Is your electricity bill made up of “hidden” charges? Well an energy expert seems to think so.

Energy suppliers and brokers have been challenged by energy expert, David Hunter, from global energy management company, Schneider Electric, to be open about these hidden costs. Unknown levels of commissions to energy brokers and price comparison websites are contributing to higher energy bill costs for householders and industry.

Speaking on BBC1’s Breakfast programme, Hunter said, that we are facing increasing energy bill announcements but weren’t being given full visibility of how the costs are made up. Asked to explain whether bill increases were justified, and what the reasons were behind the increases, Hunter said there was not enough competition in the market, and although we shouldn’t let the suppliers off the hook, increasing costs of green subsidies, energy efficiency schemes and rewiring Britain were adding more to bills at the moment than wholesale costs.

However, he further explained that an unknown portion of the "suppliers’ costs" on the bill is paid in the form of commission to energy brokers and price comparison websites. While these companies provide a valuable service, Hunter said, "One thing we don’t see broken down in the figures is how much money goes in hidden commission from the suppliers to those websites, and I think that would be interesting to see."

He added, "At a time when rising bills are placing real pressure on the cost of living, and also increasing the costs of British industry doing business, it has never been more important that all aspects of the bill are made transparent. From supplier/producer profits to green policy costs and broker commissions, all charges should be open and scrutinised so that homes and businesses don’t pay a penny more than they need to, just to keep the lights on.

"As a start, I call today on both suppliers and brokers to clearly state the amount of hidden commission included on energy bills, and would ask customers whether they are prepared to put up with secret third party costs at a time when bills are shooting up."

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Mark Jenkins is the Electrical Course Development Manager here at Access Training. If you would like to learn more about electrical work and maintenance, you might want to consider one of the many electrical training courses we offer. These are available for both DIY enthusiasts AND people looking to gain the vital qualifications needed to make the career change to become an electrician. To find out more give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

The accessories we buy may not be what they seem. Counterfeiting is big business, it is estimated that 10% of all world trade is counterfeit! In the UK that amounts to £30m of counterfeit electrical goods enter the supply chain.

Since 2000 15 million counterfeit products have been seized, mainly circuit breakers and wiring accessories. The vast majority of these counterfeit goods come from China, but some have been found to originate in Dubai and East Africa.

Counterfeit items are hard to spot, they may carry a well-known brand name and all the certification markings, the biggest difference may be the price! The items will not have under gone any form of testing, and they will not meet the required BS standards.

See the full article in Electrical Contracting News.

- Mark Jenkins

 

Mark Jenkins is the Electrical Course Development Manager here at Access Training. If you would like to learn more about electrical work and maintenance, you might want to consider one of the many electrical training courses we offer. These are available for both DIY enthusiasts AND people looking to gain the vital qualifications needed to make the career change to become an electrician. To find out more give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

Last month not-for profit training charity JTL launched a new initiative aimed at encouraging more women into trade (particularly electric and plumbing) apprenticeships. Its launch was marked by a parliamentary reception and is back by a number of MPs, including Labour Party leader Ed Miliband.

Currently, women make up just 2% of apprentices in the construction sector, and around 1% of apprentices within the electrotechnical industry. To help try and raise these numbers, JTL have appointed 10 inaugural apprentice ambassadors (all of which are former JTL apprentices) - chosen for their personal success and passion when it comes to promoting apprenticeships. These people will then travel across England and Wales, speaking at schools and local events in an attempt to encourage more young women to sign up. The apprentice ambassadors will also act as mentors to any girl who signs up for a JTL apprenticeship, with the charity also hoping to appoint more ambassadors next year as the scheme grows.

JTL chairman Dr Ian Livsey said: “We wanted to bring the ambassadors to Westminster to highlight the issues which prevent women from entering these apprenticeships. We have helped more than 40,000 apprentices train over the last 24 years, but only a small percentage have been female. This has been because women don’t see building services as something that they can do. This perception is something we need to change. Hopefully, by hearing the stories from the ambassadors and by seeing that employers are willing to support female apprentices, more young women will want to take up apprenticeships in the electrical, plumbing and heating and ventilating sectors, and make that first step to a skilled career.”

