Electrical FAQs

Who are the NICEIC?

Established in 1956, the NICEIC (National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting) provides assessment and certification services for contractors working across the building services sectors. They assess electricians, renewable energy installers, plumbers and gas and heating engineers. If you are looking to employ a contractor, those registered with the NICEIC are regularly assessed. This is to ensure the work they do is safe and installed to the highest industry standards.


What is the difference between a domestic installer and an approved electrician?

The NICEIC offer a set of standards and rules that govern a particular area of work.  They exist to provide a common approach for all electrical installation work as well as provide customers with a way of identifying appropriate businesses for the work they need undertaking. Contractors who want to be recognised for their skills and experience in certain works will come forward for assessment against the relevant scheme documents.


Approved Contractor – A scheme that covers all electrical installation work from domestic to industrial and commercial applications.

Domestic Installer – A scheme that covers general electrical installation work in domestic properties only.


Why is testing and inspecting important?

Inspection and Testing is the testing procedures that electricians use to ensure that a circuit is working correctly and safe for use before being energised. It is a set of processes and procedures which must be followed and involves the use of test equipment to measure that the installation is functioning as expected in accordance with the wiring regulations. It is a vital part of every electrical job.


An inspection and test is carried out to verify, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the requirements of BS 7671 (Wiring Regulations) and other relevant regulations have been met, during the job itself and after completion before handing over to the client. It is applicable to all areas of electrical work whether this is domestic, commercial or industrial.


What is an EIC?

An EIC is an Electrical Installation Certificate and is a safety certificate that is issued by a qualified electrician as confirmation that any electrical installation project has been that complies with the BS 7671 (IEE Wiring Regulations). This kind of electrical testing and certification is legally required on any type of building where electrical installations have been fitted. An EIC must be issued for all new electrical installations. It may also be required for an alteration or addition to the installation – depending upon whether or not a new circuit has been installed.


What is an EICR?

An EICR is an Electrical Installation Condition Report. It is a formal document that is produced following an assessment of the electrical installation within a property. It must be carried out by an experienced qualified electrician or approved contractor. Usually this means they will have taken a course covering periodic inspection and testing and are registered with the NICEIC plus has a good working knowledge and experience of electrical installations. An EICR provides peace of mind that a home or workplace is electrically safe in the same way as a boiler would be serviced every year, consider having an EICR carried out at the recommended intervals.


During an EICR, an electrician may make a number of electrical observations and will give each one a recommendation code. The observations describe a defect or omission within the electrical installation. The electricians will code each observation according to the level of severity. The observations will be written in a clear way and are not in any way a sales tool.


How often should I get an EICR?

The recommended frequencies for having electrical testing carried out will vary depending on the type of premises, the recommended frequencies are as follows:


Homeowners – Should be carried out at least every 10 years. It is also important to have one done if you are moving out or into a new home, if your insurance requires one – or if you suspect your current electrics are old, faulty or have been subject to poor quality additions. The only exception to this is if the property has a swimming pool – this should ideally be tested once every year.


Rented Homes – Under the ‘Landlord and Tenants Act (1985) landlords must ensure that the electrical installation in a rented property is maintained safely throughout a tenancy. To ensure this it is recommend an EICR test at change of tenancy or at least every 5 years. We also recommend annual PAT testing.


Businesses – Whilst it is not a legal requirement to have an EICR, as an employer you are responsible for the welfare of your employees. Under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act stating that employers are ‘responsible for the health and safety of their employees’ and the ‘Electricity at work regulations’ which required that precautions must be taken against the risk of injury from electricity used as part of work activities. It is therefore recommended having an EICR undertaken at least every 5 years.


What is PAT testing

Portable appliance testing (PAT) is the term used to describe the examination of electrical appliances and equipment to ensure they are safe to use. Most electrical safety defects can be found by visual examination but some types of defect can only be found by testing. However, it is essential to understand that visual examination is an essential part of the process because some types of electrical safety defect can’t be detected by testing alone.


A relatively brief user check (based upon simple training and perhaps assisted by the use of a brief checklist) can be a very useful part of any electrical maintenance regime. However, more formal visual inspection and testing by a competent person may also be required at appropriate intervals, depending upon the type of equipment and the environment in which it is used.


What is a Minor Works Certificate?

A typical use of this certificate would be when a circuit has been altered. For example with an additional light fitting or socket without needing to alter any connections within the consumer unit. It is a legal requirement to complete a Minor Electrical Installation Works Certificate (commonly known as the Minor Works Certificate) after electrical installation work has been carried out on a modified circuit.


What is the 18th edition wiring regulations and why is it important?

The 18th Edition is the term commonly used in the industry when referring to the latest British Standards BS 7671:2018 Requirements for Electrical Installations, IET Wiring Regulations.


The IET Wiring Regulations is a British standard for the installation of electrical wiring. It is considered to be one of the most important documents for electricians in the UK. The regulations apply to the design, erection and verification of electrical installations, plus additions and alterations to existing installations. As such the Wiring Regulations is an essential publication for all professionals working in the electrotechnical engineering services industry.


