Offices: Sutton and Blackrock ,
Tel: 085 273 7333
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GM Electrical Services cover most of the Dublin area.
Q. What would be the main electrical problems you would see your average Dublin house?
A. One of the main problems I would see is overloaded circuits in houses. When some of the older houses were being built, their electrical circuits were not really wired for all the electrical items used in a modern house such as televisions, power showers, toasters and coffee makers. For example, I was recently working in a very old house, where the circuit-breaker in the kitchen kept tripping out. It was all original wiring. When the house would have been built, it was common to wire only one power circuit into a kitchen. Nowadays, as a minimum, you would wire two circuits in. So, in order to solve their problem, I advised them to rewire their whole kitchen circuit. I installed two circuits, which reduces the risk of any overloading. Since then they have no problems, the new circuitry is well able to meet their electrical demands.
Another example of this sort of problem would be a domestic job we completed in Ranelagh recently. They had a new fuse-board, but the trip switches would not reset. They will not reset if there is a fault along the circuit. To solve a problem like this, you have to test them socket by socket. Myself and my colleague stripped each socket off and tested each individual loop of cable. What we found was a loose cable on what is known as a floating socket at the back of their washing machine. The cable got caught under the leg of the machine. The results on our test meters showed us the cable had been damaged when they had pulled the machine out. The damaged cable was causing an earth fault, which was causing the fuse-board to trip. To repair this, we installed a new cable and connected this to trunking on the wall, so it would be up from the ground and protected.
Q. As an electrician, how do you make a house or office more energy efficient?
A. One of the ways you can do this is by changing the old-type light holders and spot-lights. These can all be replaced with LED lighting, which give out the same amount of light, but do not burn as much energy. For example, old type down-lighters in a room might use up to 50 watts each. If you have five of these, well that is 250 watts just for lighting a room. If these were replaced with LED lights, they might only use 3 watts each. So that means you are only using 15 watts as opposed to 250 watts. That is a decent saving on your ESB bills.
As for making heating systems more efficient, you can put proper thermostats on heating elements. This prevents a scenario where you just have the water continually heating all day long, which can be very heavy on electricity. Time clocks can also be fitted on heating and immersion systems. These can be another great way to save electricity. You can time them just to switch on for, let?s say, half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the evening. This is much more efficient than having an immersion running all day.
Zone heating systems can be another great way to save on electricity bills. To give you an example, I was in a house last week during a rewiring job. We advised the client to zone the heating systems which involves wiring a thermostat upstairs, a thermostat downstairs and connecting one to the immersion. It is all hardwired, but as we were rewiring the house anyway, it was not that much extra work. Now, when they turn on their heating, the whole house will not be heated up, instead they can independently control which areas of the house they want heated up. Another example would be, I was doing some work in a large house in Malahide where 2 or 3 lights had gone. I noticed that there were around ten down-lights in their sitting-room. These were all using 50 watt halogens. I advised them to change all lights to 3 watt LED bulbs, which would significantly reduce the running costs of all these lights. This is something they will really notice on their next ESB bill.
Q. Would you come across a lot of potential fire risks because of old or faulty electrical systems?
A. I come across this all the time. Last month, there was a house in Clontarf where the breakers kept on tripping out on the fuse-board. The house was meant to have been rewired a couple of years ago. But the previous installer only put in new cabling from the fuse box which he then just connected to old wiring in their attic.
The back of the switch was lose, which caused it to spark and caused the back of the switch to start melting due to the load of the lights. That is how fires start. Another problem in this house was that the connections were loose in the attic. There was no junction box around them. The connections were covered in insulation which is flammable and could have easily started a fire. We rewired the lighting circuits with brand new cable which eliminated the risk of sparks and fitted a junction box.
Sockets on skirting boards is another problem we come across. In a lot of old houses, you will find sockets located on skirting boards. Nowadays sockets must be installed above 18 inches to mitigate against the risk of water damage. Another thing you will find with sockets on skirting boards is, if there is are any loose connections, which is the cause of most electrical fires, sparks meeting wood poses a huge risk. With modern sockets, you will have a spark proof box. For example, a while ago, I was working in a house where some of the sockets would come loose every time something was plugged out. Obviously, the householders were afraid to touch any of the electrics themselves. Our solution was to raise all the sockets on the ground floor, 18 inches from floor level. We installed metal boxes at the back of all sockets to eliminate any fire risk. The end result of this job - the house now complying with all current standards as recommended by ECSSA and their house is now electrically safe.
Q. Do a lot of people try to fix their own electrical problems in their house?
A. It is quite common these days as people try to save money but it can be quite dangerous to mess with electricity. A lot of the time, when they attempt to fix a problem, it does not work out for them- then I get a call. A customer in Swords recently had a problem where if she turned on her sitting room light, the kitchen light would not work. It was a quite new build and it was unlikely that it would have been left like that by the original installers. I was puzzled. So, she eventually told me her husband had replaced the plastic switches with chrome ones. It was now becoming obvious that he had terminated some of the switches incorrectly. In the end, we stripped all the switches back off the walls and re-terminated them all correctly.
