THE NICEIC MAGAZINE FOR APPROVED ELECTRICAL CONTRACTORS & DOMESTIC INSTALLERS
NICEIC urges consumers to ‘MOT their electrics’
Autumn 2010 | Issue 175
Coping with the cuts Ventilation round-up Industrial sector focus
Your route to contract success
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COVER ILLUSTRATION: LEE WRIGHT
Contents Autumn 2010 | Issue 175
SECTOR FOCUS: 20 INDUSTRIAL EVOLUTION With manufacturing growing again, recovery may be in sight for industrial electrics
View from the top 4 Standing out from the crowd News Public urged to call in the professionals
Prime-time TV slot for NICEIC expertise
ESC toolkit promotes installation of RCDs
DIY electricians put families’ lives at risk
Jersey Boys to top the bill at powerBall
Product news Fluke’s insulation test
COVER STORY: 22 CONTRACT KILLINGS Tendering for contracts is now particularly tough – but is there more you can do to get ahead of the rest? A BREATH OF FRESH AIR 32 Demand for new ventilation and heat recovery systems is providing opportunities for suitably qualified contractors 20
LEADING LIGHTS 26 The energy-efficiency drive means you need to be up to speed on developments in lighting technology
Advice 17 Firms that have relied on the public sector must consider new areas of business, says Matthew Humphrey Opinion 18 Government needs to invest in over-18s, says Steve Evans NICEIC in action Online training courses
GET YOUR VOICE HEARD 36 NICEIC puts your views on the industry to government 26
CONTRACTOR PROFILE 42 EMS
Customer care 41 Periodic inspection reports Ask the experts 45 Some of the NICEIC technical helpline’s more frequently asked questions answered Current Affairs 70 Have you got the bottle for it? www.niceic.com
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Snags and solutions:
Protective conductor: 59 currents Floor and ceiling heating: 62 42 Determining Zs:
NICEIC Connections Autumn 2010 3
VIEW FROM THE TOP EMMA MCCARTHY
Redactive Publishing Ltd, 17 Britton Street, London EC1M 5TP
EDITORIAL General 020 7880 6200 | Fax 020 7324 2791 E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Standing out from the crowd The comprehensive spending review (CSR) this month may define the business environment in which we operate for many months to come. There’s no doubt the economic challenges ahead will be difficult, especially with the huge public spending cuts that will inevitably follow the review. Our engagement with MPs and key stakeholders at Westminster is extremely important in these unprecedented times. It is also something you – our customers – have asked us to get more involved with. In this issue you ‘Our engagement can read about our with MPs and key efforts over the past stakeholders at 12 months as well as Westminster is extremely some of the feedback important in these from our Your Shout unprecedented times’ campaign, where we asked you to tell us what you saw as the key issues for the industry and government. Recently we attended the party conferences and discussed with MPs and peers some of the matters raised and we will continue to push NICEIC’s messages to those in power and in opposition. Our lobbying activity is just one of the ways in which we support registered contractors and this is even more important during times of economic downturn. At the end of September we ran the “MOT Your Home” PR campaign with interior design expert Linda Barker, encouraging homeowners to use NICEIC-registered electricians to check the safety of their electrics. This coverage, in the regional and national press as well as UK radio stations, combined with extensive print advertising, means NICEIC is promoting registered contractors more than ever. Being prepared and standing out from the crowd to win more business is crucial. That’s as true for NICEIC as it is for contractors. We must excel in everything we do so you can improve your business. I’m determined this will happen.
Editor Nick Martindale Technical editor Mike Clark Sub editor Victoria Burgher Art director Mark Parry Art editor Adrian Taylor Picture researcher Akin Falope Head of business development Aaron Nicholls
ADVERTISING AND MARKETING Sales manager Jim Folley Senior sales executive Mark Palmer Sales executive Darren Hale Display 020 7882 6206 | Fax 020 7880 7553 E-mail email@example.com
PRODUCTION 020 7880 6239 Production manager Jane Easterman Senior production executive Kat Anastasiou General: 020 7880 6239 Fax: 020 7880 7691 E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
REDACTIVE PUBLISHING LTD Managing director Brian Grant Chairman Lord Evans of Watford
CONTRIBUTIONS Connections welcomes ideas for contributions. Please email email@example.com © Redactive Publishing Ltd 2010. by Redactive Publishing Ltd, 17 Britton Street, London EC1M 5TP. Registered No. 122038. All rights reserved. This publication (and any part thereof) may not be reproduced, transmitted or stored in any print or electronic format (including but not limited to any online service, any database or any part of the internet) or in any other format in any media whatsoever, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Redactive Publishing Ltd accepts no liability for the accuracy of the contents or any opinions expressed herein. Printed by St Ives (Peterborough) Ltd. Paper by Denmaur Papers plc The paper mill that makes the text paper for this magazine states that it uses at least 80 per cent wood pulp from sustainable sources.
NICEIC ENQUIRIES Head of communications Richard Pagett 01582 539 020 firstname.lastname@example.org Subscriptions 0870 013 0382 Technical helpline 0870 013 0391
Emma McCarthy Chief operating officer NICEIC Group 4 Autumn 2010 NICEIC Connections
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> Left: unsafe electrics cause a fifth of UK house fires; below: TV celebrity Linda Barker is fronting the safety campaign
NICEIC has launched a nationwide campaign encouraging householders to “MOT their electrics” by calling in a registered contractor. NICEIC’s own research revealed that almost a third (32 per cent) of people have never had the electrics in their homes fully tested, despite the fact that almost a fifth of the 43,000 house fires a year in the UK are the result of electrical faults and unsafe electrics. Of those surveyed, 89 per cent said they never considered getting their electrics tested and 88 per cent made checking their gas boiler a higher priority. “Our campaign aims to change the public’s mindset about getting electrics checked by a registered electrician in order to keep their home and family safe,” said Tony Cable, NICEIC’s senior marketing and events engineer. Calling in an NICEIC-registered contractor to undertake a periodic inspection report would reveal if electrical circuits were overloaded, find potential hazards in the installation and identify faulty DIY work, he added. The national safety campaign is being headed up by home improvement
expert Linda Barker and targets homeowners whose property is more than 10 years old. “It’s shocking how many homeowners are unaware that their electrics could be putting themselves and their families in grave danger,” she said. “I’ve teamed up with NICEIC to encourage consumers to get their homes checked and make electrical safety a top priority. Even though it’s tempting to try and save a few pennies where possible at the moment, a simple home MOT could save lives.” Barker also urged homeowners to visit the NICEIC website and download tips to reduce the risk of electrical fires. The campaign, which has also received the backing of the London Fire Brigade, launched in September.
Online course saves time and money Contractors wishing to take the City & Guilds 2392-10 level 2 certificate in fundamental inspection, testing and initial verification course can now do so using NICEIC’s blended solution of online learning and assessment centres. The new course, which has been developed in association with Virtual College, means contractors can cut the amount of time they spend away from work from four days to two, reducing the potential for lost revenue and saving on accommodation and travel costs. Contractors will now be able to access learning materials, revision manuals and test their level of understanding over the internet, at a time that is convenient to them. This is then followed by two days at an assessment centre, where they will undergo practical training and assessment and take the global online assessment (GOLA) test. “The course enhances traditional learning through the careful integration of e-learning technology, combining the best of both worlds,” said Alan Wells, head of electrotechnical at NICEIC. “This saves learners’ and employers’ time and money, while allowing them to keep their knowledge and skills up to date.” The move follows the success of NICEIC’s online 17th edition course, launched earlier this year. NICEIC plans to offer the City & Guilds 2391 certificate in inspection, testing and certification of electrical installation course in a similar format in the near future.
6 Autumn 2010 NICEIC Connections
Public urged to call in the professionals > The Eden Project hosts a TechTalk
Look out for a local TechTalk The new series of TechTalks for 2010-11 is now underway, with events having already taken place in Newmarket, Norwich, Reading and Southampton. Further sessions will be held in Leeds, Cornwall, Aberystwyth, Swansea and Bristol in October and November. Nottingham, Worcester, Liverpool, Manchester and Belfast will host contractors early next year. Techtalks provide NICEIC registered contractors with the chance to get face-to-face advice on a range of topics, while Tony Cable, NICEIC’s senior marketing and events engineer, will give a series of technical presentations on issues such as microgeneration, new approaches to PIRs, technologies for smart homes and buildings, and the amendments to the 17th edition. Contractors can also take part in an open Q&A forum and purchase discounted NICEIC books and DVDs. “NICEIC’s TechTalks are a fantastic way for registered contractors to get up-to-date information about a number of hot topics,” said Cable. “We guarantee that attending a TechTalk will be time very well spent.” Events will be held at: • Leeds, Headingly Stadium, 20 October • Cornwall, Eden Project, 27 October • Aberystwyth, Penrhos Golf Course, 9 November • Swansea, Liberty Stadium, 10 November • Bristol, Ashton Gate Stadium, 11 November • Coventry, Ricoh Arena, 18 January • Nottingham, Belfry Hotel, 19 January • Worcester, Odeon Cinema, 26 January • Liverpool, Aintree Racecourse, 8 February • Manchester, City of Manchester Stadium, 9 February • Belfast, Stormont Hotel, 24 February
Prime-time TV slot for NICEIC expertise
> Tony Cable advises TV millions NICEIC’s contribution also included supplying guidance for the Help! My House is Falling Down and 4Homes websites, urging consumers to use registered contractors.
Council green light a bonus
Contractors registered under the microgeneration certification scheme (MCS) will be able to benefit from installations in local authorities as well as domestic homes after the government overturned a law banning councils from selling renewable energy. The move means contractors could gain lucrative work installing solar panels or wind turbines on council property, which will allow local authorities to benefit from feed-in tariffs as householders do already. “This is a vital step to making community renewable projects commercially viable, to bring in long-term income to benefit local areas and to secure local acceptance
> Councils can now generate energy
Building regs: have your say NICEIC has been invited by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to contribute to an ideas forum regarding a review of the Building Regulations in England and Wales. The department hopes this forum will generate ideas about simplifying the regulations, while maintaining safety standards and compliance. NICEIC customers should have the right to contribute to this so please send your thoughts and ideas, with evidence, on the Building Regulations and how they could be improved to email@example.com. Contributions will then be summarised and communicated to DCLG. If you have already contributed to a Your Shout email in May, there is no need to respond again.
Electrical career proves popular
NICEIC’s senior marketing and events engineer Tony Cable spread the word about the dangers of poorly maintained electrics when he appeared on Sarah Beeny’s Channel 4 programme Help! My House is Falling Down in September. The show featured a couple who had bought a house in Brighton without a survey, which turned out to suffer from a number of serious defects. One of the most potentially dangerous aspects was the state of the electrics, which Cable estimated were at least 60 years old. During the course of the show, a fire broke out in the kitchen – the result of overloaded sockets. “This house is so potentially dangerous I cannot carry out a full investigation,” said Cable, who wore a branded NICEIC t-shirt on the show. “Really the whole lot needs stripping out and rewiring as soon as possible.” The show reached millions of television viewers who may otherwise have had little exposure to issues such as dealing with electrics. NICEIC also provided electrical statistics for the programme.
NEWS IN BRIEF
for low-carbon energy projects,” said Chris Huhne, energy and climate change secretary. The government has also announced a consultation on how householders and businesses can make more effective use of green technologies, which could result in further opportunities for contractors. “NICEIC wholeheartedly supports the decision to carry out this consultation,” said Emma McCarthy, NICEIC’s chief operating officer. “Microgeneration will help to develop a sustainable society while reducing carbon emissions, and I would urge all electrical contractors to get involved with this exciting and potentially profitable sector.” Householders and businesses will only be able to claim the feed-in tariff if they can demonstrate an MCScertified product has been installed by an MCS-registered contractor. NICEIC has seen a growing number of electrical contractors join its MCS and recently launched a solar photovoltaic course.
Electrical installation has become the UK’s vocation of choice, according to a survey by City & Guilds. The poll found that 97,000 people studied for a City & Guilds qualification in the discipline between June 2009 and May 2010; a rise of 11 per cent from the previous year. This was a long way ahead of the sector’s closest rivals, which were care (63,000) and hairdressing (49,000). “It’s great to see that electrical courses are so popular because apprentices are the lifeblood of the trade,” said John Mewett, marketing director for Electricfix. The trade-only supplier has released its own research on electrical apprentices, which showed that 68 per cent want to run their own business.
Kidde’s cashback promotion Carbon monoxide, smoke and heat alarm manufacturer Kidde has launched a cashback promotion for electrical contractors. Under the scheme, which runs until the end of November, installers will earn between 50p and £1 back on every alkaline battery backup, hard-wired ionisation, optical or heat alarm purchased from the Slick fast-fit or Firex ranges. To take part, contractors need to use £Cashback envelopes, which can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the word “envelope” in the subject line.
Energy device makes TV debut A device that allows householders to cut their electricity use has been featured on the BBC’s DIY SOS: The Big Build. VPhase’s voltage optimisation device was used by a family on the programme in August who were trying to transform an ex-council house in South Wales into an eco-friendly home. VPhase claims the product, which must be installed by a qualified electrician, can cut costs by 10 per cent a year by regulating the incoming voltage to houses.
NICEIC Connections Autumn 2010 7
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ESC toolkit promotes installation of RCDs The Electrical Safety Council (ESC) has launched a toolkit designed to help contractors communicate the benefits of residual-current devices (RCDs) to consumers. Thousands of information packs are now available from a range of wholesalers across the UK, while two million leaflets are being distributed direct to consumers through retail and trade outlets. Each electrician pack contains 50 leaflets from the ESC explaining the importance of ensuring consumer units include RCD protection, as well as detachable blank business cards that contractors can use to write down their contact details to leave with householders. “More than half of UK homes – that’s 13 million – currently don’t have adequate RCD protection in their consumer unit,” said Phil Buckle, director general at the ESC. “We want to support the industry in encouraging householders to install RCDs and take basic safety measures to ensure their homes and families are
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NICEIC continues football deal NICEIC has renewed its sponsorship of Luton Town Football Club for a second season. The NICEIC logo will again appear on the back of the players’ shirts and shorts and on advertising hoardings. The deal will promote the organisation to football fans at more than 45 games and on Premier Sports, as well as generating coverage in the local media. Luton Town remain in the Blue Square Premier League this season after failing to win promotion from the playoffs last year.
Lighting push for contractors
>P Partt off th the ESC’ ESC’s safety f t ttoolkit lkit protected from the potential dangers of electricity. “To encourage and support this, we’ve produced these easy-to-use packs to help electricians communicate how crucial RCD protection is to their customers,” said Buckle. Packs can be picked up from leading wholesalers including Denmans, Arc, TLC, Leekes and Electrifix. Contractors can also download a PDF of the Plug into safety leaflet to attach to emailed quotations or invoices at www.esc.org.uk/ plugintosafety.
Contractors told to avoid trade talk Electrical contractors need to avoid using technical terms if they are to gain the trust of customers. That’s the conclusion of a survey by NICEIC which found that nine out of 10 Brits regularly fail to understand what tradespeople are talking about and a third believe they are being deliberately misled. More than half (65 per cent) said they felt angry and let down by the failure of contractors to explain what needs doing in simple English. “It’s shocking to see how many of our country’s tradespeople are baffling the nation with their everyday sparky speak,” said Tony Cable, senior marketing and events engineer at NICEIC. “It’s also worrying that homeowners are left feeling frustrated and angry because their electrician or plumber is confusing them,” he said. In response to the need for greater clarity, NICEIC has produced a guide on its website to help customers
NEWS IN BRIEF
NICEIC urged consumers to bring in registered contractors to check outdoor lighting as part of an electrical safety campaign over the summer. The message for householders was to check outdoor lighting decorations that had been stored away all year ahead of their use in the summer months. Tony Cable, NICEIC’s senior marketing and events engineer, advised people to thoroughly check products before they were used and to fit RCDs where appropriate. “Most importantly, if you are worried about faulty electrics or encounter an electrical problem, do not tackle it yourself; call out a professional,” he said.
Pay pledge not passed on A government pledge that the public sector would pay invoices within 10 days is not being passed on down the supply chain to sub-contractors such as electricians, the Forum of Private Business claims. The lobby group cited the case of Glasgowbased EH Heating and Plumbing, which had to wait 60 days to be paid by a construction company that had received payment in 10 days. “For many smaller sub-contractors this is the real story behind the commitment to prompt public sector payment,” said the forum’s head of policy Matt Goodman.
Report into heat pump potential > Straight talk: banish sparky speak understand commonly used jargon and to provide contractors with an alternative way of explaining issues to householders. NICEIC’s survey was featured in both the national and regional press, including titles such as the Chester Chronicle, Mansfield and Ashfield Observer and Waitrose Weekend. It was accompanied by a warning from Cable that householders should only use registered contractors to carry out electrical work around the home.
A report by the Energy Saving Trust into the potential of heat pumps has revealed that they could be 30 per cent more effective in reducing carbon emissions for mid-range systems than oil heating systems, while they also compared favourably with liquid petroleum gas. “The report reiterates that you have to ensure the property has the appropriate levels of thermal insulation before you start,” said John Kellett, general manager of the domestic heating systems division at Mitsubishi Electric. It also warned that poor design and system commissioning could compromise performance.
