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Orchard Electrical Services

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Online "How To" Videos

Posted on April 20, 2016 at 7:09 AM Comments comments (2570)
How many people have undertaken DIY around the house, using an online "how to" video as a guide? There are something like three million of them around, covering just about every possible project you could want.
The fact is, though, that some of the DIYers who post their "expert" advice don't always know their stuff. Some of the video guides out there are not just unhelpful, they can actually put you in danger.
Research by the charity Electrical Safety First found that around one in 12 people who undertook electrical work using an online video as a guide ended up either causing damage to their property or having to pay for costly repairs because the advice they followed was wrong.
Furthermore, one in 10 of those people had experienced an electric shock while carrying out the work.
To highlight the issue, Electrical Safety First have released a series of mock "how to" videos, which show the potential danger of following this kind of DIY instructions. Take a look at this one.
Electricity can be very dangerous, so please don't put yourself at risk. The internet is a great resource but it's no substitute for a competent, trained professional who knows how to get the job done properly and safely.

Are Loose Connections Really That Serious?

Posted on April 23, 2015 at 10:43 AM Comments comments (607)
A while ago, I wrote a post about poor or loose connections inside sockets and switches. Since then I've had quite a few people asking if that's really a big deal, so I thought I'd share what I found in a property the other day.
The client contacted me because she'd smelt a "fishy" smell coming from a socket and had seen smoke coming out of it when she plugged something in.
Smoke coming from anything electrical is a pretty good indicator that something's quite seriously wrong, so I made sure I went in the same day.
The picture on the left is what I found when I opened up the socket. The Neutral had been very poorly connected to the socket, causing high resistance which generated heat. 
A lot of heat.
As you can see in the picture, that heat had burned away the insulation on the Neutral wire and had melted the inside of the socket. The burning plastic was what caused the fishy smell and, obviously, the smoke. Left unchecked, that socket would have caught fire in very short order. 
Not only did the socket have to be replaced, the Neutral wire had to be cut back to clean copper and a new section spliced in.
So to the question of whether loose connections are a serious matter, the answer is a resounding "Yes!"
If you hear a crackling noise, see sparks or smell a burning or "fishy" smell, call your electrician at once. Don't let it get to this stage. 

Very Dangerous Wiring

Posted on April 14, 2015 at 8:14 AM Comments comments (908)
I was called out recently by a repeat client, who said her bathroom light had started flickering. When I climbed up into the loft to check the problem, I found this.
The wiring had been left sitting right on top of the light fitting. Over time, the heat from the light had burned through the insulation and melted the connector blocks, causing the connections to loosen. It was almost impossible for me to tell which was the Live wire and which was the Neutral; they were all burned black. I had to cut out and replace that entire section.
I've seen the same issue many times but this is definitely one of the worst examples. I'm sure you don't need to be an electrician to see how dangerous this is. Basically, it was a fire just waiting to start.
If the client hadn't noticed the light flickering, I shudder to think what might have happened.
If one of your lights is flickering, please don't ignore it. Get it checked; it could save your life.

Loose Connections

Posted on August 7, 2013 at 3:12 PM Comments comments (5)
One of the more common problems I - and I'm sure most electricians - come across is loose or detached connections inside sockets, switches, etc, something which often isn't noticed until a light or socket fails.
A loose connection might not seem like a big deal but think about this; a poor connection means increased resistance. Increased resistance generates heat which causes deterioration or damage to the wiring, resulting in it failing or, in serious cases, causing a fire. I've seen more than one instance where the wiring inside a socket has been very badly charred.
Also, if the bad connection is in a ring main, that could mean more current flowing through the cables than they are rated to carry. That can result in an overload, another serious fire risk.
You might have a light which flickers when it's turned on or you may hear a faint crackling sound from inside a socket or switch, or possibly even see a spark; that's called arcing and is a good indicator that there's a loose connection.
As always, my advice is if you're in any doubt, consult a qualified electrician. Better safe than sorry.


