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Orchard Electrical Services

My Blog


Are Loose Connections Really That Serious?

Posted on April 23, 2015 at 10:43 AM Comments comments (350)
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 (3)
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.

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?

What are some people thinking?

Posted on October 3, 2012 at 7:00 AM Comments comments (2)
I was called in recently to replace a couple of large fluorescent ceiling lights. When I took the old fittings down, I found they'd been put up with ordinary screws, just screwed into the plaster of the ceiling. These lights were installed by a "professional". Five-foot fluorescent lights are heavy; how on earth did they think the lights would stay up?
My advice? If you're having ceiling lights put up, ask the installer how they're being secured. A good tradesman will be happy to answer your questions.