Tuesday, 17 September 2013

How to identify important switches in your fusebox

Fuse boxes are known within the electrical industry as consumer units, however many of our clients still refer to them as fuse boxes, so to keep things nice and simple, we will refer to consumer units as fuse boxes within our article.

Your fuse box is the hub of your home electrical system, so it is important that you have a basic understanding of how it works. Should your lights trip or you need to test your RCD or worse still an electrical emergency occurs, you will know what you need to do.

It is better to prepare yourself in advance rather than panic should an incident occur.

Your fusebox should be accessible

Firstly, it is important that your fuse box is easy to access. Commonly fuse boxes are located in outside cupboards, under stairs cupboards or hallway locations. Ideally you should be able to safely reach it. Avoid storing items around the fuse box, which can make it difficult to access should you need to. If your lights do go off in your home, the last thing you need to be doing is trying to move things around in order to find the fuse box!

Fusebox basics

There are three things that are useful to know about which you will find on your fuse box:

  • Main Switch
  • Residual Current Devices (RCD)
  • Circuit Breakers (or fuses)

Next, we will explain in more detail what each item does and how it keeps you safe.

Main Switch

As the name suggests, the mains switch allows you to turn off the electricity supply to your home. It is worth familiarising yourself with the main switch in your fuse box as this is what you will need to use in an emergency. Some homes will have more than one mains switch, for example if you have electric storage heaters, in which case you may have more than one fuse box. The mains switch is the large red switch located on the left hand side.

Residual Current Devices (RCD)

The RCD trips a dangerous circuit by disconnecting the electrical supply instantly. It's action is far quicker than fuses or circuit breakers which only offer limited protection. In our opinion, every home should have RCD protection. Our last blog, why your home should have RCD protection explains the importance and the essential safety features of an RCD.

If your home has RCD protection, you will find the RCD test button on your fusebox. The button will be clearly marked with 'T' or Test. To ensure the RCD protection remains activated, it should be tested at least every 3 months. Pressing the Test button should activate the RCD instantly. If the electricity does not switch off, this indicates a problem, and you need to consult a domestic electrician in London.

Circuit Breakers

These are protection devices found in your fuse box that switch off a circuit if a fault develops. They are a similar size to fuses and are found in a row across the centre of your fuse box. They also offer more precise protection than a fuse. Should a fault occur the fuse 'trips' by turning the switch 'off'. Should a trip occur, simply look at your fuse box to see which switch is 'off' and simply switch it back on to reset it. However if the trip is a persistent problem, it is worth contacting an electrical contractor in London to take a look.

Older Fuse Boxes

Older fuse boards may have re-wirable fuses in place or circuit breakers. Re-wirable fuses have special wire that runs between screws. If a fault develops it burns and melts the wire which disconnects the circuit.

If your fuse box has a wooden back, cast iron switches or a mixture of fuses it is likely to require a replacement to ensure your electrical safety in your home is not compromised.

We always recommend upgrading your fuse box to one which has RCD protection even if your fuse box is more modern than what we have suggested above!

Remember a replacement consumer unit must be installed by a qualified electrician. Here at Fulcher Edwards we are committed to your safety and would always recommend that you consult a qualified electrician if you have any concerns about your electricity.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Why your home should have RCD Protection

When we visit our clients homes, we always advise on general electrical safety. It is part of our service and commitment to make homes in and around London electrically safer.

One recommendation we always give to our clients is to have an RCD fitted in their home if they do not have RCD protection already in place.

What is RCD Protection?

RCD stands for Residual Current Device and is fitted as standard to all new consumer unit (fuse box) installations. It is a sensitive switching device that quickly turns off electricity when danger arises to reduce the risk of death or serious injury.

The electricity is turned off in a fraction of a second and is far quicker and reliable than breakers and fuses. An RCD activates if you accidentally touch a live cable which could one day save your life. Electricity is not something we think about on a daily basis, particularly if we believe that everything is OK. It is easy to become complacent and that is where the job of the RCD comes in to play. We can all make a simple error, but don't let it cost you your life.

Why is an RCD so important?

RCD protection is a ground breaking development and has been responsible for saving many lives and preventing serious injuries. However, there is still more to be done as there are still 13 million homes in the UK which are still without any form of RCD protection. Clearly more needs to be done to inform householders on the dangers of electricity:

  • One person dies and 80 preventable electrical fires occur every week in the UK
  • Over 50% of households have not had their electrics checked within the last 12 months
  • A third of UK residents are not concerned about electrical safety

What can be done?

In order to reduce these shocking statistics, our recommendation from us here at Fulcher Edwards is to have an EICR carried out in your home by an electrical contractor in London. Following the electrician carrying out a thorough investigation on the condition of your home electrical installation, you will receive a report and recommendations which will keep your home in optimum safety electrically. If you currently have no RCD protection, this will form one of the recommendations in the report.

