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Unearthed lighting circuits - considerations

Discussion in 'Electrics UK' started by fairplay, 10 Apr 2019.

  1. fairplay

    fairplay

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    This seems to be a regular question on here over the last ten years or more. It is not surprising as there are still plenty of pre-1970's houses about and flashy light fittings, often metal, are much more in vogue than the standard plastic ones of the fifties and sixties. I have just read a ten year old thread where it was true the OP was likely to put himself in danger and whilst some of the advice was sound some of it was disparaging and unhelpful.
    There are a couple of points here though that the professionals don't always take into account. Not everybody earns electricians money so the glib "rewire your house" suggestion is not always an option. If you don't have the money you simply can't do it! Then there is the disruption and potentially wrecking your whole decor consideration. Often the hidden question is " I don't really understand this, I think it is dangerous but I don't have a lot of money - can you help me?" The good electricians can usually find a third way for you. For example, providing that the house wiring itself is reasonably sound it is possible to do what I have had to. Add earth to rooms where it is simple and cheap, when you can afford it, or when decorating. Elsewhere stick to plastic switches with plastic screws or screw covers. Use pendant lights and plastic fittings or class two double insulated light fittings. There are hundreds of relatively attractive and inexpensive ones available nowadays including metal ones.(Google "double insulated light fittings"). Put a notice in your fuse box stating that the lighting circuit may not be earthed. This is safe and meets the current regulations. It won't cost a fortune and may well keep you alive! Hope this helps some of the less well off who find themselves in this predicament.
     
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  2. SUNRAY

    SUNRAY

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    I understand your concerns about unhelpful posts on this forum, I confess I sometimes cringe at the advice offered. However I feel describing the rewire advice as 'glib' is not fair, it is usually suggested as the sensible option to the OP's request for help.
    I know you are aware of the amount of work involved in upgrading a whole lighting circuit in a house so this advice will generally not have been given lightheartedly.
    Having said that there of course some electricians who will automatically see any job as a cash cow but I don't see too much evidence of that here.
    Quite often the upheaval required to provide an earth to a couple of areas of a circuit is not a lot different to replacing the whole circuit, additionaly there are difficulties for a qualified/registered electrician to certify the work they have done when some of the circuit does not comply with regs. Therefore it makes sense to suffer the minimal additional cost and unheaval involved rather than doing it in dribs and drabs everytime a new light fitting is desired.
    As to your suggestions, I have seen similar on here on a fairly regular basis and I employed some of them [on a temporary basis!] when I moved into my 1960's home 25 years ago.
     
  3. Keithmac

    Keithmac

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    We changed a few fittings and switches to brushed metal when retiling the kitchen a fair while back.

    Afterwards the wife and children said they felt a tingle when brushing the switch faces with their fingers.

    Be all and end all there was a light fitting in our outhouse that that previous owned had "fitted", the first one from the consumer unit and he'd failed to connect all the earths properly!.

    So all my switch faces had 70v ac due to the earth wire inducting voltage from the lighting circuit. It had been like this since we moved in but plastic switches had hidden it.

    So even if you see earths, best to double check they are connected properly!, I've been all through the house now and tested every socket and fitting..
     
  4. SUNRAY

    SUNRAY

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    And that is one of the reasons electricians don't like upgrading part of a circuit.
     
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  5. ericmark

    ericmark

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    As to no earth on lights, lets look at the facts.
    1) Rule changed in 1966.
    2) In 1966 the rule book was not a British Standard.
    3) Every 10 years or change of occupant if earlier the system should be inspected and tested.
    4) So following the rules the owners will have known for 50 years that the lighting does not comply.
    5) Even after 50 years, there is nothing to say you must upgrade with owner occupier.
    So no previous edition of BS7671 has ever said you don't need an earth on lights. And if you don't have an earth, and some one is killed, even if that would have happened anyway, you will likely be blamed by courts for the death. It really does not matter what the electrical safety council or anyone else says, if you don't have an earth and RCD protection on a lighting system you have altered, and any one is killed you will likely get the blame.

