Electric Showers – what you need to know

Electric Showers – what you need to know

What is an Electric Shower?

Unlike traditional “Mixer” showers, electric showers only require a cold water supply, which they heat up instantly as you stand beneath the spray.

With a safety cut-out feature, you can enjoy your shower without worrying about getting scalded if the water supply suddenly drops.

Why choose an Electric shower?

Sometimes, a balanced supply of hot and cold water from a boiler may not be available in your home. In such cases, an electric shower is the ideal solution. It ensures that you always have a refreshing shower, regardless of the water pressure in your house.

So how do Electric Showers work?

Electric Showers  are directly connected to your cold mains supply and contain a heating element that warms up the water as it flows through, a bit like a sophisticated kettle.

The faster the water flow, the more power the shower needs to heat the water up. This is why it’s essential to have a properly installed electric shower with the correct cable size to prevent overheating and potential hazards.

This is where one of the main safety issues surrounding Electric Showers becomes apparent.

Fitting an Electric Shower is NOT a DIY project

We’re going to keep saying this….

Who should fit an Electric Shower?

*When it comes to fitting an electric shower, it’s crucial to seek the expertise of an Electrically Competent Person*. 

(*This is actually a defined term, which means someone who has sufficient knowledge and training to comply with Part P of the Building Regulations.)

With their knowledge and training in compliance with building regulations, they will ensure a safe and efficient installation.

Should an electric shower be installed by a Plumber, an Electrician or maybe a Handyperson? 

There’s no easy answer. Water and Electricity mixed together can be very dangerous. Because of this, Bathrooms are regarded as “Special Locations” for electrical work. What we can definitively say, is that an electric shower must be installed by an Electrically Competent Person. 

Fitting an Electric Shower is NOT a DIY project

….nor is it a job for an unqualified Handyperson….

What size Electric Shower should I choose?

So, there you are shopping in one of those lovely DIY stores, where there is a range of shiny new electric showers on display.

You need to replace your shower; its got a bit drippy, is looking a bit limescaly, or has gone that lovely yellow-plastic colour through age.

Time for an upgrade!

So many different sizes to choose though. Surely the more powerful the shower, the better showering experience you’re going to have. 

This is where the DIYer can come seriously unstuck, & put themselves and other users in danger

However the choice may not be down to you. The decision will be dictated by several things:

  • The size & quality of the cable supplying the electric shower
  • The length of the Cable run from your Consumer Unit (Fuse box)
  • The material through which the Cable runs.
  • (I have seen cables melted because they are running through newly-installed Loft Insulation)

These are all questions which an Electrically Competent Person is going to consider, before advising you which size shower to choose.

You may not even know that you should be asking these questions, let alone how to find out the answers.

The most powerful electric shower will generally need a very big cable. This will increase in size, as the length of the cable increases.

As a rule of thumb, Big Cables are much more expensive than smaller Cables!

If your existing electric shower has been there for a long time, the chances are that it may only be supplied by relatively small cable, which will not cope with the demands of a more powerful shower. You may need a whole new, much larger cable, to be installed. 

Installing new cables can be disruptive, messy & expensive.

Does the person installing your Electric Shower know this?

The Dangers of Loft Insulation

Loft Insulation is generally a very good thing. We should all be making sure that we insulate our lofts. It will keep heat in, make our houses more thermally efficient and save us money.

However, electrical cable and insulation need to be thought about carefully. If you cover all the electrical cables in your loft with insulation, this may affect the cable’s ability to carry current.

When the cables were originally installed, there may not have been very much insulation in your loft, so the cables were fine.

Now that your loft has 150 or 200mm of lovely warm insulation lying over the top of it, the cable is no longer able to do its job properly.

Cables supplying Showers are particularly at risk. On several ocasions I have found shower cables in lofts showing signs that they are melting. Even the cable clips have begun to melt.

This is very dangerous. I have spoken to people who install insulation in loft spaces for a living, who were unaware that this is an issue that they should be aware of, and taking into account during their insualtion.

I’m sure many of us have seen the Loft Insulation Installations carried out “under grant” where it looks as though the loft insulation was installed, by throwing it liberally  about the loft from the loft hatch. I’m prettty confident that the well-being of any cables being covered by the loft inulation was not a consideration.

Important Messages

  • Seek advice from an Electrically Competent Person before replacing an electric shower.
  • Make sure you choose the correct person to install an Electric Shower. If you ask for a quote from an Electrically Competent Person, and then find someone who "can do it cheaper," please make sure that they are competent.
  • If you are insulating your loft, please make sure that you are not covering up cables and creating a potential fire-hazard
  • Installing an Electric Shower is NOT A DIY PROJECT

Fitting an Electric Shower is NOT a DIY project

How old are your Smoke Detectors?

