Issue 120 May - June 2017

Please note: The issue content below is just a summary of the articles in the printed magazine.
The articles are not available on-line. Please refer to the printed magazine for the complete article.
PDL smart mechs make Wiser Homes

When Schneider Electric launched the PDL Iconic range of wiring accessories last November, the company promised the introduction of a new electrical platform that would change the way electricians install and set up standard switches and sockets.

Schneider Electric is now delivering on this promise with the launch of new products which incorporate smart-home mechs into Iconic switches and deliver advantages like multi-way switching and dimming, as well as smart timer and time clock functions which are all remotely configurable.

Adding further to the range are two completely new devices which show how Schneider Electric is developing Iconic products to be modular and retro-fittable, says operational offer manager, Vanessa Willats.

“We have just introduced a sensor-activated Night Walk Light that increases brightness with movement. But rather than develop it as a separate product, we have designed it as an Iconic ‘skin’ that simply replaces the standard double socket skin over a PDL Iconic 395G outlet. It has a two minute auto-off timer and modes which allow users to adjust lux levels and night-time on.”

Also released is the new three-gang USB charging station including a handy shelf to support devices while charging. Using patented current-managing technology, the charging steps down before ceasing at full charge to protect the battery from over-heating and reducing its life. The shelf and charger combination is a skin available in all four Iconic colours and their popular, easy-clean, matte finish.

Is it time to drop Australia?

The future of electrical standards and their joint development with Australia is becoming increasingly uncertain as frustrations grow with the performance of Standards Australia and the arrangements put in place by the new Standards New Zealand operation run by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

If left unresolved, the New Zealand electrical regulator might have to pull away from its current alignment with Australia through the joint development of AS/NZS standards, and seek a new standards partner or alternative solution.

Problems have emerged with the way development processes and the charging of fees for New Zealand’s involvement have been determined by Standards Australia. However, it is the inability of Standards Australia to move quickly to address issues raised by emerging electrical technologies that is causing problems for their safe uptake in New Zealand, as well as a lack of proactive approaches across the Tasman to help the electrical industry in both countries deal with the risks involved.

For example, a new edition of AS/NZS 3000 is likely to be published this year, but Standards Australia has kicked the can down the road and left a lot of issues to be addressed in a future amendment.

Invalid CoCs

The most complex part of the Electricity Regulations governing installation work is the spaghetti junction that occurs where the pathways for installing, testing, inspecting, certifying, connecting and a lot of other regulated work converge in the process of completion.

How all this integrates into work documents (CoC and test documentation) and the final declaration that the connected installation is safe to use (ESC), can even stretch the understanding Energy Safety staff.

This can be seen in the advisories the electrical regulator published in November last year and March this year on issues surrounding the validity of certification based on audits carried out on details lodged by inspectors on Energy Safety’s High-risk Database.

The regulator believes that if a certifying electrician ticks the boxes on a CoC indicating that he has relied on certified design, a supplier declaration of conformity (SDoC) or manufacturer’s instructions, that the CoC is invalidated if the relevant documentation is not available, and the work therefore remains uncertified.

Under such circumstances, contends Energy Safety, a disciplinary offence is committed and the certifier could find himself appearing before the EWRB or being served with an infringement notice.

Raising the electrical safety of existing residential buildings

Each year in Europe, 16,000 people are injured and 540 die due to electrical accidents, with more than 300 of those electrocutions occurring in Western Europe. Beyond the risk of electric shocks, there is also the risk of fire. Most of these accidents and fatalities could be avoided if electrical installations complied with the safety requirements.

It’s estimated that 85 percent of European dwellings were built before 1990. These older buildings may comply with the standards that were in place at the time of construction. However, during the 1990s significant changes took place in electrical standards. Prior to that time, some of today’s protection technologies were not available or required.

In addition, there was massive growth in electrical consumption between the 1970s and 2010s, with a ten-fold increase in appliances per household, doubling consumption per capita in mature countries.

This rising demand has put a lot of stress on older electrical systems, especially where installations may not have been properly maintained or verified. The result is a wide range of potentially dangerous conditions facing owners and tenants.

Many older dwellings show non-compliant aspects, such as absence of a protective earthing conductors for socket outlets or the entire dwelling, absence of residual current devices in bathroom or outdoor socket outlets, outlets showing heat damage from overloading, fuses or circuit breakers not properly adapted to the cross-section of conductors and a considerable number of extension cords or socket outlets sheared off.

Fortunately, there are simple steps that can be taken to gradually improve electrical safety through a program of manual safety audits.

Dealing with RCBOs built into equipment

A lot of industrial equipment might soon be rendered illegal following an opinion given by a WorkSafe official that RCBOs are declared high risk articles and cannot be offered for sale in any form in New Zealand without WorkSafe’s permission.

This opinion is based on the fact that WorkSafe has gazetted RCDs as declared high risk articles and is treating RCBOs as being included in the definition of an RCD.

By declaring a low voltage or extra-low voltage fitting or appliance to be high risk, WorkSafe is requiring any person who wants to offer it for sale or supply to first have gained a formal approval from WorkSafe or gone through a regulated testing and verification process where that approval has been deemed to have been given for the product.

Christchurch-based electrical inspector and industry advocate, Garry House, says RCBOs are not only used as a safety device on a distribution board, but also used as a main switch component on many pieces of equipment like lathes and mills that come into the country.

He says few, if any, of the people responsible for the supply of such equipment would have realised their products contain what Energy Safety deem to be a high risk article, and are unlikely to have disassembled their products and tested the RCBO components for WorkSafe approval.

Become the local lighting expert

If you are an electrical contractor looking to grow your domestic business, a simple set of lighting skills can build your reputation as the local lighting expert and help you win the next job.

So welcome to Lighting Sales 101 – an on-going series of lighting design and sales tips that you can use to build your business while helping your customers make good lighting choices.

Many home owners are overwhelmed with lighting ideas from magazines, TV and Pinterest. If you can help them narrow down their options and sift through what’s practical and what’s not, you can differentiate yourself from others bidding for the same jobs, win repeat business, and sell higher-value product that gives you more margin.

Will incandescents save the planet before they are banned?

Many years ago the populace in northern climes would spend its winters shivering in cold homes and yearning for a device that, at the flick of an electrical switch, would radiate heat in every room in the house.

However, electricity was largely a dangerous and unmanageable force at the time so any device that turned it into heat had to be mounted in the safest part of the room which was soon determined to be in the centre of the ceiling where it was out of reach of curious hands. From there, people hoped, this fantastical new device would radiate heat to help ward off winter chills.

After years of experimenting, in 1880 Thomas Edison brought such an invention to market, and the problem was largely solved with his commercial development of a glass-encased heater which he fashioned in the shape of a globe.