Easy electrical safety checks for homeowners and tenants
Many tenants assume that the electrics in their home have been kept up to standard by the owner and previous occupants. But basic safety measures such as smoke alarms and RCDs (Residual Current Device) can easily be neglected and become a safety hazard. It’s just as easy for homeowners to lose track of the maintenance of their household electrics, and it can lead to disastrous results.
Below is a quick checklist of a few standard electrical features of any home that should be regularly tested and maintained. These checks are all within the capabilities of the average homeowner or tenant. Even if you can’t replace or repair any faults yourself, you can at least identify any potential problems at an early stage fix them before they become serious.
- Fire alarms – From 1st October 2015, private sector landlords must have a minimum of one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their property, and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a 'solid fuel burning appliance', e.g a coal fire or wood burning stove. Smoke detectors should be tested once a month and batteries replaced as required.
- Consumer unit / fusebox – Your consumer unit should be in visibly good shape, with no evidence of electrical burning (either visible or by smell). The unit should be correctly labeled, with no missing blanks.
- RCDs – Residual Current Devices - protect users from electrocution caused by wiring faults. Nearly all structures built after July 2008 come fitted with a fixed RCD, located at the consumer unit. If you haven’t got a fixed RCD, you can buy plug-in devices instead. All RCD units feature a test button that ensures they still function properly, it is wise to check RCD devices at least every three months.
- Fixtures and fittings – It is worthwhile checking the state of all electrical fixtures and fittings in your household. All plug sockets should be functional, and secured with all screws present.
- Extension cords – Any extensions should be in good condition, with no damage to the cord or unit. Make sure none of your extensions are overloaded with an excessive number of devices and not covered over – either of these could lead to electrical fires.
- Light bulbs – Sockets should be in good condition and functional. Choose bulbs that are the correct wattage for the socket, and screwed in securely. Loose bulbs, or bulbs of too high a wattage can overheat and cause a risk of fire.
A full periodic inspection is recommended every ten years for an owner-occupied home, and every five years for a rented home. It’s also recommended that a periodic inspection is carried out when a building is being bought, sold, or made available to rent.
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