Maintenance Services Electrical - News & Information
Do your Christmas lights need a PAT test?
It’s official – the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says that you don’t have to test office Christmas lights every year as long as you check to make sure there’s no obvious damage to the plug, the cable or the lights.
If there’s any doubt, arrange a portable appliance test (PAT) and include your Christmas sparkles in your inspection and maintenance plan every few years to be on the safe side.
The exception are lights that will be used outdoors because there is a greater risk that they will become damaged.
Regular PATs are needed in high-risk environments where electrical equipment might be subjected to extreme conditions and intensive use.
As general rules:
1. Equipment that is frequently used should be tested more often.
2. If any damage is reported the equipment should be checked and tested.
3. In hazardous environments, regular visual inspections should be in place as a precaution.
4. Hand-held appliances are more likely to become damaged than those that are stationary.
5. Class 1 appliances like kettles and electric heathers should be tested most often.
Who completes a PAT test
PAT tests must be completed by someone who is competent. In many low-risk environments, a member of staff can undertake visual inspections if they know what to look for.
For combined inspection and testing, more knowledge and experience will be needed, and the person should have the:
right equipment to do the tests
ability to use the test equipment properly
ability to understand the test results.
You aren’t required to label equipment that has been inspected and tested or keep records. However, you will know that your inspection and maintenance plans are reliable and up to date if you keep good records.
If you have concerns about your Christmas lights or any other electrical appliances, please get in touch.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides guidance which includes how to lay things out so that everyone is safe, the electrical power that will be needed and the conditions. Everything from earthing and routing of temporary cables and isolation to how to control the power supplies.
Of course, if your event is outdoors, you’ll also need to think about the weather and provide covers or shelter to keep the equipment safe and dry.
Generators need to be accessible during your event and in case of emergencies, but also safely away from public areas.
Ready for a bright Christmas
MSE has been getting in the Christmas spirit by installing power supplies to keep the ice rink cool at Woburn Sands Emporium. We also installed service lighting throughout the shop. Now everything is smart and bright for the festive fun to come.
There’s a lot to think about when you’re organising activities and entertainment that needs electrical equipment. Everything must be carefully chosen, suitable for the site and safely installed and maintained.
We have also completed a lighting upgrade in Huntingdon recently. We replaced old metal halide low-bay lighting with the latest LED technology.
The warehouse didn’t have emergency lighting in place so we asked our friends at Midshires Electrical & Lighting Ltd to design the lighting scheme.
The new lighting levels have made a big difference and have created a safer working environment.
Seeing what’s watt
Having the right lighting conditions is especially important in warehouse environments where vehicles, machinery, people and heavy materials are all constantly on the move. Everyone needs to be able to clearly see what’s happening.
LEDs are the perfect solution because they are long-lasting, low maintenance and tough enough for the conditions. They are also very energy efficient. With lighting accounting for up to a third of the costs of running a warehouse, installing LEDs can make a big difference to running costs.
If you’re worried about any dark corners in your warehouse, we’ll be happy to come along and see what we can (or can’t) see. Just give us a call.
Beauty room makeover
We recently installed a replacement consumer unit, new power and lighting for this stunning beauty room and outside lighting too.
A few facts…
If you have a beauty room at home or run a salon your Health & Safety Statement should be updated when you make changes to your processes or install new equipment.
When you complete your health and safety risk assessment there are some important things to consider, including:
Fresh air – if windows and vents don’t provide enough ventilation, you’ll need to install and maintain a system to provide fresh air.
Lighting – although some therapies might suit low light levels, you’ll need to be able work and move around safely. Local light fittings and dimmers could be your answer.
Maintenance – your equipment should be well maintained. Regular inspection and testing are the best ways to make sure everything is in good working order, including portable appliance testing. Faulty electrical equipment is the main cause of accidental fires, so regular visual inspections are a good idea to make sure cables aren’t damaged and nothing is overheating.
To make sure you and your clients are safe from electrical injuries and electrical fire risks you should use competent person to install, inspect and maintain your premises, electrical installations and appliances.
To be competent someone must have the right training, skills and knowledge to prevent injuries to themselves and other people. If you’re planning electrical work or inspections check that the person you use has completed an electrical apprenticeship and has some post-apprenticeship experience.
Please get in touch if you would like some advice
New smart home guide
The leading consumer safety charity, Electrical Safety First, has launched the first smart home guide for people who would like help to get started.
