Issue 161 May - June 2024

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.
Firstflex – powering the electrical industry for 50 years

For many electricians and engineers, sourcing the right industrial cable for a project can be a challenge and not without risk. Sometimes the first choice for an application might not be the best solution and that is where the expertise of the cable team at Firstflex Cables can make sure you get the cable that is going to deliver the best result.

Managing director, Lance Davis, says his 50-strong team at Firstflex has an in-depth understanding of the industry, the market, the cables electricians and engineers need – and how to deliver them in full and on time.

“We listen to what you need for each application, solve any problem you might have and help your projects run smoothly by delivering what you need, as and when you need it.”

Davis says his team provides solutions from their comprehensive range and also supplies custom designed solutions most suited for demanding applications – such as the specialist cable required for the NZ Steel Waikato North Head iron sand dry-mining unit (DMU).

Firstflex technical product manager, Dean Lipscombe, says the close partnerships the company has with its customers and suppliers helped them develop a successful turnkey solution for NZ Steel.

Testing failure costs $150,000

When judge David Ruth announced his verdict of guilty against a self-employed Nelson electrical contractor in March this year and sentenced him to home detention, many in the electrical industry began to question what went on in this case.

The case involved the electrician removing a hard-wired, separately-switched light and fan above a domestic cooktop and replacing it with a plug-in rangehood in February 2020. (See ElectroLink, January issue, page 10, ‘2020 Nelson rangehood fatality’)

Questions speculated on the way the existing installation was wired, what the electrician carrying out the replacement did that was wrong, how testing was carried out if at all, and whether the law was applied correctly by WorkSafe, its prosecutor and the judge.

Unlike prosecutions of electrical contractors over recent years, this case involved a fatality and, also unlike these prosecutions, WorkSafe prosecuted this case under the Electricity Act and not HSWA.

In doing so, WorkSafe put electrical law itself on trial and the industry can now look at the judge’s findings to see how WorkSafe and the courts are interpreting and applying electrical law and setting precedents on this.

The industry also needs to figure out to what degree the safety and compliance regimes prescribed in the Electricity (Safety) Regulations have to be followed when the electrical regulator prosecutes using the offence provisions of the Electricity Act as a priority over the offence provisions in the Regulations and their prescribed level 1 and level 2 fines.

Judge Ruth found the electrician guilty under the Act for failing to comply with a standard that is not cited in it while not addressing breaches of the Regulations that are created directly under the Act and deliver the prescriptive requirements necessary to ensure electrical safety when work is connected to a power supply.

Bi-directional EV charging

Electrical inspector, Tony Doyle reports on regulatory changes needed to implement EV charging for resilient homes in the near future.

In an age where New Zealand has committed to sustainability and efficiency targets for the future, the concept of powering a home with the battery of an electric vehicle (EV) is gaining traction. Global demand for electricity is expected double by 2050 compared to 2020, and transport is poised to become the largest source of electricity growth.

According to recent reports, EVs presently make up only two percent of the global automobile market in 2022. However, projections indicate a rapid shift, with estimates indicating that by 2035, EVs will account for up to half of all new car sales worldwide.

In this future an EV not only provides transport from point A to point B but also serves as an alternative energy storage and supply solution for everyday household needs and to help ensure resilience when the grid goes down. But this comes with its own set of challenges primarily revolving around electrical safety issues, how they will be solved and how the solutions will be addressed in the regulatory framework.

Failing guidance on rules and testing

This article is a response by the New Zealand Electrical Inspector’s Association (NZEIA) to the important discussions occurring within the recent editions of the ElectroLink magazine.

In this article NZEIA president Peter MacMillan says his members are seeing a single underlying theme that has become an electrical safety risk and a risk to industry.

Reviewing recent ElectroLink articles, NZEIA is seeing a developing risk to electrical safety and New Zealand’s economy.

This is well illustrated within Al McGregor’s 2024 Jan/Feb article and Alan Cuthbert’s follow-up Mar/Apr 2024 article. Both Al and Alan are highly competent and credible industry experts. In their articles they both clearly care about what the rules are/should be and how testing should be done. The other articles continue this theme.

In this article NZEIA proposes that our industry guidance on: 1. what the rules are, and to test; are no longer fit-for-purpose.

NZEIA’s contention is that the current rules and guidance have become too distributed and layered to be fit-for-purpose. This, combined with the current industry issues addressed in this article, make fixing this a pressing issue that requires a joint effort by government and the commercial/residential electricity industry.

Factors to consider when selecting a servo system

Servo motors are continually finding new applications and are increasingly being used by industry. So why is this and what advantages do servos offer over other motor types, such as the ubiquitous induction motor?

In the past, servo systems were relatively expensive, particularly compared to induction motors. However, servo motors and their drives have undergone some major developments in technology over the years, while other motors used by industry have remained largely static. Servo motors are still more expensive than other motors, although the price gap has narrowed.

So, when should servos be used, and for what application(s)? What pitfalls are to be avoided? Even a cursory glance at a catalogue of servo systems reveals a bewildering array of choices, variances and options. That a servo needs to be sized correctly (both mechanically and electronically) just to be able to work, can be a real minefield for prospective users. We therefore need to understand the terms used and carefully consider numerous factors before deciding on a servo system.

Light level remediation tips

People always say you can learn from your mistakes, and that is true, but fortunately you can also learn from other peoples’ mistakes and misconceptions. The following tips and tricks mostly come from real world scenarios and how people have applied different remedies to situations. Not only that, but there are some good tips to be garnered before one approaches a job, rather than that post-happenstance panic. So here are some unusual ways to think yourself out of some lighting conundrums.

One of the possible pitfalls of a new lighting installation is a lack of light output, either just in people’s perceptions or then not reaching a prescribed illuminance target. If it is not a prescribed target that has to be hit for a project, then many opt for the wait for the users to adjust to it methodology.

While it is true that the eye will adapt to lighting levels naturally, it is a pretty good indicator that an area is underlit if the first impression is that it is dark or gloomy. Perhaps people will adjust and become acclimatised to the level, but it must be remembered that with light depreciation, the levels are only going to keep dropping over time, so finding a solution will be the best approach.

If it is prescribed lighting levels, it may be best to go back to the design teams and see where the disconnect has been between design phase and installation. The difference between design and installation is often down to lack of information, especially from fit-out details, like surface colourings, dark carpets, black office furniture or other light absorbing features.

Lighting innovations and future opportunities

While working within the electrical industry we can become a bit blasé about the magic of lighting and forget just how much potential there is for its future. Whether it’s after installing your millionth downlight, designing your umpteenth office space with a grid ceiling, or selling another variation on the LED batten light, it can be hard not to get a little jaded.

Hopefully looking at some of the future potential might help reignite the spark of wonder at light, and bring back a bit of the enthusiasm we should all share at what lighting can help achieve.

The first emerging technology, is the oldest, revolving around the natural phenomenon of bioluminescence. Synthesised lights like LEDs are not dissimilar, with both belonging to the same class of light emission process called luminescence, though where LEDs are stimulated by electricity, (electroluminescence), those that use a chemical reaction for excitation are called chemiluminescent, where they create photons from a reaction of a substrate (luciferin) and an enzyme (luciferase).

This is different to phosphorescence or fluorescence that capture light to reflect it. Over three quarters of aquatic life can radiate bioluminescence and a there is a fair distribution among terrestrial organisms from the most famous like fireflies, to glow worms and fungi.