If your electrics are not working there’s a whole range of problems it could be. However more often than not it can be something simple. The following information will help you to diagnose the problem and restore power to all or at least some of your electrics.
Blown light bulbs can cause lighting circuits to trip.
If only your lights have gone off this often is a result of an old style bulb blowing. Use a plug in lamp or torch and check to see if one of your switches or fuses has tripped or blown. If so, reset the switch or rewire/ replace the fuse. When the lights come back on look for a bulb that has blown and replace.
Is the problem affecting your neighbours?
The Electrical fault could be within your property or it could be a supply power cut. If possible, check with your neighbours. If others around your area also have loss of power its likely there’s a power cut. Another way to check is by looking at you Consumer Unit/Fuseboard and meter. If you have a new, digital meter it will have a flashing red light, if the incoming electrical supply is okay, this will go off in the event of a powercut. If all your trip switches are in the on position (up) yet still you have no power, again its likely to be a supply problem.
If you have an older fuseboard and meter, it can be more difficult to determine whether the problem is internal or external to your home. Try switching on different lights and appliances in different areas of your house to where you have lost power. If any other lights, sockets or appliances are still working, this means the problem will be internal to your home only. If you think you may have a powercut you can ring the following number for confirmation and further details about the problem.
Northern Powergrid Help line-
0800 375 675 or 0330 123 0675 (Yorkshire including Leeds)
0800 668 877 or 0330 123 0877 (North East including York)
What to do if the fault is definatley within your property.
If the problem is within your property, its most likely one of your trip switches or fuses within your fuseboard has blown. If you have a modern Consumer Unit see if one of your switches is in the off position (down). This switch could supply a single lighting or socket circuit, or multiple circuits. If you have an old style re-wireable Fuseboard, remove each fuse cartridge one by one and inspect the wire to see if it has blown or not.
Once you know which switch or fuse has blown, identify what this supplies. This should be clearly labelled on your Consumer Unit or Fuseboard. If its a lighting circuit it could be one of your light bulbs has blown. It can be a common occurrence when a bulb blows for the trip switch or fuse to also blow. Try to reset the switch or replace the fuse and see if the power stays on. If it is a lighting circuit, check all your lights to find which bulb has blown and replace it. If the circuit was a socket circuit and is now staying on, its possible you could have overloaded the circuit by using too many appliances at once.
If the trip switch or fuse will not stay on when resetting its most likely you have a fault on your wiring or an appliance. If you have a modern Consumer Unit with trip switches, you can take the following steps to further identify the source of the fault. If you have an old style rewireable fuseboard and the fuse keeps blowing when replaced, its not recommended to keep re-wiring the fuse over and over, so contact us to arrange a visit or for further advice. If none of the following steps help you in re-storing power, or if you don’t feel confident running through them, then again contact us to arrange an Electrician come and fault-find. To determine if a device is a ‘Residual current device (RCD)’ or a ‘Miniature circuit breaker (MCB)’ try to read the small info on the device. Usually an RCD will be twice as wide as an MCB and feed multiple circuits. The picture to the left shows a typical Consumer unit with the Main switch, RCD and MCB’s.
If an MCB trips
1. Switch the MCB on.
2. If the MCB trips again switch off and un-plug all equipment on this circuit.
3. Switch the MCB on again. If the MCB stays on, one of the items of equipment you’ve just unplugged is faulty. If the MCB still trips you have a fault on you’re wiring, if this is the case contact us to arrange for an Electrician to come and fault find the problem.
4. If your MCB is now on, identify which appliance is causing it to trip. To do this switch on and plug all equipment back in one by one. When the MCB trips, this will indicate which piece of equipment is faulty.
If an RCD trips
1. Switch the RCD on.
2. If the RCD trips again switch off and un-plug all equipment from every circuit supplied by the RCD.
3. Switch the RCD on again. If the RCD stays on, one of the items of equipment you’ve just unplugged is faulty. Follow the above, MCB step 4.
