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Online "How To" Videos
Are Loose Connections Really That Serious?
Very Dangerous Wiring
Loose Connections
Inspections

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Online "How To" Videos

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.

Are Loose Connections Really That Serious?

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.

Very Dangerous Wiring

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.

Loose Connections

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.

Inspections

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.

Cables in Walls

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.

RCDs - They can save your life

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.

How not to install a new consumer unit

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.

I am furious

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!

Lightbulbs

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.