You also get a lot of people trying to get power to a garden shed. For example, one customer drilled out the back of his fuse-board to run power out to his shed. He had, however, used cable that you would only use internally. It was not designed for exposure to sun or water. His power kept on tripping out when it rained! We had to rewire the whole circuit out to his shed with an outdoor MYMJ cable. They have not had a problem since.
Q. When would you call it a day when it comes to old wiring in a house or office?
A. Well the ESB recommend your wiring is changed every 20 years. Wiring is something that is generally overlooked because people just take it for granted. It is in your house and it just works. But there is constant electricity going through them, there is constant wear-and-tear, it is easily forgotten. My opinion would be get your electrical system checked every 5-7 years.
Q. A house re-wire sounds very disruptive, is it?
It?s actually not too disruptive. When I rewire a house, the main priority is the cleanness of the house. A lot of wiring is under the floors and it can be just a matter of lifting back carpet. We make it as easy as possible for you to live in the house while we?re doing it.
Q. Can you describe any interesting jobs you have worked on?
A. I suppose one interesting job which comes to mind was out in Howth a couple of months ago. Another customer had recommended me to a lady who had a problem with power outages. She lived in a big house near the cliffs. Anytime there would be high-winds, her electricity would cut out. It was not only her house, but also her neighbours experienced the same problem. However, she was living alone and really felt insecure every time there was a power outage. I recommended her to get a diesel backup generator. This was her only realistic option. I discussed with her how the generator would work and the costs involved. She gave me the go ahead. I sourced the generator and panel from the UK as the prices here were very expensive. It?s an up-to-date system. When the power does cut out, the panel sends a signal to the generator which starts up within 4 seconds. Her whole house gets re-powered. When the ESB do restore power to the area, the system detects this and the generator shuts down. The customer was delighted with the end result. She feels a lot safer in the house now. She no longer has to leave and stay with family members when there is no power.
Q. Are there any jobs which you are particularly proud of?
A. Last year, a previous customer of mine told me he was acquiring a new pub. He wanted me to check all the electrical wiring and make sure it was up to all current standards. I went to the premises and found a lot of things needed to be upgraded and it would not be safe for today?s electrical loads. We sat down and designed a totally new electrical system for him. If he had gone ahead using his old electrical system, he would have had a lot of problems. He would have not have had the correct supplies for lighting. He wanted an industrial kitchen but did not have the proper cabling. Appliances like pizza ovens would have really strained his circuits. His old system simply would have not stood up to the demands of a public house. So, we decided on a complete rewire. The owner had a good idea of what he wanted. I was able to advise him on numerous options for energy-efficient lighting and general layout. It really turned out well. He now has an electrical system now that is fully up-to-date. He has some of the newest LED lighting systems available on the market. This makes a major cost difference for a business like a pub where they are lit up from ten o?clock in the morning until two in the morning. It is also very stylish with different types of mood lighting which we have installed. We also wired up all his audio-visual equipment like speakers, televisions and CCTV. It was a time-consuming project but the customer was absolutely delighted in the end.
Q. What would be a typical emergency call-out you would get?
A. I cover all the electrical maintenance for 3 big hostels in Dublin city centre. At around 3am in the morning I got a call from the night receptionist. He called me to say there was fire in the fuse-board and the alarm had gone off in the whole building. The whole top floor was covered in smoke. I shut the power off to the top floor immediately. Then I proceeded to check all the cabling with a mega-meter. This sends a high-voltage current down a section of cable where it is then measured. The cabling however was all okay. The smoke had to be coming from somewhere. For safety reasons, we left the top floor isolated. At 8am the next morning, we started to lift some of the floors to double check the cabling. It was okay. It turned out that there were open fireplaces in all of the rooms. Somebody had been burning plastic and the smoke was coming out of a flue in the chimney. It turned out it was not an electrical problem at all!
Other emergency jobs I do would include problems like tripped out switchboards in houses and commercial premises.
Q. Is there any job too small?
A. No, we can do full rewires to something as simple as changing a switch.
Q. Top 5 Domestic Electrical Tips from GM Electrical
A. 1) Most faults will occur in a kitchen because of the loads incurred by kettles, toasters, cookers and washing machines. Until you find the fault, the breaker will not reset. The fault has to be taken away first. As a first step, remove all the plugs above the counter top in your kitchen. Try to reset the breaker. If this does not work, proceed to plug out all appliances below the counter top. Then try to reset the breaker until the faulty device has been found. It?s a process of elimination.
2) Install time-clocks on your heating system and timers on your lights. This helps reduce your electricity costs.
3) Before you install metal switches on a wall. You must have the correct earthing installed. If there is any fault, it is possible you will turn on a device and get a shock.
4) When replacing lights in your home or business premises, use LED lighting. These are much more efficient than florescent or conventional bulb lighting. There is a wide range of LED lighting on the market to cover nearly every application.
5) Always use a registered and insured electrician. This insures a quality job and your peace of mind.