Inspecting & Testing

Inspection and testing is more regulated now than ever before as the number of people renting has risen considerably in the last few years.

EICR – Electrical Installation Condition Report

Electrical inspection and testing is carried out to confirm if the installation is safe to stay in continued service, the majority of domestic properties if deemed satisfactory will be signed off for 5 years. Regulations are changing all the time to make properties safer, the latest regulation for landlords comes into force in October. They need to provide smoke and heat alarms and if a gas boiler is present a C02 alarm. These can be battery version as a minimum.
A regulation came into force on June 1st 2020 stating that all rented accommodation must have a satisfactory EICR or Electrical installation condition report in place before it can be rented.
When making purchase of a property whether it be a flat or house as a private buyer, currently it is not compulsory, however it is always a good idea to have the condition of the electrical installation checked by a competent person. By carrying out an EICR the electrician will be able to give you an idea of the condition of the installation, this can give you peace of mind especially when most families will look to renovate the house which would include a new kitchen where you would possibly add more load to the installation for example a new appliance like an electric hob etc. If rewiring is required other works such as plastering, painting and laying wooden flooring can only be completed once new cables have been installed and tested.
An EICR can help you identify problems, for example after a few years of living in a property lets imagine part of the circuit becomes faulty under wooden flooring in the lounge that has been down for several years and this defect is causing the ground-floor sockets to trip taking out the Wi-Fi and people are unable to work from home. This can cause a great deal of inconvenience to the home owners, also take into consideration we cannot lift the floor to access the cables. This is just one example of what situation can arise.
Many customers ask me what an EICR involves and sometimes it can be difficult to relay this information considering a lot of electrical terminology used, below is a brief description of the items I will be checking when I carry out an inspection.
ZE is your external earth fault loop impedance and is carried out to ensure you have a good supply and Earth from the distributor coming in to the property. A zs or Earth fault loop impedance is carried internally to ensure the fix electrical equipment inside is safe to use, we like to see these readings low if they are too high it is unlikely the fuse will trip in time to prevent electric shock.
Main Supplementary bonding or earth cables – We need to check that the services entering the property which are usually gas and water have an earth cable clamped to them.
Sometimes we find that the water main is plastic if you have a plastic incoming pipe that does not return underground within the house this would not need an earth cable.
All gas mains will be some kind of metal and require earthing.
Insulation resistance testing – This test is carried out to ensure the insulation of the cables is in good condition, with the use of a multifunction tester we are able to select a mode that pushes DC current through the installation. If the readings are above 2 meg ohm the cables are usually ok to stay in service, if we have a reading, for example, of 0.04 this would not be acceptable and would need further investigation. Sometimes equipment plugged in can affect readings and when these items are unplugged the readings are clear.  This is a very important test as it can highlight whether the installation can have a new RCD/RCBO consumer unit fitted as the new consumer units are much more sensitive. Insulation resistance testing can damage electrical equipment if not carried correctly, this is why we only test between the line conductors down to CPC and not between line and neutral themselves.
R1+R2 or confirming circuits have a CPC (circuit protective conductor present) otherwise known as an earth core/cable. To confirm a CPC is present throughout a circuit we will usually determine where the furthest point is and then take a reading from there, sometimes we will take a reading from a switch or light fitting if the switch is painted or caulked in we would naturally avoid removing this to minimize damage.
Moving on to sockets as they are wired in a ring format they involve a couple more tests than other circuits, for instance I need to check the cores, live neutral and earth, all run continuously with no loose connections. If a loose connection is identified it will be coded as fail and it will need locating and repairing. I will explain the coding system later on.
My next test if you have one in place is an RCD test, the meter simulates a current at 1x the value If the device does not trip within the required time of 200milli seconds it will be classed as a fail, also we need to manually check the trip button operates.
The final tests of the inspection with the meter, is the earth fault loop impedance. On this test I will check some sockets to confirm they are functioning correctly and provide an earth for when an appliance is connected. Sometimes this test will show which sockets need replacing, as they have broken down over time. We can also prove polarity which means the socket has been wired correctly, I have come across many socket fronts connected up by the home owner which are wired in reverse the socket will still function however it is dangerous and fails the test.
As I’m walking around the property I will be taking visual note of electrical items that may need attention, I will also ask the current occupier how long they have lived there and have they had an electrical work carried out themselves. This helps me build up a mental picture of how the property has been looked after and who has worked on it.
Visual inspection includes the following (I will list some, obviously not all as there are many):
I will check for thermal damage to sockets and other accessories such as down lights, which can warp if they have halogen lamps in.
Accessories will be checked for cracks and that switches are functional.
The bathroom light will be checked to see if it located in the correct zone and ip rated (waterproof), if there is an extractor fan fitted is it the correct type for location, fans above a bath for example, need to be 12 volt version.
Kitchen sockets need to be 300mm from any cooking surface and sink bowl.
Garden and outside equipment will again be checked for damage and water ingress, and to confirm the correct equipment has been used.
I come across many garden installations where the previous electrician has used indoor cable for an outdoor installation. Cable that is designed for indoor use cannot withstand very cold temperatures and has no UV protection, therefore over time the cable sheath will become brittle and breakdown.
Consumer units come in many shapes and sizes. Over the years they have changed from wood to metal to plastic and now back to metal to meet fire rating. The most common problem I encounter is a plastic or wooden consumer unit under a wooden staircase. This is a design fault as if the consumer unit were to catch fire it could affect the wooden staircase preventing people from escaping the building.
I just want to touch on surge protection briefly as this regulation comes into force at the end of September. An SPD or surge protection device protects the installation from transient voltages such as lighting strikes. With the consideration now that the value of items within the home has increased significantly such as £3000 TVs SPDs have been introduced to protect these items.

Coding

In this section I will explain the coding system we use, I will list some of the most common issues found. C1 or a C2 fails inspection, a C3 is improvement recommended.
C1 – Imminent danger or danger present this is the highest code and is an instant fail.
An example of a C1 would be a live exposed part you can touch ( this is rare to find). Another example would be reversed polarity of a socket front.
C2 – Potentially dangerous.  A C2 would also fail the test if it was issued.
A few examples of a C2 are as follows: gas and water mains have no earth connection, no RCD present for sockets that can feed outdoor equipment, loose conductors on a ring main or socket circuit, no earth core on a lighting circuit that has metal switches and lights fitted. (earth cores were only installed in lighting circuits since 1966) and there are many other C2s.
C3 – Improvement recommended. If your installation is inspected and only C3s are identified it will have passed and just needs improvement.
A few C3 examples include the following: oven has no isolator, socket outlets have no switches, consumer unit missing stickers, consumer unit is located under wooden staircase and is made from plastic, downlights are not fire rated, gas and water mains are earthed however you cannot access clamp to inspect it.
I can also issue FI which means further investigation. It means at the time of the inspection I was unable to confirm a reading or solve a situation and a revisit will be needed. This also fails.
You may also see the word LIM on the report, this is short for limitation.
If we are unable to move an item to access the point behind it will be noted as a limitation. We are not encouraged to move furniture that could cause damage to the floor or walls, for example if you have a point behind a very old book case and if this is moved it would fall apart. I will take your word for it and make a note.
N/A non applicable – obviously this term is self-explanatory
Operational limitation – An example of operational limitation – we are testing a third floor flat in a block and the metering cupboard downstairs is inaccessible as it has been padlocked. Therefore we are unable to visually inspect equipment making this an operational limitation.
If you have read this far thank you and I hope I have made the inspection process a little more clearl for yourselves and look forward to helping you.

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