Remember that RCD protection must be installed by a domestic electrician in London who will ensure that the new consumer unit is fitted safely and correctly and the RCD is working as it should be.

Other things you can do to stay safe

If you are looking at lower cost ways to keep safe, you may like to consider plug in RCD protection. Plug in RCD protection costs as little as £10 on the High Street and the advantage of plug in RCDs are that you can plug in any type of electrical appliance anywhere in your home due to its portable nature. Commonly they are used in the garden to power appliances such as lawn mowers and hedge trimmers. This is because there is a higher chance of an accident occurring – you could accidentally cut through the cable.
It is worth bearing in mind that plug in RCD protectors only protect the appliance and the person using it.

Electricians will also carry out electrical work in London for you if you find the cost too high for a new consumer unit. This can include the fitting of RCD sockets in your home. By having a more permanent method of RCD protection installed, you will have peace of mind against the two biggest causes of electrical shock:

  • Using appliances that are faulty
  • Cutting or drilling through cables

Lastly, simply carrying out your own visual check of your electrics and appliances can be a life saver. Don't use any appliances, lights or switches that are faulty or have visible damage such as bare cable showing, cracks, breaks or other damage. Taking a few minutes on a regular basis can really be the difference between life and death.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

What does Part P mean?

As London Electrical Contractors, we are often asked when carrying out quotation visits what it means to be Part P registered.

Now something that to electricians is an every day term, means to be honest, not very much to our customers. Although customers and the wider public are aware of the need to look out for Part P registration when selecting a domestic electrician in London, they do not understand what it means. We find that many clients think it is a qualification when in fact it is a Building Regulation.

We carried out a Google search to find out “what does Part P mean” and it is easy to see how the public are confused with the meaning of Part P. There is plenty of information for electricians which is full of jargon and understandably isn't going to mean very much to someone who is not familiar with Part P and what it means to them as a house holder.

So in our post today we are going to explain the meaning of Part P in a straight forward way and why it is important for you as a house holder.

What is Part P?

Part P is a building regulation set by government, that forms the statutory requirements for electrical work carried out in England and Wales. Part P was introduced in 2005 and amended in April 2013. The majority of electrical work carried out within homes falls within the scope of the Part P Building Regulations. This means that it is a legal requirement for these works to be notified to a Part P scheme provider who would then submit the information to their Local Authority.

This is where it is important (and in your better interests) to use a Part P Registered electrician as this will be your cheaper option. A Part P registered electrician means they self certify their electrical work through registration with a Part P scheme provider such as the NICEIC. This is far cheaper than consulting your Local Authority directly who will charge high fees (into the hundreds of pounds) to certify notifiable electrical work.

Carrying out your own electrical work

There are limited electrical works that you can carry out yourself, however here at Fulcher Edwards we do not recommend doing any form of DIY electrical work unless you are 100% confident. The type of electrical work you can do yourself is very limited and you can only replace like for like. In basic terms this means you can replace what is already in your home so long as no changes are made and you are replacing with exactly the same as what is there currently.

In April 2013, the government made some changes to Part P where notifiable jobs around the home have been reduced which now allows householders to carry out some electrical works in bathrooms and gardens. It is also possible to employ a non-registered electrician who can then seek Part P certification through another electrician who is Part P registered, however how this actually works is still being debated at government level and so there are very few electricians who would be happy to certify someone else’s work at this current time.

Why it is better to use a Part P Registered Electrician

Aside from the additional costs of seeking certification on electrical work done yourself, how do you know your work is safe? Using a Part P certified electrician is a win win situation. Firstly, the cost of putting right a DIY electrical job that has gone wrong can be far greater than using a Part P domestic electrician in London in the first place. Secondly, the work will be guaranteed against workmanship and product defects and you and your family will have peace of mind that the work has been installed and tested for safety. Lastly, carrying out work that is Part P notifiable is illegal. It can be easy to 'cross into uncharted territory' and attempt electrical work that is notifiable. There is a thin line between notifiable work and non-notifiable work particularly in high risk areas such as bathrooms. Having uncertified notifiable electrical work can cause problems should you choose to sell your home in the future and increasing numbers of home insurance policies will not pay out in the event of a claim caused by uncertified home electrical work.

How will I know an electrician is Part P Registered?

The basic thing to look out for before contacting an electrician is a logo of the main scheme provider. Here at Fulcher Edwards we carry the logos of NICEIC Domestic Installer and NICEIC Approved Contractor. Either of these logos are fine as are the logos of other scheme providers. Whilst it is a criminal offence to display a logo of a scheme provider whom an electrician is not registered with, unfortunately this can happen. So our recommendation to anyone looking for a Part P registered electrician is to check directly with the scheme provider that the electrician is actually registered with them. This can be done on line or via telephone. We highly recommend you do this before employing the electrician to carry out work in your home.

Finally, always ensure you receive your Part P certificate following completion of the electrical works. This is often given at the end of the job following payment or follows in the post a few days later.