NICEIC Connections Autumn 2010 9
Joined-up thinking is the key to success As a leading innovator in interconnection and automation technology, WAGO believes that its integrated approach to modular wiring systems and intelligent control for buildings offers unique beneﬁts to contractors and system integrators. There is no doubt that the growth of pre-fabricated modular wiring systems, constructed off site and delivered as required on a ‘just in time’ basis, has provided important operational and economic beneﬁts for all types of building projects. It means a dramatic reduction in installation time, less storage requirement of materials and more consistent quality – all of which deliver a major boost to productivity as well as ensuring ‘cost certainty’. Although a number of manufacturers have developed products for this growing market, one company has led the way. Inventor of the world-renowned Cage Clamp® Spring Pressure connection concept, WAGO is a world leader in the design and manufacture of advanced interconnection technology products and systems. The company also has a proven reputation for working closely with contractors, system integrators and clients to ensure the most successful outcomes are achieved. It has been a prime mover in the development of modular wiring systems for buildings. Its mould breaking WINSTA® modular plug-and-play connectors reduce wiring time by up to 70% compared to conventional methods. They are widely used throughout Europe and the UK for power, lighting and control applications in both ﬁxed and temporary electrical installations and are ideal for ceiling, under ﬂoor and trunking systems. WAGO also broke new ground with its introduction of the world’s ﬁrst ﬁeldbusindependent modular I/O system and has since taken the lead in developing a range of intelligent control systems for building automation.
These can unite interacting activities for designers, managers and installers. Specialist protocols for building automation include LONWORKS, KNX, BACnet and MODBUS TCP/IP at network level plus the standard industrial ﬁeldbus protocols which can also be utilised depending on the application. This
WAGO is the only company in the ﬁeld able to offer such a fully integrated system for buildings enables integration of separate lighting, heating and ventilation functions in different parts of the building. WAGO also offers a range of gateway levels for EnOcean, DALI, KNX and MP-Bus. In addition the company’s engineering team can prepare detailed, bespoke layout drawings showing the integration of WAGO solutions – comprising WINSTA® lead assemblies, distribution boxes and other associated components within the architecture of end user schemes. WAGO’s Managing Director Gordon Smith commented: “We are the only company in the ﬁeld able to provide such a fully integrated system for building
services. In addition to our modular pre-wired assemblies, we also offer a wide range of decentralised controllers and distribution boxes - which means that the amount of modular wiring can actually be reduced whilst allowing a greater degree of local control. For example, if a ﬂoor changes use – say into 3 new separate areas – our ETHERNET based area controllers within the ﬂoor can make the necessary modiﬁcation easily. This is a major advantage, particularly in view of the increasing ‘churn’ factor where buildings are changing occupancy and usage far more rapidly.” WAGO building and control systems are suitable for use in fairly small installations as well as in major projects such as hospitals, schools, ofﬁces, retail outlets, hotels and leisure facilities. They can also be used in new builds, upgrades and extensions. Decentralised control means there is considerable ﬂexibility and, in retroﬁts for example, individual ﬂoors can be completed and operational while other parts of the building can be ﬁnished and linked at a later stage. The main thrust of the company’s integratedsystem approach is to make installation easier and to help provide ‘cost certainty’, whatever the project. Floor plans are provided showing distribution boxes with WINSTA® snap-in connector points enabling a semiskilled operative to install the fully tested, preassembled units on a plug-and-play basis. Everything is pre-assembled and pre-tested off site and delivered only when required. Gordon Smith concludes: “We have always been more than just a component provider. We believe we are the only market player able to provide a choice of pre-wired plug-and-play units, smart controllers or any combination of the two to meet speciﬁc requirements. Innovation has been the driving force behind WAGO’s development and we are already working on the next generation of products which, hopefully, will provide contractors and our system integrator partners with an important competitive edge.“
WAGO Limited Triton Park, Swift Valley Industrial Estate Rugby CV21 1SG Tel: 01788 568008 Fax: 01788 568050 Email: email@example.com Web: www.wago.com
NICEIC highlights the danger of botch jobs NICEIC has been promoting the benefits of using a registered contractor to carry out all electrical work after commissioning a survey which found that three in 10 homeowners have already botched a potentially lethal job. The survey, which received coverage in titles including First Time Buyer magazine, Cambridge News and Mid-Ulster Mail, found that 41 per cent of women regularly urge their other half to have a go at jobs around the home that they are not skilled to do, even though 51 per cent said they then worried whether it had been done correctly. Almost half (48 per cent) of men said they would willingly have a go at home improvements if their partner asked them to, although 43 per cent would be concerned that the work wasn’t up to standard. Another survey by Yell.com estimated that botched jobs cost UK householders around £850 million a year to put right. Tony Cable, NICEIC’s senior marketing and events engineer, was quoted in the titles. “Most DIY jobs are not as simple as they may seem and mistakes with electrical wiring, for example, could be fatal,” he said. “Not using properly qualified tradesp tradespeople is not only dang dangerous, it’s a false
NICEIC NS PROMOTIO
Help! My house is falling down Appearance by Tony Cable on Sarah Beeny’s Channel 4 show, highlighting the dangers of poorly maintained electrics. July 2010 Alfresco lighting Campaign urging householders to get outdoor electrics checked ahead of the summer months. Summer 2010 DIY electrics survey Research by NICEIC, which found
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Free pocket guides Inside this issue of Connections you will find Pocket Guide 21 – Cables passing through or over joists. A printable version of each pocket guide is available on the NICEIC website and additional printed copies can be obtained by contacting the customer service department on 0870 013 0382 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New cable regulations guide Installers of life safety and fire-fighting systems in large and complex buildings might be interested in a new guide to the selection of cable types, in accordance with BS 8519:2010. The guide, which is available free of charge, has been produced by cable manufacturer Prysmian with the aim of clarifying requirements for cables and components under the new regulations. Email email@example.com for a copy.
Construction staff numbers rise Four out of every five construction companies have either maintained or increased the number of contract staff they use over the past quarter, according to a poll by One Way Resourcing. According to the research, 30 per cent of firms have also increased their permanent headcount and more than 70 per cent said they had no plans to cut back on staff in the next quarter. “While not yet out of the woods, our survey shows demand in the construction sector is rising,” said operations director Duncan Bartlett. A survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, however, found that overall workloads are declining.
> NICEIC is targeting homeowners
N NICEIC is constantly working to raise public awareness of the need to use registered electricians and to t promote its Domestic Installers and Approved Contractors. Recent campaigns include:
MOT your M ele electrics Cam Campaign to enco encourage householders to use a professional to service their electrics. Autumn 2010
economy and could end up costing the homeowner thousands of pounds and a lot of hassle to put right,” said Cable. “Have-a-go heroes tempted to undertake the work themselves should think twice because it could end in disaster,” he added. “Call in a professional who will carry out the work to a much higher standard and won’t put them or their family’s lives at risk.” Homeowners were then encouraged to visit the NICEIC’s website to find qualified electricians in their area.
NEWS IN BRIEF
that three in 10 householders had botched a potentially dangerous job, and was featured in local and national press. Summer 2010 Luton Town FC shirt and shorts sponsorship More than 90 matches, online match coverage and ITV coverage of FA Cup games. 2009-2011 Sarah Beeny’s House Rescue Appearance by NICEIC engineer on three episodes of the Channel 4 show. Spring 2010 Homebase Stores Promoting NICEIC contractors in the kitchen and bathroom departments of more than 300 stores. Homebase serves over 60 million customers per year. 2010
Cowboy Builders Providing technical input and promoting the use of NICEIC contractors to viewers of this Channel 5 programme. 2010 Google Paid-for advertising to increase the position of NICEIC contractors on Google searches. On-going Yellow Pages Promoting NICEIC contactors in the electrical section, distributed to more than 10 million households. 2010 Cricket sponsorship Sponsorship of one-day internationals between England and South Africa shown on Sky Sports. December 2009
Rugby sponsorship Pitch-level sponsorship at three international Scottish rugby matches on BBC1. November 2009 Thomson Local Sponsorship of electrical section, distributed to more than 22 million households. 2009-2010 Rogue electrician radio campaign 11 radio stations reaching 2.2 million listeners. June 2009 “Don’t take the P” campaign Nationwide radio campaign featuring TV celebrity Linda Barker with more than 4.9 million listeners on 18 radio stations, www.donttakethep.co.uk. July 2009
NICEIC Connections Autumn 2010 11
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Jersey Boys to top the bill at powerBall Delegates at this year’s EEIBA powerBall will be entertained by the cast from the West End hit musical Jersey Boys. Fresh from appearing at the Prince Edward theatre, the cast will head across London to the Grosvenor House Hotel on 12 November to perform at the electrical industry charity’s annual event. The musical charts the career of the legendary New Jersey vocal group Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons and has won several accolades, including an Olivier award and a Tony award for best new musical. The “Friday night fever” theme will be complemented with performances by a Bee Gees tribute act, the Bogus
B Brothers and Ian H Haskell’s Apache Disco. Guests will also e enjoy five-star dining a and can try their luck at tombola, stand-up bi bingo and a raffle in th the Great Room of the Gr Grosvenor House. “PowerBall is an im important fundraiser in our programme of events and we’re absolutely thrilled that the cast of Jersey Boys will be entertaining our guests on the night,” said Pat Sheldrake, head of fundraising operations for EEIBA. “Ticket sales are going extremely well and we’d encourage people to book as quickly as possible to avoid disappointment,” she added. To book your place at the ball contact Richard Birtchnell on 020 7730 3725.
NEWS IN BRIEF
Timothy Lambert has stepped down as chief executive of the electrical industry charity EEIBA, after 15 years at the helm. The charity is currently reviewing its future structure as it attempts to cope with falling revenues and a rise in demand for its services. “I would like to thank Timothy for his sterling work over the past years and we wish him all the very best,” said EEIBA president Ian Humphreys. “He leaves the charity in excellent shape and we look forward to building upon his legacy.”
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NG Bailey pledges green target Building services company NG Bailey has committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 20 per cent by the end of 2012. The business already uses eco-friendly cabins on building sites and will focus on sending less waste to landfill, using less water and committing to more sustainable construction methods. “We help our clients to be more sustainable so it’s only right we practise what we preach,” said Cal Bailey, sustainability director.
“Although we are satisfied with the outcome of this investigation we are concerned about the recovery of affected cables and their scrapping,” said an ACI spokesperson. “Anyone worried they may have purchased suspect cable should return it to the place of purchase. Regarding installed cable, guidance should be sought from a qualified electrical authority to ensure lives are not at risk.”
Plimsoll also predicts a wave of acquisitions over the coming months as strong performers take over struggling rivals. “In the current economic climate the market cannot support this many companies,” said David Pattison, author of the electrical industry report. “There has to be further, more radical consolidation in the market.”
2010/11 EVENTS CALENDAR
> Beware of faulty cables
Gradual sector growth on the cards The electrical industry will grow by 1 per cent in 2010 before hitting annual growth rates of 3 per cent by 2014, according to market analyst Plimsoll. The company forecasts that repair and maintenance will account for 55 per cent of work by 2014 – up from 52 per cent today – with new construction work decreasing from 42 per cent in 2010 to 40 per cent in 2014.
The Industry Committee for Emergency Lighting (ICEL) has raised fears about the number of substandard products finding their way into the UK. The emergency lighting arm of the Lighting Industry Federation is reminding contractors only to use products complying with BSEN69598-222 and advises them to check for the CE mark, a legal requirement for all lights on sale in Europe. Installers found to have used sub-standard equipment that leads to a loss of life, personal injury or damage to property could face legal action, the ICEL warns.
EEIBA chief executive moves on
Dangers of dodgy cable exposed The electrical industry is being urged to remain vigilant after the cancellation of Atlas Kablo’s product certification licence highlighted the dangers posed by counterfeit cable. Tests by the Approved Cables Initiative (ACI) revealed products – including flat twin and earth, single core cables, flexible and armoured cables – contained insufficient copper, leading to high conductor resistance. This was confirmed by the British Approvals Service for Cables, resulting in the suspension of the Turkish company’s licence. The products affected were flat twin, single and 3-core with CPC (BS 6004 table 8 and IS 201-4 table 1; 1.0-16 sq mm), single core unsheathed (BS 6004 table 4a, 1.5-35 sq mm) and single core sheathed (BS 6004 table 7, 1.5-35 sq mm).
Warning over emergency lighting
17-20 Interbuild Onsite NEC, Birmingham www.interbuild.com
9 NICEIC TechTalk Aberystwyth 10 NICEIC TechTalk
18-19 Solar power UK conference Savoy Place, London www.solarpowerportal. co.uk
Liberty Stadium, Swansea
19-21 European Future Energy Forum Excel, London www.europeanfuture energyforum.com
12 EEIBA powerBall Grosvenor House Hotel, London www.eeiba.org
20 NICEIC TechTalk Headingley Stadium, Leeds
18 NICEIC TechTalk Ricoh Arena, Coventry
27 NICEIC TechTalk Eden Project, Cornwall The contact for all TechTalks is firstname.lastname@example.org
11 NICEIC TechTalk Ashton Gate Stadium, Bristol
19 NICEIC TechTalk Belfry Hotel, Nottingham 26 NICEIC TechTalk Odeon Cinema, Worcester
NICEIC Connections Autumn 2010 13
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Fluke’s insulation test Fluke has brought out two new insulation resistance testers designed to test a range of high-voltage equipment, including switchgear, motors, generators, transformers and cables. The 1550C device allows testing up to 5kV, while the 1555 extends to 10kV. The testers are designed for industrial electricians looking to identify potential equipment failures before they occur as part of maintenance programmes. The new SureTest installation tester from Ideal Industries weighs just 675g; which the company claims makes it almost 50 per cent lighter than other products on the market (partly because it contains four fewer batteries). The device works as an all-in-one tester, providing loop impedance
> Ideal’s SureTest product (left); Fluke’s testers (below); and Seaward’s RCD test adaptor (below left)
measurements without hout tripping RCDs, and also includes non-trip loop testing and phase sequencing to comply with the 17th edition. hile, Seaward, meanwhile, has unveiled a new adaptor designed to enable contractors to test portable RCDs or RCD-protected extension leads without the risk of tripping the main RCD. It gets round this problem by providing an isolated mains supply. www.fluke.co.uk www.idealindustries.co.uk www.seaward.co.uk
One-part resin jointing kit from 3M 3M claims it has become the first company to devise a one-part mould shell for resin jointing kits, with the launch of its Scotchcast LV range. The kits are designed to simplify and speed up installation of low-voltage electrical cable systems, with the installer not coming into contact with the resin at any point. The new products feature a single top seal and five fixing clips, which 3M says reduces the chance of resin leakage and eliminates the need for additional taping. www.3M.co.uk/electrical
Hager’s new panelboards Hager has devised a new range of its Invicta 3 panelboards, which it says are easier to install and will help contractors comply with Part L2 of the Building Regulations. Hager says space for cable-bending radii at the top, bottom and sides of the board makes them easier to install. The range includes 250A, 400A and 800A panelboards with new MCCB incomers, while prewired packs allow installers to fit metering into the board for both incoming and outgoing ways. www.hager.co.uk
Data cable trunking Marshall-Tufflex has unveiled its Twin165 trunking equipment, designed to accommodate larger than average data cables. The trunking is Cat 6 and Cat 6A compliant, with two compartments. About 60 per cent is for power delivery and 40 per cent for data cabling. The Twin165 is intended mainly for use in the commercial, industrial and educational sectors where more data cabling needs routing around buildings. www.marshall-tufflex.com
How much do you know about electric storage heating? FACT
The market penetration of electrically central heated homes is increasing. Surprised? This is just 1 from a long list of little known facts. See them all at www.dimplex.co.uk/facts
p15 product news.2.indd 15
NICEIC Connections Autumn 2010 15
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MATTHEW HUMPHREY ADVICE
Coping with cuts Electrical firms and sole traders that have relied on the public sector should now consider new areas of business, says Matthew Humphrey
very day the news brings more stories of public sector cuts, organisations being abolished and cancelled projects. Research by professional services firm RSM Tenon found that one in nine private sector business owners believes the biggest threat to their business over the next year will be from cuts to public sector spending. Electrical contractors that have traditionally relied on the public sector need to consider new areas of business and alternative ways to remain competitive.
Look for new markets Take a rigorous look at your customer base. If most of your work is for the public sector, are you spread across local councils, the health service and other not-for-profit organisations? Do you have clients ranged across your local area? If you have a good mix of client types, you will be more protected from a downturn in any one of the different areas.
ILLUSTRATION: CAMERON LAW
Look for new areas of work Have you specialised in a particular area of work? The cutbacks have not reduced the emphasis on the green agenda and public sector organisations will still be looking to achieve their sustainability targets. Do you have the expertise to help in this increasingly important area? If not, can you train or recruit someone so that you can? What other areas of work could you expand into, perhaps in collaboration with other contractors?
Competitive edge When funds are tight, clients look for someone who can deliver what they promise, when they promise and to the promised price â€“ and they will try to pare back that price. When did you last consider the effectiveness of your resources? Do you have under-occupied staff or under-used equipment? If so, could you make better use of them or should you dispense with them? Could you obtain resources in a more flexible way, perhaps through contractors? Finally, always risk-assess work to ensure you have the skills and resources to deliver.
