- Saturday, 05 October 2013 08:31
- David Savery
Sometimes I come across bad work or poor documentation from the competition. This week, a homeowner presented me with an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) that was both hopelessly incomplete and incorrect. I'm not going to name names, but as the homeowner kindly gave me a copy of the report that they had spent good money on obtaining, I thought I'd share it here.
The firm in question appears to be a one-man-band registered with Elecsa and operating only since last year. According to Elecsa, is not registered with them for condition reporting as of 04/10/13 which probably means this guy doesn't have the qualifications or experience to be undertaking such work which explains, but does not excuse, why he has made such a hash of this one. That isn't stopping him from charging good money for producing a report that isn't worth the paper it's written on however.
To avoid ending up on the receiving end of a duff condition report, my advice is to go to the Competent Persons Scheme (CPS) your preferred sparkie is registered with (NICEIC, NAPIT, Elecsa, ECA, Stroma etc.) and perform a member look-up. Ensure they are listed for 'Periodic Inspection' aka 'Condition Reporting' or that they have 'Approved Contractor' status.
A sparky who is not qualified or registered for inspection work may also not be insured for it. Condition reporting requires Professional Indemnity insurance as they are passing their professional opinion on the ongoing safety of an electrical installation which may bite them on the arse in the event of a subsequent electrical incident or accident. If you're not sure, call the named CPS provider and ask them if the firm you're hiring for the inspection is qualified and insured for such work.
Anyway, enough of my blarney. Let's take a closer look at what's gone awry on this particular paperwork....
This EICR was performed in August 2013 and concerns a house being purchased. The lady named on the report is the house buyer.
Despite not being registered with Elecsa for condition reporting, this chap is using the standard Elecsa paperwork. Elecsa might or might not give a toss about being misrepresented, so lets concentrate on the detail. Firstly, Section D, Extent and Limitations. When performing a periodic inspection (condition report), it may not be possible to inspect or test all aspects of the installation. Perhaps we can't inspect the earth bonding connection to the water because a kitchen fitter has bolted cupboards in front of it. Maybe we can't get into the loft or garage or move heavy furniture from in front of switches or sockets. Maybe we've been given limited time or the customer has denied us permission to use our screwdrivers near their new chandelier. Whatever, limitations are fine so long as they're documented and have been agreed with the person ordering the report.
As you can see above, the extent of this report is the 'complete installation' with no agreed limitations. In other words, this guy has an access-all-areas pass and there is nothing in his way. Now, remember he said that as it will crop up again later....
Finally, before we delve into the detail, let's question why Section H hasn't been completed. He hasn't listed how many schedules of inspections and how many schedules of test results are appended to the report.
For this particular installation, there should be at least one schedule of inspections and two schedules of test results. That's because there are two distribution boards, one is a rewirable fuse box and the other a single-circuit fuse carrier. Apologies for the quality of the photos below, the understairs cupboard where this kit was located was too small to squeeze in to obtain a decent shot...
Above is DB1, the six-way rewirable fuse box. That white box to the right of it is this...
This is a second distribution box, hereafter referred to as DB2. It sports a single 5A fuseway feeding the central heating control. Both boxes are connected by 25mm2 tails to a Henley block, then through a 100mA RCD seen below and mounted upside down for whatever reason, before it all goes back to the meter.
To help you picture it all, here's a picture of it all:
To summarise then, we have two distribution boards that are independent of each other supplying seven final circuits. Actually, there are eight circuits as the lights on DB1 are two separate radials wired into one fuseway. Why then does this 'complete installation' EICR only have one schedule of test results referring only to DB1 and showing only six circuits?
Was DB2 deemed not important enough to warrant inspection and testing? Was the circuit for the boiler control not worth bothering with? Maybe there was a limitation preventing inspection and testing of DB2 and its dependent circuit on that particular day, let's check....
Nope, appears not. Okay, maybe missing out a whole distribution board and its final circuit is just a clumsy oversight. Let's have a look at the test results. Hang on... what's he written in the BS(EN) column...
He wrote 60898 originally which is a standard for miniature circuit breakers but then realised his mistake and crossed it out. His correction however reads as BS '1362'. The rewireable fuses in DB1 are compliant with BS3036 and that is the number which should be in this box. BS1362 is the standard for fuses in BS1363 standard plugs and doesn't apply here.
But what's going on here with the end to end ring circuit tests?
He's got figures for r1 (the line wiring) on both ring sockets but he's written LIMitation for rn (neutral) and r2 (CPC). Let's check what those limitations are shall we?
