With many people thinking about insulating the loft, under the floor and so on, it is perhaps a very good time to draw to your attention to the issues around electric cables.
If, like me, you start to glaze over at the first mention of electricity, don’t worry – there are some very basic facts you need to know, and from there on in you just need to ask a competent electrician.
First thing – don’t just leave your cables going through, within or adjacent to insulation, close to underfloor heating, and so on. They may get too hot and become a fire risk. That’s not to say you can’t put your cables there, it just means….
Second thing - a competent electrician can do the calculations you need, to check what size cable is needed for the particular situation, in case it needs increasing to dissipate the necessary amount of heat.
In addition to your electric cables, watch out for downlighters, which also need to dissipate heat. Some electrical installers just pull your loft insulation out of the way, solving one problem but creating another. (Most downlighters should have fire hoods over them as well, while we’re on the subject.)
Again, the solution is a good electrician (with something called a Part P qualification and the relevant experience).
And while we’re here, a reminder that the Wiring Regulations call for the installer of any new circuit to affix a label to the Consumer Unit (old version is a Fuse Box) which indicates when the next inspection is due. If you don’t have one of these, chances are you have not had your wiring checked in 10 years, which is definitely not a good idea.
The process is called a Periodic Inspection and Testing Report (PIR), and there has just been an Amendment to the 17th Edition of the Wiring Regulations released, coming into force on January 1st 2012, when it will then be called the Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR). Unless you have been advised differently (because an inspection has found deterioration in your installation), the Wiring Regulations require there to be a PIR done every 10 years, or on change of ownership.
This information has been provided by Helen Hill, who is a member of the Eco House Group, and a qualified electrician.
If you are looking to find a competent, qualified electrician, Helen makes the following suggestions:
1) Trustmark has a website where you can look for a local tradesperson. It is the government’s approved operator scheme which ensures standards, processes and complaints procedures are maintained. Info at http://www.trustmark.org.uk/key-benefits .
2) The equivalent to Trustmark, if a company is installing renewable energy, is the Renewable Energy Assurance Ltd (REAL) scheme, info athttp://www.realassurance.org.uk/ , and a company does not need to be in both Trustmark and REAL if they do both types of installations. REAL also has a database where you can look up companies to see if they are members of the scheme. They, and Trustmark, also have Deposit protection schemes.
3) Qualifications – some people calling themselves electricians have just done a very short course (which can be as short as 5 days, costing £795) to get the Part P qualification, usually for domestic installations only. For example, kitchen fitters can get a Part P limited scope qualification this way, so they should not do other types of installation. On the other hand, some people spend two years at college getting City & Guilds Electrotechnical qualifications, followed by further qualifications including the C&G 2391 Inspection & Testing. There should be someone in each company who has sufficient knowledge and experience to pass the 2391 in my view, as it is supposed to assess the skills and knowledge necessary to fill in the Electrical Installation Certificate correctly.
4) The Part P qualification means that the electrical company should work to the current Edition of the Wiring Regulations (17th , and an amendment will take effect on Jan 1st 2012), they should issue Electrical Installation Certificates or Minor Works Certificates (needed when selling your house), and they should notify the Local Authority Building Control that work has been done to the standards set out in Part P of the Building Regulations, if the work done is notifiable (such as a new circuit). If the work is done “cash-in-hand” they are working the black market, avoiding VAT administration, and you probably have no guarantees of workmanship, warranties, or safety, as they will not want records of transactions.
5) Trade Associations – most electrical contractors will be members of a Trade Association, so that they can notify Building Control directly through their Trade Association. This is easier and cheaper, as going it alone costs about £150 per notification. Examples of electrical Trade Associations, in no particular order are NAPIT, NICEIC, ELECSA (with SELECT in Scotland) and so on. Another advantage of using one of their members is that they have Work Guarantee Schemes, should the company go out of business.