The new guide includes advice from lawyers, leading manufacturers and retailers.
Where to start…
While there is a lot of information available about smart products, if you’re just discovering the potential of smart home technology it could be overwhelming.
It’s also quite difficult to work out how all the new technology can be used together. The new guide has been created to provide basic information to help make your home ‘smart’.
What you need to know
Smart technology at home offers a lot of benefits, including:
• making the most of your appliances
• improving home security
• controlling lighting, heating and other systems remotely
• better information to help reduce energy use.
To make the most of smart home systems you need the right information to help you choose and install the technology safely.
From planning to buying, installing and using smart devices, the new guide includes information and safety advice from businesses and organisations involved producing and selling smart technology.
© Image copyright: Electrical Safety First
LEDS are an excellent solution for lighting in warehouses and factories. Although many of us are going to work and coming home in the dark at this time of year, we might not notice how important lighting at work is, but what happens if the lights go out and it’s dark outside? LEDs are a good solution for this too.
When the lights go out
Every workplace should have effective emergency lighting to keep people safe if the normal lighting fails. For example, if electricity is lost, evacuating people in darkness can be difficult and dangerous if there’s no outside light to help.
Your emergency lighting system should make sure that everyone on the premises is safe and can see where they’re going, with well-lit exit routes that are easy to see and follow.
In high-risk environments such as in factories or warehouses, where someone might be using plant, driving a forklift truck or working with fast-moving machinery, people could be at risk of serious harm.
Your emergency lighting needs to activate quickly and last for up to three hours. It should highlight obstacles or potential hazards and will help the emergency services if they need to be on site.
LEDs are an ideal emergency light source because they are more robust than conventional lighting and low energy consumption makes the most of your back-up battery energy source. Smart LED lighting systems allow building managers to automate routine and periodic testing of emergency lighting, reporting and recording of test results.
The BIG cable pull
We’ve also been working on a big steel wired armour (SWA) cable pull in Northampton.
SWA cable is used as a power and auxiliary control cable with mains supply electricity.
It’s most frequently used for underground systems, cable networks, power networks, , and cable ducting.
Copper is the perfect conductor for the core and there are a range of types including 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-core. British Standards BS5467 or BS6724 define the requirements for SWA construction and testing in the UK.
The armour reduces the risk of the cable getting pinched or damaged. However, SWA cable is heavy and difficult to bend so it is often used underground or fixed to the outside of buildings using cable cleats.
We are always happy to take on a challenge, so get in touch if you have some heavy-duty cabling requirements.
Domestic lighting delights
Here are two of our recent domestic lighting projects – they are very different, but they show how well-planned lighting in your home can make a huge difference.
New lighting doesn’t have to cause major disruption and with the latest LED technology, it can reduce your energy costs too.
Since 1998 there has been European guidance on the energy efficiency ratings for lighting (originally A to G), similar those used for electrical appliances.
To start with ‘energy efficient’ described any lamps which used less power to provide the same light as a standard light bulb.
Since then, legislation has redefined what is meant by energy efficient lighting, with the least efficient incandescent and halogen types being phased out.
New ratings (A+ and A++) were introduced at the top of the scale in 2013 as technology improved.
It is now a legal requirement to display the rating scale on packaging for domestic lighting. Proposals to re-set the rating scale with new A to G ratings are currently being considered.
Since 2016, the Trust’s Green Business Fund has worked with hundreds of small businesses to identify energy savings. The average potential saving they have achieved is £8,230.
They also run workshops to help businesses save energy and money and to explain how to access the Green Business Fund.
You can find the workshop dates here.
Smart meters for small businesses
Micro businesses across the country can benefit from the latest generation smart metering (SMETS2).
Energy suppliers can install smart meters at non-domestic sites. Following the launch of the new SMETS2 meters in January this year, the government is keen to promote their use for small businesses.
How SMETS work
Electricity Smart Meter Equipment (ESME) and Gas Smart Meter Equipment (GSME) wirelessly sends information about energy use at your premises to your energy supplier via the Data Communication Company (DCC).
A survey last year showed that seven out of 10 eligible businesses didn’t know that smart meters could be available for them and hadn’t considered using them.
Smart meters allow businesses to see accurate half-hourly consumption information, helping them to choose the best tariffs and to change suppliers.
The information is sent automatically to your energy supplier, so bills will no longer be estimated. Smart meters also make it easier to review energy consumption and to identify spikes in use.