Winning public sector work A lot of public sector work is mandatory and safetyrelated â€“ you need to comply with these requirements. Make sure you publicise your good reputation with an up-to-date website, including testimonials. Project a professional image, with excellent and visible health and safety, quality, environmental and people systems. Use the public sector network to your advantage: do good work for one organisation and they are likely to refer you to their partners. There are still plenty of opportunities for highly skilled and collaborative contractors. Manage your risks and understand the market and you should emerge from this difficult period a more effective business. Matthew Humphrey is risk management associate director at RSM Tenon
See our feature on how to win more contracts on page 22
How much do you know about electric storage heating? FACT
Static Dimplex storage heaters have no moving parts and are maintenance-free for life. Surprised? This is just 1 from a long list of little known facts. See them all at www.dimplex.co.uk/facts
p17 advice.1.indd 17
NICEIC Connections Autumn 2010 17
OPINION STEVE EVANS
If you have an opinion about an issue concerning the electrical industry, let us know. Email editor@niceic connections .com
hen I left school in the 1970s it was the norm for young people to start a job, get an apprenticeship or stay on at school to do A-levels. Much has changed since then, not least the profile of the typical “young” person who starts an apprenticeship. They’re often not so young any more, but the powers-that-be in charge of funding for apprenticeship training don’t seem to recognise this and it’s a growing problem for electrical contractors like us. We recruit about 30-40 apprentices each year and the majority of them are in their late teens or early 20s. Many of them stayed on at school and gained good A-levels, only to decide that university wasn’t for them. Some even started university before deciding that it wasn’t for them. Another reason why our apprentices are generally a bit older than they used to be is that most of our customers now prohibit under-18s from working on their sites. With 16 and 17-year-olds classified as “young workers”, there’s a whole load of restrictions on what they can and can’t do.
Steve Evans is managing director of NICEIC Approved Contractor Clarkson Evans, Gloucester
When did you first set up in business? I started the company in 1974. It took a bit of time to establish, but I built the business up and at one time had about 40 electricians working for me. We did a lot of the newbuilds on the Thames, including the flats around St Katherine’s Dock. As I’ve got older I’ve scaled it back. I’ve just got one electrician who works for me, but I built up such a large client base that I’m working flat out six days a week. I’m
running about five jobs at the moment. What work do you do now? We specialise mainly in domestic – rewiring houses or flats – and a little bit of commercial. I don’t do industrial any more. I have clients all over NW London, the West End and Essex, but I don’t go south of the river. What’s the hardest part of running your own business? Meeting prospective clients
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On the face of it, there isn’t an obvious problem. We’re happy to recruit slightly more mature apprentices, it meets our customers’ requirements and most applicants are that little bit older anyway. But, although the government will throw as much money as training providers or employers want at the 16-18 age group, getting sufficient funding for anyone aged 19 or over is a continuous battle. As an employer I accept the need to make a greater contribution towards training an adult apprentice. But when there’s spare money available for younger apprentices and a low uptake of these places, funding should be redirected to train the older apprentices that employers need and want to recruit. With all the daily problems of running our business in such a difficult economic climate, many would say it’s remarkable we’re still recruiting large numbers of apprentices. For the sake of the industry, it’s time the government made investment where it’s really needed.
ILLUSTRATION: CAMERON LAW
The government needs to redirect funding for apprentices to over-18s if electrical firms are to continue to benefit, says Steve Evans
after a hard day’s work and working the estimates out. I start at five in the morning and do all my paperwork, estimates and emails then. It’s a long day, but I’d rather do the paperwork when I’m not tired. What do you do when you’re not working? I’m a football referee at senior county level. I’ve been doing it for about 20 years and I love it. When you referee you have four hours away from work and
forget about everything. I refereed a charity game at Highbury last year and I was the last person to referee there. David Price is owner of D Price Electrical Company, based in Stanmore, Middlesex. If you are a small business or sole trader and would like to feature in In Focus, email editor@ niceicconnections.com
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Industrial evolution Contractors specialising in heavy industry report intense competition and huge pressure on costs. But, with manufacturing growing again, recovery may be in sight By Adrian Holliday
t’s tedious to keep mentioning the “R” word. The recession has been with us since the end of 2007. That’s a good 30 months. Yet this is a word that just won’t go away. Electrical contractors working in the heavy plant sector can be especially vulnerable in a prolonged downturn. Contracts, although often sizeable, are difficult to win consecutively. Private sector bids have become increasingly competitive and government contracts are coming under huge pressure in the run-up to October’s spending review. It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Shelley Gibson is a director of Murray Gibson Services, based in Carlisle. The business has up to 15 staff on its books – when the going’s good, that is – and its turnover last year was around £650,000. Like many electrical contractors over the past year or two, the firm has diversified its service base, helping it weather the worst of the downturn. “We do refrigeration, air-conditioning jobs and plumbing,” says Gibson. “We’ve benefited from the fact that a few larger companies have struggled to make it through, which sounds awful, but that’s the reality. We’ve noticed that a lot of clients are being much more careful with quotes, so that means we have to squeeze our wholesalers more to get a shout. No one is simply mopping up business,” she says. There is, however, some reason for optimism. Customers’ tendency to cut back on maintenance is proving lucrative for contractors. “Maintenance work has taken a hit,” adds Gibson. “If people think they can get away without doing it,
20 Autumn 2010 NICEIC Connections
p20-21 sector focus.2.indd Sec1:20
they will. But when there’s a breakdown, you can reap the benefits.” In the medium-term, too, Carlisle has good prospects, especially if it gets a new, much-needed airport.
Intense competition Contracts director Paul Caller, from Kent-based Lyons Electrical, has managed to steer things along nicely, up to a point. In the past few years around 30-40 per cent of Lyons’ turnover has come from the Ministry of Defence (MoD). But talk of cuts has inevitably dragged a cloud across prospects. A new MoD contract worth up to £1.8 million is possibly in the offing for this firm of 28 staff, but each contract is clearly hard won. “We recently tendered for a job in Gravesend,” says Caller. “We then found out that 35 other companies were tendering for it, and those are just the ones we know about.” Yet Lyons’ client base has served them well enough up to now, and Caller is clearly making the best of a tough situation. But he’s always concerned when architects go quiet on him. “We haven’t tried to increase advertising so far; we prefer to stick to our core clients, people we know,” he says. Meanwhile, rising fuel and vehicle maintenance costs for the firm’s 11-strong van fleet are having an impact. Last year Bury St Edmunds-based contractor A.C.Webb Electrical, which
‘We’ve benefited because a few larger firms have struggled to make it through; it sounds awful, but that’s the reality’ employs 10 staff, had a turnover of £850,000, but now finds heavy plant work harder to secure because many factories are using their own staff to get as much work done in-house as possible. “Much of it has died,” says Jason Webb, a company director. “Some of it is still health-and-safety oriented, and we can pick up on some of that. But some open-specification projects might not be very detailed on what they want. We will work at a tender that we think is worth £25,000, for example, then someone comes in £8,000 cheaper.” Typically that’s when the client hasn’t been specific enough. “Our quotations
are generally very comprehensive, right down to what the finish will be and what they will be able to do with the system that we fit,” says Webb. “I’ve seen other quotations that are just a single line. Unfortunately, accountants don’t see the big bit in the middle. The technical details are pretty irrelevant to them.”
Cost pressures Stories about the constant whittlingdown of costs are common. The expectation of certain standards exists alongside an unwillingness to pay for what in more ordinary circumstances would be a going commercial price. Keith Flynn is a director at Tyneside-based Alex Scullion Group. In March the business had more than 50 staff on its books (a mixture of salaried and casuals). That’s now down to 15. Last year’s turnover was £1.2 million, but Flynn is not hugely optimistic about prospects for the rest of the year.
p20-21 sector focus.2.indd Sec1:21
> Above: heavy plant work is now harder to find. Left: Murray Gibson (far left) and David Miller of Carlisle-based Murray Gibson Services
Recently he’s been busy pricing for a big factory refurbishment programme in Durham. “New tenants are moving in,” he says. “The design has changed about five times in the last three months. Our finance director is seeing all this re-pricing of drawings that can’t be added on to the price of the job.” When Connections spoke to Flynn, he had spent much of the previous two weeks on the work. He thinks his company has a good chance of winning the contract. In the meantime, in order to keep going, the firm is taking as much work – big and small; private and public sector – as it can get.
It’s undoubtedly still a sticky time for the majority of companies, but the growing strength of the manufacturing sector – on the back of a weaker pound and rising exports – provides some grounds for optimism. The hope is that companies will gradually start to re-open mothballed facilities, all of which will need to be brought up to scratch again. There may be some way to go before business is booming again, but there is at least some light at the end of what has been a very dark tunnel. > Adrian Holliday is a freelance business journalist
NICEIC Connections Autumn 2010 21
‘Many companies and government departments will have an initial screening stage in which someone looks through the bids and throws out any that don’t comply’
p22-24 contracts.2.indd 22
Contract killings In today’s ultra-competitive environment tendering for contracts can be a depressing experience. But there is more you can do to make your pitch stand out from the crowd By Alex Blyth
t is one of the most frustrating feelings in business – you’ve found an ideal contract to tender for, you’ve worked long and hard to put in what you feel is an excellent bid, and then you discover the job has gone to one of your rivals. Everyone who runs a business will have experienced it and for many of us it is an all-too-frequent occurrence. But no matter how many times it happens, it never gets any easier to take. It is especially painful when work is scarce and every potential new contract allows you to keep staff, invest in essential equipment or just keep the business afloat. You need these contracts, which is why you try everything you can to make your bid attractive. You tell them about all the similar work you have done, you present your proposal professionally and you even offer a good price. Unfortunately all your competitors are doing the same and very few contractors bid on jobs for which they are inexperienced. Professional bid documents are the norm and everyone is under-cutting everyone else in a desperate bid to win the work. You need to do more than this to get ahead of the game. Without doubt the most important factor in whether or not your bids are successful is the quality of your work and the strength of your reputation. But it is not everything. Here are seven ways you can make your bids stand out and increase your chances of winning those all-important contracts.
a contractor who did this and discovered that one of the people making the decision was a strong advocate of environmental protection. The contractor included a short piece about his company’s environmental credentials, even though this was not mentioned or required in the brief. He found later this had helped to win the work.”
2) Use social media Not every potential customer will be willing to talk to you, but this doesn’t mean you should give up on researching the brief before answering it. Claire Chapman is a social media coach and she advises electrical contractors to use the social networking site LinkedIn to find out about the people they are pitching to. “LinkedIn is where professionals network,” she explains. “If you know the name of the person who will make the decision about your bid you can find them on the site. There you can find out about their professional experience, career history and qualifications, as well as more detail about their current job role. This gives you additional insight into the person you are doing business with. You can then find out if anyone you know is already connected to them and could potentially introduce you.”
Richard Ilsley, founder of Synogis, a global consulting firm for independent consultants, has helped many electrical contractors increase their conversion rate from proposals to bids. His first piece of advice is to try to make contact with the person who wrote the brief. “You’ll be amazed how much more you can discover in a conversation with the potential customer,” he says. “Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone – ideally try to arrange a face-to-face meeting.” He says you should find out whether there is an incumbent supplier and, if so, why they want to change. Find out what general policies they have for suppliers and how they will make the decision on this particular contract. Try to get a list of the criteria they will use to select the new supplier. “You will always find out more in an informal conversation like this than you will from a written brief,” says Ilsley. “I worked with
p22-24 contracts.2.indd 23
While it is important to do all this background research, you should also take care to read the actual brief thoroughly and then to answer it precisely. “One of the most common reasons for suppliers failing to win bids is that they did not follow the brief,” says Ilsley. In fact, a review of 50 recent bids on behalf of a number of contractors showed that around a quarter had been rejected at the initial stage because they had not addressed the brief, he adds. “It is a bit like not answering the question on an exam paper,” says Ilsley. “You may write a great answer, but if it doesn’t address the question, you will fail. It’s worth being aware of the fact that many companies and government departments will have an initial screening stage in which someone looks through the bids and throws out any that don’t comply with the brief. This is not a manager who is looking for added value; it is someone simply seeing if you have followed the required structure.”
ILLUSTRATION: LEE WRIGHT
3) Answer the brief 1) Question the brief
NICEIC Connections Autumn 2010 23
‘You might not be able to take them around the installations, but you can show them photos or videos and include detailed testimonials’
4) Show, don’t tell As an advisor at Business Link, Roma Bhowmick has helped many electrical contractors produce more successful tenders. She has three key pieces of advice; the first of which is to do more than just tell potential customers that you have a good track record. “You need to actually show them the relevant work that you’ve done,” she explains. “You might not be able to take them around the installations, but you can show them photos or videos and include detailed testimonials from satisfied clients. Remember that the customer is looking for evidence that you are trustworthy and are as good as you say you are. The more tangible you can make this the better.”
5) Minimise risk For Bhowmick, the key point to remember is that buyers want to minimise risk. “If you’re a new supplier, you’re a risk,” she says. “Regardless of whether it’s the public, commercial or domestic sector, they all want to take as few risks as possible. So go into detail about how you will cope with the job in terms of cashflow, equipment and people. “Give them clear evidence of your processes and procedures in areas such as health and safety,” she suggests. “Explain exactly how you will document the job and how you will report to them on progress. It might be tedious for you to describe all this, but it is incredibly reassuring for your customers to see it.”
6) Be transparent on price Bhowmick’s final piece of advice is to make it clear that the price you quote is only an estimate. “This is most relevant to the domestic market, but the principle applies elsewhere,” she says. “Buyers tend to be wary of hiring electricians because they don’t believe the price they agree is what they will end up paying, which is very often the case.” “It is rare that an electrician can precisely estimate the scope of a project in advance. Good ones can make good guesses, but that’s all they are: guesses. Problems occur when customers don’t understand this, if they think an estimate is a fixed price and end up with a nasty shock,” says Bhowmick. “So, from the start, be clear that you are offering an estimate and explain exactly how you will keep the customer informed of any changes to the price,” she
24 Autumn 2010 NICEIC Connections
p22-24 contracts.2.indd 24
says. “That will give them confidence in your trustworthiness and make it more likely that they will want to hire you.”
7) Don’t rely solely on price It is tempting to think that buyers are only interested in price, but in reality they tend to be more interested in value. At Synogis, Ilsley recently worked with a mid-sized electrical contractor that reaped significant benefits from realising this. “The company used a standard format for responding to bids,” he recalls. “They adjusted the prices they quoted depending on their current order book. If they were short of business the price went down and if they had enough it went up. “They were not able to point to any ways they differed from their competitors and they were convinced that jobs were only ever won on price in their industry,” he adds. “They won very few bids, although enough to survive.” The first thing Ilsley did was to stop them putting in speculative bids. “There’s no point just throwing in bids if you’re not really interested in the work,” he says. “It’s far better to bid only for work you really want and to focus on the quality of those bids.” The next stage was to identify what the firm was really good at. “We looked at previous work and contacted previous clients and got some great feedback,” says Ilsley. “We also grouped previous work into categories so we could point to success by job type and industry. “We identified ideal clients in those core sectors and contacted them directly to establish a relationship before any brief arrived,” he adds. “This meant it was easy to have a conversation when a bid did arrive because we already had the relationship. Finally, we focused strongly on the added value that we could bring to every bid. We concentrated more on the value we added rather than on offering a low price.” The result was that the company pitched for fewer jobs but doubled the number it won. The profitability of those jobs soared because the firm was no longer bidding on price. In many cases, because the firm had built strong relationships with potential customers, it was offered the chance to bid for projects even before those jobs went out to competitive tender. In the current climate, that kind of relationship could be priceless. > Alex Blyth is a freelance business journalist and author of How to Grow Your Business
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lights and lighting
Leading lights The continued quest for energy efficiency means contractors have to be able to advise customers on the latest advances in lighting technology By James Hunt
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mplementing energy-efficient lighting is playing a key role in the world’s increasingly urgent drive to reduce carbon emissions. More than a quarter of the UK’s total carbon emissions comes from homes, with lighting representing up to 25 per cent of a household’s electricity consumption. As pressure from both the government and consumers to reduce energy consumption – and costs – grows, contractors have an important part to play in meeting the demand for more environmentally friendly devices. In the UK and Europe, the highly inefficient incandescent GLS lamp bulb is already effectively banned. The lighting industry was well prepared. Philips Lighting, for example, has increased manufacture of alternative ranges and refocused its professional indoor lighting activities to LED-based solutions. Its other lighting businesses remain largely unaffected. Philips is not alone in moving towards more efficient devices. “There is not a single light fitting in Thorn’s UK catalogue, which features 6,000 plus lines, that uses a GLS lamp,” says Hugh King, marketing manager at Thorn Lighting. “Banning them has created strong public awareness of energy-efficient lighting, but the greatest saving potential lies in the 69 per cent of total power consumption used by professional
> Left: OSRAM’s Lumilux T8 fluorescent tubes; Above: Philips LED lighting is now being used in retail environments
lighting installations. This must present huge opportunities for electrical contractors,” he says. The main modern energy-saving lamp types that replace the banned incandescents are: Linear fluorescent tubes: these account for 80 per cent of the world’s lighting. Modern products, such as OSRAM’s Lumilux, significantly improve building efficiency when installed with the necessary electronic control gear. This provides dimming and integration into digital lighting control systems, but precise beam control is not possible. Today, very slim T5s can easily be incorporated for 600, 1,200 or 1,500mm ceiling modules. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs): the latest models have an essential role to play in reducing the domestic energy requirement by 10-15 per cent. They are compact and provide a bright light with good colour temperature. Start-up is virtually flicker-free, the lamps have a high efficacy (35-80 lm/W) and last a long time. Modern CFLs are quick to retrofit and most homeowners won’t notice the difference. High intensity discharge (HID) lamps: modern ceramic metal halide HID lamps can produce up to five times the light for the same input power compared with tungsten halogen lamps and are ideal for high-efficacy display and hi-bay indoor lighting. The colour rendering is excellent and lifespan is around 12,000 hours. Fewer lamps are needed so environmental impact is minimised. LEDs: these are providing a real revolution in general lighting. LEDs produce instant bright, pure, deeply saturated colours, as
> CASE STUDY
‘The greatest saving potential lies in the 69 per cent of total power consumption used by professional lighting installations’ well as warm and cool white. LED lighting may not always be the most efficient available, however, because they are usually clustered. Even so, with Cooper Lighting’s RXD1 LED downlight power consumption is reduced to just 25W; a 56 per cent energy saving compared with equivalent 2 x 26W CFL downlights. LEDs can be waterproofed, are very robust, easily digitally controlled and use safety extra-low voltages. Lifespan is extremely long. Philips Lumileds Luxeon LEDs will run for 60,000 hours and still provide 70 per cent of the original light output, making them ideal where lamp replacement is difficult or expensive. Furthermore, they can be integrated into building materials and pathways and are perfect for sharply delineating architectural objects. The use of LEDs in traffic lights and road-lighting applications is increasing and LEDs are now finding their way into street-lighting schemes. Their safety extra-low voltages and low operating temperature also make them ideal for hazardous areas. In offices, LEDs are now suitable for task-lighting, while Philips recently lit the Generali-owned office building in Paris entirely with LEDs. LED decorative lighting is increasingly used in hotels for decorative, bar/restaurant and wall lighting, as well as bedside lighting and standing lamps. In supermarkets, LED
LIGHT FANTASTIC FOR SCOTTISH MARINA
An early example of very advanced LED lighting technology is a new marina installation in Portavadie, Loch Fyne in Argyll, Scotland. This uses internal and external lights fitted with Xicato’s spot module. This is a functional replacement for traditional lamp technologies, offering the long life and energy-saving advantages of LEDs with no light-technical or aesthetic compromises. The fitted lights are the quartet 1 (inside), and the quartet 3 (outdoors). Part of this installation is over the bar area (pictured right) and other parts are along outside eaves. In the bar area are previously installed 35W halogen dichroics. These and the new LED lamps can be directly compared, yet it is impossible to tell the difference. Moreover, the new 18W LED technology replaces many 35W dichroics. In the marina’s first three months some dichroics were replaced three times, yet the LEDs are likely to last years.
