Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Real Cost of Counterfeit Electrical Items

Counterfeit electrical items are again in the news, as members of the public are still tempted by cheap electrical items which in most cases are not genuine. Counterfeit electrical items can be found easily on line and also in the high street. Counterfeit items can cause electrical injury, death and house fire. They can also cause extensive damage to the electrics in your home. At Fulcher Edwards, we are seeing increasing cases of electrical damage caused by counterfeit electrical products.

What electrical products can be counterfeit?

All electrical appliances and gadgets can be counterfeit. This is where an electrical item can look like the real thing (sometimes the outer casings are almost identical) but inside the wiring is dangerous and many safety features are missing, leaving the user at risk of electrical shock.

It is not just electrical products though that are causing the problem. Counterfeit electrical items such as cable, plugs and even circuit breakers (for fuse boards) have been faked.

What to look for

It is important to check all electrical items are genuine before plugging them in.

  • Box – all electrical products should be boxed with the product matching what you've brought.

  • Instructions – instructions should always be supplied and written in English. There should also be details of the guarantee in the box too.

  • Casing – check the casing of the product carefully – look out for poor finishes or gaps in the casing which shouldn't be there.

  • Wires – check that no damage to the cable is present and there is no bare wiring showing.

  • Plug – make sure there is a fuse and the plug is firmly attached to the cable

The problems counterfeit electrical products cause

Unfortunately householders don't check the product before plugging them in. Counterfeit products often have little or no safety features that protect the user or home from serious injury or fire. Around £30 million counterfeit products enter the UK every year, and these items do not comply with strict UK or European safety legislation.

Incorrect or faulty parts that make up these products often overheat or break within days of purchase, which in turn increase the risk of fire and electric shock. In fact every year 70 people are killed and 350,000 are injured by faulty electrics and electrical equipment in the UK. Counterfeit products almost certainly contribute to this figure.

As electricians in South East London we have carried out electrical work particularly repairing damage to wiring in walls and sockets that have overheated. Some of the most common things we find are hair dryers, hair straighteners and curling tongs as well as chargers for devices like smartphones and tablets and gaming consoles.

Fires where sockets and cable overheat begin undetected in walls damaging cable. In some cases a partial rewire may be needed – that is an expensive remedy for a £1 phone charger! The initial bargain price can soon cost far more than the purchase of the genuine product.

How to avoid counterfeit electrical products

The best way is to carry out some research on line to find out how much you should expect to pay for the product you are looking for. Many people are tempted by the cost of counterfeit items believing them to be the genuine item. If an item seems much cheaper than other seemingly like for like models, this would be a concern.

Try to purchase from reputable outlets on the high street or via their websites. Avoid purchasing from unknown outlets or from somewhere where you can't return the item if there’s a problem.

If you've been a victim of a counterfeit electrical product

Always inform your local trading standards office immediately if you've been a victim of counterfeit electricals. We also recommend that you contact a qualified and registered electrician to carry out some electrical safety checks in your home to ensure it has not caused any damage to the wiring in your home.

As NICEIC electricians in London we are determined to keep the dangers of counterfeit electrical products in the spotlight. If you are concerned about the safety of any electrical appliance, please unplug it and contact us for advice.  

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Students – how to make sure your student accommodation is electrically safe

With the Summer holidays almost here, there is the growing sense of 'schools out' amongst school leavers and university students. If you are starting university this September or are moving out of halls to live in a student house, it is worth being aware of essential electrical safety information.

Unfortunately here at Fulcher Edwards we have come across more than one university housing landlord that flout their obligations. Like any other tenant, as a student you have the right to live in a safe home that is free of electrical danger.

The problems caused by unsafe electrics

We know all too well that it can be a massive rush to get a student house sorted and location matters when it comes to finding a house. However don't overlook the practicalities. With several students all sharing an average sized house, it is important that the home electrical wiring and installation is up to the job. With practically every student owning a computer and television not to mention gadgets like smartphones, tablets and laptops, imagine the problems caused when everyone uses these all at the same time! The last thing you need is to loose your work through nuisance electrical tripping or worse still receive an electrical injury or even death through unsafe electrics.

As electricians in South East London, we work with many student landlords in and around the area carrying out electrical safety checks and PAT testing on appliances which not only protect the students but also the property itself. Unsafe electrics are a fire risk too.

Don't settle for anything less than a current EICR

Unfortunately we hear stories where student landlords have talked students away from electrical safety deeming it to be not necessary or worse still that their mate has checked the electrics and they're safe. Always make sure you see evidence that the electrics in the property have been checked correctly. The best way is to ask to see an EICR or landlord electrical safety certificate.

An EICR is an Electrical Installation Condition Report that is issued to properties that have satisfactorily passed tests to ensure the wiring and installations such as switches and sockets are safe. An EICR can only be carried out by a qualified and registered electrician and the landlord would arrange for this test to be carried out normally before you move in but certainly within the last 5 years.

Is your landlord supplying appliances?