Non-domestic smart meters are available to businesses with an annual electricity consumption of up to 100,000 KWh or an annual gas consumption of up to 293,000KWh.
Using a smart meter and investigating unexpected spikes in energy use are at the top of the list of energy-saving advice for small businesses from the Carbon Trust. The Trust also recommends:
• switching off equipment outside working hours and using plug-in timers
• replacing old energy-hungry equipment
• getting suggestions and ideas to reduce energy use from employees
• insulating lofts, walls and doors and checking for draughts.
EV charging point installation simplified
Advances in installation methods for electric vehicle (EV) charging points have led to an amendment the Wiring Regulations (18th Edition, Section 722).
Due to be published in January 2020, the change will take into account new techniques that weren’t used for EV charging installations when the current regulations came into effect.
Now charging equipment can be installed more quickly and easily, speeding up their availability across the country. It will also make installations cheaper.
The amended regulations will help to make EVs and electric charging a more common sight around the country.
New government policy on EV charging
The government is investing £400 million on the EV charging network to help meet the target in its Road to Zero strategy for half of new cars to be ultra-low emission by 2030.
In July a consultation was launched on proposals to make thousands more EV charging points available in new homes and at key destinations, like new office blocks and supermarkets.
Charging cars at home overnight using a dedicated charging point is the easiest and most practical solution for many EV owners and around 80% of all electric car charging happens at home. Making EV charging a requirement for new homes and conversions with parking spaces will help to increase EV use. The proposals anticipate that this move will cost 50% less than installing EV charge points in existing properties.
The proposals also include EV charging points for new non-residential buildings and major renovations with more than 10 parking spaces, requiring them to have at least one charge point and cabling for one in five parking spaces.
Wiring in garages often involves cables thrown across joists and looped across walls, held up with a few clips.
This recent MSE garage project shows that it can be done with a smart and professional finish and not too much effort.
Upgrading your garage electrics
In most modern houses there are often lighting and power sockets in a garage. For older properties, the garage might not be so well equipped, especially if it’s detached.
Work with a professional
Connecting and testing your electricity supply for your garage should be done by a professional. You'll need capacity in your house consumer unit as your garage must have its own supply and residual circuit breaker (RCD).
For a detached garage, suspended cables need to be securely installed and aren’t very attractive. Another limitation is the height limit of at least three-and-a-half metres from the ground, which could require poles to be installed. The alternative is to dig a trench so that your cable is underground in an armoured conduit, which will be the safest way.
Connection to the house supply will depend on where the consumer unit is installed. If it’s on the far side of the property, you might want to run the cable inside the house and under floorboards, before breaking through the wall. Alternatively, you could run the cable around the outside of the house, pinning it to the wall.
Garage walls aren't normally as thick as those of a house, so getting the cable into the garage space should be more straightforward and you will have more choice about where to put the consumer unit. Then you can connect up lights and sockets.
Make a plan
To avoid costly mistakes, work with an electrician to plan how much of the preparation you want to do yourself. They will be able to advise about the thickness and standard of cable and the capacity of consumer unit you will need for now and for any possible future uses.
Fantastic fuse boards
We recently installed a new consumer unit for this client – smart, neat and safe.
There several reasons why an old fuse board might need to be replaced.
For example, a miniature circuit breaker might have failed, and replacements might not be available any more.
You might have moved into an old property where the consumer unit doesn’t meet current (18th Edition) regulations.
Or you might be refurbishing and rewiring a property.
First things first
It’s a good idea to have an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR)
before you replace your consumer unit. This will help to make sure that the latest regulations are met, that your consumer board provides adequate protection, and that nothing is missed.
Generally, all circuits should be protected against overloading, which can lead to a fire in cables and damage to appliances, as well as residual current that could cause an electric shock.
Types of protection
• Residual Current Devices (RCDs) protect against the risk of electrical shocks and will protect a bank of circuits from residual current or earth leakage.
• Mini Circuit Breakers (MCBs) protect individual circuits against overload and fault currents.
• Residual Circuit Breakers with Overload (RCBOs) protect individual circuits from both residual current and overload.
It’s important to make allowances for possible future requirements when installing a new consumer unit. To be sure that your installation will provide proper protection for the future, it’s always a good idea to include extra capacity.
Come circuits might need to be separated to remove any risk that they will fail due to a fault on another circuit. This can happen in standard RCD/MCB arrangements when an RCD cuts the power to all the MCBs it is protecting when it detects a residual current fault on one of them.
