Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Is an elderly person you know in electrical danger?

Ensuring electrical safety is an important matter regardless of age, but as we get older, possible electrical dangers can become more apparent due to memory or mobility problems. If you have an elderly relative, it may be worth your while checking their home electrics. Ageing electrical wiring can pose a problem for an elderly person and they may be unaware of it's danger until they receive an electric shock or injury.

Now we know that persuading an older person to consider their electrics (and anything else for that matter!) is easier said than done. There are many older people who are perfectly happy and are able to make decisions about electrics themselves. However, if you are aware of any electrical danger in their home, it is worth mentioning it to them. You never know, they might be unaware of the real dangers.

What electrical dangers might be lurking around

Older people are often more at risk of electrical accident and injury because of old or poor quality housing and faulty appliances. At Fulcher Edwards we carried out an electrical visit to a lovely man who was attempting to use an ancient vacuum cleaner. Every time he used it, it blew the fuse plug! Thankfully no electrical accident or shock occurred, but he did cause damage to his wiring because of it. Luckily we were able to persuade him to part with it, before an electrical accident occurred.

Modern facilities that we are used to in our own homes simply do not exist in some older homes. From basic kitchens to the flowered wall paper and carpets, it is easy to tell how modern a home is from just looking around. However the hidden electrical dangers can potentially make things far worse.

Checking the age and condition of some essential electrical fittings will give you an idea of the level of electrical safety in the property. Look out for:

  • Fusebox

All fuse boxes should have a mains switch (a way of being able to switch it on and off) and a full set of breakers or fuses. If all seems fairly modern then that is a good sign. Look out for fuse boxes with wooden backs, cast iron switches or a mix of fuses or breakers. If there is evidence of these things then a call to a qualified and registered electrician would be a good move. Fuse boxes of this type are very much out of date and would benefit from an upgrade.

Similarly, if a more modern fuse box appears to be tripping often or fuses are regularly blowing, then it would be a good idea to contact your local electrician. As electricians in South East London, we get calls of this nature on a regular basis. We can often put right a simple problem cost effectively as long as the householder does not leave it too long before contacting us.

  • RCD

Ideally, an RCD protected house is the safest one. Fuse boxes (known as consumer units) fitted within the last few years should have RCD protection as standard. Have a look on the consumer unit for a T or Test button. If it has one press it to ensure it is working as it should. An RCD cuts the power in a fraction of a second if an electrical fault develops, an appliances malfunctions or someone in the house accidentally touches a live wire.

An RCD is great peace of mind, however it is not essential. If the cost of replacing an otherwise safe fuse box would be too costly, then some RCD sockets or plugs would be a good alternative to ensure the safety of high risk appliances such as kettles, lawn mowers and washing machines.

  • Plugs and sockets

Potential electrical danger can often be spotted by taking a closer look at the sockets and switches. Cracks and breaks are an electrical danger and affected sockets or switches need to be replaced. Look out for singe marks (where the shape of a plug can be seen) and discolouration. Both of these are a sign of over heating. Buzzing and crackling when the socket is in use and 'green goo' coming from below the socket are also signs that you need to call in an electrician to take a look.

The type of plugs and sockets will give you an idea of the age of the wiring in the property. Look out for round pin sockets and sockets fitted on skirting boards, these are signs that the wiring is over 50 years old and should be checked by a qualified electrician.

  • Light fittings

Look out for signs of cracking or burn marks around light fittings. This is a sign that all is not well. If you spot this, stop using them immediately and contact an electrician. Further signs that all is not well include curled labels on flex, discolouration and scorching. If a switch sparks when you switch it on then this is also something that an electrician should look at.

Braided flex hanging from ceiling light fittings is another sign that the wiring is very old.

  • Cables

Take the time to inspect the cable condition of appliances that are being used. Look out for cuts, wear and tear and ensure that no bare cable can be seen. Check that plugs are securely on the end of the cable. Damage to the cable would need to repaired by replacing the cable and plug or alternatively replacing the appliance.

