There are many grades of electrician and many ways of obtaining electrician status. Equally, the quality of electrical work produced varies significantly. Whoever you use, you are effectively trusting them with your property (and potentially your life), so it's important you know, that they know, what they are doing. There are many good electricians around, and unfortunatly some that aren't. Television programs such as Rogue Traders try to identify as many bad examples as possible, but for the unfortunate victims of these rogue traders, it's often too little, too late.
The following section attemps to explain some of the more common terms / jargon, with the aim of giving you a better understanding when chosing an electrical contractor.
- JIB Electrician
- JIB (Joint Industry Board) electrician status can only be achieved after formal qualifications and assessment, and "JIB Approved Electrician" status can only be given after achieving JIB electrician status for 2years and obtaining additional qualifications in inspection & testing.
- an electrician who completed a full apprenticeship. Apprenticeships can take between 3-5 years depending the year started and the colleges attended. Apprenticeships provide on the job training, experience and sound theoretical knowledge.
- Qualified Part P
- In contrast to an apprenticeship it is possible to pick up an electrical qualification within 12 weeks (and often in just a couple of days) without working alongside, and having your work inspected by, a qualified electrician/supervisor. Many handymen, kitchen and bathroom fitters without any recognized electrical training have become "qualified" though the Part P route.
- Part P
- Part P relates to electrical requirements of the BUILDING regulations and affects dwellings (houses/flats etc), with the exception of some very minor work, all electrical work in the home should be submitted for Part P certification, for more information on Part P please visit the Services page, where you can find a more detailed breakdown.
- Electrical Certificate
- All work carried out where electrical terminations have been touched/disturbed requires and electrical certificate. Once the work has been completed a variety of electrical tests should be performed and recorded in a certificate, and a COPY GIVEN TO YOU. Pretty much the only job that doesn't require a certificate to be produced is the changing of lamps in existing fittings. These certificates should be kept safe and produced during the next Periodic Inspection Report and passed onto future owners on sale of the property.
- Periodic Inspection report
- A routine test and inspection of every electrical installation. The frequency of the report varies depending on the type and condition of the installation but typically houses should be tested every 5-10 years and every change of occupancy. The certificate should be kept safe and presented on all subsequent inspections and on sale of the property. A notice giving the date of the next recommended inspection should be displayed by the consumer unit (fusebox).
- Fuseboard/Distribution Board/Consumer Unit
- Essentially the same piece of equipment under different names. The consumer unit is the box that contains fuses or mcb's for the different electrical circuits (lights/sockets etc). They come in various shapes, sizes and designs with the purpose of disconnecting the electrical supply in the event of a fault or overload. Older boards will contain fuses, either in the form of fuse wire or cartridges whilst modern boards will contain resettable mcb's, rcd's or rcbo's.
- A Miniature Circuit Breaker (MCB) is essentially a resettable fuse designed to "trip" when overloaded. The number printed on the front is the rating in amps, and the letter or type number is the sensitivity. It is important to understand that a number of factors have to be taken into account, and test values achieved in order to select a differently rated MCB or fuse for any given circuit.
- A Residual Current Device (RCD) is an extra safety device designed to "trip" when an earth fault is detected. Any circuits (fuses/mcb's) or consumer units connected after an RCD will be disconnected when the RCD trips. Whilst MCB's and fuses will trip or blow when overloaded, they do not detect earth faults which can be potentially fatal. RCD's need to be tested quarterly using the built in test button to help ensure safe operation. Current regulations state that all socket outlets, bathroom circuits, and circuits with cables buried in walls at a depth of less than 50mm without additional mechanical protection (most situations - houses office etc) and not under the direct supervision of a competent person, require the use of an RCD.
- A Residual Current Breaker with Overload Protection (RCBO) is simply a combined MCB and RCD in a single unit. The advantage of and RCBO is that should an earth fault develop, the only circuit to be isolated is the one containing the fault.