The 18th Edition Wiring Regulations (BS 7671:2018), written by the IET (The Institution of Engineering and Technology) and the Standards Policy and Strategy Committee, was published in July 2018, and came into effect in January 2019. This replaces the 17th Edition, which was first published in 2008 and updated in 2015, and includes changes such as new and revised regulations, new chapters and restructured sections.


If you work on electrical installations in the UK then you need to know about the BS 7671 as this applies to the wiring installation you will be working on. If you don’t have the 18th Edition, or don’t know what the regulations include, your installations may not meet the current standard, which could mean that your installations are unsafe or inefficient.


Why do electricians want to look under my sink?

To establish whether the installation is safe and compliant, a competent electrician will be confirming that earth bonding is in place. Bonding is used to reduce the risk of electric shocks to anyone who may touch two separate metal parts when there is a fault somewhere in the supply of electrical installation. By connecting bonding conductors between particular parts, it reduces the voltage there might have been. Therefore, as the water intake for the house is usually under the kitchen sink and bonding should be connected within 600mm of entering the building this is why the engineer is investigating there. In addition they will also ask for the location of the gas meter as they are looking for the same at that location there as well.


What is an SPD?

Surge Protective Devices (SPD) Surge Protective Devices (SPD) are used to protect the electrical installation, which consists of the consumer unit, wiring and accessories, from electrical power surges known as transient over-voltages.  The inclusion of SPD’s in the 18th edition of the BS7671 Wiring Regulations shows how far the complexity and concern for personal safety has come.


SPDs do no protect an installation from lighting strikes. Only a fitted lighting protection system to BS EN 62305n will prevent a direct strike from damaging the property.


What is a circuit breaker?

A circuit breaker is an automatically operated electrical switch. It’s designed to protect an electrical circuit from damage caused by excess current from an overload or short circuit. Its basic function is to interrupt current flow after a fault is detected. Unlike a fuse, which operates once and then must be replaced, a circuit breaker can be reset


What is an RCD?

A “Residual Current Device” is an accessory that quickly breaks an electrical circuit. This is to prevent serious harm from an ongoing electric shock.


These electrical wiring devices are designed to quickly and automatically disconnect a circuit when it detects the electric current is not balanced between the supply and return conductors of a circuit. Any difference between the currents in these conductors indicates leakage current. This presents a shock hazard. Current of around 30 mA (0.030 amperes) through the human body is sufficient to cause cardiac arrest if it persists for more than a small fraction of a second. RCDs are designed to disconnect the conducting wires (“trip”) quickly enough to prevent serious injury.


RCDs are testable and resettable devices. A test button safely creates a small leakage condition. A reset button reconnects the conductors after a fault condition has been cleared. Some RCDs disconnect both the energized and return conductors upon a fault (double pole). However a single pole RCD only disconnects the energized conductor. If the fault has left the return wire “floating” or not at its expected ground potential for any reason, then a single-pole RCD will leave this conductor still connected to the circuit when it detects the fault.


What is an RCBO?

Residual-current circuit breaker with over-current protection is a combined RCD and breaker in one device. These devices are used for space reasons on the Din rail. They are also used for better fault discrimination within the board as an RCD may be monitoring numerous circuits. This mean in the event of a fault the supply to more than 1 circuit will be affected. With an RCBO only the supply to the faulty circuit will be interrupted.


What is an AFDD?

An arc-fault detection device (AFDD) is a circuit breaker that breaks the circuit when it detects an electric arc in the circuit it protects to prevent electrical fires. An AFDD selectively distinguishes between a harmless arc (incidental to normal operation of switches, plugs, and brushed motors), and a potentially dangerous arc (that can occur, for example, in a lamp cord which has a broken conductor).


What does interconnected smoke detector mean?

Instead of your smoke alarms operating independently of one another, interconnected smoke alarms work as an interlinked system. If one alarm goes off, the rest of the alarms will follow suit. This creates an entire smoke alarm system that is dedicated to your family’s safety. These links can be achieved through a wired link or a wireless radio link.


How long do smoke detectors last?

Whether battery powered or mains powered all smoke detectors have an expiration date.This will be labelled somewhere on the device. During an EICR inspection these dates should be checked as still valid.


What is an emergency light?

An emergency light is a battery backed lighting device. It switches on automatically when a building experiences a power outage. Emergency lights are standard in new commercial and high occupancy residential buildings. This includes buildings such as college dormitories, apartments, and hotels. Most building codes require that they be installed in older buildings as well. You can tell an emergency light by a green neon confirming there is a supply keeping the battery charged. These fittings should be checked regularly by means of a flick test and an annual full 3 hour discharge test.Any failures discovered then need to be repaired or replaced.


How do I become an electrician?

You will need to have an industry recognised level 3 qualification for example a level 3 diploma in electrotechnical services. Most people get into this career via an apprenticeship. It normally takes two to four years to become fully qualified.

GCSEs grade D or above, including Maths and English, would be a requirement as well as basic IT skills.


Alternatively, you could prepare for working in the industry by taking a college training course in electrical installation. Courses can be done full time or part time. Once this level has then been achieved, with more job experience you can then add more qualifications. For example the inspection and testing, increasing your knowledge base job function.

Have further questions? Get in touch and we will answer them.