Never use PVC tape to repair cable and avoid trailing cables over carpets and under rugs as these can present a trip hazard.

  • Check the smoke alarm

Having a working smoke alarm can prevent a serious house fire. Electrical fires are currently the biggest cause of a house fire in the UK. Smoke alarms save lives, and are low cost or free to fit. Local fire services can fit smoke alarms to eligible households free of charge. If you are looking for mains powered smoke alarms, then these will need to be installed by a qualified electrician. Here at Fulcher Edwards we are fire alarm specialists in South London.

What else you can do to help

If the home is rented, then some of the electrical concern can be alleviated by asking the landlord to carry out an EICR on the property. It is recommended that an EICR is carried out once every 5 years or with every change of tenancy. Responsible landlords ensure this is carried out and certainly if the property is rented to an older person, this responsibility becomes more justified in our opinion.

If the home is owned, a full electrical check is recommended once every 10 year to check all is working as it should be. Ask an electrician to carry out an EICR report to determine the condition of the electrics.

Call for Government Support

Such is the concern for electrical safety for the elderly, that the electrical safety charity Electrical Safety First has asked for Government support to ensure older people live in safe homes. The initiative is backed by several care charities including Contact the Elderly and the Carers Trust.

Carrying out a good deed for an elderly relative or neighbour could be a life saver.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Are you aware of the charging dangers of E-Cigarettes?

Since the New Year, we have been particularly busy here at Fulcher Edwards with call outs relating to charging problems with e-cigarettes. We have been repairing some alarming electrical damage caused by e-cigarette chargers – not to mention the frustration caused to our poor customers who have unwittingly purchased an incompatible charger for their e-cigarettes.

Read this if you use e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes are amongst the most popular option when quitting smoking. In recent years, the number of people using them has risen dramatically. However amongst the popularity, there has been an increase in the number of chargers available on the market that can cause significant damage if they're not compatible with your type of e-cigarette.

To date, there has been over 100 house fires alone caused by e-cigarettes across the UK. Using a charger that is not designed to use with your e-cigarettes can cause it to explode – quite literally. We don't need to tell you what the outcome of that can be, however it seems like people are buying spare chargers which are not designed for use with their particular e-cigarette.

What kind of electrical damage e-cigarette chargers can cause

As electricians in South London, we have seen first hand the extensive damage caused by e-cigarettes in 2015 alone. Many e-cigarette users will leave them charging unattended whilst they sleep or go to work. However, incorrect chargers can quickly overheat causing fire not only to the e-cigarette but also to the wiring within the socket. This can quickly spread to the wiring inside your walls and in severe cases can cause a serious fire.

If the problem is not discovered, it can lead to the explosion of the e-cigarette which could cause serious injury and damage.

Unfortunately the cost to replace wiring and sockets damaged by the charger can be quite costly and will far exceed the cost of a genuine charger!

Make sure you know what charger you should be using

Here at Fulcher Edwards, we recommend that you purchase only genuine chargers and accessories for your e-cigarette. Although retailers of 'universal' chargers will tell you it will work, we recommend that you do not use the safer option as there is no guarantee that it will work. We know how handy it can be having an additional chargers, however only purchase genuine chargers that are designed for use with your e-cigarette.

Meet Clueless Colin!

The problem with e-cigarette chargers is a growing problem and as such, the electrical safety charity Electrical Safety First have compiled a video demonstrating the danger of e-cigarette chargers. If he resembles you (and we're definitely not suggesting you are actually clueless ;)) then you may need to think twice about your charging habits!

Have you used the wrong charger and concerned about your home electrics?

It is better safe than sorry as electrical fires can start unnoticed inside walls. If you have been a user of a universal charger, then it would be a good idea to call a qualified and registered electrician to check if any damage has been caused. They're likely to suggest an EICR which will involve inspecting the wiring in your home to see if any damage has occurred.

When it comes to dodgy e-cigarette chargers, it is better to be safe than sorry!  