Now in their 23rd year, JTL was originally established by the Electrical Contractors Association and Unite the Union to manage training in the electrical sector. The company works with more than 120 colleges/private training centres, to which they sub-contract the knowledge syllabus elements of the NVQ Diploma.

Following our plumbing glossary yesterday, Access Training have also put together a brief post covering common electrical terms that will be handy for all the aspiring electricians out there - whether they're DIY enthusiasts or aiming for a professional career.

Bonding: The process by which all metal parts in a circuit are electrically connected together and then linked to a real earth. This is done to prevent any metal component within a building becoming dangerous should it become live due to an electrical fault or damage. Any fault should cause the circuit protection device to operate and isolate the incoming mains.

BS 7671: Currently in its 17th Edition, this is the UK national safety standard for electrical installation work.

Consumer Unit: These are used to control and distribute electricity around the home. They usually contain a mains switch, fuses/circuit breakers and one or more residual current devices.

Earthing: In the event that there is a fault in the circuit, this will minimise the risk of an electric shock. It provides a path for the faulty current to flow safely to earth, causing the protective device (such as a fuse) to disconnect the circuit and stop the danger. An electrician should check that the earthing and bonding is satisfactory before starting any work.

Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR): A report on the condition of your electrical wiring, containing an overall assessment of the safety of the wiring, observations on its condition, and a number of recommendations (in order of priority) for action (if any is required) to restore the wiring to a satisfactory condition for continued safe use. These were formerly known as Periodic Inspection Reports (PIRs).

Flush-fitted: These are electrical switched or sockets that have been installed so that their back boxes are contained within the wall or ceiling, making only the front plates visible. This often looks nicer than surface mounted connections but usually requires chasing to complete.

Miniature Circuit Breaker (MCB): These are automatic protective devices fitted into fuse boxes. They will disconnect a circuit should there be a fault or overload.

Part P: The specific section of the Building Regulations for England and Wales, which relates to electrical installations in domestic properties.

Surface-mounted: This is when switches and sockets are installed on top of a surface rather than behind it. While it is less seamless than flush-fitted installations, it causes less disruption to any decoration that surface may have.

Two Way Switch:  Switches which can be used in pairs so that either can turn a light on or off. Each switch has terminals allowing them to be linked using Three Core and Earth cable.

Of course once again this is only a very brief look at some of the things electricians come across on a daily basis, and is no substitute for proper comprehensive electrical training. If you would like to find out more about what it takes to become an electrician, earn valuable skills and the qualifications to go professional - Access Training have exactly what you need. With courses suitable for both trainees and homeowners looking to do a spot of DIY on their property, now has never been a better time to gain a better understanding of the electrical trade. Please visit the courses section of our website or alternatively get in touch with our team on 0800 345 7492.

Original article: British Gas plans to offer free power on Saturdays

So British Gas is offering some of its customer’s free electricity – on Saturdays! Sounds like a good offer, but if something seems too good to be true – it usually is.

Is this just a PR plot too increase profits? Or a way of pushing consumers into requesting the so called ‘Smartmeters’ so British gas can exceed their installation targets? Is it designed to tempt more people to by their electricity from British Gas?

What benefit will those of us that don’t have Smartmeters get? Free on Saturday – sorry I have better things to on a Saturday than spend time at home using free electric. Vacuuming the house, the car, doing multiple loads of washing, tumble drying the clothes so I can do the ironing with free electric, allowing the kids to use the games consoles all day!!

Sounds like a con to me, everyone has better things to do on a Saturday, it will amount to British Gas giving away nothing.

- Mark Jenkins

 

Mark Jenkins is the Electrical Course Development Manager at Access Training. If you would like to learn more about electrical work and maintenance, you might want to consider one of the many electrical training courses we offer. These are available for both DIY enthusiasts AND people looking to gain the vital qualifications needed to make the career change to become an electrician. To find out more give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

100% customer satisfaction is one of the main things we aim for here at Access Training, so it always pleases us to hear feedback from our former students on their course experience and the training company as a whole. You can view some of the older testimonials we've received on this very website, but below is one we received via email recently:

"I recently completed six weeks of training at Access, which included tiling, plumbing and electric. This training has allowed me to set up my own property maintenance and domestic electrics business as well as join a Competent Person Scheme.

