Not all electrical work requires a trained professional. Minor tasks such as replacing a light switch can be performed without having to notify your Local Authority Building Control Department, however they still must be done to current Building and Electrical regulation standard.

While there are a wide variety of different types of light switch you might find in the home (including pull-cord switches, narrow architrave switches and rotary dimmers), here is a guide to the most basic of them – the one-way and two-way switch. The difference between them is that two-way switches are used where there is more than one switch connected to the same light (e.g. at the top and bottom of the stairs).

Safety first

Before you start ANY sort of electrical work make sure the power is switched off at the main consumer unit OR switch off the relevant circuit breaker and lock it if you can. Then make sure that the circuit is indeed dead using a voltage tester/meter. Also take note that since 2006 the core colours inside electrical cables have changed. In the new two-core-and-earth cable, the live or phase core is insulated in a brown sheath rather than red. The neutral core is now blue as opposed to black.

What you will need:

  • Voltage tester/meter
  • Side cutters Screwdrivers
  • Green/yellow earth sleeving
  • Suitable replacement plateswitch (1 or 2-way)
  • Screws
  • Brown PVC electrical tape or sleeving

For one-way switches:

Step 1: Isolate the circuit and then confirm that the power is off using your voltage tester. Unscrew the switch faceplate and pull it forward, revealing the connections behind. These terminals will usually be marked something like L1, L2 and COM.

Step 2: Draw a diagram so that you remember which colour and number of wires were attached to each terminal. Then release the terminal screws and pull the cores from them. If the earth core is properly insulated in green/yellow sleeving and connected to the mounting box, leave this attached.

Step 3: Connect these cores to the correct terminals of the new switch, using your diagram as a reference. Tighten the screws and check they are clamping the cable cores firmly by gently tugging the wires.

Step 4: If there isn’t one already, fit a length of brown sleeving over the blue core to indicate that it is a switched live.

Step 5: If it’s not already fitted, put some green/yellow sleeving over the bare earth core of the incoming cable and connect it to the earthing terminal of the mounting box. If you’re using a metal switch, be sure to earth the switch faceplate as well.

Step 6: Double check that each connection is secure, then push the cable back into the mounting box and fit the faceplate.

 

For two-way switches:

While this is similar to a one-way switch there will normally be three cores to the cables – coloured brown (formally red), black (yellow) and grey (blue). Again these terminals will be labelled something like L1-3 and COM.

Step 1: Isolate the circuit and make sure the power is off with your voltage tester.

Step 2: Remove the faceplate from the existing switch and disconnect the cable cores.

Step 3: Note which colour goes to which terminal (write it down if you think you’ll forget!) and then transfer them to the corresponding terminals on the new switch.

 

While this is simply a brief guide to some of the electrical work you can do yourself around the home, more technical electrical work will require you to have a Part P qualification if you wish to carry it out yourself. If you are interested in learning about more work you can do or achieving Part P qualification then the best way is to learn from one of Access Training’s comprehensive electrical training courses. Offering professional qualifications to both aspiring and existing electricians as well as DIY courses, there truly is something for everyone regardless of age, gender, background or experience.

Contact Access Training on 0800 345 7492 for more information or to arrange a visit of our training facilities.

Not everyone needs an extensive plumbing course to know the rights and wrongs of the trade, but with all the DIY products that are for sale in various outlets, there is good information available to prevent water contamination by misconnection of sanitary and waste water from dishwashers, washing machines and such. However, the majority of people don't ask for this advice so not to seem ignorant or feel embarrassed about not know how or what is the right way to do things.

With the economic climate the way it is, the vast majority of people also cannot afford a tradesman with the correct knowledge to do the work properly. There are the unscrupulous people who pretend to be a qualified tradesman, undercut a price just to get the work and don't really care about the consequences of their actions.

Then the poor misguided home owner gets the backlash from the relevant authorities when the source of the contamination is traced back to a particular home. It's very hard to educate people that asking for advice is not showing ignorance. It would only show their concern for doing it the correct way and the people who would give that free information would be only too happy to give them without making them feel humiliated or stupid.