    Also it is quite a low chance anyone would get killed due to not having an earth. How many times have you broken the speed limit, how many times have you been caught, and how many times has it caused an accident, and how many times has the accident caused a death? But even though you have done it before, most of us try not to break speed limit as we are likely if we do it enough times we will get caught. And when we get caught in the main it is because some machine has recorded what we have done. So why would anyone write down on a public medium that you can break the regulations and it OK to do so, when it is so easy to show who said what?

    Personally I feel it is highly unlikely over a time of 50 years the house owners have not had the money to rectify the problem. And if the owners are new, the solicitor should have advised the buyer he would need an EICR and this may highlight work required.

    When the first edition came out, one could use knife switches which today would be considered as extremely dangerous, so although one can say it's OK if the previous edition allowed it, that is the edition before current, to say if any edition allows it, would clearly be incorrect.
     
  6. flameport

    flameport

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    If people choose to own a house, they also own the responsibility of paying for maintenance and repairs to it.

    Claiming that they can't afford to replace a life-expired lighting circuit that was installed over half a century ago is pathetic in the extreme.
    Particularly when you consider that the people complaining of this are the same ones that just went to the shops and purchased some overpriced lighting piece that they didn't really need.

    Priorities. Some people have heard of them. Plenty have not.
     
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  7. AndyPRK

    AndyPRK

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    I think that sort of response is exactly what the op wanted to avoid.
     
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  8. bernardgreen

    bernardgreen

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    Have people today got their priorities wrong ? . Does ensuring their house is a safe place to live rank lower than having the latest "must have" gizmo ?

    Or is it a case of hidden dangers remain hidden because they are never looked for ?

    The TV works when plugged into the socket, so therefor the socket works and must be safe. ? ( even if the Earth connection to the socket is missing or was never there ).

    If it works why spend money having it checked properly ?
     
  9. stem

    stem

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    As you say, you can fit light metal light fittings that are 'double insulated' to a lighting circuit without an earth. It limits your choice a bit, but there are still plenty out there to choose from.

    With my 1960's house I did rewire the lights in each room as I decorated. It spread the cost, and disturbing the decor wasn't an issue. In my case this wasn't too much of an issue anyway, as the original cables down to the light switches were covered in capping I could pull the new cables in as, I pulled the old ones out.

    Like mine, most houses of this vintage, have huge windows that go from wall to wall and the curtains alone cost more per room than rewiring the lights. [Probably still true even if I had engaged the services of a professional to do it]

    Ironically the original twin (& no earth) cable I removed, was still in excellent condition (free of 'green goo' too but that's another story) and despite being nearly 50 years old at the time, and far tougher that the newer cable I installed to replace it. Broke my heart ripping it out :(

    If someone was really that strapped for cash though, I can't imagine that they would be able to justify spending money on something purely aesthetic such as a 'flashy light fitting' when a plastic pendant with a nice shade would be sufficient & safe.
     
  10. securespark

    securespark

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    People prefer to spend money on flash things they can show off to friends, family and neighbours. When did you last hear someone say, "Come in and see my new rewire!"?

    I had a job when I was S/E and the wiring was lethal; lead covered cable with a voltage on the sheath.

    I explained to the guy his installation was at risk as was his precious family ("You're all the same you sparks, you try and bribe us to have the work done by saying we are going to die if we don't...I've lived here for XX years and never had a problem......")

    People don't like investing in something they can't see. In their eyes, they push the switch, the light comes on. It stops there.

    He had enough wonga to buy a fat £60K Merc though.
     
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  11. securespark

    securespark

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    I have come across a few installs with Ashathene cables; they seem tougher than PVC; a whole lot more robust.
     
  12. amfisted

    amfisted

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    A very small sample of the experts who provide assistance here have an unfortunate propensity for treating DIYers with thinly disguised contempt. A generous view of that attitude is that it can be partially attributed to exasperation with those who don't fully understand the potentially serious consequences of a lax approach to electrics, and whose response to the advice given to them indicates a likelihood to go their own way regardless. I personally don't mind being treated as a fool if I can get otherwise expensive advice for free, although I have to admit to having gritted my teeth and counted to 100 when confronted with a particularly condescending response.

