Counterfeit Electrical Goods

Happy new year to all our readers!  Christmas is over for another year and all the houses that were decked in Christmas lights are returning to normal and I breathe a sigh of relief that we didn’t see any of them going up in smoke!

It’s probably a symptom of being married to an electrician, but every time I saw a house covered in lights I just couldn’t help wondering where everything was plugged in to and how safe it all was.

In October, I wrote about the safe use of extension leads & adaptors and also asked what a Residual Current Device (RCD) is and I’d just like to reiterate the importance of not overloading sockets with too many adaptors and plugs and of avoiding linking extension leads together. I also talked about buying electrical accessories and devices from a reputable supplier and ensuring they conform to British Standards.

It’s sale time at the moment and there are lots of bargains to be had if you buy products on-line.  However, please be aware that you could be purchasing counterfeit products that are substandard and dangerous. Whilst you might save a few pounds you’ll almost certainly put your safety at risk, if not your life.

When you think of counterfeit goods you probably imagine DVDs, or luxury items, like Rolex watches and designer clothes & accessories. Electrical goods – extension leads, RCDs, switches, etc. – are probably the last things that spring to mind. Unfortunately, counterfeiters have realised there is a massive market to be exploited and are happy to turn out huge volumes of substandard products in order to make enormous profits.

It’s something the British Electrotechnical and Allied Manufacturers Association (BEAMA) and Voltimum, the UK Electrical Industry Portal, have recognised as a serious issue. They work closely with Trading Standards and campaign tirelessly to raise awareness of the problem.

An article on their Counterfeit Kills blog site states that since 2000, BEAMA’s Electric Dragon Campaign has “…resulted in over 12 million counterfeit products being seized and destroyed [including] plugs, sockets and switches, circuit protection equipment (eg circuit breakers), fuses and safety critical devices like RCDs.

Many of these items were destined for the UK market, and the potential consequences of their use just don’t bear thinking about.

It’s not a cheery subject, I know. But it’s something I think people should be aware of, so I make no apologies.

I wish you a very safe and prosperous new year.

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