What is an RCD?

What is an RCD?

An RCD (Residual Current Device) is a safety device that switches electricity off immediately if there is a fault and it therefore provides protection against electric shock and potential death.  I always thought that an RCD was just some sort of safety plug that you used with your lawn mower and didn’t understand that there are a number of different types of RCD.  Also, I hadn’t realised just how important these devices are.

There are 3 main types of RCD:

Fixed RCDs are installed in your consumer unit (or fuse board) and this provides the best protection as it covers all sockets and appliances on the circuit connected through it.

Socket-outlet RCDs replace standard sockets and protect only a person in contact with equipment plugged into the socket.

Portable RCDs are plugged into any socket and then an appliance can be plugged into the portable RCD to provide protection.  This is the one I had come across as they are most commonly used for appliances used outdoors such as lawn mowers.

I read an article from the Electrical Safety Council recently and in it they provide some frightening statistics which highlight the need for RCDs.  Every week someone in the UK dies in their home through an electrical-related accident and thousands of people are injured every year.  In addition to this, 50% of fires in homes (around 21,000) are attributed to electrical faults.  Almost all electrocutions in the home and 20% of the fires above could be prevented if Fixed RCDs were installed at the fuse board.  Half of the homes in the UK don’t have this RCD protection installed.

If you’ve had a rewire recently or had a new fuse board installed the chances are that you’ll have built in RCD protection but if you’re not sure, ask your Part P approved electrician to take a look for you.  If you don’t currently have fixed RCD protection you may wish to consider upgrading to a new fuse board with built-in RCDs.  As a minimum, please use portable RCDs for any equipment used outside or near water e.g. lawn mowers, hedge cutters, etc.   Using RCD protection could save your life!

Extension leads and adaptors

Extension leads and adaptors – how to use them safely

We have so much electrical equipment in our homes these days that most of us use electrical extension leads and adaptors.  We never seem to have enough sockets in the right places!  But what are the dangers with using extension leads and adapters and how can you make sure you are using them safely?

All too often our team comes across daisy chains of extension leads or adapters piled up like the Leaning Tower of Pisa,  running a number of high current appliances such as electric heaters, kettles, irons and tumble dryers.  Overloading circuits in this way increases the risk of fire.  But this is not the only risk.  Cable damage is common with extension leads and this can lead to one of the conductors failing which can result in electric shock.

So, here are my tops tips for the safe use of extension leads:

  1. Don’t use extension leads and adaptors unless you have to.  Where possible, ask an electrician to fit more sockets for you.
  2. Be aware of the maximum loading for the adaptor or extension lead and the rating of appliances you are plugging into them.  A typical extension lead has a maximum loading of 13A.  Don’t overload with more than one high current appliance.
  3. If you do need to use an extension lead, buy one from a reputable retailer and make sure any adaptor used complies with British Standards.
  4. It’s advisable not to use an extension cable that exceeds 15m.  If you use a cable drum extension lead, unwind the cable from the drum completely before use to avoid the cable overheating
  5. Avoid trailing leads under carpets and rugs as this may result in damage to the cable.  Where a lead has to cross an area where people walk, cover the lead with a rubber protector.
  6. Never be tempted to join two lengths of flex by twisting the bared ends of wires together, even if you bind them with insulating tape!
  7. Always check that leads, plugs and sockets are undamaged before use.  If there are any burn marks on a lead, plug or socket, do not use and seek advice from your electrician.

It’s ok to use an extension lead for low current appliances such as your TV, DVD, etc but it’s always safer to plug one appliance into one socket.  As a guide, it should never cost you more than around £75* to have an extra double socket fitted.

Next time I’ll be talking about RCDs – what they are and how they can prevent electrical shock.

*subject to survey

Carbon Neutral Compact Home

Do you think you could live in a cube 3 meters square? Morgans Electrical have recently been involved in an innovative project led by Dr. Mike Page from the University of Hertfordshire. Dr. Page designed a complete home within a 3m cube with the aim of showing that one person could live in comfort in a home this size with minimal impact on the environment. Morgans Electrical have sponsored this project by installing the electrics and Solar PV system for the home. For more details and a short video click here

Part P

Part P – what is it and why is it important?

Part P refers to the section of the building regulations concerned with the design and installation of electrical installations.  Since January 2005, it has been a requirement for anyone carrying out electrical work in homes and gardens in England and Wales to follow rules defined in Part P. These rules protect you from unsafe electrical wiring and require certain electrical jobs to be notified to the local authority building control before work commences.  However, if you use a Part P Approved electrician, they will deal with all the rules for you.  You can be assured that their work has been assessed and they are qualified and competent to carry out your electrical work.

There are other benefits to using a Part P approved electrician though.

Last week I was approached by a customer who asked if we could sort out an electrical problem that had left unresolved by another electrician.  I’m not one for turning work away but by first response was to ask the customer what response they had from the electrician when they asked them to come back and sort the problem out.  They had not been able to get hold of the electrician so had given up in frustration.  The electrical work concerned was notifiable work so I asked if the customer had used a Part P approved electrician.   My reason for asking is that a Part P approved electrician will be registered with an approval organisation.  For example, Morgans Electrical is registered with ELECSA.  The approval bodies require members to have a complaints procedure in place and importantly, they must respond to complaints raised by putting right the issue.  As a consumer, if this approach does not work, the approval body will take up the matter on your behalf and ensure the issue is put right, if necessary using another competent electrician.  In this instance, armed with this knowledge the customer was able to resolve the issue with the original electrician.

It’s also worth noting that when you have notifiable work completed though a Part P approved electrician, you will receive a certificate confirming that the work completed complies with the Building Regulations.  This certificate is important if you want to sell your home as it provides proof that your electrical installation is safe and meets with current regulations.