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NICEIC Connections Autumn 2010 27
lights and lighting
shelf and retail freezer lighting not compromise ceiling fire is now common, because LEDs resistance, so an integrated have the added bonus of having intumescent material seals the no toxic mercury to contaminate downlight and cuts out if fire foodstuffs, which can happen occurs. This fixture can also be with broken fluorescent lamps. covered with insulation. In shops, LEDs are finding Also designed for recessed applications in display lighting, ceiling grid installations, décor, signage and logos. Thorn’s Quattro LED has one The situation is rather of the most homogeneous different for domestic lighting. colour temperatures around, Homeowners have only with efficacies beyond Part L recently taken up CFLs, despite requirements. A row of these significant benefits. LED fittings will have the same > Above: Cooper Lighting’s RXD1 LED applications so far are mainly 3,500K colour temperature; downlight; right: Thorn’s high-lumen replacements for low-end most LED fittings vary. output Cruz LED halogen garden spotlights or Xicato’s compact spot module purely decorative. Products such claims to be “the first genuine as Thorn’s base LED downlighter and Philips’ LED Econic light LED equivalent for halogen with no aesthetic or light technical bulbs mean this is slowly changing, but CFLs are still likely to be compromises”. One of its most important attributes is colour domestic mainstays for some time to come. consistency part-to-part. Corrected cold phosphor technology ends colour variation issues that have prevented LED acceptance. New entrants Applications include retail, domestic, commercial and outdoor. Aurora Lighting’s low-energy luna range includes many new OSRAM’s T5 high-efficiency fluorescent tube, with products, one of which is a smoothly dimmable CFL. Ideal for mood-lighting options, claims to provide high-quality light with homes, the dimming range is between 15-100 per cent of minimal shadows for hotels, restaurants or shopping centres. maximum light output. Being fully dimmable means it can also help to save energy. OSRAM’s most compact metal halide lamp so far – the new Ledvance LEDs from OSRAM offer energy-saving, high-quality Powerball HCI-TF 15W – has the same light output as a 35W lighting for sophisticated building, while reducing energy costs halogen lamp, despite its small size. Particularly suitable for by up to 70 per cent. The manufacturer claims payback is around professional accent lighting, the average life is 12,000 hours. one and a half years. The very slim downlight S version can be Philips’ new Master TL-D power saver set offers an alternative integrated into furniture, shelves or niches. to T8 halophosphate fluorescent tubes, which are now being Thorn’s high-lumen output Cruz LED downlight, meanwhile, phased out within the EU (although the triphosphor tubes are uses active cooling to outperform CFL downlights in energy not). This product, which Philips says has a two or three-year efficiency and light quality from a third, smaller aperture. It payback, combines high-quality light with new, highly intelligent delivers 2,000 lumens in warm white or cool white, equating electronic control gear, and claims to enable businesses to save to a 2x26W CFL downlight, and is also DALI dimmable. up to 30 per cent on energy bills. > James Hunt is a freelance journalist specialising in the Aurora’s SOLA fire-rated downlighter range complies with electrical industry Building Regulations Parts B, C and E. Recessed features must
> FACTS OF THE MATTER
BENEFITS OF LEDS FOR EMERGENCY LIGHTING
BS 5266-1 is undergoing revision so that 99 per cent of all non-domestic building will require emergency lighting that is fully functioning at all times. Replacing lamps is always time-consuming, costly and disruptive, especially because often escape routes and exits cannot be obstructed during working hours. There’s also the cost of lamp replacement and failed lamp disposal. LEDs have a far longer lifespan than fluorescents used in emergency lighting, reducing maintenance costs and failure risk, which could have serious legal consequences. BS5266: Part 10 – the emergency lighting code of practice – and fire safety legislation mean that “responsible persons” must test emergency lighting systems regularly and record the results, so that their emergency lighting systems are properly maintained in full working order. Monthly and annual testing of every light is necessary, with central battery system indicators being visually inspected daily. All self-contained emergency lighting must be functionally tested for 5-10 minutes every month and for full-rated duration of typically three hours every year. As a result, there is a growing trend towards automatic testing, with ICEL – the emergency lighting arm of the Lighting Industry Federation – suggesting this can be more cost-effective and reliable than manual testing and removes the potential for tests to be forgotten about.
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Years to evolve, seconds to install Imagine being able to install a ﬂuorescent batten in seconds and then add 3 hour emergency capability and/or motion and daylight sensing, also in seconds. At Thorn, pioneers of the original economical and efﬁcient pack type ﬂuorescent ﬁtting, we not only imagined it, we designed it and are now manufacturing a range of new PopPacks at our award winning factory, near Durham.
4 key beneﬁts FixExpress UÊÊÊRadical two stage ﬁxing method (patent applied for). You can now install 9 new ﬁttings in the same time it used to take to do 4. UÊÊÊÌiÀ>ÞÊwÝiÃÊÊÃiV`Ã ConnectExpress UÊ >ÌÊÃ«iÊ«>ÌiÊvÀÊi>ÃÞÊ access to electrical connections UÊ >iÊÊÀi>ÀÊvÊÃ«iÊÊ plate conceals wiring
SafeExpress UÊÊÊ*Õ}Ê>`Ê«>ÞÊ ÊÊ emergency module. UÊÊÊ"iÊÃâiÊwÌÃÊ>Ê`iÃ SaveExpress UÊÊ*Õ}Ê>`Ê«>ÞÊÌÉ daylight sensor module UÊ} ÊÃ>Û}ÃÊ«ÌiÌ> Plus, T5 and T8 lamp options >`Ê>Êxx7Ê/ ÊÛ>À>ÌÊÌ >ÌÊ packs extra lighting into a smaller light engine.
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R E T N U O C THERE’S A YOU NEAR 17/9/10 11:02:17
ventilation and heat recovery
A breath of fresh air A lack of installers for new ventilation and heat recovery systems, along with updated environmental legislation, is presenting opportunities for suitably qualified contractors By Steve Rogerson
nce, ventilation in the UK meant opening a window. Today, with new houses being sealed tight and the government demanding greater energy efficiency, the whole subject of ventilation and heat recovery has become a primary concern for housebuilders. But there is a problem, and that is a lack of qualified installers for the latest ventilation and heat recovery systems. For electrical contractors who are willing to spend a little time and money on training, this need can create a seriously lucrative business opportunity. First, they have to be aware of an impending change in the regulations, which in itself improves the situation for qualified installers. That change is encompassed in Part F of the Building Regulations, which comes into effect in October. This part is all about ventilation, but is tied into the new Part L on the conservation of fuel and power. “It’s all part of Europe, the world and the UK moving to zero-carbon buildings for newbuilds by 2015,” says Bob Towse, head of technical and safety for the Heating & Ventilating Contractors’ Association (HVCA). “Achieving that is a large step forward for appliances and energy efficiencies.”
MAIN PHOTO: ISTOCK
Raising the roof Ventilation is a key contributor when it comes to managing a building’s energy efficiency because of strict requirements on how much air is allowed to leak out of a building naturally. “There is a lot of work going on to make them much tighter,” adds Towse. “They don’t want nice warm air leaking out.” But all buildings need ventilation and, for new buildings, this will result in an increase in rooftop-based air extractors. These are similar to those used in kitchens and bathrooms, but on a larger scale, only now they are drawing air out of the whole building. This rooftop box is also likely to be connected to a heat recovery system to pre-warm the incoming air. Many of these are more complex than the old passive ventilation systems based purely on ducting that were more common up to about five years ago. Modern systems are managed using sensors in
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different rooms to detect humidity, temperature and occupancy. The UK is a little behind in this type of technology compared with other countries, notably those in Scandinavia and in North America where they have had controlled ventilation and heat recovery systems for decades. “The industry wants to drive the uptake of these higher value, higher performance products,” says Kelly Butler, marketing director for the energy and power industry trade body Beama. “One driver has been the new Building Regulations that make buildings tighter. That has had a big impact.” Another factor has been energy-efficiency schemes where there are targets for carbon emission figures for buildings. Ventilation equipment makers have responded to this by promoting how big a part their products can play in this. “This has created major growth in this market,” says Butler. “Manufacturers keep trying to come out with the best-performing products. In 2004, the general efficiency of these products was just above 60 per cent and now they are up above 90 per cent. It has had a dramatic impact.” This has also meant, he says, that modern ventilation systems have continued to increase sales, despite a fall in the number of new builds, because they have taken a larger share of a smaller market. The concept of demand-control ventilation, where sensors and timers dictate when the ventilation is turned on and off, has seen the most movement. The question now is whether these should be purely automatic or whether householders should have control. “Once you give someone control, you have to ask if you will have the right ventilation at the right time of day at the right level, and the answer is no,” says Colin Hone, UK sales director for Aereco. “You’ll either over-ventilate or under-ventilate. The biggest problem is the tenant.” Butler agrees. “With complex systems, as soon as you let the customer take control you have problems,” he says. “The best way is to make it sensor-based so it can work out what to do itself. But you still need a customer over-ride switch.” > Roof-mounted stack ventilation duct from Aereco
‘This isn’t going to become a fringe market, but an essential one. There are not enough installers out there so this could be an opportunity for electricians’
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ventilation and heat recovery
‘The industry wants to drive the uptake of these higher value, higher performance products. The new Building Regulations have had a big impact’
A demand-control system concentrates the extraction where it is required. So if the house is empty it will not ventilate at the same rate as when there are people in it. Humidity sensors will monitor the air coming in and out of the house with sensors on every grille. A typical three-bedroom house would have about seven of these. “There can be 50 per cent savings in terms of energy by using demand control over traditional heat recovery,” says Hone.
SOLAR AIR TECHNOLOGIES
Solar potential Another potential growth market over the next few years also comes from Scandinavia – the solar air collector. This is an external box that is used to warm the air that is forced into the premises and acts as dehumidifier by drying this air and dragging water out of the fabric of the building. It can also act as a space heater. These systems are already commonly used in Scandinavia for holiday homes that are unoccupied for considerable lengths of time. Over the past decade, however, there has also been an increase in their use in older buildings for ventilation as people block up chimneys and put in doubleglazing. “This is now starting to happen in the UK,” says David Goodwin, technical manager at Solar Air Technologies. “Because they heat the property, the existing heating system also uses less energy.” With a ground cooling unit, the same system can also be used as an air conditioner in the summer, and hybrid units are available that can function as water heaters as well. “I don’t see a major market on the solar ventilation side,” admits Butler, “but there is an opportunity there for pre-heated air being used to heat hot water, for example. But you can do that already by combining any ventilation system with heat recovery equipment.” “They also lend themselves quite nicely to having a couple of solar panels on the roof to power them because they are not running at high speed,” adds Towse at the HVCA. “You need battery back-up, but that really is zero carbon.”
Taking advantage Whatever ventilation system is chosen, the new Part F presents considerable opportunities to those people with the right skills. “This isn’t going to become a fringe market, but an essential
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one,” says Towse. “There are not enough installers out there so this could be an opportunity for electricians to move into this market. There isn’t a cohort of specialist, qualified people to do the work.” There is no formal certification scheme for installers but, there is a requirement in the regulations for them to be installed by competent people. “At the moment we are starting from point zero,” admits Towse. “Electricians may be able to pick up the extra skills needed to install these systems. But the initial demand is being picked up by large developers who are sometimes taking a chance by getting unqualified people to install them. There are a lot of risks attached to this, but it is for the short term.” The new Part F requires installers to complete checklists that go to the customers and building controllers to show they have been properly installed, but even that still requires a level of specialist knowledge. “There are training courses for installers to learn how to install and commission these systems,” says Butler at Beama. “We have put together a qualification framework of things they need to know. The training will, by and large, be delivered by manufacturers who may just offer it as a free service to their contractors. It shouldn’t be more than a couple of days of training.” But there is some debate within the industry as to whether it should be electrical > Solar air collectors warm contractors who install this the air that is forced into type of system. Aereco’s the premises Hone, for instance, argues it would make more sense for ductwork installers to take on this responsibility. Butler, however, believes it’s not a major leap for electrical contractors because they are often called in to wire in the systems anyway. “There is no existing contractor market for ventilation systems for new builds,” he says. “The housebuilders will have a workforce on site to put in the ductwork. So there is an opportunity for electrical contractors to provide the whole service and be involved with maintenance afterwards. They can build a business on this,” he says. > Steve Rogerson is a freelance journalist specialising in the electrical industry
For more information visit our website: domesticheating.mitsubishielectric.co.uk/connections
Making your voice heard NICEIC is lobbying government on a range of issues, including suggestions put forward by contractors, aimed at creating a fairer and safer electrical industry By Emma McCarthy
ICEIC’s lobbying activities started long before election fever gripped the nation back in May. Over the past 12 months I have met with MPs and their representatives, civil servants and individuals from the wider industry. I’ve had detailed correspondence with Vince Cable, secretary of state for business, innovation and skills, along with Ed Davey and his team responsible for consumer protection at the same department. Bedfordshire MP Andrew Selous is also a strong supporter of our business as a local employer and I have met with Greg Barker, minister of state at the Department for Energy and Climate Change. The list goes on. In May, when the election was at the forefront of everybody’s thoughts, NICEIC emailed 18,000 of its registered contractors to establish the main issues they would like to see NICEIC lobbying government for on their behalf. The response was fantastic and the key themes that emerged were: • The ability for electricians to refit/remove cut-outs from main power companies; • Stop DIY outlets selling certain electrical equipment to the general public; • Make it law for landlords to have a periodic inspection report (PIR) before a tenant moves in; • Make it compulsory to be registered with an electrical scheme. These issues are now being put in front of ministers and civil servants as we integrate them into our wider lobbying activities.
Remove cut-outs The ability for electricians to remove cut-outs is a huge issue and one which the entire electrical contracting
> Vince Cable
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industry has tried to tackle. Indeed, the Electrical Safety Council, with assistance from NICEIC and the Electrical Contractors’ Association, has lobbied hard to change the regulations on this in the past, but unfortunately without success – the network companies withdrew from talks. The network companies declined to establish a scheme that would allow electricians to withdraw the cut-out fuse in order to work safely on the customer’s installation. The reason for this, said the representatives of the network companies, was health and safety, but perversely the Health and Safety Executive has been supporting efforts to bring about such an agreement. This is frustrating for the trade and costly to the householder because they incur more cost, inconvenience and a higher frequency of unauthorised removal of the fuse. However, NICEIC and the industry as a whole will no doubt keep this on the agenda.
Limit sale of electrical kit Limiting the availability of certain electrical equipment to DIY enthusiasts is also something NICEIC supports. A similar model to that of trade distributor Electricfix, with which NICEIC entered a partnership in 2009, may be a solution to DIYers creating a safety issue by installing faulty electrics. Electricfix claims to only sell to those people registered with a competent person’s scheme. So, taking this model to the DIY market, only card-carrying members of the Approved Contractor or equivalent competent person’s scheme would be able to buy certain pieces of equipment. In reality this means that only a competent person could install them. > Ed Davey
However, although it may be possible to argue against DIY outlets selling electrical materials to the general public, in a recession this may be a difficult pill for the government to swallow. There is also little doubt that these large multinational companies, which bring millions of pounds of revenue to UK plc, will fight this hard. Indeed, gas safety campaigners have already decried the fact that boilers can still be purchased over the counter of DIY stores.