Posted on April 15, 2013 at 9:56 AM Comments comments (5)
Consider something for a moment; you have an MOT carried out on your car every year, your boiler serviced every year and so on. When was the last time you had your electrical wiring inspected?
Electrical wiring deteriorates with time and use, which can give rise to problems and potential safety hazards.
A wiring inspection, or Electrical Installation Condition Report to give it its full name, is like an MOT for your wiring and can help to identify issues before they become serious faults.
It's recommended that the electrical installation in a dwelling is inspected every 10 years at most, or when the property is sold.
At a typical cost of £100-150, depending on the size of the property, an inspection might sound like a costly exercise but when you consider that putting right a serious fault could cost several hundred pounds, an inspection that could well prevent that fault from developing starts to look like the cheaper option, to say nothing of the peace of mind you gain from knowing the electrical wiring in your home is safe.

Cables in Walls

Posted on March 19, 2013 at 5:40 PM Comments comments (11)
With the Easter Bank Holiday weekend approaching, a time when many people tackle DIY projects, I thought it would be a good idea to offer some advice about cables buried in walls.Supposing, for instance, that you're putting up some new shelves; you're going to need to drill into the wall to fix them up. Be very careful to make sure you're clear of any cables that might be running inside the wall.
As a general rule, buried cables run vertically into sockets or switches on the wall, usually coming down the wall, so make sure you don't drill directly above a plug socket or a switch.
That's only a general rule, though; I've seen far too many examples of cables being run outside these "safe zones." As an example, a friend of mine who's a non-electrical tradesman had to call me out a few days ago after he drilled through a cable that was running up the wall at an angle. He was a very lucky man - the main supply fuse blew before he suffered what could have been a fatal shock.
My advice to you is, check carefully before you drill into a wall. The best option is to check with a cable detector, just in case there are any cables in unexpected places. They only cost about £15, which is nothing compared to your life and safety.
Remember - Electricity Can Kill.

RCDs - They can save your life

Posted on February 26, 2013 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (139)
I was talking to an old friend the other day, and the subject got around to the work I'd been doing recently. When I mentioned that I'd happened upon a faulty RCD on a job the previous day, his reaction was: "What's an RCD?" He's not the first person to ask me that question, and I thought it was about time to offer some advice on the subject.
An RCD, or Residual Current Device to give it its full name, is a device which can quite literally save your life by preventing you from suffering a fatal electric shock if you touch a live part, such as a bare wire. As well as providing a degree of personal protection well beyond that of fuses or circuit breakers, RCDs can also help to protect against electrical fires.
Did you know that every year, about 70 people die and 350,000 are injured in the UK as a result of electrical accidents at home? An estimated 4,000 house fires caused by electricity might also have been prevented by fitting RCD protection in the consumer unit. Despite this, more than half of UK homes – that’s 13 million - have either inadequate RCD protection, or none at all.
RCD protection is especially important if you're using mains-powered electrical equipment outdoors, where there is an increased risk of electric shock - imagine what could happen if you ran your lawnmower over its own power cable.
This is the kind of button you're looking for.To check whether you already have RCD protection installed, look inside your consumer unit and see if there is a device with a push button marked "Test", or even just "T". That test button is part of the RCD. There should also be a label on or near the consumer unit which says the RCD should be tested every three months, something many people don't realise. For instance, I only discovered the faulty RCD I mentioned earlier during essential testing after replacing a cooker hood. The client concerned had no idea the RCDs needed to be tested; who knows how long it had been faulty?
Testing couldn't be easier; just push the test button and the RCD should switch off the power to the area of the home that it protects. Then just push the trip switch back to the "On" position to restore the supply. Some consumer units may have two RCDs installed, or each circuit breaker might even incorporate its own RCD. Just look for the test button.
If the RCD doesn't switch off the power when the test button is pushed, or if it doesn't switch back on, call a qualified electrician straight away.
There you have it; a functioning RCD can literally be a lifesaver. So, stop reading this and go and check your RCD protection right now.

