Electricity can kill. Electricity is now the major cause of accidental fires in UK homes.
Government statistics show that electricity causes more than 20,000 fires a year - almost half of all accidental UK house fires. Each year, about 70 people are killed and 350,000 are seriously injured due to an electrical accident in the home.
Modern living has meant we use more and more electrical appliances in the home. For instance, just 20 years ago the average UK home had a hi-fi system and one TV or video, whereas today it is more likely that there are at least two TVs, a DVD player, a satellite receiver, games console, microwave and computer. So the risk of electrical accidents in the home is much higher than before.
Who should carry out electrical work in my property?
It is important that any electrical installation work is carried out only by people who are competent. This means people who have the knowledge, skills and experience needed to avoid dangers to themselves and others that electricity can create. It's easy to make an electrical circuit work - it's far harder to make the circuit work safely.
Get to know your electrics
Your property will have some of the following
The main switch in the consumer unit (fuse box) allows you to turn off the supply to your electrical installation. Some electrical installations have more than one main switch. For example, if your home is heated by electric storage heaters, you may have a separate consumer unit for them. The consumer unit should be easy to get to, so find out where the main switch is to turn the electricity off in an emergency.
Fuses Older homes often have rewireable fuses which automatically disconnect the circuit to prevent danger. When a fault or overload current flows through the fuse wire, it will become hot, and melt when the current goes above a safe level. The melted fuse breaks the faulty circuit so protecting it against overloading.
Newer homes are likely to have circuit-breakers in the consumer unit which switch off a circuit if there is a fault. Circuit-breakers are similar in size to fuse-holders, but give more precise protection than fuses. When they 'trip', you can simply reset the switch. However, you first need to find and correct the fault.
Residual current devices (RCD)
An RCD is a life-saving device which is designed to prevent you from getting a fatal electric shock if you touch something live, such as a bare wire. It provides a level of protection that ordinary fuses or circuit breakers cannot.
How old is your wiring?
Faulty and aging wiring is one of the major causes of electrical fires in the home. You can avoid these by having regular checks carried out on the condition of your cables, switches, sockets and other accessories. There are clear signs that can help you tell the age of electrical installations in your home. These are:
Cables coated in black rubber (phased out in the 1960s);
Cables coated in lead or fabric (before the 1960s);
A fuse box with a wooden back, cast iron switches, or a haphazard mixture of fuse boxes (before the 1960s);
Older round pin sockets and round light switches, braided flex hanging from ceiling roses, brown and black switches and sockets mounted in skirting boards (before the 1960s); and
Wall-mounted light switches in bathrooms (before the 1960s).
Electricity improves our daily lives - but only when used safely. Don’t create hazards by overloading sockets, and never ignore warning signs like burning smells, sounds of arcing (buzzing or crackling), fuses blowing or circuit-breakers tripping. Electrical accidents are most likely to happen when equipment is damaged or misused. Failure to correct the problem could have devastating effects. This sounds like common sense, but you would be surprised how many of us fail to follow basic safety guidelines.
When did you last check the condition and safety of your plugs, sockets and flexible cables?
Damaged plugs, sockets and flexible cables can cause electric shocks, burns and fires. For you and your family’s safety:
Check the plug and socket for burn marks, sounds of ‘arcing’ (buzzing or crackling), fuses blowing, circuit-breakers tripping or if it feels hot. Remove plugs from sockets carefully. Pulling out a plug by the cable puts a strain on it, and could damage the contact between the plug and the socket. This could result in the plug overheating, its wires becoming loose or an electric shock (if the earth wire is disconnected).
Use plugs with the British Standard safety mark - they have live and neutral pins with insulating sleeves that allow you to put them in and pull them out of sockets safely.
Always replace damaged cables immediately. Touching exposed live wires may give you an electric shock or you could even be killed.
Obvious dangers – yet we all make these mistakes
Unplug appliances before you try to do any maintenance on them
Trailing the cable under the carpet or rug to keep it out of the way.
Drying clothes on an electric heater, with water dripping onto live parts - This is particularly dangerous, and could cause an electric shock or fire. Many electrical appliances, such as heaters, have ventilation slots to prevent overheating. If these slots are covered up, the appliance could overheat and catch fire, or if water drips in, there is a risk of electric shock.
Installing downlights - Choosing the wrong downlights, installing them incorrectly or fitting the wrong replacement lamp can pose a serious fire risk in your home. Use a registered electrician to install your down lighters. For your safety you should check for visible markings on downlighters indicating lamp wattage and lamp type. Never drill or fix nails in walls without knowing what’s behind them - Walls and partitions conceal electrical cables and gas and water pipes.
GREEN TIP: Try turning your washing machine down from a 60º to 40º wash. It’ll save you 30% of your electricity bill with every wash.
GREEN TIP: Try turning your thermostat down by 1º and the only thing that will notice will be your purse. You could save up to 10% of your annual bill.
GREEN TIP: Consider using an energy efficient bulb. They last up to 12 times longer and save on electricity.
GREEN TIP: Britons waste the equivalent of around two power stations’ worth of electricity each year by leaving TV sets and other gadgets on standby. You could save up to 10% off your yearly electricity bill.
Protect your loved ones and your home this winter, contact professionals at Alkag Electrical Ltd and let us carry a free electrical test for your home.