It takes only the briefest power cut to make us realise how much we depend on electricity. It’s not just the lights and the TV which go out, but most central heating systems ЎЄ though they may use other fuels as the source of heat ЎЄ as they also rely on electricity to control them.
Like other household services, home electrics need regular maintenance to keep them working safely and efficiently.
But don’t contemplate maintenance or repairs to your household electrics unless you’re completely confident that you understand what you are doing. You should always disconnect the supply before doing any work on the electrical system. Electricity is potentially dangerous – it can, and does, kill. Professional advice is readily available, and in some cases may be free.
Inspecting the electrical system
It’s not always easy to tell when a house needs to be rewired.
Things to look for are:
– old round-pin power points and round light switches
– rubber insulated cables
– fuses which blow repeatedly
– power points and other outlets which don’t work
– power points wired in flex rather than cable, or in cable which is too small for the power passing through it.
If your home still has round-pin power points or round light switches, then it’s quite likely the house needs to be rewired. But even new fittings don’t guarantee that all is well: old power points and switches may have been replaced without changing the original wiring, or by renewing only part of it.
If your house still has old rubber-insulated wiring, then it’s almost certainly time it was rewired. Rubber insulation has a dull appearance, in contrast to the shiny plastic of modern cables, and tends to crumble where it gets hot ЎЄ in ceiling roses, for example. It may also have a lead sheath. If you find old wiring with crumbling insulation, don’t interfere with it – take out the appropriate fuses (to make it sale) and get it replaced without delay.
If fuses blow repeatedly, first check that it’s not a particular appliance that is causing the trouble by trying other appliances in the same outlet. II the fuse still blows, the problem is likely to be rooted in the wiring.
If power points or other outlets don’t work, then there’s clearly something wrong with the wiring.
Many problems with household electrics are caused by unsatisfactory d-i-y work. A common error is wiring an extension power point in flex rather than cable or in cable which is too small for the power. All fixed wiring to sockets should be in 2.5mm2 two-core and earth cable.
Spotting danger signs
You don’t need a professional to spot other danger signs:
– broken fittings – power points, ceiling roses and so on
– fittings that show signs of overheatingЎЄdiscoloration, distortion, charring or suspicious smells
– power points which are overloaded – a double or triple socket in place of a single is much safer than an adaptor
– long, trailing flexes from power points to appliances.