Electrical safety tips for home improvements
Do you have big plans to renovate your home this year? Perhaps you are building a new extension. Or maybe just want to bring the wow factor back to your bathroom. Either way, electrical safety is paramount when giving your home a makeover. Faulty electrics can be a serious fire hazard and can lead to electrocution and serious injury or death. Don’t risk it.
Here are a few tips:
Hire an electrician
Some simpler tasks, such as replacing a lighting fixture, can be done by a competent DIYer. For more significant work, always hire a professional. For the safety of you and your family, any fixed electrical installation work in homes, gardens and outbuildings must, by law, meet the Building Regulations. Part P states that the work must be designed and installed to protect people from fire and electric shocks.
So, the top tip is never work beyond your skillset. Apart from some types of minor work, all electrical work must either be reported to the local authority building control department to inspect or be carried out by an electrician who is registered with one of the government-approved provider schemes. Councils can make homeowners remove or alter any work that doesn’t meet the Building Regulations.
Rewiring a home
If your home has not been rewired within the last 25-30 years, it’s likely to need rewiring at least in part to bring it up to current standards. Similarly, if you’re extending or remodelling your home it may need a partial rewire. Sometimes a full rewire can be avoided. It may be possible to upgrade it by adding a modern consumer unit (fuse box) if the cabling is sound and able to carry any additional loads. If you are unsure don’t take any chances – call in an electrician registered with a government-approved scheme to check. Electrical Safety First strongly recommends homeowners hire a competent, experienced, registered electrician.
Make an electrical plan
Cabling is hidden behind walls, so easy to forget. But fitting new cabling and sockets will affect the plasterwork, so try to have electrical work planned out at the early stages of your project and at the same time as any central heating or plumbing changes. Draw-up an electrical plan before the work begins. Using a plan of your home, mark the location of light fittings, power sockets and switches. Think about adding extras like bedside, walk-in closet/dressing room and under cabinet lighting.
When work is finished, make sure you have plans to show cable routes wherever new electrical work has been carried out. This will help prevent accidentally drilling into wires when putting up shelves or coat hooks. It can also be a handy reference for any future repairs.
Think about where you’d like to be able to have easy access to electricity in your new home extension or remodelled rooms. Plan how many additional outlets you will need to ask your electrician to add to avoid relying on extension leads. Additions mid-way through a project can be costly. Remember to include supplies to fixed appliances, such as oven and dishwasher, as well as small items like kettles and toasters. Avoid overloading sockets. Make sure you are aware of the limits of your power outlets and stay within them. Too many appliances and too many extension cables can cause fires.
Register new appliances
If you have purchased new appliances, don’t forget to send off the guarantee registration card or register it online. This ensures you are notified of any safety recalls or repairs affecting your appliance. If a company discovers a serious fault, they will contact all the customers who are known to have purchased the affected appliance. It’s not uncommon for serious safety issues to emerge years after purchase. Currently, certain makes of tumble dryer are in the news because of the risk of fire caused by fluff coming into contacts with heating elements. Consumers can arrange for engineers to modify the appliance free of charge.
Use a residual current device (RCD)
Make sure your home is fitted with a RCD before beginning any home improvements. These are switches that trip a circuit and instantly disconnect the electricity under dangerous conditions to prevent you from getting a fatal electric shock. It also provides some protection against electrical fire. The RCD work by constantly monitoring the electric current flowing through one or more circuits. If it detects electricity flowing down an unintended path, for example if a person touched a bare wire, the RCD will switch the circuit off very quickly, reducing the risk or serious injury or death. Check you have one fitted in your consumer unit (fusebox) and, if necessary, use a plug-in RCD.
Water and electricity
Contactors must follow special regulations for bathroom installations because of a higher risk of electric shock for users due to being so close to water. It’s strongly recommended to use an electrician registered with a government-approved scheme who can make your lovely new bathroom as safe as possible by carefully following wiring and building regulations.
That said, there are some basic safety tips it’s good to be aware of. For example, pick enclosed ceiling lights instead of bulbs that hang down. The idea is they must be out of reach of anyone who is still wet from being in the shower or bath. A standard everyday light switch in the bathroom is a danger due to wet hands that might touch it. A ceiling-mounted light pull is the safest option or a switch outside of the bathroom. There shouldn’t be any sockets in bathrooms or shower rooms, apart from shaver supply units, unless they can be fitted at least three metres from the bath or shower, according to Electrical Safety First.
Special care is also needed when installing kitchen appliances and outdoor lighting. Water and electricity can be lethal.
Choose a registered electrician
The best way to avoid problems is to use a registered electrician with the knowledge, skills and experience to prevent any danger to themselves and others. They work to the UK standard and will give you a safety certificate to confirm their work has been designed, inspected and tested to comply with Building Regulations (BS 7671). Check your chosen electrician is registered with one of the following government-approved schemes: BRE Certification Ltd, British Standards Institution, ELECSA Ltd, NAPIT Registration Ltd, NICEIC Group Ltd, SELECT (Scotland) and STROMA.
Never take risks with electrical safety.