I frequently carry out through electrical inspections for home buyers in the Cardiff area. When I say through: I mean a comprehensive inspection, test and laymen’s report attached. So, something that will give you a clear picture of what you are considering buying – bargaining leverage in the event faults are found.
I’m not in and out after a cup of tea giving you a worthless piece of paper for £50. Do you really want to buy a property on the strength of an electrical inspection that cost the same as installing a light fitting?! It’s not just the worry of electrical safety when buying a home; the cost of repairs or rewiring can be disruptive and costly.
If problems are found it could delay you moving in and trigger other work as a result. I see so many people purchase homes in South Wales (often first time buyers) who assume all must be well. When I’m called in to investigate a fault or price up electrical work and have to inform them of bad news, here are some of the responses:
- “The seller did not mention there were any electrical problems”. Well, i’m sorry to say, but not many do mention any problems. Have you ever sold or traded a car in for another, newer model? Did you make a list of the times it broke down, or wouldn’t start? What about the last service where you were told it’s going to need this, that and the other soon. Maybe that’s why you decided to sell it. Some do exactly that with their house, bungalow and apartment.
- “The home buyers report did not mention anything about any problems with the wiring or electrical accessories”. Take a look at what has been checked. If you haven’t paid for an electrical inspection, then it might not get a mention. The most basic surveys are designed to check the house you are about to buy isn’t about to fall down – that’s it. Problems with the wiring isn’t going to make a house fall down. That said, with financial borrowing becoming stricter it’s more common that it once was for comments on reports such as: “full electrical inspection recommended”, or “check the age of the central heating system”. These might seem worthless comments when you have just found the size of house you want, in the street you want at the price you want. But, take my word for it: some people are lucky adopting this stance, some not so lucky.
- “We lived in our last house for twenty years and never had any electrical problems”. Having carried out lots of electrical inspections in Cardiff I can tell you it’s not usually unsafe items listed on the electrical report. More often that not, it’s an installation that hasn’t been updated. Now you want to buy it and change the kitchen around and refresh the bathroom. That means altering the electrical installation. Whenever the wiring is altered it needs to have the fundamentals in place. Earthing, bonding and rcd protection for a start. If the wiring is old or has issues; you might not be able to install the latest rcd circuit protection. And this is often where the jar of worms opens for the poor, unknowing soul who hasn’t even unpacked all their clothes.
A periodic inspection will help determine if the property is electrically safe for continued use and compare it with the latest wiring regulations. But before you book me for an inspection: ask the seller if they have an electrical certificate already. If they do; you can send any certification to me using the contact form. I’ll read it and let you know if i think you would benefit from an electrical installation condition report. Periodic inspections are also referred to as:
- Electrical safety certificates
- Landlord electrical inspection
- Inspection and testing
- Electrical Installation Condition Report (shortened to EICR)
- 5 Year Electrical Test
What exactly is covered inside electrical installations and its testing?
The fixed wiring and accessories. The wiring buried inside the wall and socket outlets are covered but appliances (washing machines and boilers for example) are not unless you want my Portable Appliance Testing Service carried out at the same time.
What does an electrical inspector look for?
The first thing most inspectors ask when carrying out an electrical inspection is if any existing certificates are available. They can be used to speed up things like circuit identification and a reference to see if any test readings relating to electrical safety have deteriorated.
Without any previous inspection and testing reports; the electrician will usually start by identifying the circuits at the consumer unit. Once this has been done, I like to walk around the property and get an overall feel of the condition of the installation before any electrical tests takes place. Lack of sockets, pull cords inside bedrooms and re wireable fuse boards are signs of an old electrical installation.
Some inspectors will remove the electrical supply and begin a visual check of the cables and accessories – like light fittings, socket outlets and switches before any electrical testing takes place. Any items posing an immediate risk to safety will be resolved wherever possible. Some of the dead testing can be carried out like ring continuity on the socket circuits and insulation resistance testing which measures electrical leaks over a very small amount of time.
