Electrics advice on which jobs are safe to tackle for diy


Postby u0362565 » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:27 pm

Hi all,

I've just bought my first house and inevitably I'm starting to think about DIY and this includes electrics. Unfortunately I'm not an electrician but I do have some knowledge of hobby electronics. I was wondering if there are any domestic electrical jobs that "most" home owners would tackle themselves. For instance if I head down to ikea and buy a load of new light fittings, would most people get an electrician in to fit them!? This is one job I would consider doing myself and possibly replacing a light switch. My reasoning being that in theory it wouldn't require any new wiring just copying what was already there. I expect there is huge variation in opinion on this and obviously everyone has their own level of understanding.

Thanks for the help
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Postby ericmark » Fri Mar 25, 2016 10:06 am

If you want to do jobs safely then you need to inspect and test, and the equipment required costs too much for most DIY people to afford. however you can get some cheap basic test equipment like the Martindale EX150 which are no where near as good as the pro stuff but will likely do a good enough job to keep you reasonably safe.

There are limitations you can't measure the 40 millisecond maximum time for a RCD to work in with a stop watch.

Replacing UK manufacturer items with other UK manufactured stuff is normally easy. But in other countries they do things a little different, we for example take both the switched line (live) and the permanent line to the ceiling rose, this reduces cable used and so gives a better earth loop impedance and also allows us to have emergency lights and ceiling fans where required.

But in many countries they use the back of the switch as a junction box not the ceiling rose like we do in the UK. Ikea stuff is really good, except their electric stuff which tends to be rather poor quality and designed for Europe not the UK.

You see them selling things like child socket protectors which are a good idea with the German non shuttered reversible sockets but totally useless with British shuttered non reversible sockets in fact all they do is defeat the protection already built in. Google "fatally flawed" to find out more.

With a modern post 2008 house with RCD protection on all circuits DIY is reasonable safe. With a pre 1966 house with unearthed lighting however it can be a death trap.

Following the regulations every time a house has a new occupant an electrical installation condition report should be made by some one with a city and guilds 2391 certificate to say how good or bad the house is. Armed with those test results you can with a little maths work out what can be done. Without some documents saying what you already have it becomes much harder.

What seems a simple socket extension, is not that simple, in the UK we have fused plugs, so the supply to the socket is likely 32A but the wires are likely rated 20 amp which is OK as we have two wires feeding the socket. But to add another you have to consider if a spur, fused spur, or to extend the ring, and much depends what is already in place.

Think you need to do a lot of reading.

One final point with lights often the switched line is same colour as the neutral, in theroy it should be over sleeved, in practice often missed, before you start take a photo in case you miss something. And try to label as once a switched line gets mixed up with neutrals it is a real pain to sort out again.
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Postby u0362565 » Sat Mar 26, 2016 4:43 pm

Hmm ok thanks, doesn't sound that straight forward. Especially as I don't know the standard of the electrical work in the house.
I have at least bought a socket and voltage tester but these are very basic but it's better than being completely blind.

Interesting what you say about ikea electrics. You'd think they'd have to sell products that would conform to the standards of whichever country they're exported too and they wouldn't just import the euro stuff.

I'm not against paying an electrician to do this sort of thing just wanted to get opioid on what if any electrical work people take on themselves. This whole concept of being carried out by a "competent" individual is a little wooly, but in a way i prefer this over lots of red tape. Thanks for your comments.
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Postby ericmark » Sun Mar 27, 2016 7:40 pm

It is hard to answer as an electrician as to what can be done as DIY as if following the regulations (they are not law) then it is hard to see how anyone does DIY as the test equipment is so expensive even if you know how to use it.

However clearly people do DIY other wise there would be no sites like this one. So also it is clear people do break the rules.

I have many times at work given advice and on the odd time I have visited latter and realise the person has not understood my instructions and errors have resulted.

We were given a task write an instruction set to make a cup of tea as if telling a robot so it has no intelligence it does exactly as told. As my son said in real terms it is easy.
Start pressed open kettle filling tap for x seconds.
Switch on heater.
After x seconds switch off heater.
As in real terms we would be using a special kettle like in the old Teasmaid but clearly the idea was to instruct using a stand human type. It is near impossible to consider every option and it is easy to poke holes in the instruction set.

It is the same telling some one how to wire a socket. There are so many variables one is bound to miss something. Now to slowly add to existing knowledge is very different. I may seem crazy but working abroad I have had electricians unable to work out simple ohms law. How they ever became electricians I don't know.

But on another site glad not this one we have a guy who calls himself "Ban All Sheds" as he is so upset about the way the likes of B&Q set stuff to Joe Public. British Law is some times silly they can sell a wood burning stove which it is against the law for you to install in a standard house with no warning that you can't use (keeping legal) what they sell.

TLC a trade electrical supplier has a web site full of instructions https://www.tlc-direct.co.uk/Technical/index.html links to their huge data base of help files. Not a clue what the firm is like they are not in my area but their data base is really good. There are others like RS components who also have data bases but theirs is more specialist.

Even they make errors I have just noticed they refer to low voltage lighting as 12 volt where in fact that is extra low volts. 230 vac is low voltage.

Anyway using the TLC guide you can learn a lot. But remember an electrician did have a 7 year apprenticeship, by time I came to be one using day release to go to collage it was reduced to 5 years. The government messed things up by raising the school leaving age and clearly by the age of 21 the apprentice needs to be qualified and earning money so now they use a block release system I think around 2 years before they start to work and clearly lacking experience. As a result today the electricians job has been split into commercial, domestic and industrial so to gain all my dad did (born 1926) it would still take 7 years.

As a DIY guy you can't be expected to learn all that. But with maybe the exception of central heating wiring you can learn most of what you need to work in a house.

The law is different for England, Wales and Scotland but in England work in a bathroom and swapping a consumer unit is not allowed without telling the LABC. They say you need to inform them of new circuits, however they don't issue definitions and they say you can fit a FCU and a row of sockets off that which using IET rules would be a new circuit so it is rather woolly and there are arguments galore as to what requires notifying and you would need to read case law to work out the demarcation line and I am no lawyer.

In real terms if the house is yours and you have no lodgers and do not rent it out how would anyone know what you did? Law says anything planned before 2004 is exempt you should see the extent of my plans!

So plug in tester like the EZ150 and in real terms your OK. The EZ150 measures loop impedance the cheaper ones don't which is why I say that model. There are others that also do loop impedance.

The big problem is not asking. People are worried about being caught and don't ask. I have not seen a single court case for an owner occupier. Landlords are taken to court, electricians who are not scheme members are take to court, but not seen a single owner occupier.

Clearly don't upset people. I think it is Part F building regulations say maximum out door lamp without planning permission is 150W why anyone would want a lamp bigger than that I don't know, but it is so easy to see when you have a 500W lamp instead your asking to get caught. It is really some common sense.
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