Obligatory PIRs Our safety message also extends to landlords, of course, and PIRs are central to this. In fact, we have recently launched a marketing and public relations campaign to consumers and landlords urging them to make sure they get their electrics “MOT’d” with a PIR. This campaign will also be communicated to MPs and civil servants.
Compulsory registration In terms of compulsory registration with a competent persons scheme, NICEIC wholeheartedly supports this for the domestic market and will continue to push the relevant ministers and civil servants. NICEIC also believes that all competent persons schemes should be UKAS-accredited so that consistency across all schemes is maintained and independently verified. For many years now we have been calling on government to effectively help police competent persons schemes, which has been a recurring theme expressed to us by registered installers since 2005, when Part P was introduced. In line with this and all of the electrical contracting issues on which we lobby, NICEIC has expressed its concern to minsters that more than 8,000 house fires occur every year due to electrical faults. In 2007, these fires caused 31 deaths. NICEIC believes that government should take steps to reduce the number of fires and deaths attributable to electrical causes. Of course, lobbying to government means potentially helping to find solutions to problems that are approaching on
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‘This government’s big issue currently may be the economy, but the energy credit crunch will be a huge problem for us all in the coming years’ the horizon. Currently there are huge issues surrounding the supply of energy to UK homes, with the real possibility of power shortages in the next decade. This government’s current big issue may be the economy, but the energy credit crunch will be a huge problem for us all in the coming years. Renewable energy is part of the solution to this problem. We are advising the government on the levels of skills needed to meet sustainable targets through renewables and microgeneration installations, particularly in the home, and how to meet the skills needs of a green economy. There’s no doubt that the electrical contracting industry needs to be at the forefront of these opportunities and NICEIC intends to make that the case. This also ties into the skills shortage that our industry is currently experiencing. Fantastic work by the likes of providers such as JTL helps to push the cause of apprenticeships at the very highest levels of government. I have also been calling on government to encourage more women to enter the construction industry. There’s no doubt NICEIC’s lobbying programme has been strengthened by the contributions of registered contractors. Many of the above points have been on our agenda for a while. What NICEIC contractors can be assured of, however, is that we will always do our best to represent their interests to ministers, MPs and civil servants. > Emma McCarthy is chief operating officer of NICEIC Group
NICEIC Connections Autumn 2010 37
NICEIC IN ACTION
Learning curve NICEIC now offers a wider range of courses than ever before, with three available over the internet, says Darren Staniforth Further information on NICEIC’s training provision can be found at www.niceic. com/training or 0870 013 0389
ICEIC Training has recently completed a review of its courses and is currently increasing the number on offer. It is also diversifying away from purely electrotechnical courses and developing short courses that support contractors’ wider needs. These new courses are designed to meet the requirements of the day-to-day activities of contracting, such as aluminium scaffolding, powered access equipment courses and asbestos training – run in partnership with the UK Asbestos Training Association. NICEIC Training is also launching its small business academy this autumn. Contractors will be able to master the skills needed to run an effective business via the short courses offered on HR, VAT returns, small business accountancy and customer support. NICEIC Training has also looked at making courses more readily available by developing online training courses and short continued professional development units. These online courses are designed to reduce the amount of time contractors take away from their working week. Historically, learning has required you to attend a local provider’s facility for a number of days. The
cost of the course, travel, accommodation and the downtime all make this very costly. Online learning removes many barriers associated with continued professional development and allows you to learn at your own pace at a vastly reduced cost. NICEIC Training currently has three courses available for online learning. These are the City & Guilds 2382 and EAL 17th edition update; the City & Guilds fundamental inspection and testing 2392; and the City & Guilds 2391 inspection and testing course. We have seen very high uptake and success rates on these courses and feedback suggests online learning is the best use of time, effort and money. Due to the success of these courses NICEIC is planning to develop online versions of the water regulations course and gas training units to support our Luton and Chesterfield assessment centres. Contractors needing to update their personal certification will now only need to attend a centre for the assessment. Learning can be completed in their own time and at their own pace. Darren Staniforth is technical development manager at NICEIC
Behind the scenes
ILLUSTRATION: CAMERON LAW
Have you ever wondered what takes place at NICEIC head office? Alexandra Bethune, a Masters student who spent five weeks there on an internship, provides a taste of life on the inside As I am studying for a Masters in electronics and electrical engineering my initial focus was on the electrotechnical department, but I also spent time in other areas. I was able to listen to the telephone calls relating to the NICEIC electrotechnical schemes, which gave me a greater understanding of the types of customers NICEIC deals with and how the schemes work. Similarly I witnessed the work of the customer service and customer
relations teams, as well as the operational engineers. All were incredibly informative, especially the technical helpline. The operational engineers had to provide a wide range of support, from giving basic advice to solving complex technicalities. To fully appreciate what NICEIC offers its customers I spent a couple of days with the customer relations department. The team offers excellent support to customers and looks into each case in great detail. Although they sometimes
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worked with difficult, emotional people, staff always maintained a very positive outlook and were totally professional. In the second week I took part in the photovoltaic course at NICEIC. This is a new and exciting area and I found it so interesting to learn about the intricate details of how a PV cell is created and the efficiency of solar energy. I also spent a week with a couple of area engineers. I visited The Royal London Hospital and Somerset
House in London and saw projects ranging from a domestic garden installation to larger commercial work. I realised that area engineers not only need extensive installation knowledge and competency, but also strong people skills. It was a very rewarding five weeks. Thanks to all the employees at NICEIC and NQA, I have come away feeling inspired to work in a similar environment and am grateful for all the help they gave me.
Best in the business
With classroom and online learning courses, there’s never been a better time to get training from NICEIC. “Professional and informative training courses delivered in a clear and friendly way – what more can you ask for?” Alan Hodgkinson Cornerways Electrical Ltd, Warwickshire
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Effective reporting NICEIC’s customer relations team helps registered contractors and customers resolve any issues regarding electrical installations. Here Philip Sanders looks at periodic inspection reports
ILLUSTRATION: CAMERON LAW
art of the NICEIC customer relations team’s remit is to offer advice to Connections readers on how to avoid conflict with customers in line with the rules of registration with NICEIC. This article focuses on the three parts of a periodic inspection report (PIR) which, if not considered fully, can give rise to problems. It is important for all concerned that an agreed clear statement of the purpose of the report is made. A report may be required, for example, at the end of the period recommended in the original electrical installation certificate. In this instance a statement of “Periodic assessment of the condition of the electrical installation in relation to current standards” would provide clarity for the client, where “five-year inspection” would not. Before starting an inspection it is essential to agree with the client the exact extent of the installation to be inspected. Existing electrical records should be reviewed and it may be necessary to make a cursory inspection of the installation area to be inspected, which should be fully recorded. The limitations imposed on the inspection and testing should be explained to, and agreed with, the client before work begins, and all limitations should be clearly recorded, together with an explanation. A periodic inspection must include a thorough visual inspection of all the electrical equipment. It may be appropriate to apply a sampling process to the internal condition of the equipment and testing of the installation. If so, this should be made clear to the client and agreed before the work starts. An arrangement should also be made to allow increased sampling where necessary, such as where deficiencies are found. IEE guidance note 3 provides recommendations for the minimum degree of sampling for both inspection and testing. It is also important that the approved enterprise does not set unnecessary limitations on the inspection, which can undermine the value of the report. Failure to clearly describe and record the extent of the installation and the agreed limitations, together with the reasons, could involve the contractor in unforeseen liabilities at a later date. Any observation relating to a specific defect or omission that can be supported by one or more
p41 customer relations.2.indd 41
regulations in BS 7671 should be recorded in a manner that will be understood by the client. The observation should detail what the situation is and not what is considered necessary to put it right. Remember, this is a factual report on the condition of an installation, not a proposal for remedial work. Observations based solely on personal preference or custom and practice should not be included. Each observation must be given an appropriate recommendation code outcome as summarised here: Code 1 (requires urgent attention) indicates that danger exists and urgent remedial attention is required;
‘Any observation relating to a specific defect or omission should be recorded in a manner that will be understood by the client’ Code 2 (requires improvement) indicates that an observed deficiency requires action to remove potential danger; Code 3 (requires further investigation) indicates that the inspector was unable to come to a conclusion about an aspect of the installation and that it requires further investigation; Code 4 (does not comply with BS 7671) indicates that certain items have been identified as not complying with the current issue of BS 7671, but that the users of the installation are not in any danger as a result. The competent person conducting the inspection is solely responsible for attributing the code outcome to each observation. This must be suitable and justifiable. For example, where a circuit supplying socket outlets that are unlikely to supply portable equipment is not protected by an RCD, a code 4 is likely to be the most appropriate outcome. But if the same circuit also supplied socket outlets in a location containing a bath or shower, a code 1 is likely to be the most appropriate outcome. The Electrical Safety Council’s Best Practice Guide No4: Periodic inspection reporting is available to download at www.niceic.com. Philip Sanders is NICEIC’s customer relations engineer
NICEIC Connections Autumn 2010 41
He who dares When Chris Allum started EMS in 1982 he knew he was taking a gamble. But since then he has built up a strong business that is finally getting the recognition it deserves
ack in 1982, a then 35-year-old Chris Allum took the decision to quit his job and start up his own electrical business with his brother-in-law. With just one electrician working for them and no client list to speak of, Electrical Management Services (EMS) was born. “I had three young children and my brother-in-law had taken early retirement and suggested we had a go together,” says Chris, who had previously worked as a distribution engineer with the London Electricity Board and subsequently qualified as a lighting engineer. “We took a big chance and set ourselves very tight budgets for the first three years. We could just about afford to live at the time and took it on from there,” he says. The company’s first client was the high-street electrical chain Dixons, performing maintenance work and providing breakdown cover. Shortly afterwards the fledgling firm started working for various Texaco and Mobil garages and gradually developed a reputation for working in hazardous areas that continues to be one of its strengths today. It also worked for retail outlets such as Fosters Menswear and Adams Childrenswear. Based in Ashford, Middlesex, EMS is well placed to serve London and most of the south-east. Today, the business boasts an impressive client list across a wide variety of sectors, including BSkyB, Norland Managed Services and Visa. It undertakes regular periodic testing across 630 buildings at the University of Reading and hazardous area testing at the University of Cambridge. At BSkyB, EMS works on both a training centre at Hatfield and the company’s main operations centre at Isleworth, where recent projects have included installing the floodlighting used on Soccer AM and refitting the lighting in the new Sky Sports high-definition studio. Other recent projects include lighting a 35m tower run by Norland Managed Services at Fenchurch Street in London, which has been installed to commemorate the Great Fire of
42 Autumn 2010 NICEIC Connections
p42-43 contractor profile.2.indd Sec1:42
PHOTOGRAPHY: SAM KESTEVEN
By Nick Martindale
‘We don’t tend to go in for the big building contracts. If someone offered us a £250,000 job I’d say we can’t do it’ London, entirely using LEDs; and replacing major distribution board installations at The Dorchester Hotel. “We don’t tend to go in for the big building contracts,” says Chris. “If someone offered us a £250,000 job I’d do what I’ve done before and say we can’t do it. We’re a cash-pregnant business; the money’s safe, we pay people on time so why not keep it like that? When you’re running those big projects it’s all about cash flow so we deal with blue-chip companies where you know you’re going to get your money.”
Extended family EMS currently employs 16 people, including nine engineers, as well as operations manager Tammie; one of Chris’s three children. And the family connection doesn’t end there – in September the company’s marketing manager Crispian Lorford became Chris’s son-in-law when he married his other daughter.
“We had testimonials from the client saying how well it had gone,” says Crispian. “Obviously in a college you have to work around students so it was recognition for the delivery of it as well as the energy savings.” On the back of winning the award EMS ran a campaign offering companies a free energy audit, and recently completed a project at the University of Oxford Brookes replacing more than 5,000 lights. “Traffic to our energy section of the website increased by 80 per cent,” says Crispian. “As a company it’s been fantastic for us and has opened up a lot of doors.” Energy and waste management are likely to form part of the company’s strategy going forward, says Crispian, and EMS has recently enquired about NICEIC’s microgeneration scheme. “We’ve got a good business base to build on that with the universities and almost every company is getting an energy manager now,” he adds.
Weathering the storm
> EMS founder Chris Allum (top left) and with his family team at the company premises in Ashford, Middlesex (above)
Crispian came on board in 2008, and has played a key role in helping to promote and grow the business during the economic downturn. “Sometimes that’s the best time to market yourself,” he says. “It was a delight to walk into a company that had such great strengths already, but which wasn’t really pushing those. We put together a website, case studies, testimonials and a credential document. The strategy was to build up the presence of EMS and to give it more of an identity and a brand,” says Crispian. Where this has been most evident, however, is in winning the title of electrical contractor of the year in the 2009 Electrical Times awards for a project installing 359 lights at the College of North West London, which resulted in long-term energy savings of 45 per cent and gave a payback period for the client of just 18 months.
p42-43 contractor profile.2.indd Sec1:43
The focus on marketing the business means EMS has remained on an even keel during the downturn, turning over around £1 million a year. “We’re not the cheapest company, but we’re not the most expensive either,” says Chris. “Some people would rather pay a little more and get quality and know that their installations have been carried out properly. “A lot of electrical firms have no business acumen,” he adds. “We work off a spreadsheet that tells you what it costs to send out an engineer. If you go below those figures you’re going to lose money. You usually find that the company that is fighting below that is never going to do the job the way the client wants anyway.” Despite the firm’s exposure to the public sector, Tammie remains buoyant over the future. “Public services are being hit quite badly now, but I believe that’s more of a labour issue,” she says. “They still have a duty of care to the people coming in and out of the building and there’s a big focus around health and safety where our industry is involved. They may not have the decorative lighting done in reception, but there may be a need for an electrical test somewhere else in the building.” Chris, now 63, plans to remain at the helm for another two years, meaning the medium-term future of the company is uncertain, although he admits he would like it to remain within the family. “I hope it continues and that all the staff who I’ve trained and who have been with me for a long time continue working for this business, earning a reasonable living and getting a good deal,” he says. “If it grows a bit, then all well and good.” > If you would like your company to be considered for a profile in Connections, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
NICEIC Connections Autumn 2010 43
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ASK THE EXPERTS
From the helpline We continue with our series of answers to some of the more frequently asked questions put to the NICEIC Technical Helpline.
Is it acceptable for the neutral conductor of a lighting circuit to be looped into a lighting switch box, including having a joint in that conductor in the box?
Yes. It is permitted to loop the neutral conductor into a lighting switch box and to house a joint in that conductor in the box. Although not a requirement of BS 7671, the joint could be made by means of a neutral loop terminal forming part of the lighting switch (see Fig 1), as is offered by some manufacturers. Another possibility is for the lighting switch to be of the double-pole type, which offers a means of making a joint in the neutral conductor. Regardless of how any joint in the neutral conductor is made, the joint must be durable in terms of electrical continuity and mechanical strength (Regulation 526.1 refers). The switch box must of course be suitable to provide adequate protection against the external influences likely to occur at the location, such as mechanical impact, the presence of water or dust, etc, as applicable (Regulation 526.7).
Fig 1 – A lighting switch that includes a neutral loop terminal
Is it permitted to connect a 3 kW immersion heater to a socket-outlet circuit instead of to its own dedicated radial final circuit?
The answer depends on the circumstances. A 3 kW immersion heater draws approximately 13 A at a voltage of 230 V. This current will persist for a significant period of time when a tank of water is being heated. The size and type of areas served by a socket-outlet circuit is a good indicator of the amount of load current the socket-outlets will have to supply and their pattern of usage. However, other details about the circuit, such as the type and rating of the overcurrent protective device and the type and size of wiring, will need to be determined in order to consider whether an immersion heater may be connected to the circuit. In deciding whether or not to connect an immersion heater to a ring or radial socket-outlet final circuit, the electrical installation designer should consider the following two questions relating to the total load current of the circuit, including that of the immersion heater. • Is the total load current likely at any time to exceed the rating of the circuit cable and/ or protective device for long periods (see Regulation 433.1.1 for a radial circuit and Regulation 433.1.5 for a ring final circuit)? • Is the magnitude and duration of the total load current likely at any time to be sufficient to cause the circuit protective device to operate (see Regulation 314.2, relating to division of the installation into circuits)? If the answer to either question is yes, the immersion heater should not be connected to the socket-outlet circuit. This will almost certainly be the case for a socket-outlet circuit serving a kitchen or laundry room, for example. For that reason an immersion heater should not be connected to that circuit. Supplying a 3 kW immersion from its own dedicated radial final circuit is simpler from the design point of view than connecting it to a socket-outlet final circuit, and the risk of overloading the circuit conductors due to the immersion heater current is minimised.
p45-46 ask the experts.2.indd 45
NICEIC Connections Autumn 2010 45
What information am I required to provide at a distribution board or consumer unit to identify the circuit and wiring points that each protective device controls?
Regulation 514.8.1 requires each protective device in the distribution board or consumer unit to be arranged or identified so that the circuit it controls can be easily recognised. Also, Regulation 514.9 requires a legible diagram, chart or the like to be provided. This must give certain information (see the regulation) about each circuit, the measures used for protection against electric shock, the devices for protection, isolation and switching, and circuits vulnerable to a typical test. A copy of the relevant schedule is to be provided in or adjacent to each distribution board. It is not acceptable simply to label the protective devices “socket-outlets”, “power”, and so on. For a domestic or other simple installation, a convenient way of providing the information required by Regulation 514.9 is by fixing a separate copy of the relevant completed Schedule of Circuit Details (pictured left) in or adjacent to each distribution board or consumer unit. This schedule forms part of the Electrical Installation Certificate or Domestic Electrical Installation Certificate. The schedule must be legible and should be protected from damage and deterioration, such as by laminating or by enclosure in a clear plastic folder. To comply with Regulation 514.8.1, each protective device in the consumer unit or distribution board needs to be arranged or marked to correspond with details given in the schedule. For a more complex installation, such as in commercial or industrial premises, comprehensive information, drawings and diagrams will be required to accompany the Schedule of Circuit Details.