4. If the RCD is still tripping, you have a fault on your wiring. Dependant on the type of fault, it may be possible to find out which circuit is faulty and restore power to other circuits supplied by the RCD. Switch off each MCB, then switch on the RCD. If the RCD stays on switch on each MCB one by one. When switching an MCB on trips the RCD, leave this circuit off. It may not be possible to reset your RCD at all after doing these steps. In both cases the faulty wiring requires attention, so feel free to contact us to arrange for an Electrician to come and find the fault.
What is an ‘RCD’?
An advantage of having an Electrician fit a new 17th edition consumer unit is a safety device, fitted within the unit, called a ‘Residual current device’ (RCD).
An RCD is a safety device that automatically switches off the electricity if there is a fault. It’s far more sensitive than normal fuses and circuit breakers. It can be a lifesaver, reacting quickly to prevent electricity causing a fatal shock. An RCD constantly monitors the electric current flowing along a circuit. If it detects electricity flowing down an unintended path, such as through a person who has touched a live part, it will switch the circuit off instantly, reducing the risk of death or serious injury.
Which appliances and Electric wiring will be protected?
As an RCD within a consumer unit is installed at the origin of all your electrical system, it will provide protection to all the wiring, sockets and appliances in your home. This means that using all electrical equipment, from everyday items to power tools, will be much safer and risk of electrocution will be drastically reduced. Current regulations state that in a domestic property usually all circuits will be protected by two or more RCD’s. Therefore if you have a modern Consumer unit everything electrical in your home will benefit from the extra protection.
RCD’s are also available as a portable plug adapter. This is an option if you do not yet have a modern Consumer Unit installed. Whilst this will only protect the appliance plugged in to the adapter, they are highly recommended for certain items, such as outdoor, kitchen or garage equipment.
Are RCDs reliable?
Tests state that fixed RCD’s are about 97% reliable. This improves if they are tested regularly. If you have fixed RCD protection, it will reduce the risk of electric shock to you and your family. It can also protect your home against the risk of fire caused by faulty wiring or appliances.
Although RCD protection reduces the risk of death or injury from electric shock it does not reduce the need to be careful. Have your wiring checked at least once every 10 years to ensure the safety of you, your family and your home. If you find a fault with your wiring, or an appliance, stop using it immediately and contact a registered Electrician.
Don’t forget to test!
You should test all fixed and socket RCD’s about every three months. Manufacturers recommend that portable RCD’s are tested every time you use them. A good tip is to test them regularly, like when putting your clocks forward, or back. Especially as many electric clocks and timers have to be reset anyway.
Beware – If you hold the test button in for a long time and the RCD does not switch off the electricity supply, then get advice from a registered Electrician.
Your Fuse Box or more modern Consumer Unit is the origin of all the electrical circuits within your home. Usually this would be located next to or near to your Electricity meter and the incoming supply cable. Sometimes this may be outside in a meter box with the Consumer Unit or Fuse Box located indoors on the other side of the wall. They can also be referred to as a Distribution Board, although this would typically be the name for a larger unit used in a Commercial or Industrial setting.
A modern Consumer Unit Old style Fuse Box
The purpose of your Fuse Box or Consumer Unit is to divide the electrics into circuits of appropriate size cable, with a protective device to prevent the cable from overloading and causing a fire. These devices will usually be a re-wireable fuse wire (BS3036) or cartridge fuse in an old fuse box, or an MCB (BS60898) which stands for miniature circuit breaker. An MCB is much more effective than a fuse or fuse wire at disconnecting a circuit and much more robust should a high fault current occur. This is one of many characteristics that make a modern Consumer Unit highly recommended over the older style Fuse Box.
Typical fuse or MCB ratings would be 5 or 6 Amp for lighting and 16, 20, 30 or 32 Amp for socket outlet circuits. Other larger circuits such as an electric shower or cooker may use a 40, 45 or 50 Amp circuits. Generally the largest fuse or MCB rating in a home would be a 60 or 63 Amp, which would be for a very large cooker, shower or electric boiler/ heater. You may also find a circuit feeding a secondary Fuse Box or Consumer, known as a Sub-main supply, using one of these larger protective devices.
The Main Switch.
