CFR Electrical – Frequently Asked Questions
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The Canberra region and Queanbeyan.
It’s night. You’ve turned all the light switches off ready for bed when you notice your energy efficient light is quietly glowing to itself. Not enough to read a paper by, but enough to get your attention. If you are super-lucky, it may even flicker every now and again – brightening and dimming. So what causes it?
The most common cause is that your lights are on a two-way circuit or dimmer circuit. With those types of circuits, even though the switch is turned off you still get a tiny trickle of electricity trickling through. Not enough to fully trigger the bulb to light – but sufficient to make it glow.
Flickering comes in when the low power charges the inbuilt capacitors. Once the threshold is reached, the lightbulb pulses to start the bulb – but because the voltage is so low, it can’t stay alight. Therefore the lamp dims again – only to repeat the pattern.
If your light bulbs are doing their best disco impersonation, your first step is to try changing brands of bulbs. Some brands seem more prone to flickering than others. You also need to make sure that if you have a dimmer circuit that you only use bulbs that are approved for dimmers.
If you continue to get a glow or flicker, then give us a call to test the circuit for you.
Fuse Box Replacements
Older homes used to have fuse boxes. When the fuse would blow (usually at night), dad or mum would head out with the torch, pull the old fuse out of the box and re-thread the fuse wire before putting the fuse back into the fuse box (and hoping that the power would come back on).
The problem is old fuse boxes were not designed to cope with all the modern electrical appliances we use, so there is a real risk of fire or overloading your circuits.
If you have an old-style fuse box, it is time your fuse box retires and is replaced with a safer more modern switchboard.
CFR Electrical can replace your fuse box in Canberra at a time that is convenient for you, with one that is safe, easy to use and doesn’t need you to re-thread wires.
Adding in air-conditioning or a new pool, or extending your home may mean that you need your switchboard upgraded to cope with the additional load. Our electricians can assess your current and anticipated electrical load, and advise on whether you need to replace or upgrade your switchboard.
We can also repair faulty switchboards or install safety switches on your power or lighting circuits.
Installing RCD Safety Switches in your meter box or distribution board and testing them regularly is a small investment in money and time. It will provide long-term protection for you and your family against serious injury and death.
Everyday activities such as screwing shelving into a wall or using an electrical appliance can turn deadly without the protection of an RCD Safety Switch. 15 Australians are killed in preventable home electrical accidents each year and around 20 times that number are hospitalised with serious injuries.
What is an RCD Safety Switch?
Safety Switches or RCD’s (Residual Current Devices) provide a fast power cut- off in problem situations. Electrical hazards are often hidden and can be difficult to identify, such as a small hole in an extension lead or a power board damaged internally. Electrical accidents occur in an instant and RCDs are the only device that can protect you and your family from these hidden dangers and give you a second chance.
How does an RCD Safety Switch work?
An RCD Safety Switch protects by continuously monitoring the current flowing in theActive and Neutral wires supplying a circuit or an individual item of equipment. Under normal circumstances, the current flowing in the two wires is equal. When an earth leakage occurs due to a fault in the circuit or an accident with the equipment, an imbalance occurs and this is detected by the RCD, which automatically cuts off the power before injury or damage can result.
RCD Safety Switches are extremely sensitive, disconnecting in under 20 milliseconds of detecting a leakage current. This stops the flow of electricity through someone’s body to earth. Importantly, this response time is much faster than the critical section of the cardiac cycle and therefore significantly reduces the risk of death or serious injury. RCDs also protect against fire caused by faults in appliances, tools and wiring. If these faults go undetected, they could cause a fire or personal injury.
Safety Switch Types
There are four main types of RCD Safety Switches:
- Meter box mounted RCD Safety Switches
These are generally located alongside circuit breakers in the main meter box or distribution board of the residence.
- Combination RCD Safety Switches and Circuit Breakers
These devices protect the electrical circuits and appliances as well as preventing electrocution and are an attractive option for retrofitting into existing meter boxes with little or no spare space.
- Portable RCD Safety Switches
These attach to a power board or extension lead and only protect the circuits of appliances connected to them. They are essential for people using power tools or electrical appliances outside that are not protected by a meter box RCD or power point RCD.
- Power Point RCD Safety Switches
Are fitted to a power point and can be distinguished by the test button on the face plate. They must be fitted to the first power point after the meter box. They are suitable for protecting electrical appliances in specific areas such as bathrooms and workshops.
Checking if your house has RCD Safety Switches installed
RCD Safety Switches are required by law to be fitted at the origin of the power and lighting circuits which will be at the main meter box or distribution board for the residence. The test button can identify them on the front of the device.
Since 2000 it has been compulsory for all new homes to have a minimum of two RCD Safety Switches fitted to protect the power and lighting circuits as part of the electrical installation. However, homes built before 2000 were not required to have two RCDs fitted and from 1992 to 1999 only one RCD was fitted, which will not ensure complete protection for your family. One RCD is likely to protect only the power circuits and leaves the lighting circuits unprotected.
If you are unsure whether you have RCD Safety Switches installed or you need them installed contact us on 02 6188 6008 or at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can send a Qualified Electrician around to supply and fit your RCDs.
What is the difference between an RCD Safety Switches and a Circuit Breaker?