(To the person ordering the work)
This certificate is not valid if the serial number has been defaced or altered
SCHEDULE OF CIRCUIT DETAILS FOR THE INSTALLATION TO BE COMPLETED IN EVERY CASE
Supply to distribution board is from:
No of phases:
Overcurrent protective device for the distribution circuit: Distribution board designation:
Associated RCD (if any): BS(EN)
RCD No of poles:
TO BE COMPLETED ONLY IF THE DISTRIBUTION BOARD IS NOT CONNECTED DIRECTLY TO THE ORIGIN OF THE INSTALLATION*
Location of distribution board:
Maximum Zs permitted by BS 7671
Operating current, I∆n
Overcurrent protective devices BS (EN)
Max. disconnection time permitted by BS 7671
Circuit conductors: csa
Number of points served
Type of wiring (see code below)
Circuit number and phase
CIRCUIT DETAILS Circuit designation
First floor lighting except bathroom
First floor socket-outlets
See Table 4A2 of Appendix 4 of BS 7671: 2008
CODES FOR TYPE OF WIRING A
PVC cables PVC cables PVC cables PVC cables in metallic in non-metallic in metallic in non-metallic conduit conduit trunking trunking
O (Other - please state)
Page 4 of
* In such cases, details of the distribution (sub-main) circuit(s), together with the test results for the circuit(s), must also be provided on continuation schedules.
This form is based on the model shown in Appendix 6 of BS 7671: 2008 Published by NICEIC Group Limited © Copyright The Electrical Safety Council (Jan 2008)
See next page for Schedule of Test Results ICN2/7
When testing an RCD, should all of the load(s) supplied through it be disconnected? I have been told that the test instrument readings are affected if electronic devices such as dimmer switches or speed controllers are left connected.
Yes. The loads supplied through an RCD should preferably be disconnected when the RCD is tested, and this should always be done if the test instrument indicates that the operating time of the RCD exceeds the required value. The reason for disconnecting the loads is that capacitors within equipment may discharge into the circuit under test after the RCD has disconnected the supply. This can result in some RCD test instruments displaying a longer disconnection time than if the load had been disconnected prior to the test. The test instrument should be connected on the load side of the RCD – to the line, neutral and associated protective conductor terminals of the protected circuit. The connection may be made at any convenient point in the circuit, such as a socket-outlet, or at the outgoing terminals of the RCD by using a 3-lead connection incorporating probes. If the supply is three-phase with no neutral connection available, the earth and neutral probes should both be connected to the protective conductor terminal.
46 Autumn 2010 NICEIC Connections
p45-46 ask the experts.2.indd 46
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Solar photovoltaic systems for electrical installations 52-55 Snags and Solutions: A practical guide to everyday electrical problems 56-57 Causes of protective conductor currents and the dangers they introduce 59-60 Floor and ceiling heating systems 62-64 Why it is necessary to determine earth fault loop impedance 66-67
The importance of enclosing electrical connections
The importance of enclosing electrical connections 49-50
To protect against electric shock and/or thermal effects, BS 7671 requires every electrical connection in a live conductor to be enclosed in a suitable accessory or equipment enclosure, or in an enclosure partially formed or completed with non-combustible building material. However, NICEIC Area Engineers continue to observe departures from this requirement.
his article draws attention to the requirements for enclosing connections (joints and terminations) in live (line and neutral) conductors. Information is also given on the associated requirements for enclosures and on departures observed by NICEIC Area Engineers. Enclosures are intended to prevent inadvertent contact with live parts. However, they also serve to protect electrical connections against certain external influences, and the surroundings against the effects of faulty connections. Faulty joints and terminations in live conductors can attain very high temperatures due to the effects
of resistive heating. They can also emit arcs, sparks or hot particles. Consequently there is a risk of fire or other harmful thermal effects to adjacent materials. To prevent such risks, Regulation 526.5 of BS 7671: 2008 requires every joint and termination in a live conductor, irrespective of the nominal voltage, to be contained in one of the following, or a combination thereof: • A suitable accessory complying with the appropriate product standard • An equipment enclosure complying with the appropriate product standard
Timber flooring Joist
Warning! Unenclosed joints are NOT permitted Fig 1 – Unenclosed compression joints [GN00521]
p49-50 Electrical enclosures.2.indd 49
NICEIC Connections Autumn 2010 49
• An enclosure partially formed by or completed with building material that is non-combustible when tested to BS 476-4, Fire tests on building materials and structures. Non-combustibility test for materials. A typical example of non-compliant installation work is unenclosed compression joints, such as those shown in Figure 1 (previous page). Protection against external influences Enclosures for joints and terminations, as with all electrical equipment, should be selected and erected to provide suitable protection against any foreseeable external influences, such as the presence of water or high humidity (Section 522 refers). For example, electrical equipment installed in zones 1 and 2 of a room containing a bath or shower is required to have at least the degree of protection IPX4 (protected against splashing water). However, if such equipment is expected to be exposed to water jets, at least the degree of protection IPX5 is required (Regulation 701.512.2 refers). Table 1 explains the meaning of these IP ratings referred to above and later in this article. Basic protection against electric shock With certain exceptions for SELV and PELV circuits, enclosures for joints and connections must provide basic protection (protection against direct contact with live parts) for persons and livestock. (SELV and PELV circuits of nominal voltage up to 12 V a.c. or 30 V d.c., or, in normal dry conditions, up to 25 V a.c. or 60 V d.c.,
as practicable (such as by a warning notice), that persons will be aware that live parts can be touched through the opening and that they should not be touched intentionally. • The opening is as small as is consistent with the requirement for the proper functioning and replacement of a part. Furthermore, where an enclosure is readily accessible (such as is the case with many consumer units), the horizontal top surface is required to provide a degree of protection of at least IPXXD or IP4X (Regulation 416.2.2 refers).
Fig 2 – Example of a repair in a cable with cover plate omitted for clarity
are exempt, provided the relevant conditions of Regulation 414.4.5 are met. Nevertheless, joints and connections in such circuits must still be enclosed for reasons of thermal effects and external influences.) To provide basic protection, Regulation 416.2.1 requires live parts to be inside enclosures (or behind barriers) providing at least a degree of protection IPXXB or IP2X. Where a larger opening is required for replacement of parts (such as certain lamps) or for the functioning of equipment, all the following requirements apply: • Suitable precautions shall be taken to prevent persons or livestock from unintentionally touching live parts. • It should be ensured, as far
Table 1 – Brief explanation of IP ratings referred to in this article IP rating Protection afforded against IPXXB Access to live parts with a test finger at least 12 mm in diameter and 80 mm long. IP2X Access to live parts with a finger or a solid object of 12.5 mm diameter or greater. IPXXD Access to live parts with a test finger at least 1.0 mm in diameter and 100 mm in length. IP4X Access to live parts with a straight wire or strip of more than 1.0 mm diameter or thickness. IPX4 Water splashed against the enclosure from any direction. IPX5 Water jets of specified flow rate and nozzle diameter against the enclosure from any direction.
50 Autumn 2010 NICEIC Connections
p49-50 Electrical enclosures.2.indd 50
Example of enclosing connections Figure 2 shows how a repair (joint) to an insulated and sheathed cable might be made in accordance with the requirements of BS 7671 for enclosure suitability and basic protection. When the front cover plate is fitted, such an arrangement will, amongst other things, also satisfy the requirements of Regulation 416.2.4 (access by use of a tool) and Regulation 526.9 (enclosure of exposed cores). Specific departures observed by NICEIC Some examples of departures observed by NICEIC Area Engineers relating to enclosure of electrical connections are listed below: • Joints and terminations for ELV recessed luminaires and transformers not enclosed • Joints and terminations for repairs, additions and alterations to an installation not enclosed (see Figure 1), • Blanking-off covers omitted from distribution boards, making it possible to touch live parts • Readily accessible consumer units with the horizontal top surface with holes not providing a degree of protection to IPXXD or IP4X, and • SELV recessed luminaires installed in zones 1 and 2 of a location containing a bath or shower, with IP ratings not meeting the requirements of IPX4 or, where required, IPX5.
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Solar photovoltaic systems for electrical installations A photovoltaic (PV) system is one of a range of renewable energy generation technologies that also includes wind turbines and hydro turbines.
he UK government is committed to encouraging the wider use of renewable energy generation, as well as technologies such as combined heat and power, in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on fossil fuels. This article gives an overview of PV systems installed to supply an electrical installation, whether in a dwelling or any other type of building or application. The article also gives some information about the feed-in tariff scheme, and about the accreditation that is necessary, both for installers and equipment, if a PV system is to qualify for this scheme. General description A PV system incorporates a number of PV modules, such as those in the photographs below. Cells within each module convert the energy of solar radiation into electrical energy by the photovoltaic effect. The
modules are connected into series â€œstringsâ€? to provide the required output voltage and arranged into one or more arrays. An array may include several strings connected in parallel to provide the required current, or just one string. To supply the electrical installation, the d.c. output of a PV system is usually converted to a.c. by an inverter unit, which also transforms the voltage as necessary. Supply arrangements Most PV systems are arranged to operate in parallel with an incoming mains electricity supply to the premises. However, like any other type of generator, a PV system can be arranged to operate as a switched alternative (standby) to the mains supply, or it may be arranged as a stand-alone system to supply an installation that does not have a mains supply.
Photo courtesy of Sundog Energy Ltd
A battery may form part of a standby or stand-alone PV system to provide energy during the hours of darkness. However, the majority of PV systems do not have battery storage. Fig 1 shows a simplified diagram of a typical PV system at domestic or similar premises, arranged to operate in parallel with the mains supply. It should be noted that the diagram in Fig 1 should not be used for a particular installation without taking into account the special circumstances of the installation. If at any time a PV system connected in parallel with the mains supply generates more electric power than is being used at the premises, the surplus will be exported into the mains. Feed-in tariffs Mainstream grant funding for electricity generating products, including PV systems, ended in Great Britain in February 2010. These grants were replaced by Feed-In Tariffs (FITs) with effect from 1 April 2010.
Photos courtesy of Sundog Energy Ltd
52 Autumn 2010 NICEIC Connections
p52-56 Photovoltaic.2.indd Sec2:52
INSTALLATION ON ROOF
PV a.c. INSTALLATION
INSTALLATION IN LOFT d.c. isolator
Display unit 0123 kWh
A TYPICAL DOMESTIC SYSTEM • Single inverter • Single PV string • Connected into a dedicated protective device in existing consumer unit
0123 kW 0123 kWh 0123 CO2
Main isolator (double pole) securable in OFF position only
Main consumer unit
PV array series connected single string
HOUSE a.c. INSTALLATION
Fig 1 - Typical small single-phase PV system in parallel with mains supply
The FIT scheme, sometimes called “Clean Energy Cashback”, is available through licensed electricity suppliers. It is intended to encourage the uptake of small-scale low carbon technologies up to 5 MW, through tariff payments made on both generation and export of produced renewable energy. When a generating technology has been installed, the installer registers the customer on the central FIT database. The customer subsequently receives a certificate confirming FIT compliance, which
must be provided to the supplier to show eligibility to receive FITS. Further information about FITs can be obtained from Ofgem (www.ofgem.gov.uk) and from the Energy Saving Trust (www.energysavingtrust.org.uk). Accreditation To apply for the FIT scheme, a microgenerator (including a PV system) rated at under 50 kW peak output must be accredited through the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), administered
by Gemserv Ltd. This requires registration of both installer and the microgeneration products. Installers must be registered through an MCS accredition body, such as NICEIC. Amongst other things, this requires the installer to meet the requirements of Microgeneration Installation Standard: MIS 3002 and an appropriate consumer code of practice, such as the REAL Code, which is administered by the Renewable Energy Association.
Photos courtesy of Sundog Energy Ltd
p52-56 Photovoltaic.2.indd Sec2:53
NICEIC Connections Autumn 2010 53
MCS product certification involves type-testing of products and an assessment of the manufacturing processes, materials, procedures and staff training. Fuller information about MCS can be obtained from the Energy Saving Trust (www. microgenerationcertification.org). Generating technologies rated at more than 50 kW peak output and all anaerobic digestion installations requiring to apply for the FIT scheme must be accredited through the Renewables Obligation Order Feed-In Tariff (ROO-FIT) process. Information can be obtained from Ofgem. DTI Guide to installation DTI Publication URN 06/1972, Photovoltaics in Buildings, Guide to the installation of PV systems (2nd Edition), dated 2006, gives information to ensure that a mains-connected PV system meets current UK standards and best practice recommendations. Although primarily aimed at systems rated at up to 16A per phase, the Guide also provides some guidance on larger systems and stand-alone systems with batteries. Microgeneration Installation Standard: MIS 3002 (mentioned above) requires PV Microgeneration systems to be designed and installed in accordance with the above Guide. Legal and related issues Health and Safety legislation When at work, an electrical installer is subject to relevant Health and Safety legislation, including The Electricity at Work Regulations, even when working in domestic premises. Building Regulations In domestic premises in England and Wales, the installation of a PV or other microgenerator is notifiable under Part P. In Scotland, a Building Warrant may be required. Non-electrical aspects of building regulations must also be complied with, in particular structural considerations. Planning consent The installation of a PV system
54 Autumn 2010 NICEIC Connections
p52-56 Photovoltaic.2.indd Sec2:54
may be subject to planning consent. Planning consent will always be required if the building is in a conservation area or is a listed building. ESQCR The Electricity Safety, Quality and Continuity Regulations 2002 (ESQCR) contain requirements for the installation and operation of generators in parallel with the distributor’s network. These generally prohibit the connection of a generator in parallel with the mains supply without prior consent of the distributor, and contain requirements about design and operation that are likely to prevent parallel operation of generators in domestic premises. However, an exemption is given in Regulation 22(2) for generation rated up to a total of 16 A per phase, provided there is protection that automatically disconnects the microgenerator from the distributor’s network in the event of loss of the supply from that network. In addition, the installation is required to comply with BS 7671 and the installer must notify the distributor before or at the time of commissioning the microgenerator. Details of the characteristics for the protection scheme necessary to provide automatic disconnection of PV systems following loss of mains supply, and the requirements for notification, are contained in the Energy Networks Association’s Engineering Recommendation G83/1 or in BS EN 50438, for systems rated at up to 16 A, and Engineering Recommendation G59/1, for larger systems. The installer of a PV system must provide the distributor with an Installation Commissioning Confirmation stating that the conditions discussed above have been met. Equipment standards The equipment of a PV system should comply with the relevant product standards, such as BS EN 61215 for crystalline PV modules. Inverters for mains-connected PV systems
should be type-approved to G83/1 (for systems up to 16 A) or G59/1 (for larger systems). In addition, for PV systems rated at less than 50 kW, the equipment must be MCS certified (see “Accreditation”, earlier). Installation standards A PV system must be installed in accordance with the relevant requirements of BS 7671, particularly those of Section 551, Low voltage generating sets, and Section 712, Solar photovoltaic (PV) power supply systems. However, the relevant general requirements of BS 7671 must also be met. An international standard, IEC 62548, is being developed for the installation and safety requirements for photovoltaic (PV) generators. It is expected that this standard will cover matters not covered by the requirements of BS 7671, such as protection of PV modules (rather than PV wiring systems) against overcurrent. Equipment manufacturer’s instructions should be consulted regarding such matters until such time as IEC 62548 may be published. However, the manufacturer’s instructions must always be complied with. Issues specific to PV systems
There are a number of technical issues specific to the installation of PV systems, in addition to those already mentioned. These cannot be dealt with in detail in this article but most are covered below in principle. Requirements are given in BS 7671, DTI Publication URN 06/1972 (see above) and manufacturer’s instructions. • Equipment on d.c. side to be considered energised. PV equipment on the d.c. side of an inverter must be considered energised even when disconnected from a.c. side (Regulation 712.410.3 refers), as PV modules generate a voltage whenever subjected to daylight. Warning labels must be provided on junction boxes (Regulation 712.522.214.171.124.1 refers). • Inverter isolation and switching. Means of isolation are required on both the d.c. and a.c. side of the inverter (Regulation Group 7126.96.36.199 refers).