But that's human nature, and people only employ a tradesman when they have that spare amount of money to get the job done. I'm sure the vast majority of people would like to think that any work done to the correct standards without causing problems as rivers and streams being polluted to the degree that is being reported by the water authorities, but unfortunately it always comes down to money

- Mark Lewis

Although Part P Building regulations require a qualification to undertake extensive electrical work in your own home, minor tasks such as replacing damaged sockets or light switches can be done without having to notify your Local Building Authority Control Department. In this post we'll take you through a few simple steps to replace a plug socket or alternatively change a single one into a double.

Safety first

Before you start ANY sort of electrical work make sure the power is switched off at the main consumer unit or switch of the relevant circuit breaker and lock it if you can. Then make sure that the circuit is indeed dead using a socket tester. Make sure to also have protective gloves and safety goggles on you at all times.

Also take note that since 2006 the core colours inside electrical cables have changed. In new two-core-and-earth cables, the live/phase core is insulated in a brown sheath as opposed to a red one and the neatural core is now blue rather than black. If you are connecting old and new cables together, take extra care to make sure that the cores are attached by their corresponding colours.

What you will need:

  • Socket tester & socket template
  • Screwdriver
  • Pipe and cable detector
  • Drill
  • Socket faceplate or new double socket
  • Wall plugs and screws
  • Mounting box
  • Green/Yellow pvc sleeving
To change a damaged socket:
Step 1: Confirm you have switched off the main power using your socket tester. Once sure unscrew the socket faceplate and pull it away from the wall. Keep the screws just in case the new ones don't fit.
Step 2: Loosen the terminal screws and release the cable cores. Should the insulation be heat damaged, cut back the cores and strip the ends. If the earth core is bare, cover it with the green/yellow sleeving.
Step 3: Connect the brown (or red) core(s) to the live terminal of the faceplate, the blue (black) ones to the neutral terminal and the earth core to the earth terminal. Tighten the screws fully and fit the new faceplate. When you have turned the power back on, use the socket tester again to check it is wired correctly

To change a single flush socket to a double:
Increasing the number of sockets in a room isn't as difficult as it might sound if you follow these simple steps...
Step 1: Isolate the circuit and then use the socket tester to make sure that it is dead. Unscrew the faceplate and disconnect the cables from the single socket mounting box.
Step 2: Knock out the middle section in the double box and pass the cables through. Mark where the screw holes are on the wall using a pencil, remove the box and drill.
Step 3: Screw the new box in place and connect the cables to the terminals. Fit the new faceplate and then test using the socket tester again once power has been restored.

Hopefully after reading this you'll feel confident enough to do these tasks yourself without having to pay for a professional electrician! However if you're interested in learning more about what electrical tasks you can perform at home with the right training, or alternatively hoping to gain qualifications to become an electrician - look no further than Access Training's range of bespoke electrical courses. From Part P to PAT Testing and wiring regulations to DIY, we offer something for everyone regardless of age, background or experience.

Contact Access Training on 0800 345 7492 for more information or arrange a visit of our training facilities.

The construction industry is under increasing pressure to become sustainable. One way to address this is through the use of reclaimed materials. There are materials that have been previously used in a building or project, which are then re-used in another. The materials might be altered, re-sized, refinished or adapted, but they are not reprocessed in any way and remain in their original form. Materials that have been reprocessed and reused in the building industry are referred to as recycled materials.

Examples of materials that can be reclaimed include: bricks, slate roofing, ceramic tiles, fireplaces, doors, window frames, glass panels, metal fixtures and fittings, stairs, cobbled stones, steel sections and timber. A reclaimed material is often adapted for a different use - for example a roof beam might be used as a mantelpiece, and personally I have sold slate from a snooker table which was going to be used as a hearth to a fireplace.

Why Reclaim?

The building industry has a massive impact on the environment in terms of energy consumption, use of natural resources, pollution and waste. Every year in the UK, construction materials account for around 6 tonnes of materials per person, 122 million tonnes of waste (1/3 of total UK waste) and 18% of carbon dioxide emissions - a major contributor to global climate change. On top of this, the embodied costs associated with the extraction, production, manufacture and transportation of building materials are immense. Using reclaimed materials can significantly reduce these environmental impacts, and save up to 95% of the embodied costs by preventing unnecessary production of new materials, and reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill.