As a home buyer its in your interest to know about the safety of electrical wiring and if additional work is necessary to bring the installation up to current regulations. So many people buy homes in Cardiff, Penarth and Dinas Powys and discover electrical issues after they move in. Don’t be one of them!
The codes inspectors use when checking electrical safety
- C1 – Immediate danger. These need to be resolved as part of the inspection wherever possible. Exposed live wires or missing consumer unit covers are examples of a C1.
- C2 – Potentially dangerous. These are safety related issues which should be resolved as soon as possible. No RCD protection on circuits supplying items inside a bathroom or outdoors would be one example.
- C3 – Improvement recommended. Items with room for improvement or can be brought up to current regulations. Some electricians list older plastic consumer units as something that can be improved on. The latest AMD3 models are metal and non combustible.
The series of electrical tests
- Main earth to the property is safe and not reliant on other parts of the installation (like the gas or water pipes). Under fault conditions electrical current should travel to earth. So, if metallic light switches developed a fault and the face became live; the current should travel to earth and operate the circuit protection inside the consumer unit quickly before a user could experience an electric shock.
- Correct polarity – live and neutral in the right place. The live wire should always be where circuit protection and any switching is placed.
- Main bonding to extraneous services is present and the necessary size. Under fault conditions the earth we walk on and earth the electricity network operator provides can be different. By connecting gas and water pipes to the main earth will ensure there is no difference.
- Continuity of circuit protective conductors on all circuits. All circuits need circuit protective conductors for safety purposes. They help ensure circuit protection will operate quickly to help prevent electrical shock and fire.
- Insulation resistance. New cabling has a very high resistance from one part to another due to brand-new insulation. Old cables break down and can pose a shock and fire risk. Some older parts of Cardiff like Cathays, Splott and Pontcanna had rubber cable. Electricians use calibrated test equipment to detect worn out cabling which is less of a problem with the later PVC type.
- Prospective fault current and earth fault loop impedance. The maximum amount of current that can flow from a live conductor to earth is called fault current. This is checked to ensure the parts of the installation can cope with this value. To allow circuit protection to operate quickly a low path to earth is necessary. This is called earth fault loop impedance and is checked at the consumer unit and accessories to ensure all circuits comply.
- RCD protection. RCDs help prevent electrocution and fire by removing the electrical supply quickly when the circuit is imbalanced. An imbalance occurs when current leaks somewhere it shouldn’t due to a faulty cabling or appliances.
- Functional checks. This will cover items such as isolators, switches and socket outlets.
How often should I have my house electrics checked?
On a new build the electrical systems wiring is usually given an inspection time of ten years. This is generally considered good practice to allow for normal wear and tear. Whilst inside an older property you could see if there is any time left on the existing report (which will also state when it was carried out). Just because the installation is in date it doesn’t mean there aren’t any problems. But it does mean some form of periodic inspection has been carried out which is better than nothing!
When an old installation is checked; the inspector will place a label on the consumer unit with the date of test and recommended retest date. This is also noted on the paperwork. If no faults are found; five years is common.
How much does an electrical inspection cost?
Inspecting electrical installations is time consuming when done thoroughly. Old installations can mean more testing because they have had more time to be altered without any electrical documentation. In 2020 most properties I inspected in older parts of the Welsh Capital did not have certificates.
What is involved with electrical testing and how long does it take?
Samples of accessories are inspected and tested for functionality, safety and to allow testing (being the end of the circuit). Accessories include:
The consumer unit cover is removed to allow inspection of the wiring and for testing purposes. No carpets or floorboards will be lifted. Only parts of the electrical installation designed to be inspected for maintenance and testing purposes will be used.
Is testing a legal requirement?
Home and business owners should take legal advice and check with their insurer for further information on what may be required to ensure the electrical safety of their property.
Who will issue the certificate and will it be signed?
I will sign the condition report. I use the NICEIC online system which provides a serial number and produces a pdf document which you will receive via email.