• Insufficient fault current on d.c. side to operate protective devices. In a PV system without batteries, the PV modules behave like normal current sources when subjected to low impedance faults. Fault currents may therefore be little more than normal full load currents. Consequently, PV module string circuits cannot rely on conventional fuse or circuit-breaker protection for automatic disconnection of supply under short-circuit or earth fault conditions, as such devices would probably not operate. Electric arcs can also be formed with fault currents that would not trip an overcurrent device. Implications for PV array design are that: • the risk of short-circuit faults, earth faults and inadvertent wire disconnections in the PV array need to be minimised more than for conventional electrical installations, • earth fault detection and disconnection could be required as part of the system protection functions, depending on the array size and location, to eliminate the risk of fire, and • an insulation failure warning device may be required to alert operational staff or system owners for protection against fire. • Functional earthing on the d.c. side. Earthing of a live conductor on the d.c. side may be needed for functional reasons, such as for some types of PV module, but this can only be achieved if the inverter provides at least simple separation (such as a double-wound transformer) between the d.c. and a.c. sides (Regulation 712.312.2 refers). With an inverter that does not provide simple separation, earthing of a live conductor on the d.c. side would effectively cause a short-circuit, due to the other d.c. live conductor being earthed through the inverter bridge during alternate half-cycles of the a.c. mains waveform. • Protection against electric shock on the d.c. side. The protective measure against electric shock on the d.c. side must generally be either by double or reinforced insulation (Section 412) or SELV
p52-56 Photovoltaic.2.indd Sec2:55
Solar radiation being given off by the sun
or PELV (Section 414). The use of automatic disconnection of supply (Section 411) is not generally practicable due to there being insufficient fault current to operate overcurrent devices. • Cable sizing on the d.c. side. The sizing of cables on the d.c. side must take into account not only voltage drop and normal load current, but also that fault current may persist for long periods due to protective devices not operating (as mentioned above). The fault current depends on the number of strings, the fault location, the solar irradiance level and the module temperature and age (module output is higher in the first few weeks of operation). Cable sizes must take account of the high ambient temperatures likely to exist at PV equipment locations. The cables must be suitably selected to withstand these conditions. • Overcurrent protection on the d.c. side. Overcurrent protection of the cables on the d.c. side may be omitted where certain conditions are met (Regulation Group 712.433 refers). However, string fuses may still be required to protect the modules against overcurrent, including from reverse current in the event of a fault in a module of a multi-string array. Blocking diodes, where used, should not be relied on for overcurrent protection, as these can fail to danger.
• Connection to the electrical installation. The a.c. output of the PV inverter must be connected to the appropriate distribution board of the installation via a dedicated circuit (the PV supply cable), not via a final circuit (Regulation 712.4188.8.131.52.1 refers). • Protection against electromagnetic interference (EMI). The area of wiring loops, such as in array wiring, must be kept small to minimise overvoltages induced within the electrical installation as a result of lightning (Regulation 712.444.4.4 refers). This is generally achieved by keeping the conductors of a circuit, including protective conductors, close together where practicable. Surge protective devices could also be needed in some systems. • PV array/string performance tests. These tests are recommended in Publication URN 06/1972 to verify performance as a check for faulty modules. The tests are over and above those required by BS 7671. Requirements for the tests and the associated documentation are given in BS EN 62446: 2009, Grid connected photovoltaic systems. Minimum requirements for system documentation, commissioning tests and inspection.
NICEIC Connections Autumn 2010 55
snags and solutions
A practical guide to everyday electrical problems ‘Snags and Solutions’, NICEIC’s problem solving book, is now available in three parts, which cover many commonly-encountered electrical installation problems. All parts take account of the requirements of BS 7671: 2008 (17th Edition of the IEE Wiring Regulations), where appropriate. Part 1 addresses 53 problems relating to earthing and bonding, Part 2 covers 55 problems relating to wiring systems, and Part 3 covers 52 problems relating to inspection and testing. Each book is available from NICEIC Direct at £15. To give an indication of the value of these books, a snag and solution is being covered in each issue of Connections. This issue addresses a snag from Part 3 relating to measurement of prospective fault current between line conductors.
56 Autumn 2010 NICEIC Connections
p56-57 snags.2.indd 56
Measurement of prospective fault current between line conductors Generally, the maximum prospective fault current of a three-phase supply will be that for a short-circuit between all three line conductors.
Snag 46 A problem arises where an instrument rated at less than the nominal line to line voltage (typically 400 volts) is the only instrument available for measuring the prospective short-circuit current in an installation supplied by three-phases. Solution The prospective fault current is the overcurrent that would flow at a given point in a circuit resulting from a fault of negligible impedance between either: • live conductors, such as the line and neutral of a single phase circuit (prospective short-circuit current), or • a live conductor and the protective conductor of the circuit or an exposed-conductive-part (prospective earth fault current). For a three-phase supply, the largest prospective fault current is generally the prospective short-circuit current between all three line conductors. Direct measurement of prospective fault current Where direct measurement of prospective fault current between line conductors is carried out, an instrument having a rating not less than the nominal line to line voltage (U) will be required. Where such an instrument is not available, a measurement of the prospective fault current between line to neutral can be carried out using an instrument
4.2 k A P-N
20kA 2000A 20立 200立
rated at the nominal line to Earth voltage (U0). The test result is then used to calculate the value of the prospective fault current between line conductors, as explained below. Measurement and calculation for determining prospective fault current Where an instrument, due to its voltage rating, cannot directly measure the prospective fault current between line conductors, it is permitted by Regulation 612.11 for the prospective fault current to be calculated or determined by another method. A recognised rule of thumb is that it can be assumed that the value of prospective fault current measured between line conductors will be approximately twice that measured between line and neutral. This rule of thumb tends to give an overestimate of the prospective fault current and therefore errs on the side of safety when used to check the adequacy of the short-circuit breaking capacity of switchgear.
p56-57 snags.2.indd 57
Example In a three-phase installation, the maximum measured single-phase (line to neutral) prospective short-circuit current is 4.2 kA. The approximate value of the maximum prospective fault current between line conductors for the three-phase installation would therefore be: (4.2 kA x 2 = 8.4 kA) The approximate value of 8.4 kA is the value to be recorded as the maximum prospective fault
current for the installation, in the appropriate place within the Electrical Installation Certificate (or Domestic equivalent) or the Periodic Inspection Report. Regulation 612.11 The prospective short-circuit current and prospective earth fault current shall be measured, calculated or determined by another method, at the origin and at other relevant points in the installation.
INFORMATION Website Top Tip How to access the secure area 1. Log on to https://brcs.niceic.com 2. On the home page under Register Here, enter your Domestic Installer registration number or your Approved Contractor scheme enrolment number and then click Register. 3. Follow the onscreen instructions to arrange for your business to be sent an activation code, which you will receive by post. 4. Upon receipt of the activation code, please log back on to https://brcs.niceic. com and follow the instructions within the communication.
NICEIC Connections Autumn 2010 57
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Many types of electronic equipment (such as computers, photocopiers and discharge luminaires) and other equipment (such as heating elements) can cause currents in the protective conductors of final circuits and distribution circuits of an installation in normal service. This article explains how these protective conductor currents are caused and how they can be a hazard to users of an installation if the current is sufficiently high and an open-circuit fault develops in a protective conductor.
n article in a future issue of Connections will give guidance on the requirements of Regulation Group 543.7 of BS 7671 for protective earthing for the installation of equipment having high protective conductor currents.
Causes of protective conductor current Electronic equipment Electronic equipment such as fluorescent and other discharge luminaires, variable speed motor drives and the switched-mode
Causes of protective conductor currents, and the dangers they introduce
power supplies (SMPS) of computers and other office equipment often incorporate filters to: • suppress high-frequency noise being superimposed on the mains supply by the equipment, and/or • protect a SMPS from damage due to mains-borne voltage spikes (transient overvoltages) produced by lightning strikes or the operation of network switching devices. The filters include capacitors connected between the live (line and neutral) conductors and the circuit protective conductor. In normal service, these capacitors draw a constant current, which flows in the circuit protective conductor (cpc) of the final circuit and any distribution circuit supplying the equipment. Figure 1 shows an example of this where capacitors intended to provide a path for currents caused by voltage spikes also provide a path for protective conductor current in normal service. Heating elements Some types of heating element can absorb moisture when cold. When the element is energised, the moisture provides an electrically conductive path for leakage current to exposed-conductive-parts, such as a metallic enclosure of the element. This results in protective conductor current. As the element heats up, the magnitude of protective conductor current tends to fall and stabilise at a value that depends on the nature and condition of the element.
Capacitive filters to Earth
Protective conductor current
Fig 1 – Simplified drawing showing protective conductor current due to capacitors in the filter within an item of equipment
p59-60 Conductor currents.4.indd 59
Potential danger in the event of an open-circuit fault in a protective conductor In the event of an open-circuit fault in a cpc that carries protective conductor current in normal service, a voltage with respect to Earth will appear on any exposed-conductive-parts that were previously earthed via the cpc but are no longer earthed. If a person simultaneously touches such an exposed-conductive-part and Earth, a current will flow through the person’s body. Figure 2 shows an example of this situation. The person will be
NICEIC Connections Autumn 2010 59
Capacitive filters to Earth
Break in cpc
Path of shock current Fig 2 – Current flowing through a person’s body due to an open-circuited cpc that carries protective conductor current in normal service
at risk of electric shock if the current is sufficiently high. Magnitude of protective conductor current A single item of current-using equipment will not generally produce sufficient protective conductor current to present a hazard, although this possibility must still be considered. However, for all or part of a final circuit supplying several items of equipment that produce protective conductor current, or for a distribution circuit supplying such equipment, the total protective conductor current could be potentially dangerous. Regulation Group 543.7, Earthing requirements for the installation of equipment having high protective conductor current, includes requirements designed to reduce the risk of electric shock to persons in installations where protective
conductor currents exceed 3.5 mA. In deciding which (if any) of the requirements of Regulation Group 543.7 are applicable, the designer of the electrical installation must assess: • the likelihood of protective conductor currents being present in normal service, and • the likely magnitude of any such currents. Wherever practicable, protective conductor current should be determined by consulting information provided by the equipment manufacturer. For information technology equipment connected by means of a 13 A plug, BS EN 60950, Information technology equipment. Safety, requires the equipment to have a protective conductor current not exceeding 3.5 mA. However, a typical flat screen monitor is likely to have a protective conductor current in the
Table 1 – Limits of protective conductor current for Class I luminaires to BS EN 60598-1: 2008 Intended method of Supply current Max limit of protective connection conductor current 2 mA Luminaires fitted with a single Up to 4 A or multiphase plug, rated up to More than 4 A but 0.5 mA per A of supply and including 32 A not more than 10 A current More than 10 A 5 mA Luminaires intended for Up to 7 A 3.5 mA permanent connection More than 7 A but 0.5 mA per A of supply not more than 20 A current More than 20 A 10 mA
60 Autumn 2010 NICEIC Connections
p59-60 Conductor currents.4.indd 60
Earth order of only 1 mA. For Class I fluorescent and other discharge luminaires, the maximum values of protective conductor currents that may occur in normal operation are specified in BS EN 60598-1: 2008, Luminaires – Part 1: General requirements and tests. These values are reproduced in Table 1 of this article, where they are listed in relation to the intended method of connection of the luminaire (plug-and-socket or permanently connected) and the rated supply current of the luminaire. However, more precise values for particular types of luminaire may be available from manufacturers. As mentioned earlier, guidance on applying the requirements of Regulation Group 543.7, relating to earthing for the installation of equipment having high protective conductor currents, will be given in a future issue of Connections.
INFORMATION Contacting NICEIC To make sure you get the right department and the quickest response times, make a note of these useful numbers: Technical Helpline: 0870 013 0391 Customer Services: 0870 013 0382 Sales: 0870 013 0458 Training: 0870 013 0389
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Floor and ceiling heating systems A floor or ceiling heating system is considered to be an installation of increased shock risk. This is because the heating units are at risk of being penetrated by metallic objects, such as nails or the like, and/or incurring an earth fault, part way along the length of a heating unit, which could lead to danger (such as fire or electric shock).
his article gives an overview of the requirements of Section 753 of BS 7671, Floor and ceiling heating systems. These requirements supplement and modify the general requirements of BS 7671, given in Parts 1 to 6. Scope of Section 753 Section 753 applies to the installation of indoor electric floor and ceiling heating systems erected as either: • thermal storage (such as by utilising off-peak tariff electricity to heat up concrete or similar materials to store heat), • direct heating systems (where heat is utilised substantially as it is produced). Section 753 does not apply to
the installation of heating systems for use outdoors or to wall heating systems. However, for the purposes of Section 753, a sloping ceiling located under the roof of a building down to a height of 1.5 m above floor level is considered to be a ceiling, rather than a wall. As with all other sections covered in Part 7, the requirements of Section 753 supplement or modify the general requirements of BS 7671. The general requirements relating to the selection and erection of heating conductors and cables are given in Regulation Group 554.4. Wherever a floor or ceiling heating system is installed in a location containing a bath or shower, or in a location containing a swimming pool, the relevant requirements
of Section 701 or Section 702 of BS 7671, respectively, must be met in addition to those of Section 753. Heating units The two types of heating unit addressed in Section 753 are: • flexible sheet heating elements complying with the requirements of BS EN 60335-2-96 – Household and similar electrical appliances. Safety. Particular requirements for flexible heating elements for room heating, and • heating cables complying with the requirements of BS 6351 – Electric surface heating. However, heating cables can also be manufactured to IEC 60800 – Heating cables with a rated voltage of 300/500 V for comfort heating and prevention of ice formation or IEC 61423-1 – Heating cables for industrial applications. Heating cables may be single-core or multicore, with or without a metallic sheath or braid. Heating units intended to be installed in ceilings are required to have a degree of protection of not less than IPX1. Those intended to be installed in a concrete (or similar) floor must have the appropriate mechanical properties (to suit burying) and have a degree of protection of not less than IPX7. (Regulation 753.512.2.5 refers.) The use of sharp-edged metal tools should be avoided when covering heating units with concrete (or similar). Regulation 753.515.4 requires that a heating unit shall not be installed across expansion joints of the building or structure, as this could result in damage to the unit should differential movement occur at such a joint. Protection against electric shock
Underfloor heating systems have an increased shock risk
62 Autumn 2010 NICEIC Connections
p62-64 Floor and ceiling heating.2.indd Sec2:62
As with almost all of the other sections in Part 7 of BS 7671, it is not permitted to use the protective measures of obstacles or placing out of reach. Similarly, protection by non-conducting location and protection by earth-free local equipotential bonding are precluded. It is also not permitted to use the protective measure of
shock from such units does not rely on ADS. However, for a location containing a bath or shower, Regulation 701.753 requires electric floor heating elements to have a metal sheath, enclosure or fine grid, connected to the protective conductor of the supply circuit. This requirement applies even if the heating units are of Class II construction or equivalent insulation, and also where ADS is employed. It does not apply, however, where the protective measure of SELV is used. Also for heating units of Class II construction or equivalent insulation, Regulation 753.415.1 requires the circuit to be provided with additional protection by means of an RCD having the characteristics specified in Regulation 415.1 (Iﾎ馬 竕､ 30 mA and an operating time not exceeding 40 ms at a residual current of 5 Iﾎ馬).
Typical flexible sheet heating element
Typical heating cable of the single-core, braided type
electrical separation, as stated in Regulation 753.413.1.2. Where the protective measure of Automatic Disconnection of Supply (ADS) is employed, Regulation 753.411.3.2 requires that the disconnecting device is an RCD having a rated residual operating current (Iﾎ馬) not exceeding 30 mA. A regulation note points out that the rated heating power downstream of each RCD should be limited to 7.5 kW at a nominal supply of 230 V, or 13 kW at a nominal supply of 400 V. This is because the leakage capacitance of the heating conductors may cause unwanted tripping of the RCD. Where heating units are manufactured without
Floor temperature should be limited (typically to 35 oC) where contact with skin or footwear is possible
p62-64 Floor and ceiling heating.2.indd Sec2:63
exposed-conductive-parts (i.e. a metallic covering or sheath), Regulation 753.411.3.2 also requires a suitable conductive covering (such as a metallic grid with a spacing not exceeding 30 mm) to be installed above the floor heating units or below ceiling heating units. This covering must be connected to the protective conductor of the supply circuit. For heating units of Class II construction or equivalent insulation, the requirement of Regulation 753.411.3.2 for a conductive covering does not apply, as protection against electric
Protection against harmful thermal effects As would normally be the case, where there is a possibility of skin or footwear coming into contact with a floor, Regulation 753.423 suggests a maximum surface temperature of 35 oC for the floor. Furthermore, to avoid floor or ceiling heating systems within buildings becoming overheated, such systems should not attain an operating temperature above 80 oC. Consequently, Regulation 753.424.1.1 requires one or more of the following measures to be adopted: (i) appropriate design of the heating system,
NICEIC Connections Autumn 2010 63
(ii) appropriate installation of the heating system in accordance with the manufacturersâ€™ instructions, and (iii) the use of protective devices. Due to the high temperature when heating units are in operation, they must be connected to the electrical installation via cold tails that are inseparably connected to them (such as by crimped connections), or by suitable terminals. For heating units installed in close proximity to easily ignitable building structures, Regulation 753.424.1.2 requires special measures to be taken such as placing the units on a metal sheet or in metal conduit (where practicable), or at a distance of at least 10 mm in air from the ignitable material. This is because the heating units may cause high temperatures or arcs under fault conditions, capable of causing ignition to the material. Heating-free areas Furniture or fittings are often needed in a room having floor or ceiling heating. Regulation 753.520.4 requires heating-free areas to be provided in such a way that the heat emission is not prevented by such items. Whilst the heating-free areas allow for drilling and fixing of furniture and fittings by screws, nails and the like, it is vital that the installer informs other contractors and the building owner or occupier that no penetrating means (such as from screws for door stoppers etc.) is to be used in the areas where floor and heating units are installed. Identification and notices Before handover, the designer or installer of the heating systems must provide a plan for each such system. The plan must be fixed to, or adjacent to, the distribution board and contain information such as the layout of the system (e.g. in the form of a sketch, drawing or picture); the rated voltage, length and area and rated power of the system. The items of information to be detailed on the plan are listed in Regulation 753.514 and illustrated in Fig 753 of BS 7671.