    As for the earthing thing, I have some personal experience of the consequences of the "old way". As children, growing up in a house built immediately post war we were not closely supervised by our parents. On two occasions I received severe electric shocks when messing, out of childish curiosity, with unguarded and almost certainly unearthed light fittings. I've never forgotten those incidents: the tremendous "jolt" up the arm along with the sense of shock that seemed to last for hours, and I'm very thankful that I'm here to tell the tale.

    My brother owns an ex council house which was built in the 50s, and the meter cupboard is a real museum piece. He moved into the house in the early 90s, and despite having had a new shower and boiler fitted (twice) in that time, he has never seen fit, despite my regular nagging, to have the wiring upgraded to modern standards. I do worry that one day something will go badly wrong, and I really wish I could get him to log onto this forum so that someone could have a stiff, perhaps even a condescending word with him. But in the end its up to him.
     
    Last edited: 13 Apr 2019
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  13. mattylad

    mattylad

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    OH don't worry, if he ever logs on here then he WILL get a good telling from this lot.
    Then the conversation will turn into an argument, lots of bitching, the subject will change several times and eventually the thread will be locked.
    He will not want to return.
     
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  14. bernardgreen

    bernardgreen

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    Found this in the meter cabinet at the in-law's house in the 1970's ( "wasn't allowed to take a picture hence a diagram ).

    in-law's meter box.jpg

    The rubber cable for the cooker had been moved from the fuse box and was too short to reach the "new" switch fuse so it had been extended with PVC. The Live was bare copper where the insulation had melted ( fuse running hot ). Stiff enough to not bend and touch the hole in the Mem box ( No grommet ).

    This was considered perfectly OK and safe as it had been installed by Cyril, the brother of mother in law's best friend. Cyril knew what he was doing as he was a "qualified electrician's mate". Finding fault with his work was not permitted.

    His other "error" was a 13 amp socket for a fire, a 15 amp ( round pin ) socket, a light and the immersion heater all on the same "radial". He did suggest to never have fire and immersion heater on at the same time.
     
  15. fairplay

    fairplay

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    Well in this instance most of the replies to "my" thread have been fairly balanced and sensible with a general understanding of what I was trying to say.
    It is really just another of ones life risk assessments as somebody above alluded to with speeding etc. To some money is the absolute issue and other priorities can override the re-wiring. But I accept that there are people who can afford it who don't do it and with time, I had probably became one of them. This may be because of a number of reasons.
    1. They might not know enough to know there is an issue, especially if like me they have lived in the same house for over forty years.
    2. They are bloody minded (like the person with the Merc) and just don't care (probably about anything or anyone)
    3. Can't face the disruption due to bad planning

    So in my case my position has evolved over those 45 years. At first I was a young man with a relatively new built house. I didn't know and didn't care about wiring as the house had only been built ten years before, and frankly then, it was just left to the surveyor's report. (And in the summer of 1976 on clay subsidence was a much higher priority!) Then I gradually became aware that the wiring for an extension was DIY and not done that well. I ignored that as I was broke at the time. I brought up a family without giving it much thought other than a couple of electrician friends making some improvements like fitting an RCB and changing the push in fuses to Wilex trip ones. Any minor electrical DIY I did was to a reasonable standard and at least I knew what I had done. I think the step change was when I started having things like new kitchens and bathrooms and Part P coming in. This caused me to read up on it and I realised that the unearthed lighting circuits were the main issue. I wanted a rewire but was told it wasn't straightforward because it was difficult to get to some of the wires in the wall and I've got a solid concrete floor.(although all cables PVC and in good condition). Also I never thought of the wiring when I was decorating although that was usually room by room. This was also before condition reports were generally happening. SO a recent total refurb of the lounge enabled the contractor to completely redo the downstairs lighting circuit which is now earthed. All the double insulated and plastic fittings and all of the earth bonding and sockets have been tested as good so I am finally getting a new modern consumer unit/fuse board fitted by a Part P registered and well qualified electrician who is satisfied with the arrangement I now have. I am not planning on moving. I still don't think I need a complete rewire.
    A long story but we all like a story and I suspect the situation reflects the real world more than many might realise. I hope it helps someone.
    Thanks for your comments,
    Dave
     
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