Oh yes, that's right, no limitations are listed. Anywhere. I performed a full test and inspect on this property and although the fuse box was installed rather anti-socially in a small cupboard under the stairs, there was nothing preventing me from removing the cover, identifying the conductors for each circuit and performing all the required tests. In fact, had matey bothered to check rn and r2 he would have found the neutral to be just fine on both circuits but the CPC to be broken on circuit 3. He could have charged to rectify this fault as it's a C2 (potentially dangerous) and would cause the overall report to be stamped as a failure. As it was, I found the break within about ten minutes after removing a few socket faceplates and corrected it on the day.
There was no reason to skip these tests. He's charged for a full EICR, he's claimed it applies to the whole installation and so far he's missed out one DB, two final circuits and skipped two tests on two other circuits.
While we're looking at the ring sockets on circuit three, look again at the number he's recorded for r1:
That's 0.01 Ohm he's written. Apparently he's measured the line wire from one end, through all the sockets around the ground floor and back again, and he's written down 0.01 Ohm as being the total resistance. Two columns to the left you can see he's stated the CSA of the wire to be 2.5mm2. My On Site Guide (p.182, table I1) states that the resistance of 2.5mm2 cable at 20C is 0.00741 Ohms per metre. In order for a reading of 0.01 to be correct, the maths says the total wiring length of this circuit would have to be approximately 1.35 metres. As this is a socket ring covering the living room and dining room, it stands to reason that a value of 0.01 has to be incorrect. I measured it at 0.15 Ohm which would indicate a circuit length of about 20 metres.
Unfortunately, this chap has recorded 0.01 as a valid reading and signed off the report as though that figure is acceptable to him. The fact he's written down such a figure means he's happy with the value and hasn't interpreted what it means. He hasn't figured that it just cannot be right and therefore either he's done the test wrong, he hasn't nulled his leads correctly or his tester isn't calibrated or is spewing out bad numbers. An electrical inspector ought to be able to recognise such an anomaly.
There are other duff numbers too. The R1+R2 value represents the earth fault loop impedance (resistance) of each final circuit. The maximum impedance is prescribed in the IET Wiring Regulations and varies depending on the thickness of the wiring and rating of the protective device. If the impedance is too high, then the protective device cannot be relied upon to operate within defined time constraints. After correcting for temperature, a circuit serving sockets on 2.5/1.5 wiring and a 30A BS3036 fuse as we have in this case should have an earth fault loop impedance no higher than 0.9 Ohms (OSG page 114, table B1). It's interesting then that matey has recorded an R1+R2 value of 0.99 and 1.01 Ohms for the two socket circuits. Add that resistance to the external earth fault loop impedance of the installation which he has measured at 0.24 Ohms and you have figures of 1.23 Ohms and 1.25 Ohms for these two circuits, both of which are way too high.
It's the same for the cooker circuit where he has measured an R1+R2 of 0.81 Ohms even though it's on a 6mm2/2.5mm2 cable. Resistance of this cable should be 0.01049 Ohms/metre (OSG p.182, table I1) which means for this value to be correct, the cable must be over 54 metres long! As this is a semi-detached with the kitchen in the next room to where the consumer unit is located, this kind of length seems unlikely. It's the same for the shower at 0.44 Ohms which would suggest a 41m long cable! If you're testing circuits in a three bedroom semi then you should realise these numbers don't add up and therfore either you're doing the test wrong or there's a fault which needs investigating such as a poor connection.
Here he has written these values down without actually realising they are bad. If these numbers are right, then they are dangerous and remedial action is required. These values would fail the inspection - yet as you'll see later, no mention is made of them in the final conclusion proving he doesn't know what the numbers mean, even though he could use them to tell the homeowner there are faults which he can charge for investigating.
As it turns out, his numbers were just plain wrong. My tests clocked in the two socket circuit impedances at 0.29 and 0.60 Ohms, the shower at 0.11 Ohms and the cooker at 0.17 Ohms. All are well within limits and indicating cable lengths which are more likely to be correct for the size and layout of the property.
Take a look at what he has scrawled down for earthing and bonding cable sizes; he's claiming they're 16mm2 and 10mm2 respectively...
They were actually 6mm2 throughout. The snap below shows sample wire CSA sizes against a slice of the actual main earth cable on that site and you can see it's 6mm2. A new installation would be 16/10 for mainearthing/bonding, but this isn't a new installation. He could have chalked this up as a C3 (improvement recommended), although 6mm2 may be fine for this particular installation if you go through the maths, but he hasn't recognised or correctly recorded what was actually there.