64 Autumn 2010 NICEIC Connections
p62-64 Floor and ceiling heating.2.indd Sec2:64
Meet the helpline If you have ever telephoned our technical helpline you may wonder who the voices are on the other end of the line. Well, meet the technical helpline team: all industry professionals with vast experience in the electrical industry and some interests outside of the day job too! Justin Maltby-Smith, NICEIC operations engineer Industry experience: Ran his own electrical company, lecturer, consultant/project manager Interests: Kung-Fu and kickboxing, black-belt instructor
Alan Turvey, NICEIC operations engineer Industry experience: Electrician, carrying out industrial, commercial, quarry and domestic installations, lecturer and deputy head of construction with further education college Interests: Walking, bonsai cultivation and restoration of classic bicycles Stuart McHugh, senior technical helpline engineer Industry experience: More than 41 years in the electrical industry, including a six-year apprenticeship, industrial commercial domestic and street-lighting work Interests: Vintage aircraft, motoring (owns an MGBGT sports car) Clinton Thompson, NICEIC operations engineer Industry experience: Electrician (domestic and industrial), electrical engineer (food industry, high-volume production and heavy press industry), college tutor, training centre tutor Interests: Classic cars and bikes (owns a Royal Enfield Bullet), music (plays guitar in a small group) Derek Cooney, NICEIC operations engineer Industry experience: Time served electrician, commercial and industrial background and college lecturer Interests: Sports and cinema
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Why is it necessary to determine earth fault loop impedance? This article explains why it is necessary to determine the values of earth fault loop impedance (Zs) for new installations and for those in service that are being inspected and tested to establish their condition. It also discusses the use of calculation as an alternative to loop impedance measurement, as permitted by BS 7671.
egulation 313.1 requires a number of characteristics of the supply to an installation to be determined, including the nominal voltage to earth (U0), the earth loop impedance of that part of the system external to the installation (Ze), and the prospective short-circuit current at the origin of the installation. External earth loop impedance (Ze) The value of external earth loop impedance (Ze) measured or otherwise determined in accordance with Regulation 313.1 may differ from the typical maximum value declared by the electricity distributor, which is usually: • 0.8 Ω for TN-S system • 0.35 Ω for a TN-C-S system • 21 Ω plus the resistance of the installation earth electrode for a TT system. The resistance of the installation earth electrode in a TT system must be measured, as required by Regulation 612.7. When using this measured value (such as in the value of RA, mentioned later in this article) it must be remembered that this resistance is liable to
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change with the varying weather conditions, the value being highest when the electrode is subjected to drying or freezing. In all cases – TN and TT – the presence of an effective means of earthing for the installation needs to be confirmed. The prospective earth fault current at the origin can then be determined using Ohm’s Law, by dividing the nominal voltage (U0) by Ze. Earth loop impedance of final circuits and distribution circuits For each final circuit and distribution circuit, it must be confirmed that the value of line-earth loop impedance (Zs) is low enough to achieve automatic disconnection
of supply to the circuit within the relevant maximum time specified in Regulation Group 411.3.2 in the event of an earth fault. Table 1 of this article gives the maximum disconnection times for final circuits and distribution circuits in TN and TT systems at a nominal voltage to earth (U0) of 230 V. When checking that the value of Zs is sufficiently low to achieve the required disconnection time, account must be taken of characteristics of the protective device used for automatic disconnection. For commonly-used overcurrent devices, this is usually done by checking that the measured value of Zs at the electrically most remote part of the circuit is not more than 80 % of the applicable maximum value given in Tables 41.2, 41.3 and 41.4 of BS 7671. For overcurrent devices not covered by those tables, another reliable source of information on the limiting values of Zs must be consulted, such as the manufacturer’s data. Where the protective device is a non-delayed RCD used in a final circuit rated at up to 32 A, the maximum value of Zs can be found from Table 41.5 of BS 7671. The Zs values in that table are intended for a TT system but may also be applied to a TN system. These Zs values not only meet the disconnection time requirements of BS 7671, they also meet the condition RA x IΔn ≤ 50 V given in Regulation 411.5.3 (ii) for a TT system. (RA is the sum of the resistances of the earth electrode (to Earth) and the protective conductor connecting it to the exposed-conductive-part. IΔn is the rated residual operating current of the RCD.) For RCDs not covered by Table 41.5, the maximum value of
Table 1 – Maximum disconnection permitted by Regulation Group 411.3.2 at a nominal voltage (U0) of 230 V a.c Type of circuit Maximum disconnection time (seconds) TN system TT system Final circuit rated at 32 A or less 0.4 0.2 Final circuit rated at more than 5.0 1.0 32 A Distribution circuit 5.0 1.0 Note: In a TT system where disconnection is achieved by an overcurrent protective device and protective equipotential bonding is connected to all the extraneous-conductive-parts in accordance with Regulation 4184.108.40.206, the maximum disconnection times for a TN system may be used.
Zs can be determined from Table 3A in Appendix 3 of BS 7671, by using the formula given on the same page as that table. In addition, for a TT system, Zs must be low enough to meet the condition RA x IΔn ≤ 50 V, mentioned above. What problems can arise when carrying out earth loop impedance tests? Earth loop impedance testing should present few operational problems during the initial verification process, as the installation will not have been put into service. However, for an installation that is in service, there may be serious consequences for the user of the premises if, for example, computer data is lost or corrupted as the result of an inadvertent interruption of supply during the test, such as might be caused by the unintended operation of an RCD. The number of instances where protection – in particular additional protection – by RCDs is required has increased significantly over the past three editions of BS 7671, so their presence is increasingly likely in all types of premises. Inadvertent disconnection of a circuit, group of circuits, distribution board or even a whole installation may occur if an RCD operates when an earth fault loop impedance test is carried out. As a result, a number of methods have been developed to minimise the likelihood of an RCD operating during such a test. One such method, calculation, is described below. Another method is to measure the earth loop impedance with a loop test instrument that supplies a test current sufficiently low not to trip the RCD, such as 15 mA. Determining earth loop impedance by calculation Regulation 612.9 permits earth loop impedance to be determined by means other than measurement. Therefore, where reliable measured values are available for the external earth loop impedance (Ze) and for the loop resistance of the line and protective conductors (R1 + R2) of the circuit, it is permissible to derive the
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Use of a proprietary plug-in adaptor
loop impedance of a circuit by using the following formula: Zs = Ze + (R1 + R2) However, using a previouslymeasured value of Ze, or a value of Ze that has been determined by enquiry made with the electricity distributer, does not provide confirmation that the intended means of earthing is present and of suitably low ohmic value. Such confirmation can only be obtained by measuring the value of Ze with a loop impedance test instrument whilst the installation is isolated from the supply, and the means of earthing is disconnected from the protective bonding conductors of the installation. In larger, more complex installations, the value of earth loop impedance measured at a distribution board (Zdb) from which a distribution circuit or final circuit originates may be substituted for Ze in the formula above. This method has the added benefit that it is unnecessary to carry out a loop test for each circuit in the installation, which reduces the risk of electric shock. Further, as the loop test is being performed on the supply side of any RCD protecting the circuit in
question, it should not, in most cases, cause the RCD to operate when the measurement of Ze or Zdb is taken. However, persons using this method should satisfy themselves that there is no other RCD upstream of the circuit under test, protecting for example a sub-main circuit. Sensible precautions The use of proprietary plug-in adaptors is recommended whenever high or low current loop impedance testing is to be carried out that would otherwise involve the use of test probes and partial dismantling (for example, to test lighting circuits in domestic premises). The use of probes to perform live tests can increase the risk of electric shock, and the dismantling or disturbance of an installation could introduce a wiring fault where one did not previously exist. In a future issue of Connections, we will consider how earth loop test instruments work and the various approaches that have been adopted by manufacturers over the years to limit the incidence of unwanted operation of RCDs when loop tests are carried out. The question of how accurate loop impedance test results need to be will also be discussed.
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The development of one of the most technologically advanced broadcasting centres in the world includes a bespoke and highly innovative power distribution system from Marshall-Tufflex. The solution at BBC Broadcasting House in London centres around the MT32 power distribution system, a fast-track plug and play power connection method that has eliminated hard-wiring on site. The modular power distribution system is delivered in cable management “bays” complete with pre-wired cable sets marked with circuitry. 01424 856653 firstname.lastname@example.org www.marshall-tufflex.com
Thorn’s new Quattro luminaire brings the benefits of LED lighting to recessed ceiling grid installations. Utilising a Cree 58W LED light engine it has a high colour rendering index (CRI) of 92, efficacies of up to 66 luminaire lumens /circuit Watt – far exceeding the target value of Part L – and is designed to last at least 50,000 hours. Moreover, with a choice of opal or micro prism diffuser there are soft, low brightness modular solutions for offices, schools, hospitals and retail environments. 020 8732 9800 www.thornlighting.co.uk
EES Data produces a full suite of contract management software. All are Windows 7 touch screen-enabled and built on a number of core modules: full professional contract estimating, small works costing and billing, supplier and quotation request, purchase ordering, job cost financial monitoring, application for payment and stock control. 01924 200103 www.ees-data.co.uk
Contactum’s new full colour, user-friendly catalogue is designed with the specifier, installer and architect in mind. It features the complete product range over 117 pages in a clean and crisp format. Divided into colour-coded sections for quick and easy product selection, each section provides an initial product overview before listing the individual products available in each range. It is available in print or online. 0208 4526366 email@example.com www.contactum.co.uk
Danlers designs and manufactures a range of indoor and outdoor electronic time lag switches for lighting or heating loads that are ideal for simply saving energy in stairwells, store rooms, student accommodation, smoking shelters etc. Pressing the button switches the load on and it switches off automatically after the time lag has elapsed, thus saving energy by ensuring lighting, or other loads, are not left on unnecessarily. All energy saving products are manufactured in the UK and come with a five-year warranty. 01249 443377 www.danlers.co.uk
AMEC Power and Process Europe, provider of engineering services to the nuclear and clean energy sectors, is using a Seaward PowerPlus 1557 combined electrical testing and certification system, which combines the functions of a conventional multifunction electrical installation tester with a data logger to enable test certificates to be created as testing is undertaken. 0191 586 3511 www.seaward.co.uk
Aurora Fire-rated, insulated and fit for the wet room. Aurora’s SOLA fire-rated downlighter range can be insulation covered, is made for wetrooms and bathrooms and guaranteed for two years. The low-energy CFL SGU10 40 Lm/W downlight is a 4 in 1 aluminium downlighter that allows compliance with Part B of the building regulations (fire), Part C (heat/moisture losses), Part L (conservation of fuel and power) and Part E (sound). SOLA incorporates an integrated heat sink which allows downlights to be covered with thermal insulation without the need for an insulation guard. SOLA is available in fixed, adjustable and IP65 options and has been tested in 30, 60 and 90 minute fire-rated ceilings. 0870 4441106 www.aurora.eu.com
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Ideal Industries The new SureTest® installation tester from Ideal Industries Networks Division is easy to use, very compact and ergonomically designed. Through clever use of new, lighter components and materials, as well as fewer (four) batteries, the device weighs just 765g, around 50 per cent lighter than most competing testers on the market – a genuine advantage if an electrician is testing for long periods. Peter Halloway, channel manager at Ideal Industries Networks Division comments: “Most electricians don’t have enormous purchasing budgets and so ideally they want to buy one installation tester that provides all the functionality in one device, including non-trip loop testing and phase sequencing to comply with the latest 17th Edition wiring regulations. SureTest® gives them all this functionality in an easy-to-use, affordable package.” The SureTest® kit comes with a complete set of detachable test leads, a switched remote test probe, crocodile clips, traceable calibration certificates, hard copy user guide, and a padded carrying case that stores the tester and all its accessories safely inside. SureTest® comes with a two-year warranty, upgraded to three years if the user registers online. 01925 444446 www.idealindustries.co.uk
FLIR is known for its expertise in applying infrared technology to predictive maintenance, building inspection, R&D, safety and automation applications. The FLIR i5 compact infrared camera is extremely easy to use – just point, shoot and detect and now costs £1,595. It can be used for a broad range of predictive maintenance and building applications enabling problem areas to be clearly seen on a crisp thermal image. 01732 220011 firstname.lastname@example.org www.flir.com
Vitesse Modular VITM4-2CH and the VITM4-2CH-2S are the latest additions to the CP Electronics range of marshalling boxes. A cost-effective way of providing power and control for lighting in industrial, commercial and retail installations, the modular design of Vitesse allows simple mains installation input and provides an easy solution for adding luminaires that can be connected via the spacious wiring compartment. The modular approach allows 4 and 16 luminaires to be connected; an appropriate CP detector is then simply plugged into the end module using a pre-wired lead. 0333 9000671 www.cpelectronics.co.uk
Hager’s new wiring accessories range is easy to install, with shallow back projection to allow more cabling space and a neutral loop terminal contained within its wall switch. The socket outlets are double pole and twin earth as standard and feature a three-pin operated shutter mechanism. The entire range also has a high impact strength for safety and is scratch resistant. 0870 240 2400 www.hager.co.uk
Fireguard Plus is a new range of extremely low energy fire-rated downlights, which feature Edison LED technology providing extremely low energy performance at 5W (actual 4.7W). Fireguard Plus features unique intumescent thermo plastic technology that swells to a solid, dense mass, sealing the back of the can to prevent moisture, heat and flames from passing into the ceiling void when subjected to temperatures up to 438°F/220°C. 01243 829040 email@example.com www.jcc-lighting.co.uk
Megaman launches the AR111 LED, which offers a powerful beam of light equivalent to a 50W halogen lamp and instant start up – a true replacement for halogens in terms of colour, temperature and intensity with an energy saving of up to 80%. It is available in two versions, the GU10 15w, which provides up to 30,000 hours life, and the 14W G53 lamp base option, which provides up to 40,000 hours. The AR111 is suitable for retail, hotels, reception areas, museums and residential installations. 0845 408 4625 firstname.lastname@example.org www.megamanuk.com
Elite is a new trunking range featuring a new three option line finished in a pure white high gloss sheen. It is designed for use in power and high-density structured cabling systems including CAT5E, CAT6, CAT7 and CAT6A 10 gig solution. Available in three sizes (Elite 3, Elite Compact and Elite 60), this highly durable system covers a variety of installation requirements. 01248 725772 www.marcocableman.co.uk
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current affairs … CA
T Thanks as usual to readers w who have sent in pictures o of shoddy installations that g good old NICEIC registered c contractors have put right. This issue w we have a fuelling facility for p petrol tankers where the outgoing cables h had been removed and put on the incoming liv li ve side ((top); a miniature circuit breaker live w with the mains coming in from the b bottom and the load from the top (m (middle); and a cable, removed from a light fitting, that had been routed ov the top of the lamp with no over sa safety heat shield fitted (bottom). Credit here to Bob Allison of Worcester Electrical Services; Chris Smith of C.D.Smith, Leicester; and Mitch Mitchell of Merlin Industries, Gloucester. Keep those shots coming in!
Don’t forget to send Current Affa irs any pictures that have made you smile in the line of w ork and let us kn ow of any hidden talen ts or charity initiatives. E mail editor@ niceicconnect ions.com
We’re all tempted to indulge in a cold beer after a hard day’s work, but it seems construction sector workers – including electricians – are more likely than most to indulge. A survey by healthcare insurer Medicash reveals that 47 per cent of workers in the industry admit they need a drink at the end of the day to help them relax; five times higher than any other sector. The construction sector also suffers from the highest rate of sickness, the survey found, with almost half saying they had called in sick in the last month.
But construction workers are among the least likely to suffer from broken sleep due to stress, the poll found – whether that’s because they’re completely out of it when they go to bed or not is unclear.
Contractor not just Par for the course A foreman electrician at Fareham-based NICEIC Approved Contractor ParCar Ltd is trying to prove he really does have the X-factor by appearing with a group of mates on the prime-time Saturday programme. Nathan Rawlings, 29, is part of the four-man singing group The Reason, which successfully made it through the first round and into the bootcamp stage. If the band succeeds at this stage the four friends – all of whom are tradesmen – will head off to a judge’s house where they will compete for a place in the live finals. Nathan has worked in the electrical industry for 12 years and at ParCar for the past two. “My company has been very good in supporting me,” he
says. “I had to take a week off to go to bootcamp and if we get through to the live finals they have said I could take unpaid leave and my job will still be here.” Nathan is pictured (second left in both shots) during his first audition on the show and (below) with ParCar’s directors Derrick Parker (left), Sean Carter (second right) and Sean Parker (right). “We’re definitely good enough to make it professionally, but this is really last-chance saloon when it comes to being a singer for a living,” says Nathan.
Connecting with the past Words of wisdom from a Grimsby electrician who died 42 years ago have been uncovered in a house in South Killingholme. In October 1967 Leonard Samuel Reaney wrote a letter and hid it in a bottle behind kitchen units when working in a new housing complex. The note expressed his views on matters ranging from his doubts over low-cost housing (known as no-fines) to the debate over whether to construct a bridge over the River Humber and the introduction of breathalysers. The bottle was found in September when Mears Construction refurbished the property.
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Local newspaper The Grimsby Telegraph has tracked down Leonard’s son Len and daughter Glenda (pictured left with Mears site manager Mick Cunliffe in the kitchen where it was found) and reunited them with their father’s legacy. The newspaper also managed to trace one of his former apprentices, Ted Parmenter, who recalled often seeing Leonard hide notes in properties they were working in. Leonard, who died just nine months after writing the letter, was working as a chargehand electrician in Grimsby. He also put a payslip from Yorkshire Electricity Board in the bottle.
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