Electrical Questions & Answers

Frequently asked questions about our electrical services.

Electrical Installation FAQs

The sockets circuit breaker fuse keeps tripping inside the Consumer Unit?
If a fuse or Miniature Circuit Breaker (MCB) inside the Consumer Unit regularly keeps tripping, then this would generally be caused by an overload of the circuit. Normally appliances like tumble dryers, machinery and heaters can draw too much current when used all together resulting in an overload that will cause the MCB to trip, it is also worth noting that occasionally the MCB may also be at fault.
One of the RCDs in the Consumer Unit trips but can’t be reset?
If an RCD protecting one of circuits will not reset, then, unless you have a faulty RCD, it will have detected a problem within one of the protected circuits. This can be due to a number of reasons to include damaged cable, shorting through moisture, or even a faulty appliance that is plugged in to the circuit. Try unplugging everything in the circuit (if its sockets) and see if the RCB will reset. It’s very important that If the problem persists, then STOP and call SWES to book a registered electrician immediately.
Why do light circuits now need RCD protection?
As of January 1st 2019, all new lighting circuits under the 18th edition of the BS7671 are required to have additional protection by Residual Current Device (RCD). In the event of an earth fault condition on the lighting circuit, then the RCD would sense the imbalance between the Line and Neutral current flows and trip in a time so quick that prevention of shock to human would be avoided if they came into direct contact with a live metallic light fitting, unprotected junction or damaged cable. The requirement for RCD protection is also relevant to socket outlets, showers, wet rooms, swimming pools, caravans etc.……. almost everything is now leaning toward the protection of RCD if deemed appropriate.
No earth wire at a light fitting point?
Under earlier wiring regulations pre 1966, there was no requirement for electricians to install an earth Circuit Protective Device (CPC), and therefore it is extremely common to encounter missing earth cables at light fitting points when coming to upgrade. Now, with metallic conductive fittings, this possess a very real threat of electrocution if one of the live conductors were to come into direct contact with the fitting resulting in the entire fitting becoming live. Whilst there is no current legislation to enforce rewiring if this is the case, however, it is advisable to have a SWES electrician carry out this work. Where budgets dictate, then a simpler short-term measure would be the fitment of class 2 items only, as these are double insulated. Clear identification of the lack of earth on the circuit would need to be highlighted on a decal at the consumer unit as a warning to other electricians, business and homeowners.
How do you know if electricians are part P?

The misunderstanding around qualified electricians and part P is very common. In a nut shell an electrician must be qualified (competent person) to carry out electrical installation works. If training as an electrician this person must be supervised at all times. Even the supervisor may not be appropriately qualified or certified under an approved scheme to test and commission the installation upon completion (sign the work off).

Electrical Installation works are notifiable to Building control (Part P) which is not a qualification, it is Part P of the building regulations. If an electrician is not registered to a Government Approved Scheme Provider, then the generic IET format Electrical Installation Certificates would have to be sent to the building control direct, and can incur further cost to the customer. However if an electrician is registered to a Government Approved Scheme Provider then the Part P notification is taken are of via the scheme provider for a small charge to the electrician or electrical contractor.

There are always the rogue tradesmen who don’t tell the truth about their qualifications or registrations to a Government Approved Scheme Provider such as the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC). To check if the electrical contractor that you hired is registered you can ask them for their registration number and then check with one of the approved schemes, or you could check the ‘competent person register’ by clicking here.

Do I need to change the existing Consumer Unit?

If the Consumer Unit is an old type fuse board with rewireable fuses then SWES strongly recommends upgrading to an 18th Edition metal clad Consumer Unit.

There is no regulation to force the change of a consumer unit, even if not all circuits are RCD protected. However, if the board fails its IPX rated inspection (holes or cracks in the old consumer unit big enough to put fingers inside), or is falling apart, then a danger notice could be served if the owner is not willing to invest for safety reasons. Electrical regulations are updated regularly as technology develops, or for health & safety reasons, however, to that end just because a consumer unit is not compliant with current regulations but is safe, then electricians should not be enforcing Consumer Unit changes on to owners for existing installations pre 18th edition for reasons such as plastic Consumer Units, or missing RCDs on lighting circuits.

Does a domestic dwelling require re-wiring if it has mixed colored wiring?
No, testing is accurate, and only the need to repair and ensure wiring is of the correct type for intended use is required. A decal at your old or new consumer unit will notify owners and electricians of installations with mixed colored wiring as a precaution. To that end as with all wiring, the only time a re-wire should take place is for damaged or incorrect sizing.