This could become a significant problem when a large number of circuits are protected by just one RCD.
High priority circuits that should be separated include smoke alarms and security systems. You might also have other priorities such as a freezer, tropical fish tanks, swimming pool pumps, heating systems or an office, for example.
Consumer unit types
Fully Loaded - a cost-effective solution with a dual RCD board and MCBs, these are suitable for smaller properties with less complex circuits. However, they normally have limited flexibility for circuit separation.
Main Switch – these offer total circuit separation but are more expensive. They have a main switch and every circuit can be RCBO protected. Although the consumer unit isn’t very much more costly, the installation of multiple RCBOs can increase costs significantly.
High Integrity - becoming increasingly popular, these units have three neutral bars and are supplied with two RCDs. They can have two banks of MCBs and a further bank of RCBOs for high-priority circuits. Lighting and ring circuits can share residual current protection, and high priority circuits can have total circuit separation.
If your fuse board looks frazzled, give us a call.
There aren’t any laws requiring defibrillators in the workplace, but the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), the British Heart Foundation and the Resuscitation Council UK recommend that they are available.
Installing a defibrillator
Although they don’t need power themselves, defibrillators need a power supply. The cabinets are heated to keep the equipment at the right temperature and there’s a light inside when you open the door. Some have a mains-charged battery to make sure they will still have power if there’s an interruption to the supply. The estimated cost is just £2 to £3 a year.
30,000 people in the UK have a cardiac arrest outside of hospital each year. NHS records show that only around one in five of those people will survive.
The chances of surviving a cardiac arrest are dramatically increased if emergency treatment is provided as soon as possible.
Almost half of the people affected will be successfully resuscitated when defibrillation is given in the first four minutes, so defibrillators in public places and at work can save lives.
You can apply to the British Heart Foundation for funding for a public access defibrillator.
Should my business have a defibrillator?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommend that certain businesses have defibrillators and others carry out a needs assessment that includes:
• how many people might be passing through or nearby
• the age of those people
• the location and likely emergency service response times.
Some businesses choose to have defibrillators because they want to show their commitment to keeping their colleagues and local community safe.
Higher electrical recycling targets
Have you ever wondered what happens to all your old electrical and electronic equipment?
This year the government raised the target for recycling waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) by an extra 58,000 tonnes.
The Department of the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs (Defra) has set an overall collection target of more than 550,500 tonnes for 2019; around 12% more than 2018.
Some producers have queried whether the target is achievable, but the Forum for approved authorised treatment facilities (AATFs) of the UK’s WEEE is happy to see a more ambitious plan. The targets are based on the average annual weight of WEEE collected over the last three years. This year’s target represents almost two thirds of the annual average.
Large household appliances such as ovens, fridges, and washing machines make up over 40% of WEEE. However, there are also a lot of other things that qualify as WEEE too, like IT equipment, televisions, small household appliances, electrical tools, digital watches, electronic toys and medical devices. The biggest increases in this year’s collection targets are for household appliances, tools, electrical and electronic toys and sports devices, monitoring and control equipment.
If you’re not sure where you can take your electrical and electronic items for recycling, you can find out on the recyclenow website.
If you run a business and need to dispose of old and unwanted electrical and electronic items you should use a licenced WEEE processor. You can find a lot of waste disposal companies online, but if you want to confirm that they are properly registered for WEEE, you can check on the Environment Agency website.
Vintage lighting with modern technology
With modern LED technology you can have the look of an old-style incandescent lamp and energy efficiency too, using reliable, cost-effective LEDs with ‘filaments’ inside the bulb.
LEDs have long lives, so manufacturers like the vintage trend which gives people who might not need to replace their light bulbs a reason to change them anyway. If you’re going to be living with your new vintage-effect light bulbs for a long time, it’s important to choose a style you really like to fit in with your lighting design. There are plenty of choices available.
Most vintage-style LEDs create the filament effect by stringing light-emitting diodes together inside of the bulb. Depending on how these filaments are created and arranged, your light can look very different.
Filaments set in columns can give a more industrial look, while a twisted filament can give a more decorative effect and evenly dispersed light. Some bulbs with multiple filaments can cast interesting shadows where the filaments cross over.
Most of the vintage-style bulbs are dimmable, but there could be some flickering or a buzz in the dimmer switches, so it’s worth checking bulbs and dimmer switches carefully if you are looking for vintage lighting that will create just the right mood.