None of this would have been possible without the support and guidance of the excellent staff in Cardiff. Quite simply they are some of the most down to earth, knowledgeable and professional people I have ever had the pleasure to be involved with.

The whole set up is a fantastic learning ground, particularly for military personnel and I have since written to our regional training advisors within the RAF who deal with resettlement training. The transition to civilian life could have been dull and daunting, but it’s been quite the reverse and the staff are a credit to their respective trades AND the company as a whole.

Often the administration side of an organisation gets missed when it comes to thank yous but the staff were ambassadors, making the whole process both simple and cost effective.

Not only have I recommended Access Training to a number of colleagues I look forward to returning in the future to extend my electrical qualifications further."

- Dougie Bon (Retired RAF Squadron Leader)

If you would like to take the steps toward a new career in a trade, give us a call on 0800 345 7492. We offer training courses in electric, plumbing & gas, plastering, tiling, carpentry, bricklaying, decorating and more. Each will provide you with the necessary qualifications to achieve a successful and enviable career in your chosen trade. You are also welcome to come take a visit of our Cardiff training centre, so you can see first hand the facilities and quality of teaching that we offer.

 

Summer holidays on the Costas are with us once again. Lots of families are jetting off to spend a week or two in the sunshine. All looking to have fun and this will probably mean consuming large quantities of alcohol.

But we have become so reliant on our electrical and electronic gizmos; we all need an adapter to charge them up whilst we are in foreign lands. Our UK standard plugs will not fit into the sockets that we find in our ‘little paradise’.

Off we go to the local supermarket to purchase an adapter – but they are not cheap, so plan B comes into action. Off we go to the ‘cheap’ shop (you know the ones – everything’s a pound!). But is that cheap product safe? Probably not!

The above item is the subject of a “Product Recall” as it has been identified as being UNSAFE.

“The product poses a risk of electric shock because the user comes into contact with live parts when inserting the plug into the socket. The product does not comply with the relevant national standard BS1363.”

What a wonderful holiday – a couple of days in the sun followed by a couple of days in hospital receiving treatment for electric shock and/or electric burns; if you lucky. If you’re not you might be flying home baggage class in a wooden box!

You can’t put a price on safety; remember it might by your child that gets the shock of their lives!

For more information on this and other recalled products visit the Electrical Safety Council website at:

http://www.esc.org.uk/public/guides-and-advice/product-recalls/

- Mark Jenkins

 

Mark Jenkins is the Electrical Course Development Manager at Access Training. If you would like to learn more about electrical work and maintenance, you might want to consider one of the many electrical training courses we offer. These are available for both DIY enthusiasts AND people looking to gain the vital qualifications needed to make the career change to become an electrician. To find out more give us a call on 0800 345 7492

Research by the Electrician Technician Registration has found that "a lack of recognised standards for industry competence" is restricting both electricians' ability and their eventual career progression.

The study looked at how electricians' perceived their professional and discovered many were confused about what constitutes "competence" and which industry bodies could be called upon for careers guidance. Participants in the research also claimed that the vast amount of electrical qualifications available to them made it difficult to decide which routes of study to take in order to gain professional recognition. They also agreed that without a visible benefit of pursuing such qualifications, they feel no reason to aspire toward them.

In an attempt to address these concerns, the Technical Advisory Panel and Steering group (TAPS) - a collaboration of bodies including the IET, the Engineering Council, Electrical Contractors' Association and the Joint Industry Board, will now act on these key issues highlighted in the research;

 

  • Developing careers pathways to enable professional recognition for electricians to progress to engineering technician.
  • Adopting a 'one body' consistent approach to providing advice on a national scale with an electrician technician membership package.
  • Mapping the engineering technician professional standards to the established industry competence card schemes, NVQs and apprenticeship frameworks.
  • Promoting the benefits of gaining engineering technician recognition to support career progression.
The full report can be found HERE.