Where to find materials

The best place to source reclaimed materials is direct from a demolition or re-modelling project. Many of these projects carefully dismantle buildings in such a way that their materials can be sold and re-used. In the building trade this is known as deconstruction.

Reclaimed materials can also be sourced from salvage centres, reclamation yards and other specialist companies, who buy and sell materials that they have salvaged themselves from demolished sites. There are hundreds of salvage companies, some which deal only in high-end architectural materials, and others that are more like junkyards. Good quality, rare and heritage materials can be gleaned from salvage suppliers, and while purchasing can be more expensive than those sourced directly from a demolition site, there is a much wider choice of materials available on demand.

An untapped market

Although there are substantial environmental benefits to using reclaimed materials, the market is virtually untapped. At the moment, only 1% of reclaimed materials are used in new building projects, a percentage that really should be higher. One of the barriers has been a lack of information about sourcing and using the materials in design and development - including knowledge of specifications, standards, legislation and performance. But there are economic barriers too, including the cost of extraction in deconstruction, the limited flexibility of reclaimed materials, and the problems of storing and double handling materials between sites. In addition, medium to large building projects cannot take advantage of the reclamation industry because the salvage supply chain is not yet equipped to deal with large orders.

Reclamation in sustainable development

On-going rapid development means that many historic buildings are being demolished to make way for new affordable housing and commercial space. Redirecting building materials from the waste stream of this process, and reusing them in other nearby projects is a critical component of sustainable development. There is a huge amount of construction waste, and the potential to reuse this to reduce landfill and new materials is enormous. When reclaimed materials are secured from an existing building site, the environmental impact is virtually zero. Even when they are sourced from far away, reclaimed materials are still the most environmentally friendly option for supplying materials to the building industry.

- Richard James

Step 1: Turn off all the components electrically. This means the boiler, pump and any zone valves.

Step 2: Shut the pump valves situated above and below the pump. Most valves turn clockwise to close.

Step 3: Get a small bucket the open the screw on the end of the pump or one of the nuts holding the pump to the valve. If water keeps leaking out for more than a few minutes then the pump valves are not holding and you will need to follow steps 4 to 7. If not, proceed to step 8.

Step 4: Turn off the water supply. This could be at the main or in your loft.

Step 5: Identify any zone valves and set them to manually open (usually an arm or on the side of the valve body).

Step 6: Find the lowest drain point in the heating system and then, using a hose, drain the system of water.

Step 7: Repeat step 3.

Step 8: Once you have no water coming out, test the electrical connections and make sure they are dead. Remove the electrical connections making a note not live, neutral and earth.

Step 9: Unwind the nuts that connect the pump to the valves and remove the pump. Check that the old seals have come off the valves - most new pumps are supplied with new seals.

Step 10: If you have drained the system completely of water because the pump valves won't hold, replace those valves.

Step 11: Fit the new pump, making sure than the pump seals supplied are in place and that the connecting valves are tight.

Step 12: Open the pump valves. Shut the drain point and re-fill the system.

Step 13: Test for leaks. If there are any leaks you may need to tighten up one of the joints or use some jointing paste.

Step 14: If you have no leaks, drain the system again and re-fill with a suitable inhibitor (Sentinel x100 or Fernox).

Step 15: Only now do you reattach the electrical connections in the right place and fit the cover back on the pump. Turn on the electrics and run a test operation of the new pump.

Tip: Sometimes after draining down a heating system you can get air locks. Even if the pump is running fine you might not get a full flow to all radiators. The best thing to do in this situation is to turn the pump on and off. This moves the water and air suddenly. You should be able to hear air gurgle its way around and eventually to the air vents.

- Mark Lewis

 

We hope that this short guide has helped you in being able to carry out this task quickly and effectively. However the best way to find out more about plumbing is to take one of Access Training's intensive plumbing courses. These are available to both those looking to improve their DIY skills, and those wanting a change of career, gain valuable qualifications and become a plumber. For more information call us today on 0800 345 7492.

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