These vintage-style LEDs are intended to be exposed, so some of them aren’t as bright as conventional bulbs that will be used with a lampshade. However, the packaging can sometimes give the wrong impression, so the best way to judge is to look at the lumens. 450 lumens will only be an accent light. If you want enough light to read by, look for bulbs with at least 800 lumens. Some vintage-style bulbs can go up to a bright 1500 lumens.
Many of these bulbs will have a yellow or orange tone to fit with the vintage feel. Some even use tinted globes. If you don’t want to distort your colours too much, clear glass bulbs will be your best choice.
Almost all vintage-style LEDs will work with smart switches and in lamps plugged into a smart plug, so they are good for automated lighting schemes. You can turn them on and off when you want or control them using voice commands.
Electrical safety checks for schools
With the summer holidays approaching many Head Teachers and Facilities Managers will be planning annual maintenance and inspection.
The National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC) has a useful School’s Pack with information about current requirements for electrical checks.
The main risks are electrical shocks, burns and fires. This can happen because electrical installations and equipment have deteriorated, or because switches, sockets, wiring or equipment have been damaged. Misuse of equipment can also lead to problems.
To be sure your school is protected from these risks, a good maintenance programme is essential.
A full electrical installation condition report (EICR) every five years is good practice and a visual inspection every six months is a good idea. Be on the lookout for worn or damaged cables, signs of scorching around electrical sockets and broken sockets and switches.
You should keep a record of all your electrical inspections and tests as well as your electrical maintenance plan.
If you’re in any doubt about your electrical equipment or wiring at any time, then it’s important that a qualified electrician takes a look.
Please get in touch if you would like to arrange an electrical inspection for your school.
Portable Appliance Testing (PAT)
Electrical equipment must be maintained in a safe condition. How often you need to arrange checks will depend on the type of equipment and how it is used.
Kettles in kitchens, glue guns in art classrooms and IT equipment, for example, should be checked every 12 months. Other equipment should be checked regularly and at least every four years.
A competent person will need to complete the checks. In low-risk environments a visual inspection by a member of staff might be all that is needed. For combined inspection and testing, the person will need:
• the right test equipment
• training to use test equipment properly
• ability to properly understand the test results.
The electrical world is full of letters and terms – here we explain some of them.
If the term you’re looking for isn’t here, please get in touch and we will be happy to tell you about it and add a simple explanation to our list.
AC - an abbreviation for alternating current. Electricity is all about electrons travelling through a conductor (like copper). When electrons alternately move in different directions it is an alternating current. AC current us used for homes and businesses.
DC – an abbreviation for direct current where the electrons are all moving in the same direction. DC current is used to charge batteries, for electronic systems, some industrial processes and high voltage power transmission.
Amp – the unit for measuring electrical current.
BS7671 – the UK national safety standard for electrical installations, also known as the wiring regulations.
Circuit – electricity needs to flow continuously, without any breaks, and this is called a circuit.
Consumer unit – used to control electricity. The unit will often include a main switch, fuses, circuit breakers or residual current devices (RCDs).
Current – the more electrons travelling through the conductor, the more power they deliver. Large electrical currents are dangerous.
Earth – the earth wire will direct the electricity straight into the ground rather than passing through you. Earth wires are usually marked with yellow and green striped plastic covers.
Fuse – a key part at the beginning of an electrical circuit to prevent too much electricity from passing through wiring. Often a circuit breaker will cut power when something is overloaded to prevent the cable and equipment overheating and becoming a fire hazard.
Insulation – a coating, usually plastic, around conducting materials.
IP rating – categorisation of safe lighting. For example, high IP ratings are for bathrooms or outside and lower IP ratings are for indoor lighting.
Joule – the unit for measuring electrical energy.
Live – a wire carrying electricity, commonly coated in brown plastic (note - older systems might include live wires covered with red plastic). You can receive an electrical shock from live wires.
Neutral – a neutral wire completes an electrical circuit and allows electrons to flow. Neutral wires are usually covered in blue plastic (note - older systems might use a black plastic covering).
Part P – a section of the Building Regulations for England and Wales about electrical installations in domestic properties.
Transformer – used to change voltage, to dim lighting for example.
Voltage – the unit for measuring the force of electricity moving through wires. High voltage locations are often marked as dangerous.
Watt – a unit to measure electrical power.
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