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Why registering your appliance is so important

Now that another New Year has been and gone, those sparkling new gadgets that you received for Christmas will now be a part of your life! How do you know that they'll carry on providing you with a great service? Even the best quality products can develop faults and it is essential that you are made aware if this is the case.

Look out for that little card in the box!

You may well have overlooked a small card in the box which mentioned registering your appliance. Now you would be easily forgiven for ignoring the advice for fear of receiving relentless amounts of junk mail as a result of filling it in. However this card is not actually for this purpose. It is there for your own protection and peace of mind. In general the card serves two purposes:

  • To guarantee the product
  • To inform you of any product recalls

You may well have a guarantee in place from the retailer but manufacturers guarantees often last far longer and it is well worth your while registering for additional guarantee on offer. Perhaps what is far more important is that the manufacturer will be able to contact you in the event of a product recall.

Got it! But what about my older appliances I've forgotten to register?

Once a customer realises the importance of filling in that all important card, panic can quickly set in when considering the whole multitude of other appliances in the home that were never registered. Luckily there is help at hand. A brilliant website known as Register My Appliance allows you to register the details of all electrical products in your home. In turn you will be made aware of any product recalls, safety repairs and upgrades that are available for your individual items.

Why you should register your appliances on this website

If you've had some electrical items a number of years or even if you've recently moved, you probably hadn't thought of contacting the manufacturer to change your address (there’s enough of those already!) With Register My Appliance you are able to receive any notices directly via email wherever you are living.

Register My Appliance is supported by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and ROSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.)

Product recalls are easily fixed

One of the main problems faced with product recalls is the ease of which potential problems can be rectified if the customer gets in contact. However leaving an item currently under recall can cause all manner of problems including electrical shock, fire and even explosion.

Getting a product fixed under product recall is often very simple. Normally a technician will visit your home and carry out the repair at a time that suits you. It makes sense to register your products so that manufacturers can contact you if necessary.

Avoiding electrical appliance malfunction

As electricians in South East London, we often receive call outs after an electrical appliance has malfunctioned. In many cases it is misuse by the customer that has lead to the problem occurring. Make sure you follow these safety tips when using electrical appliances:

  • Ensure you have working smoke alarms in your home

Smoke alarms can alert you quickly to a problem. If an appliance has overheated and a fire has occurred you may not be aware until the fire is out of control without a smoke alarm.

  • Don't overload extension leads

Here at Fulcher Edwards, We have lost count of the amount of times we have seen overloaded extension leads. There may be four spaces on a lead, but together the products used on it should not exceed 3000 watts of energy. Overloaded extension leads can cause overheating and fire.

  • Keep electrical appliances indoors

A common mistake that is often made is having electrical appliances located in areas that are not 'household temperature'. We have seen freezers in outhouses, washing machines in garages and tumble dryers in conservatories. The problem is the temperature. When the temperature drops it can cause malfunctioning. The cold weather can affect sensitive electric components which are only designed to operate in ambient temperatures.

  • Use an RCD socket if necessary when using electrical products outside

If your home is not protected by an RCD then we highly recommend you use an RCD socket or plug when carrying out work outside. Electrical items designed for outdoor use are more susceptible to electrical dangers. Water that may have leaked onto the item, damp grass, accidentally chopping through the cable are all real dangers when using electrical equipment outside.

  • Take care with appliances with no on/off switch

Electrical appliances which do not switch on or off such as irons, need to be unplugged when not in use. Accidentally leaving these appliances on can lead to overheating, fire and damage to upholstery or carpets.

  • Keep instruction manuals

Instruction manuals can be a godsend should you need to refer to them at some point. If there is a power cut for example, it can be useful to find out how to reset the clock! Instruction manuals can also help if you sell the product or if you rent your home.

  • Only use appliances for what they are intended for

Never take risks with appliances by using them for an alternative purpose. Electrical accidents can occur!

However you choose to register your product, please make sure you do it, your life could actually depend on it!