How not to install a new consumer unit

Posted on January 30, 2013 at 5:53 AM Comments comments (8)
I was asked a couple of weeks ago to go and look at a house which the owners rent out. The fuse board was replaced late last year by someone employed by the management company handling the tenancy. The owners told me that they weren't happy with where the board had been sited, and would I take a look and give them my opinion?
I met the client at the house and was shown the new consumer unit; I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry!

An interesting position for a fuse board

As you can see, the board had been fixed extending beyond the edge of the ceiling, making it impossible to bring any cables into that side of the board. The installer had worked around this "small" problem by bringing extender cables out of the side and connecting them to the fixed wiring inside the steel box on the left.

A closeup view of what was inside the metal box

Quite apart from the whole thing being really unsightly, there were 12 connections - that's 24 individual wires - inside a box only four inches square. To say it was crowded in there is an understatement! That's far too many wires for safety, crammed into a small space, leaving aside the facts that more than one connection was loose and the metal box hadn't been connected to earth.

After - Everything neatly and safely in place.

I advised the client that the best option would be to reposition the consumer unit on the adjacent wall and this would almost certainly involve replacing it, given the holes which had been cut in it. I was given the go-ahead, and the finished result is shown here. Much tidier, and a great deal safer!

To be honest, I can't really understand why the last guy did it that way in the first place. Not only would it have been obvious from the outset that it would be a mess, not to mention the safety concerns, but positioning the new board where he did must have made it a far more difficult job.

I am furious

Posted on November 26, 2012 at 3:52 PM Comments comments (6)
I've just completed a job which, while extensive, should have been pretty straightforward. I say "should"; it would have been if the last electrician who worked on the house had been anywhere near competent.
When I began work in the house, I found more safety issues than I like to think about. The two worst were;
Seven (yes, SEVEN!) cables, including a cooker cable, all crammed inside a length of trunking that was only big enough for two or three at best. When I separated out the cables, the ones at the back were warm to the touch!
Inside the consumer unit, I found three circuits connected into one breaker. That's bad enough but before I even put a screwdriver to the breaker, two of the live wires lifted straight out!
To be honest, I'm actually amazed that the homeowners hadn't had a fire years ago.
Things like this make me so angry, not to mention ashamed on behalf of every competent electrician out there. Things like this are the reason that Part P was introduced, and why you should always use an Approved Contractor.
I wonder how many other bodge jobs the last guy perpetrated and how he sleeps at night?


Posted on October 9, 2012 at 11:23 AM Comments comments (9)
I was called out recently, to a client who was having trouble with lightbulbs which kept failing or, in a couple of cases, falling out of the fitting, leaving the base in the light.
It turned out that the bulbs in question were too high a rating for the fitting, and this got me thinking. How many people actually check when they change a bulb, that it's the correct rating for the light?
I know it doesn't sound like a big deal but consider this; lightbulbs get hot (anyone who's ever touched one when it's on knows this) and the higher their rating, the hotter they get. That heat needs space to dissipate and if the light fitting is a smaller design, then there's nowhere for the heat to go. That's when problems arise.
Excess heat from a bulb that's too high a rating for the fitting can cause the bulbs to fail prematurely, or even damage the light fitting itself, as happened to the client concerned.
In extreme cases, this can even result in a fire risk. I've seen a couple of instances where very powerful bulbs have been placed inside small fabric lampshades and have ended up burning holes in the shades.
Always check that the bulb you're putting in a light is the correct rating for the fitting. The rating is normally labelled on the fitting, or inside the lampshade. If it's a new light fitting that's being installed, then the bulb rating should also be printed on the packaging.
It sounds obvious, I know, but I've seen this kind of problem more than once, and I think a lot of people just don't realise the possible dangers that can arise.