The first functional part of both a Fuse Box and Consumer Unit is the main switch. This is used to cut the power to every circuit fed from the Box or Unit, this may be all of the power in your house , or just circuits within a certain area such as a garage or out building. Clear labelling is very important so its clear exactly what you are switching off should you need to turn off the power. If you experiance a fault or serious problem with your electrics it may be necessary to keep this main switch off until a qualified Electrician can make things safe and restore power.
Other parts of a Consumer Unit
Another key component of a Consumer Unit is an RCD, or Residual Current Device. This would only be found in a Consumer Unit, an RCD will not fit into a Fuse Box. An RCD is a safety device which will hugely improve safety standards for your Electrical system. You can find out more about an RCD and why it is recommended to have one installed here- RCD Protection
Benefits of a new Consumer unit
Whilst older fuses still protect from electrical over current and fires, modern trip switches (MCB’s) found within new Consumer units will complete this task much more effectively and cut off the electrical supply much quicker. Modern consumer units are also far more convenient in that all circuits are protected by trip switches rather than wired fuses. This means that in the event that a fuse/switch goes or trips then it’s a simple matter of just resetting the switch rather than hunting for the appropriate fuse wire and tools.
To request a price or further information regarding updating your old Fuse Box to a modern Consumer Unit please get in touch.
Probably one of the most important safety aspects of an Electrical system is correct earthing (or grounding) throughout the installation. Knowing why and what things need to be earthed is not always clear and I often have to explain to my customers in Leeds why things need to be earthed and the potential dangers of not having the correct earth system in place.
What does the earth wire do?
Earth wires within your Electrical system usually connect all switches, sockets and any other parts back to where the mains supply and Consumer unit or fuse board is. This will then connect to the mass of earth or ground either by a method provided by the Electric supplier, or onsite of your property.
The basic function of connecting everything to Earth is to ensure that should a fault occur, any electrical fault current will flow down the earth wire and blow the fuse or breaker to disconnect the supply.
Electricity is always trying to find its way to the the ground (think lightening!). The path to earth provided by the installed earth wires should always be of a lower resistance than any alternative paths which may become present under a fault, such as through a persons body through their feet to the ground they are stood on. This means that should something go wrong with the wiring, the electricity will always ‘prefer’ to take the path down the earth wires as this is the easiest route to earth.
Lightening is what happens when Electricity generated in the sky finds its way to earth. Although a lot less dramatic, electricity within your property is also trying to find its way to earth.
Which Electrical parts require Earthing?
There can be many factors which can determine this, but put simply any metal or conductive parts of your Electrics (such as a metal case of a kitchen appliance or metal light switch), which could become live due to a fault must be connected to earth.
If a metal casing or a metal switch is not earthed, this can be a huge electric shock risk. One example of this which I see working as an Electrician is decorative metal light switches. If these are not earthed correctly and a live wire comes loose and touches the metal plate, the metal switch plate becomes live, waiting to give the next person who switches on the light a potentially harmful electric shock. If the switch were correctly earthed as soon as the wire touched the metal the electric would blow the protective breaker and disconnect the supply.
Unfortunately the lights would not work until an Electrician had repaired the problem, but this is a much preferred scenario to touching a live switch!
To ensure your Electrics are safe and have the correct earthing system installed make sure you always use a qualified, competent Electrician for any work and have an Electrical Condition Report safety check when required (every ten or five years for a domestic property).
This video is from one of my callout jobs- a late night in February when high winds hit the UK.
I got quite a shock walking into this room in an East Yorkshire care home!
The woman who occupied the room had been in bed when a huge tree fell in through the roof around midnight. It was a miracle the woman wasn’t seriously injured, the pile of tree and rubble where she was laid was huge.
I was called in to make the Electrics safe and silence the alarms after the fire brigade had rescued her. The TV was still on somewhere underneath all the rubble!
More details here- it made national news
Mains electricity can be a serious danger and a constant worry around the home, especially with children and pets around. However by following some simple steps and using some common sense it doesn’t have to be that way.
Never use any damaged electrical equipment.