So what was his verdict on the electrical safety of this installation overall, pass or fail..?
Oh dear. Bad news for the nice lady who just bought this house. That said, seeing as he's made demonstrable mistakes so far, let's check what has caused this unsatisfactory verdict. After all, it can only be classed as 'unsatisfactory' if a C1 (danger present) or a C2 (potentially dangerous) issue has been recorded or if something requires further investigation. A C3 (improvement recommended) is itself not a failure.
Let's start with the C3's. The bottom two are fair enough. 'Consumer unit not labelled'? True. So why not carry a label printer so you can slap the appropriate labels onto it?
Anyway, it's the two C2's that have failed the report so let's pick the bones out of them. The first one is poppycock. Rewireable fuses are not 'potentially dangerous'. Fuses do the job they've always done, i.e. they protect the cable in the event of an overload. Just because breakers exist and just because breakers are more convenient to reset does not mean rewirable fuses have suddenly become dangerous. But hey, this guy is with Elecsa, right? So let's see what the Elecsa affiliated Electrical Safety Council have to say about rewireable fuses in their downloadable Best Practice Guide to Electrical Installation Condition Reporting...
...on page 18:
The use of rewirable fuses (where they provide adequate circuit protection) complies with the current wiring regulations (BS7671 17th Edition) and BS3036 is still an active standard. If the wrong fuse is fitted for the final circuit then it would be a C2, just the same as if the wrong breaker was fitted, but just because rewirable fuses are present does not warrant a C2 or even a C3 in of itself. The breaking capacity of BS3036 fuses is lower than modern BS(EN)60898 circuit breakers, but in this case he's measured the fault current at 0.95kA which is below the breaking capacity of these fuses, so there is nothing here which makes their use inadequate or dangerous.
Let's take a look at that second C2 he listed. He's put "Main switch 100mA, not 30mA". What he's referring to here is the RCD between the meter and the henley block. He's quite correct in that these days, in this particular type of installation, you would fit a 30mA RCD rather than a 100mA unit for additional protection. That said, RCD's didn't start appearing as standard until well into the '90's and there are many installations today that are only partially RCD protected, have an RCD rated higher than current standards demand or even no RCD at all. The fact this installation has any kind of RCD is a bonus and not a 'potentially dangerous' C2 condition. The complete lack of RCD protection is often only a C3 (improvement recommended) and is not enough to deem an installation as unsatisfactory or dangerous. Again, you only have to refer to the same Best Practice Guide (page 15) to find a C3 should be issued if there is no RCD for socket outlets and/or for cables buried at less than 50mm inside walls. A C2 is only relevant when there is no RCD for sockets that are likely to serve equipment outdoors or that are in a location containing a bath or a shower. For this particular installation where there is no outdoor or bathroom sockets and where there is an RCD, albeit a 100mA type, a C3 was the code that should have been correctly applied.
Needless to say, he put in a juicy quote for upgrading to a new consumer unit to 'put right the problems'. That's where I come in as, thankfully, the homeowner shopped around for alternative quotes and opinions. She went ahead with a new consumer unit from me to replace both DB1 and DB2, upgraded earthing, full RCD protection and all eight final circuits separated out onto their own individual breakers. She also received an Electrical Installation Certificate with full, accurate and acceptable test results for the entire installation which supersedes the nonsense numbers on this EICR, and all for less than this chancer was charging.
The bottom line.
The only thing this installation should have failed on was the broken r2 conductor as that is classified as a C2 (Best Practice Guide page 14). Matey didn't spot that one though as he was rushing off to cash the customer's cheque without bothering to perform all the proper testing.
A condition report is one inspector's opinion of whether any given electrical installation is satisfactory or if it needs remedial work. Different inspectors may have their own personal standards and the wiring regulations can be open to interpretation. We're only human and mistakes can be made but, if you're charging for a job to be done, then there is no excuse to find yourself with a report as poor as this example. Here some testing has been skipped, some results are just plain wrong and the overall verdict is incorrect. The author of this report is not fit to be passing judgement and getting it very wrong can put his customers at risk. The fact he probably isn't qualified to perform inspections, isn't registered with his competent person scheme to do so and therefore likely hasn't bothered getting the Professional Indemnity insurance his signature on the paperwork requires means he's effectively a rogue trader. If he's cutting corners and making silly mistakes here, what other aspects of his work does he cut corners and make silly mistakes on?
An accurate condition report doesn't have to be expensive. I don't know what this bloke did it for, but even if it was half the price I charge, having a piece of paper full of half-arsed inaccuracies isn't worth the A4 it's been scribbled on.