Not sure on the qualifications you need to get you your dream career? The staff at Access Training is made up of industry professionals who will be able to advise and guide you on exactly the electrical qualifications you need to make it in the industry. If you want to follow your dream and become an electrician today, give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

common electrical problems

Some electrical problems are more common than others, and not everyone requires an intensive electrician course or professional qualification to deal with the issue at hand. With this in mind, here's a short list of five of the most common household electrical problems, and how they can be fixed with ease.

1. No power from an electrical socket

This common household electrical problem could be due to a number of things, some of which you will be able to fix yourself without the aid of a professional electrician. Usually, it's down to a tripped circuit breaker, or perhaps the fuse has gone.

Alternatively, it could be because of a loose wire somewhere. It's easy to check whether the circuit breaker has tripped or the fuse has blown, but if its neither of these you may need the aid of a power tester/voltage meter. If the test results in low or no power, it probably means the wiring is loose somewhere and requires further inspection.

2. Flickering lights

Again, this household electrical problem could be due to any number of reasons. Flickering lights or those that do not turn on/off when commanded are usually due to a larger problem, as is a buzzing sound you'll hear when the lights are on. The simple answer is that you might be using the wrong wattage light bulb, but it could also be a case of a bad connection. Whatever it is, in most cases this can be fixed by simply changing the bulb.

3. Half the house lights have gone off

We've probably all been here at some point. Usually, this household electrical problem can be fixed by locating your house's fuse box and flipping the switch (be sure all the light switches are off in the affected area though!). However once again it could be a short fuse or loose wiring somewhere. You might be able to locate this with your voltage tester/power meter but it's recommended that you call an electrician if needed.

4. Strange smell coming from switch/socket

When the circuit connection of an electrical device is damaged, the electricity jumps to complete the circuit. Not only creating this smell but also potentially resulting in a fire as the electricity zaps anything along the way. Electrical device arcing also indicates a serious damage to both the socket and electrical device. You'll need to unplug the appliance immediately and seek the help of a professional.

5. Hot switches

This usually occurs in dimming switches when they are running bulbs that are equal to or less than 600 Watts. When this happens, achieve the wattage required to run the dimmer properly by adding the right amount of bulbs. However, if it's the wall socket that's hot, you need to use a voltage meter to look for a high decrease or increase in voltage.

Hopefully, this post has helped you in being able to identify some of the common electrical problems you might find at home, and what you can do to fix them. However it is important to know your limitations, and NEVER attempt something that should be performed by a professional electrician.

If you would like to find out more, Access Training offer a DIY Electrical course in addition to our professional qualification courses, giving you the opportunity to practice your DIY electrical skills under the tutelage of industry professionals. For more information give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

Until the recent changes to Part P came into force (in England only), if you carried out an electrical task in your home your only option was to notify the work to the local building control office. Building control would then get a qualified electrician to come and test your work and issue the relevant certification.

The changes in Part P now make provision for the home owner to engage a registered third-party certifier to certify that the works meet the requirements of the building regulations and BS7671 2008 (2011).

A word of warning; the third-party certification scheme has not yet started, and is not expected to be in place until later this year.

The 2013 edition of Approved Document P, which applies to England only, makes provision for notifiable electrical installation work to be certified as compliant with the Building Regulations by a ‘registered third-party certifier’. However, those interested should note that, such a service can be provided only by a ‘registered third-party certifier’, who is ‘a competent person registered with a Part P third-party certification scheme’.

Competent persons registered with schemes that authorise them to self-certify that their own work complies with the Building Regulations are not automatically entitled to certify compliance of electrical work undertaken by others. Following development by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the arrangements for third-party certification schemes are expected to be put in place later this year.

Registration with third-party certification schemes is expected to be available to named individuals from trading companies who meet particular assessment criteria intended to ensure that those individuals are competent to inspect, test and report on the condition of electrical installation work carried out by others.

The DCLG is not expecting competent persons registered with existing Part P schemes to use third-party certification in place of self-certification. The third-party certification option is intended for DIYers and other unregistered installers who currently notify their work to local authorities.

