While we may all be dusting, decluttering and polishing our homes to perfection at them moment (Marie Kondo's Tidying Up has hit the Real Homes office hard), now is also the perfect time, according to the experts, to check our electrics are up to scratch, and so prevent any problems further down the line.
According to NICEIC (opens in new tab), a leading name for registered electricians, many of us take electrical safety for granted, don't consider checking our electrics and even use our appliances incorrectly... which is all very well, except that poorly-maintained electrics can be annoying to live with and, at worse, potentially be killers.
NICEIC makes the following recommendations:
1. Regularly check your electrics' overall condition, looking for discolouration, burn marks, and sockets that feel warm or make crackling sounds. If you notice any of these, call in a registered electrician.
2. Replacing a fuse? Ensure it’s the correct current for the appliance you’re using (there should be a note on labelling or the original box – or match it to the original fuse the appliance came with).
3. Don’t overload sockets and keep extension leads and adaptors to a minimum. Overusing your plugs can cause overheating which could lead to a fire.
4. Electric sockets in your garden must be protected by a residual current device (RCD), which will immediately shut down the power to the appliance/lighting/tool if there's water penetration or if, for example, you slice through the power cable with a blade.
5. When looking for an electrician, always choose a government-approved scheme, such as the NICEIC. This ensures all work is safe and complies with building regulations. Properly qualified electricians won't just do an assuredly good job – they'll also be able to self-certify their work, meaning that you won't need to get building control involved with those aspects of your project.
However... a survey carried out by Electrical Safety First (opens in new tab) discovered that nearly half of all severe electric shocks received in the home are caused by DIYers attempting repairs, including cutting through power leads, drilling into wiring and repairing electrical items while they’re still switched on.
And, a survey of registered electricians found that a third had seen or been involved with fixing electrical DIY mishaps that had resulted in fires, serious electric shock or significant repair costs.
Their advice? Know where cables are in your walls before drilling, nailing or screwing (a quality cable detector can help you to track buried cables before you start work and avoid the risk of an electric shock); use a plug-in RCD when working with power tools and make sure you have one fitted in your fusebox (consumer unit), too; shut off the power if you're doing any work near electrical wiring or power supplies; before using any power tools, and check the lead and plug are in good condition.
Lastly? Avoid any electrical problems and accidents by calling in a professional. 'If you’re not sure, don't DIY.'