Electrical hazards are a pressing concern for all homeowners.
The regulations that electricians adhere to, do a great job of keeping safety standards high.
Unfortunately though, many households still fall behind in electrical safety.
This is especially true if you live in an older home, or in one that hasn't been updated from time to time.
As electricians we are still seeing hazards in peoples home that were regulated against 10-15 years ago.
We're going to share some of the most common offenders with you now.
1 - Incorrect Light Fittings In A Bath/Shower Room.
We all know the relationship between electricity and water isn't a good one.
That's why it's essential that your light/s are protected against the sprays or mists commonly found in a bath/shower room.
Any light fitting in service should be of the correct IP rating for the zone or fed from a low voltage supply.
An IP rating indicates its protection against jets, splashes or immersion in water.
The closer to the shower/bath you get, the higher degree of protection you need.
Here is a basic overview of minimum levels of protection, per zone in your bath/shower room.
- Zone 0 – IPX7
- Zone 1 – IPX4 (X5 if water jets are present)
- Zone 2 – IPX4 (X5 if water jets are present)
- Outside zones – IPXXB or IP2X
If anything like a pendant or a fitting with an exposed mains powered lamp (see below images) is fitted on a ceiling lower than 2.25 metres, it will most certainly be a potential electrical hazard to occupants.
Additionally all circuits serving, or passing through a bath/shower room MUST be protected by a 30 Ma RCD.
(For more information regarding RCD's please refer to section 3)
If in doubt call a qualified electrician to confirm what fittings you have and if they are safe.
2 - Sockets & switches too close to sinks
Very similar to the previous point.
Sockets and switches that are too close to sinks/basins, increase the chance of appliances falling into water, or somebody with wet hands unplugging something or turning a light on.
The minimum distance from the edge of a switch is 300mm for a socket or switch. Of course the further away the better.
If you see any sockets or switches close to your sink, arrange to have it either relocated or made safe by a qualified electrician.
Without the proper level of protection on things like sockets showers, lighting and fixed appliances the risk of electric shock increases dramatically.
The RCD (residual current device) has saved numerous lives since its adoption.
Many homes STILL don't have them installed or only covering a small percentage of the installation.
Without going into the mechanics of an one, an RCD is a crucial protective feature against earth faults.
If its detects an imbalance in the circuit/s it monitors, it will trip, and will not be able to reset until the fault is cleared.
Example of faults it protects against
These faults could have been, electricity connecting with earthed metallic surfaces, water or the human body.
With reaction times of milli seconds in fault events, its essential safety kit for the home.
Here are some common brands and types of RCDs and RCBO's,
hopefully when you look at your fuseboard/consumer unit you'll find one or two of these protecting your electrical circuits.
Some may look similar to your existing breakers, so look out for the test button as a point of difference.
If they are missing or you're unsure of what the existing ones are protecting, consult a competent electrician for advice.
4 DIY/Novice Electrics
DIY electrics have been the cause of many a call out for us.
We've seen both “innovative” and terrifying examples of DIY wiring.
Things like these.
DIY work leaves home owners exposed to the risks of fire and shock.
This sort work is rarely ever compliant and potentially expensive to rectify.
In the worst case's it will need rewiring from scratch!
It's essential that all electrical work must be carried out by a qualified electrician.
If you're buying a house, get it tested to make sure there are no electrical hazards left by previous owners.
5 - Not Having Fire Rated Down lights
This is more of a fire related issue, although the responsibility still lies with the electrician installing or replacing down lights.
The holes made in a ceiling to house down lights, offer a route for fire and smoke to reach the upper floors of a property.
Fire rated down lights are designed to seal the hole to prevent fire reaching structural timbers or inhabitants upstairs.
They can buy anywhere from 30-90 minutes of valuable time in a fire!
Unfortunately we are still seeing non fire rated down lights in service and even being installed from new!
Luckily a lot of new fittings are now fire rated as standard, but a few retailers still sell non compliant ones.
If the lights are accessible, then fire hoods like this can be used to rectify the issue.
If they cant be reached then it's highly recommended that they are updated.
If you have concerns about your down lights, its best to get them checked out for peace of mind.
Hopefully youve made it through this post with a clean bill of electrical health.
If you have any question regarding these issues, feel free to leave a comment or email us directly.