Electrical Inspection & Test FAQs

Is testing required by law of the existing electrical installation even though no works or changes to the existing electrical installation have been made?

There is no current Law that requires testing of existing residential, commercial or industrial electrical installations unless changes or new installations of circuits have taken place. Any additions to circuits are generally covered under a Minor Works Certificate, and circuit changes, or new circuits would be covered under an Electrical Installation Certificate (Part P) and both certificates require relevant inspection and testing according to the certification type.

However, as of 1st July 2020 all landlords renting out residential properties under a new law, will have to instruct an approved electrician to carry out an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR), commonly known as a Landlords or Safety Certificate, at every periodic inspection anniversary, tenant contract renewal or change of tenant, and a current EICR must be in place by the 1st April 2021 to avoid breaking the new law in England and Wales.

If there’s currently no law (excluding landlords) to force testing of untouched existing electrical installations, then why have any testing at all?
There has always been a requirement to satisfy Health & Safety legislation. In 1989 The Electricity at Work Regulations came into force, which clarifies the need to maintain electrical systems safely, so there has always been the need for owners to take responsibility of any installation. Any Electrical inspection & test data information provided to owners from any testing will form a major part of any owners defence should an accident occur which leads to prosecution.
Do Insurance Companies require the existing electrical installation to have a test of some kind?
Although not law, more and more Insurance Companies are now insisting that an Inspection & Test of existing electrical installations, whether domestic, commercial or industrial be carried out on a regular basis (periodically). If the property suffers an avoidable accident as a result of the existing installation, then under current law, if the owner is found guilty, then the owner will be deemed to have committed a criminal offence. Insurers will not pay fines or compensation if the accident is as a result of a criminal offence. SWES recommends that if any owner is unsure, then make contact with your insurer ASAP.
As a current Landlord of housing, is the Landlord required to have Safety Certificate of some kind?
Yes, as of 1st July 2020 all landlords renting out residential properties under a new law, will have to instruct an approved electrician to carry out an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR), commonly known as a Landlords or Safety Certificate, at every periodic inspection anniversary, tenant contract renewal or change of tenant, and a current EICR must be in place by the 1st April 2021 to avoid breaking the new law in England and Wales.
Are rented business premisses Periodic Inspections the responsibility of the commercial tenant, or the Landlord?
The business renting the premises is obligated under law to ensure all staff comply with Health & Safety legislation. Depending upon the contract lease terms, then this will clarify the cost responsibility for electrical testing. It is usual to find full repair and upkeep cost of the commercial lease falls on the business. Portable appliance testing will always be the responsibility of the business.
Is it true that only a minimum percentage of the existing electrical installation requires Inspection & Testing in order to comply with regulations?
IEE Regulations; you can only rely on sample testing if all previous installation records are available, the current installation is considered to be in excellent condition, with no faults found during sampling, and no undocumented alterations have taken place since the installation was either last tested, or the original commission test. As is common, this is not true for the high majority of current installations (especially domestic), and therefore ideally a full inspection & test should be undertaken.
How often should portable appliances be tested?
Earlier tests should be considered in the test program of risk assessment. Even without any such records then the following intervals may be considered as a guide. It is important not to forget that other factors including the ability of site staff to recognise any possible defects or damage, and consider appropriate actions. Mechanical damage and misuse should also be considered. Low risk would be 24 monthly or more, Medium risk would be 12 monthly and High risk (i.e. workshop equipment) would be 6 monthly. Very High risk would be 3 monthly (i.e. site equipment).
There is a decal on my Consumer Unit stating that a 6 monthly RCD push button test should be carried out, do I need an electrician?
No, and again with no legal obligation, the RCD push button test notice is for piece of mind, and continued confirmation of RCD integrity of functionality. The RCD is an important modern safety feature for protection against electrical shock in an electrical circuit fault condition, and therefore the important push button test is part of the owner’s responsibility of confirming continued serviceability of the RCD. If the RCD test button fails to operate the RCD, then please call a SWES electrician immediately.
The next inspection date anniversary is out of date on the Consumer Unit decal, is it against the law?
For own use domestic properties, then no. There is no legal requirement to have a domestic property test and inspected once out of date if the property is a permanent place of residence and owned by that resident. However, for Industrial, Commercial and Domestic properties used for living or holiday lets, then the breach of law would be in accordance with Health & Safety and therefore would be illegal. Please read note above about the change in law for Landlords and rented residential properties.
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