- Mark Jenkins

The Electrical Safety Council is calling for manufacturers to face tougher penalties if they undertake inadequate or slow recalls, following growing concerns over the effectiveness of the recall system and the emergence of a number of serious incidents involving recalled products.

Manufacturers who delay or take action in a recall situation currently face fines of only £5,000.

The ESC would like to see tougher penalties based on a percentage of profits from the recalled product, with a minimum level set at £5,000. This should ensure manufacturers react quickly and effectively should a recall situation arise.

The ESC is also inviting Trading Standards to set out clear and unambiguous guidelines on exactly what a manufacturer should do if they have produced a product that is subject to a recall. The ESC’s research shows that typically only 10-20% of recalled electrical products are ever returned, exposing millions of people in the UK to the risk of fire or electrocution. Over the last six years there have been 266 recall notices for electrical items.

In addition to the proposed change to fines, the Electrical Safety Council has today outlined proposals for a new centralised product registration system, coordinated by the charity, which could help manufacturers trace their products to the consumer in a recall situation.

At the moment only 5-10% of people fill in registration cards for new items because they are concerned about their information being used for marketing purposes and because they don’t understand the purpose of the cards. Yet over half of all the people that took part in the Electrical Safety Council’s research said they would be more likely to register products with an independent organisation, if their details were used only in the event of a recall and if they were assured their details wouldn’t be used for marketing purposes.

Do you fill in and send off the produce registration card? Or do you, like many people just throw it away? It’s there for a reason – keeping you and your families safe. Next time you purchase a new product do everyone a favour – FILL IN THE CARD AND SEND IT OFF!

- Mark Jenkins

electric shower

Firstly when you’re having problems with your electric shower don’t attempt to fix it, this is false economy – you’re much better off changing the item completely. Here are a few steps to show you how to change an electric shower. 

  • Step One - Safely take off the front cover of the electric shower box. There will be at least 1 or possibly 2 small screws holding this in place. Next, take off the front temperature and control knobs by pulling them straight off (this shouldn’t be too difficult to do). With the front cover off you should be able to see a valve on the water pipe going into the shower unit, it should have a screw slot in the middle of the valve. Turn this a ¼ turn either way and test the shower to see if this has turned off the water. You can use the control knob by temporarily re-attaching it to the shower to get the water to flow.
  • Step Two - When changing an electric shower, you must turn off the electric supply at the consumer unit (or fuse board as it’s commonly known). The fuses/trips should be marked but if they’re not, the 1 of 2 possible trips you are going to turn off will be either a 35 amp or a 45 amp depending on the Kilo-watt power of the shower. For a 35 amp fuse/trip, the shower should not be over 8.5 kilowatts. For a shower that is greater in kilowatts, the fuse/trip will be a 45 amp.
  • Step Three - The next step in changing your electric shower is to check that the electric has been turned off by either pulling the cord switch in your bathroom or the wall-mounted one outside. Run the shower and make sure that the running water isn’t warm/hot. With the electric turned off, you can put a notice hanging from the consumer unit to warn others not to turn back on.
  • Step Four - If the water is now off you can take off the water connection where it connects closest to the unit. Undo the electric cable connections and remove the unit, remembering to replace like-for-like in the kilowatt power rating of the unit (this rating can be found somewhere on the old unit, and on the front cover box of the new one).
  • Step Five - When you have connected the new unit to the electric cable and to the water supply, check the water flow through the unit first, then with the cover on the unit you can turn the electric fuse/trip back on. Go back to the unit and turn the wall-mounted switch or pull the cord on, turn up the thermostatic control on the unit and the water control knob to on. Your new shower should be working, but with the new shower unit you will have the manufacturer’s instructions in the box. Follow these carefully, and it should be safe for you to install.

- Mark Lewis

 Would you like to learn more about the kind of DIY plumbing tasks you can perform yourself around the home? Access Training offers a number of bespoke plumbing courses for both DIY enthusiasts and those looking for a career as a professional plumber. You'll have access to our state-of-the-art training facilities and be taught by fully-trained plumbers with many years' experience in the trade. To find out more, give us a call on 0800 345 7492.