I get a lot of questions and phone calls from clients who are unsure about their Electrical Installation or who have problems & queries that need resolving. So below we have listed the most common.

"Does my fusebox need replacing / updating ?"

If you have an old style fusebox with wire fuses then the answer is an absolute yes. Modern consumer units have RCD protection for ALL circuits. You should think of your fusebox/consumer unit as the heart of your electrical installation and it is very wise to keep this up to date to the current standards. So if your consumer unit doesn't have RCD protection on ALL circuits then its out of date. In fact, from the start of 2016 all consumer units installed will generally be made of metal (non combustable)  to comply with the new regulations.

"Does my house need a re-wire ?"

A lot depends on the age of your electrical wiring and how much work it has done. Wiring will degrade over time and the more work it has done then the more degraded it will be. Just because you have black and red wiring, and not blue and brown, it doesn't mean you need a rewire. But, if your wiring pre dates this then the chances are it does. What is needed is an insulation resistance check to see how much degradation has taken place. If it's substantial then a rewire would be recommended. Sometimes, with old wiring, there will be no earth in the lighting circuit and this would cause a problem if metallic light fittings are installed.

"The circuit breaker keeps tripping on my ring main, what could cause this ?"

If you have an MCB that trips on a regular basis then the chances are that you are overloading the circuit. Have a look to see what is plugged in to the ring main to try and gage if the circuit is being over loaded. Appliances like tumble dryers, dishwashers, washing machines and heaters can draw a lot of current when used altogether. There are odd occasions when the MCB is at fault also.

"The RCD keeps tripping / won't reset, what could cause this ?"

Sometimes you will have a situation where the RCD protecting your circuits will not reset. If this is the case then, unless you have a faulty RCD, it has detected a problem within a circuit. This can be a number of things from escape of water into a junction box to a faulty appliance that is plugged in, causing the tripping. Try unplugging everthing in the circuit (if its sockets) and try for another reset. If the problem remains then call a registered electrician.

"I have drilled through a cable in a wall / hammered a nail through a cable, what do I do ?"

It's a common thing for home owners to drill through a cable in a wall when doing some DIY. Whether its hanging a picture or fitting a shelf, it happens all of the time. Best thing to do in this instance is to switch off the circuit breaker/ pull the fuse to the damaged circuit to make it safe. Then call a registered electrician to install a new cable as, nine times out of ten, it will need replacing and your wall re-plastering.

"I've come to fit a metal light to my ceiling and there is no earth cable, is this safe ?"

The simple answer to this is NO, it is not safe. A lot of DIY people install electrics and if it works then they are happy, in truth just because something works it doesn't mean it is safe. As with a metal light, yes if you connected the live and neutral to it , it would indeed work, but you then run the high risk of electrocution if them live wires come in contact with the un-earthed metal casing of the light. In short, if you have no earth in your lighting circuit either a- Don't install metal lights or switches or better still b- Get an electrician to re-wire your lighting circuit which will include an earth (circuit protective conductor) for your safety.

"I have heard that I should have RCD protection for sockets, why is this ?"

RCD stands for a residual current device and is there to monitor the current flowing through a circuit. If there is an imbalance of current of more than 30mA then the RCD will cut off the power. The reason it is important is because when people are using outdoor equipment, such as a hedge trimmer, they are standing on Earth, so if the hedge trimmer goes faulty or the cable is accidentally cut then the live current could flow through the person to earth which is an electric shock, these can obviously be fatal. So, with a 30mA RCD, if it senses an imbalance of more than 30mA then it would cut the power to prevent the electric shock taking place.

"My plumber is about to fit a new boiler and he says I need equipotential earth bonding fitted, what is it ?" 

Main equipotential bonding is, in layman terms, green and yellow earthing cable which would usually be needed to connect your gas installation and water installation to the main earthing terminal of your property. There are other things that may need this bonding (other extraneous conductive parts) but on a general house it is usually the gas and water. The reason being is that they may introduce a 'potential difference' into the property and so by bonding the metal pipework of the gas and water to the main earthing terminal, in the event of a fault, if two exposed metal parts are touched at the same time then there would be very little 'potential difference' between them which would not result in a dangerous shock. So in a nutshell it is installed to prevent electric shock during fault conditions.

"How do I know if my electrician is registered ?"

There are always the rogue tradesmen who don't tell the truth about their qualifications or registrations to the governing bodies such as the NICEIC. To check if the electrical contractor that you hired is registered you can ask them for their registration number and then check with one of the schemes or you could check the 'competent person register' by clicking here.

"What is part P of the building regulations and why is it important ?"

Part P states that anyone carrying out electrical installation work in a home must make sure that the work is designed and installed to protect people from fire and electric shocks.Part P applies to any changes made to existing installations, including any parts that have been rewired. In April 2013 further changes were introduced, reducing the range of electrical installation work that is notifiable - removing some requirements in kitchens and outdoors.All electrical installation work in a home, garden, conservatory or outbuilding must meet the Building Regulations.
Apart from some types of minor work, all electrical work must either be reported to the local-authority building-control, or be carried out by an electrician who is registered with one of the Government-approved scheme providers.

Common Domestic Electrical Questions