Our top ten home electrical tips cover safety as well as practical advice when dealing with electricity.
1. Know Your Circuits
Your consumer unit (sometimes referred to as the fuse board) will have several different circuits and each one is protected by a fuse or circuit breaker. You should make sure that each of these separate circuits is correctly and clearly labelled so that the appropriate one can be isolated from the supply if necessary. See mains supply and consumer units for more information
2. Power Failure
If a fuse blows, or a circuit breaker trips, on the consumer unit it indicates that the circuit has been overloaded. Circuits are protected in this way to prevent too many appliances being used which could otherwise cause serious damage or a fire. You must reduce the number of appliances on the circuit before resetting the circuit breaker or changing the fuse.
If the RCD (Residual Current Device) trips out and won’t reset, it indicates a fault. Unplug all appliances or switch them off if they are not connected via a plug. If the RCD cannot be reset when all appliances are disconnected, call a professional electrician in as this indicates a fault with the circuit. If the RCD can be reset, then one of the appliances has a fault. With the RCD off, reconnect one at a time and then reset the RCD. Repeat this process, starting with the RCD off. If the RCD trips after connecting an appliance, it means that appliance is faulty. Have this appliance professionally repaired.
3. Emergency Light
Have a good quality torch available in case there is a power cut – make sure you know where it is and can find it - even in the dark. There are very good plug in torches available which will switch themselves on if the power goes off.
4. Safety with Electrics
Before carrying out any electrical work, make sure the power is off. Turn off the power at the consumer unit and take out the fuse or switch off the circuit breaker to isolate the circuit concerned. For appliances that plug in, remove the plug from the wall socket first. When changing a lamp, be certain that the light switch for a fixed light is off or, for table lights and the like, that it is unplugged.
5. Correct Fuses and Lamps
New plugs are often fitted with a standard 13 amp fuse but you may well need to change this to suit the appliance it’s used for. Check the details on the appliance and fit the appropriate fuse. Choosing appropriate lamps for a light fitting is also very important. A light fitting should be labelled with the maximum allowable wattage for the lamp. Never exceed the maximum – it is there for a reason. The heat given off by a 100 watt lamp for example might present a fire risk on a lower rated fitting.
6. Energy Saving and Lamps
Low energy lamps can have a significant effect in reducing your bills. There is a wide range of fittings available now and older style incandescent lamps are being phased out. Keep one or two spares of each different type used in your house. When buying a new appliance such as a fridge or freezer, go for an energy efficient model. They are all clearly labelled nowadays.
7. Know the Rules
Never try tackling any electrical work unless you are 100% certain you know what you’re doing. Bear in mind also that many electrical jobs must, by law, be carried out by an approved contractor or notified to the Local Authority Building Control beforehand and then inspected and certified. See our Electrical Regulations article
8. Plugs, Adaptors and Extension Leads
When disconnecting a plugged in appliance, switch the socket off first and never pull the plug out by its flex. This can weaken the connections inside the plug. Never plug one adaptor into another – it’s simply dangerous and can overheat and cause a fire. When using an extension reel, make sure you unwind it fully before use. Coiled flexes and cables generate heat which may melt the flex.
9. Electrical Repairs
Damaged sockets or switches should not be used. If you have a faulty switch or a broken socket, get it replaced straight away. If you have any doubts how to do this, get a professionally qualified electrician to do the job.
10. Outdoor Safety
When using an electrical appliance such as a power drill outside, make sure it is protected via an RCD (Residual Current Device). In the event of a fault this will isolate the power supply and reduce the risk of electric shock. Never use power tools outside when it’s wet or raining. Extension leads designed for outdoor use can be bought which have an integrated RCD and a waterproof socket.