We Brits are a nation of DIYers, and every weekend the home improvement stores are full with people buying tools and equipment to use at home. Most of us can competently turn our hands to painting or hanging a few pictures, but the same cannot be said for dealing with electricity. Plumbing, electrical jobs and anything involving gas are most definitely better left to the properly qualified professionals, and there are several good reasons for getting a contractor in rather than attempting to rewire your house or install a new cooker yourself.
The law surrounding electrical installation is fairly complex, and if you have little or no knowledge or the processes, it can be hard to work out what you are allowed to do and what you are not. In essence, work such as adding a new socket or replacing a light switch does not need to be carried out by a certified professional. Anything larger than that, such as installing a new electric shower, installing under floor heating or a complete rewire of the house needs to be done professionally. Just to complicate matters further, the law differs depending on where in the house you are doing the work; for example you are allowed to add a light switch to an existing circuit in your bedroom, but not in your kitchen or bathroom. If you are doing electrical work as part of an extension or home improvements, you will also need to satisfy your local Council’s Building Control department that your work is up to the required standard and obtain the certificates you will need if you plan to sell the house in the future. Because there are so many legal hoops to jump through, it is much better to get the professionals in to do your electrical work and save you the money. When looking for an electrician to perform electrical work in your home, you should be searching for people who are “Part P qualified”.
To put it simply, poorly installed electrics can kill. Over 2.5 million people in the UK receive a mains electric shock every year, and although the vast majority of these are minor, every year there are 350,000 serious injuries and 28 deaths. In addition, another 46 deaths annually can be attributed to fires caused by dodgy wiring or poorly installed electrical appliances. It is just not worth the risk to take on electrical installation work yourself. Landlords are also responsible for the upkeep of their property, so if as a tenant you are concerned about the wiring or installation of appliances like your cooker, you should flag this up immediately to the landlord or letting agency as they have a duty to put things right.
If you have bought a new domestic appliance such as a dishwasher or cooker, it generally comes with a guarantee. This covers you should your appliance break down or develop a fault within a certain period, usually two or three years. However, if your appliance has not been installed properly, by a qualified professional, your warranty will be invalid. It only costs around £60 for a professional installation of your new cooker, and when you compare this with the several hundreds of pounds to replace a nearly new item when the warranty is invalid, this £60 starts to look like a real bargain.
Just as in other parts of the building trade, there are cowboy electricians just as there are cowboy builders and plasterers. They may talk a good game and come in cheaper than the large firm with the glossy brochures and website, but using a cowboy electrician is almost as bad as doing the work yourself. It can be hard to work out who is a cowboy and who is not, especially if you have no experience in building or electrics, and one of the country’s leading electrical component wholesalers, Gil-Lec, have launched a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #kickoutcowboys which encourages the good practitioners to shop the cowboys and asks them to post pictures of poor electrical work which they come across. Looking through some of the work published on Twitter really brings home just how many cowboys there are out there.
Over the last decade many building workers have come to the UK from countries like Poland, and the huge majority of these workers are competent and do a great job. However, there are a few who market themselves as electricians, and although they may be fully qualified in Poland or elsewhere, they have not registered separately in the UK and had the standard of their work inspected. Wiring standards differ widely across the world, so if you are employing an electrician who comes from overseas it is even more crucial to ensure that they have the correct UK accreditation and are approved to do the sort of work which you are planning.
Electrical Safety Register
Your first port of call when looking for an electrical contractor to do work in your home should be the website of the Electrical Safety Register. The website is very easy to use, you just enter your postcode on the homepage and the website will pull up a list of the approved companies or individuals in your immediate area, sorted into whether they are approved to do domestic or commercial work, or both. Always check the ESR website as your first port of call. There is a similar scheme called Electric Safe which also provides a register of competent people who are registered under various industry schemes. Being a member of these schemes is entirely voluntary though, and the electrical industry is pressing for compulsory registration of electricians in the same way the gas engineers have to be listed on the Gas Safe register before carrying out work.
Key points to remember
There is a lot to consider when taking on electrical work, but there are two key points to remember. Firstly, unless the work is very minor, it is always better to get the professionals in. Secondly, always check your electrician has the correct certificates to do the work you require.
For more information please visit http://www.gil-lec.co.uk/