It is like having an MOT done on your electrics and just like an MOT it can give you confidence that your home or workplace electrical installation is working properly and safe. Also, just like an MOT, a PIR can sometimes uncover a problem that you were not aware of but which requires electrical work to make it safe. It is very different from the 'free' electrical inspections offered by some utility companies as a way of selling their uncompetitive installation services.

A Periodic Inspection report can only be conducted by an electrician who holds the City & Guilds 2391 Inspection and Testing qualification, and has access to properly calibrated test equipment. It is unlikely that your Uncle's mate who 'has been a sparky on the railways/in a factory/down the mines etc etc for 30 years' will be able to do this, or have the right equipment.

This test will usually take place in about a day and will provide you with a complete picture of the safety and quality of all your electrics - lighting points, sockets, fans, cookers etc.

The electrician will use specialist test equipment to pass measured amounts of current through your wiring and socket outlets which must be within certain tolerances to be safe. There is no mess and just minor inconvenience as your electric system will be turned off for much of the day. After the on site testing is done, the test report should be written up by your electrician and a written copy of the PIR provided to you.

Official guidance now suggests that you have a PIR to test your electrics at least every:

D bullet point 10 years for a new domestic installation, and every 5 years after that
bullet point 5 years for a commercial installation
bullet point 3 years for caravans
bullet point 1 year for swimming pools

Other instances when a periodic inspection should be carried out are:
bullet point When a property is being prepared to be let
bullet point Prior to selling or buying a previously occupied property - an electrical safety test will be required from April 2009 as is explained below.

You can contact Red Kite Electrical to commission a periodic report on your home or other premises. As a guide the likely cost is between £150 and £250, depending on the size and complexity of the installation.


Home Improvements and getting the electrician in- when to plan your electrical changes

Most of us want to live in homes where the electrical cables are out of sight, and the socket outlets and light switches are recessed into the wall. This means concealing the cables in walls and floor ceiling voids, and cutting into the fabric of your home to create the spaces for the metal boxes that mount the various electrical fittings. Cutting into plaster and brick is a very dirty job.

Even putting recessed downlights in will entail routing cable through a floor space or loft as well as cutting holes in your ceilings. A great deal of dust and disruption, furniture moving etc is inevitable. Any decoration is likely to be ruined.

Therefore the best time to rewire or substantially renovate the wiring in a building is in the interval between one occupant moving out, and the next moving in. Not only will the stress, mess and disruption of the job be avoided, both for the tradesman and the customer, but the savings will be considerable in time and therefore money. In an empty property we can work all day. In an empty property there is no need to waste expensive time moving furniture and other fittings. In an occupied property the electrical installation must be made safe and usable every evening. This can waste huge amounts of time in getting the work completed.

So, it's a good idea to contact Red Kite Electrical early in your project to plan your project and definitely, well before you get the decorator, tiler or carpet layer in.

The alternative is to have cable run in surface trunking, and switches and sockets mounted in surface boxes. This is much less disruptive for a house in current occupation. But there is no doubt it is much less 'pretty'.

Getting advice from an electrical company like Red Kite will help you make sure you have the right electrical solution in terms of sockets, lights and their layout to meet your planned use. As a fully qualified Part P installer, Red Kite Electrical will also ensure that any planned electrical work takes into account relevant sections of the Building Regulations and will of course provide you with full certification upon completion which you may need to show the buildings inspector.

We can also provide you with suggestions on products such as a light/fan combination to fit in a bathroom or ensuite shower room or an adjustable Passive Infra Red Light or other lighting solutions for outdoors.

Builders please note

Red Kite Electrical does not do sub-contract work, and never works under the HMRC's Construction Industry Scheme. Red Kite Electrical is very happy to be introduced to your customer, but all contracts will be with the ultimate customer, not other traders.

Part P of the Building Regulations - what are notifiable works?

Since 2006, when Part P of the building regulations became law most changes to your wiring for lights or sockets, indoors or your garden electrics need to comply with the Part P rules. Simply put this means that any electrical work in
  1. A bathroom, or other room where water plumbing and electricity are present and people are likely to be more exposed to electrical earth (in English a room where people are likely to have their clothes off and no shoes).
  2. A kitchen.
  3. Outdoors.
must be certified as compliant with the current wiring regulations with the relevant local authority.

Effectively this means that a diy'er can still do the work, but you must pay your Council's building control department to certify the work. The typical fee can run into hundreds of pounds, and will involve 2 visits;

  1. After first fix -when the cables are installed but before they are concealed
  2. After second fix, when the circuits are connected to the consumer unit and tested to ensure that the earthing and insulation resistance's meet the regulations. Additionally you may be required to provide the local authority with test results that can only be obtained with the use of specialist equipment.

A typical local authority description of the Part P process says;

"To comply with these regulations it will be necessary to demonstrate that electrical installations have been designed, installed, inspected and tested.

Domestic electrical work MUST be notified to Building Control UNLESS it is done by a contractor who is registered with an approved Competent Person scheme or it is only very minor work (see Tables 1 and 2 of Approved Document P).

Building Control applications for work by non-registered electricians will generally be subject to extra fees. We will need to inspect the work at first fix stage and completion, and will require a test certificate (complying with BS 7671) from the installer.

DIY work will be even more problematic as it will be difficult to check that the work has been designed and installed correctly.

Getting work tested may also prove difficult as electricians WILL NOT usually certify other people’s work.

We strongly advise the use of Registered contractors."

For more information on this you can visit the SODC website

Much as we hesitate to disagree with such an august body as South Oxfordshire District Council's Building control department, if you are a handy person and want to do the unskilled / semi-skilled part of the installation yourself with Red Kite Electrical ensuring the correct selection and erection of equipment, and final certification of the installation we can offer this service, and it will save you lots of money.

But if you are interested in exploring this option you must contact us before you start the work, not after first fix.