An RCD Safety Switches looks similar to a Circuit Breaker but it has an additional test button. Many homes already have circuit breakers installed, however circuit breakers only protect against overloading and short circuits they do not prevent electrocution.
Testing your RCD Safety Switches
To ensure that the RCD Safety Switches fitted to your home perform correctly, they must be tested at regular intervals. AS/NZS 3760 2010 recommends that each RCD be tested every three months or if using a portable RCD a push button test should be performed before each use by the operator.
To test your RCD Safety Switch press the ‘test’ button on the front of the device and then release it. The button will only test the RCD if an electricity supply is connected.
Pressing the test button will simulate an earth leakage fault and indicates whether the device is operating correctly. When an RCD Safety Switch operates all power is lost to the equipment, power point or circuit protected by the RCD. To restore power simply move the “on/off” switch back to the “on” position. Electrical clocks and timing devices may have to be reset.
If your RCD Safety Switch fails to operate contact us on 02 6188 6008 or at email@example.com and we can arrange for a Qualified Electrician to test your RCD and replace if necessary
A licensed electrical contractor is the best person to assess if your RCD Safety Switches meet the regulations. However, you can do a simple check to determine if your residence is protected in accordance with the new legislation as follows.
Plug a small lamp into a power point and make sure it works. Leave it turned on.
Make sure that electricity is connected to the property and the main switch is in the on position. The lamp should be on.
Turn off all electronic equipment (computers and televisions) etc
Push the test button on each RCD Safety Switch. Do not hold your finger on the test button. The RCD Safety Switch should operate (turn off). If it does not operate, it must be checked by an electrical contractor.
After pushing the test button and the RCD Safety Switch have turned off check that the small lamp is now off. Also, check that all the lights and power points do not operate. To do this, plug the small lamp into all the power points and turn the power point on. If the light comes on a licensed electrical contractor must be engaged to correct the wiring.
When finished testing, turn the RCD Safety Switch back on and check that the lamp works when plugged into a power point.
In most cases of RCD Safety Switch tripping, it will concern appliances or situations that involve at least one or a combination of three conditions, all of which requires a licensed electrician to rectify.
- Moisture causing electricity to leak to earth in an appliance or within premises wiring.
- A heating element that is either faulty or drawing sudden electrical surges.
- An appliance with an electric motor that is either faulty or drawing sudden electrical surges.
Emergency Evacuation Lighting – Inspection and Maintenance
It is an Occupational Health and Safety Act requirement that employers have a legal duty of care to ensure that emergency and exit lights work to specifications, in a power outage or other emergency. These lights enable personnel to leave a building quickly and safely.
Emergency lighting tests are carried out at six monthly and twelve monthly intervals, according to the Australian Standard AS2293. During this test, power will be disconnected to the lighting circuits, and the emergency and exit lights will be required to operate under battery control for a minimum of 90 minutes.
An electrician will be able to repair or replace fittings and any defective lamps. At the 12 month interval, all fittings will be cleaned, and all reflective surfaces will be checked to ensure correct operation.
* An asset register of all emergency and exit fittings will be maintained
* A record of all tests will be listed in hard copy and digital format and kept for seven years
* All maintenance records including repair and replacement will be maintained
* Both hardcopy and digital format will be available for client use
By undertaking the exit and emergency light testing, not only will you comply with exit testing regulations, but you will have greater peace of mind in knowing that your emergency exit lighting is fully operative.
For the sake of personal safety and legality, no workplace and/or residence should be without fully functioning smoke detectors. This single device can play an all too crucial part in saving you from peril if the worst ever happens. With this in mind, All-State Safety Services has ensured that all of our technicians have the skills and knowledge required to install, maintain and replace the detectors on your premises.
The overall effectiveness of your smoke detectors is dependent on how many are on the premises and where they are placed. Your chosen All-State Safety Services technician will take the time to assess the risk areas of your building before setting down a plan for installation. With our help, you will be sufficiently prepared to detect, prevent or escape any instance of fire.
Testing and Maintenance
Maintaining a smoke detector involves more than just changing the battery and testing the alarm with a press of the ‘battery test’ button. You need to know that it will work in a fire – lives depend on it. An All States Safety Services technician can perform a full function test on every detector in your home or office, including tests with artificial smoke. For added assurance, all airways near the detector will be checked for blockage and the expiry dates of your devices will be noted.
Under Australian Standard AS3786, smoke alarms have a lifespan of 10 years, and must be replaced before or at the time of expiration. Once on site, an All-States Safety Services technician can replace as many standard 3786 smoke detectors and batteries as required.
Sparky Tip 1
Keep an eye on the lights
Flickering lights could mean your electrical panel needs to be repaired or replaced, or that you have too many appliances plugged into one circuit. Don’t ignore this issue. Because your safety is our first priority.
Sparky Tip 2
Ground older appliances
Older appliances could have grounding issues that might put you at risk for a shock. Ensure all of your appliances have three-pronged plugs that can properly connect to a grounded outlet.
Sparky Tip 3
When Should I Hire an Electrician?
Electrical work is inherently dangerous. Professional electricians receive years of training and on-the-job experience before the state grants them a license. Use discretion when attempting your own electrical work.