If your landlord is supplying any electrical appliances, they need to be PAT tested. PAT testing is portable appliance testing carried out by an electrician or PAT tester to check that appliances such as fridge freezers, tumble dryers, toasters, kettles, washing machines, televisions etc are safe to use.

Ask to see a PAT certificate for all appliances supplied by the landlord.

Never place your electrical safety over the looks or house location. Unscrupulous landlords can use these factors to their advantage. Remember electricity does kill 1 person every week and injures 1000's more. Don't leave it to chance.

Check there are enough sockets

Student landlords are famous for squeezing in an extra bedroom where possible and someone will draw the short straw and end up with the box room! However, before you sign a tenancy agreement, make sure the rooms have enough sockets for your needs. The overuse of extension leads is electrically dangerous and whilst a couple of extensions might be ok, it is not electrically safe for everyone in the house to be using them.

If an electrical problem arises

If you have an electrical concern whilst renting the property, inform your landlord as soon as possible. Electrical concerns should be taken seriously and rectified within a few days. Landlords should definitely not be arguing with you that there is not a problem and should certainly act in a professional manner.

Do not take matters into your own hands and attempt to fix electrical problems yourself. Your landlord is there to sort out these problems. If you reported concerns in your property and your landlord is not doing anything about it, then please contact the Local Authority who will take enforcement action against your landlord if necessary.

If you are a student landlord

At Fulcher Edwards we work closely with landlords in all sectors to ensure that their properties are up to rental standard. With the impending mandatory 5 year safety checks and RCD protection recommendations, it is important that you ensure your property meets the latest recommendations. Please contact us for free advice and a quotation and avoid an unlimited fine under the Housing Act 2004.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

How do you know your home is safe to live in?

Living in a home than is safe from dangerous hazards such as bad electrics, gas leaks, animal infestations and a leaking roof is a high priority for practically every house holder whether they rent or own their home. We can all recall a time when we have lived in a property which was far from ideal and don't we often wish we had the knowledge to do something about it?

That is the aim of our blog today. Whether you are a home owner or rent your home, it is important to make sure that you are not putting yourself at risk unknowingly. Remember many electrical problems can hide away for many years and can rear their heads very suddenly. Although electrical problems do not go off with spectacular bangs like gas, the results of dangerous electrics can still be deadly. The best term to describe dangerous electrics is a silent killer.

Choose your home carefully

Dangerous electrics can occur in any property – even brand new and idyllic properties. They are not reduced to the confines of dingy flats and back street terraces. As electricians in London, we work with home owners, landlords and letting agents in and around South East London who take electrical safety very seriously.

When finding a property to live in, it is very easy to only look at the aesthetics. We all want modern fittings and clean carpets and that throw open your windows to the fresh air feel in our home, however it is important that all the other bits are in order. Alas, many renters and buyers overlook the safety of gas and electrics preferring the look of their home over their own safety.

Ensure your home has an electrical safety certificate

An electrical safety certificate, its actual name being an EICR – Electrical Installation Condition Report is carried out by a qualified and registered electrician. In a nutshell it consists of an in depth inspection of a property electrical systems and wiring. If the inspection is satisfactory, a certificate will be issued which is proof that the electrics are safe in a property.

If you rent your property

The majority of reputable landlords will have an EICR carried out. Please ensure you see a copy of the EICR certificate before you proceed to sign your rental agreement.

Although having an EICR is not a compulsory requirement, it is looking very likely that it soon will be. A Government report produced by the DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) has stated clear recommendations that all landlords need to have an EICR carried out every 5 years.

If the landlord has not carried out an EICR our recommendation here at Fulcher Edwards is to walk away. Don't compromise the electrical safety of you and your family.

If you own your property or are looking at purchasing a property

If you already own your property, we recommend you have an EICR carried out once every 10 years. This is particularly important if you have had alterations or additions carried out to your electrics or an older wiring system.

If you are thinking of purchasing a property, and it is a new build, you will receive the EICR certificate upon purchase. If you are buying an older property, it may be worth your while having an EICR carried out on the property before purchase to establish what condition the electrics are in at this may affect your offer price. Increasing numbers of mortgage companies now insist on an EICR being carried out as part of their mortgage offer.

Does your home have an RCD?

Another key recommendation within the DCLG report was RCD protection to be installed in all rental homes. Here at Fulcher Edwards, we always say to our clients, that if you do nothing else electrically, install an RCD. RCD's have saved the life of many people in recent years who through error or appliance malfunction would have received a fatal electrical shock.

All homes should have protection against electrical shock. Yes fuses and the fuse box switches will help, but it does not protect you against accidental touching of live cables or an appliances developing a fault that you do not know about.

Always use qualified and registered electricians

To do any of the works we have mentioned in your home, you will need an electrician. As electricians in South East London, we take our credentials seriously. All our domestic electricians are qualified to the latest 17th edition regulations and we are proudly registered with the NICEIC. Always check your electricians credentials before they begin work.

If you are a landlord concerned about the latest developments pertaining to the DCLG report, please call us. We are more than happy to provide advice on how to bring your properties up to the latest rental standards.