It may seem obvious but is of serious importance that any electrical equipment which has visible damage to either the plug, lead or any other part is not suitable for safe use. If you’re in doubt about an appliance either replace it or call an Electrician to repair it.
Always use the correct fuse size in plugs.
Fuses in plugs are there to stop an appliance from being overloaded with too much electrical current, which can cause serious overheating and start fires. This is why the correct size fuse must always be used, putting too high a fuse into a plug means the appliance will not be properly protected. Usually a label on the appliance or plug will detail the required fuse size. If unsure common fuse sizes include 3 amps for lamps or plug in lights & 13 amps for a hoover or kitchen appliances such as toasters or kettles.
Always protect outside equipment with an RCD.
Use an RCD for any outside electrical equipment. If you don’t have a modern Consumer unit with an RCD installed, it is highly recommended that any plug in gardening equipment be plugged into an RCD adapter. An RCD, or Residual Current Device, will disconnect the electrical supply should a fault or accident occur. Cut through the cable of your strimmer and the RCD will disconnect, preventing you from harm and an electric shock.
Extra low voltage supplies.
An extra low voltage supply is any voltage under 50 volts, this kind of equipment is much safer than mains voltage, as voltage under 50 volts is considered ‘touch safe’. Below this voltage is not strong enough to cause an electric shock or any problems with the heart.
This is why batteries are safe to touch. Many phone chargers or electrical appliances will also be supplied from an extra low voltage power supply, for added safety.
Regulations dictate that electrical equipment, such as spotlights or fans, in certain areas of bathrooms must be 12 volt, this would also fall under the category of extra low voltage and ensures high safety standards in areas of high risk.
The main source of accidents and damage to property is due to bad workmanship or DIY, careless attitudes and continuing to use an item which is clearly dangerous.
Fletcher Electric complete all electrical work to comply with Part P of the building regulations, but what does this mean?
Part P is a safety law that came into effect on 1 January 2005. It states that all work by Electricians on fixed electrical installations in domestic properties and associated buildings must comply to relevant standards. By regulating electrical work in this way it is hoped the standard of workmanship will improve and stamp out cowboy Electricians, as a result of this the number of preventable injuries, fires and deaths caused by electrical faults will reduce.
Part P applies to all electrical work in and around domestic properties, carried out by a professional Electrician or the home owner. It covers communal areas of a building, such as entrance halls and hallways, and shared amenities such as shops, laundries or gymnasiums. It also applies to outhouses such as garages, garden sheds and greenhouses, as well as any outside lighting.
Depending on the level of work, the Local Authority Building Control may have to be notified upon completion of any electrical work. Often this would be done by a registered Electrician, however it is also possible for a home owner or unregistered Electrician to notify the work following a third-party inspection, fee and providing proof of competence.
The electrical regulations refer to high risk areas, such as bathrooms, gardens and kitchens as Special locations. As the risk of electric shock is higher in these areas all electrical work is Part P notifiable, with the exception of an accessory change such as a light switch or socket. To ensure high safety standards it is therefore necessary that all electrical work in special locations be completed by a Part P registered, fully qualified Electrician.
What other work is notifiable?
Any major work including adding new circuits or changing a fuse box must be carried out by a Part P registered Electrician.
Minor works such as changing or adding a light or socket to an existing circuit is a non notifiable job therefore can be completed by a DIY’er, however if you are in any doubt as to the technical side of it then you should definitely seek advice from a qualified, registered Electrician.
What happens if the Electrical work does not comply?
Failure to comply with the Building Regulations is a criminal offence and local authorities have the power to require the removal or alteration of work that does not comply with the requirements. Not only is non-compliant work illegal but could also be dangerous! If you are in doubt of an Electricians level of competence then do not use them! A good, skilled Electrician will always be willing to prove his competence at electrical work and provide the necessary documentation to show Part P registration.
If you fear you may have had a cowboy Electrician in recently, or have moved into a home with dubious electrical wiring, get in touch with us and have a highly knowledgeable, qualified and Part P registered Electrician come to check the condition of your electrical system and take the required steps to ensure your home is safe for you and your loved ones.