How old are your Smoke Detectors?

Which Birthday will your Smoke Detectors be celebrating this year?

Are your Smoke Detectors still looking gleaming white?

If they are beginning to take on that yellowing plastic look, it may be that they are approaching, or possibly have already celebrated, their 10th Birthday without you even noticing.

I know, I know, another one of those things that you need to check. There seem to be so many these days.

Anyway, back to the Smoke Detectors….

Generally Smoke & Heat Detectors are regarded as a “Good thing.”

You may not feel quite so well-disposed towards them when they start chirruping at you at 3 o’clock in the morning to tell you that their back-up battery is flat, but when they are just getting on with their job, they’re definitely a good thing.

In fact they’re such a good thing, that we electricians are required to install them a lot more often these days.

Very importantly, Landlords are required to make sure that they are installed and working properly in their rental properties.

This is probably something to do with the fact that they save lives.

Inter-connected Smoke Detectors

Nowadays, we encourage people to install inter-connected mains-operated detectors with a back-up battery.

Inter-connected means that if one detector is activated, the rest of them all join in and make sure that there’s absolutely no way that you can sleep through the issue.

Mains-operated means that they aren’t going to stop working, just because the battery has gone flat, or you’ve removed the battery in a rage in the middle of the night, and forgotten to put it back.

Why replace Smoke detectors?

Unfortunately, like a lot of good things, Smoke Detectors have a shelf life. In the case of Smoke & Heat Detectors, this is about 10 years, but can be as low as 7 years. They should have a date of manufacture and Expiry Date somewhere nice and visible.

It may be time to get a step ladder out just to check.

If the expiry date is in the past, then it’s time to replace your Smoke & Heat Detectors.

Many of the quality makes of Smoke & Heat Detectors allow you to retro-fit with very little effort.

Basically you can leave the base connected in the ceiling, so don’t have to touch the wiring, then slide or twist the detector off the base, and replace it with a new one.

Job done! No electrician required.

 

Why are there different types of Detector?

It can be a bit confusing, but here’s a quick summary….

Heat Detectors

Heat Detectors are designed to go in your Kitchen, Garage, or dusty areas. As the name suggests, they wil be triggered by an increase in heat, approx 55 degrees. They are not going to be set off by you burning the toast, or your Sunday Roast. They are less susceptible to dust than Optical and Ionisation Smoke Detectors.

Ionisation Smoke Detectors

Ionisation Smoke Detectors are the old style smoke detectors. They are being phased out and replaced by Optical Smoke Detectors. They are most sensitive, and are a bit more prone to false alarms.

Optical Smoke Detectors

Optical Smoke detectors  are replacing the old Ionisation Smoke Detectors.

Ideally they should be installed in Bedrooms, Hallways, Living spaces (except Kitchens).

They will detect smouldering smoke, but are sensitive to dust, so if you need to install a detector in a dusty area, then you should use a Heat Detector instead.

Replacing old Smoke Detectors

Some makes and models of smoke detector have stopped being manufactured. This can be annoying  if you want to leave the base in position and just replace the detector itself, without calling in an electrician.
Safelincs have a useful guide to compatible makes and models on their website.
Not all makes and models are replaceable, but some are, so its worth checking, just in case. It could save you some money.

Upgrading yor Smoke Detectors

If you need to upgrade your Mains-operated Smoke detectors, you will need to call an electrician in. 

We often fit AICO Detectors, because AICO make it easy for customers to retrofit detectors in the future.  They also make it easier to add additional Detectors in areas where it would be awkward or expensive to run new wiring.

Basically they allow you to create hybrid systems with mains and battery-operated detectors talking to each other.

They also have a range of Smart Detectors for those of us who like our doorbells and washing machines to chat to us on our mobile phones while we’re away from home. An exciting world of conversations with your smoke detectors awaits you, if you decide to go down that route.

Anyway, back to the point. Please check your Smoke Detectors and make sure that they are still in date. If they aren’t, please do something about it. Don’t leave it until it’s too late.

At the risk of sounding a bit doom laden, anyone who charges a battery in their home, particularly a larger battery for a bike or scooter, has the potential for an issue, so please…

MAKE SURE YOU ARE PROTECTED

Saw-sational Skills Workshop

Saw-sational Skills Workshop

Saw-sational Skills Workshop

As participants on our Nailing it! DIY Fundamentals Course will tell you, sawing is trickier than you think.

Once you get the hang of it, it’s like riding a bicycle, but it can take a little time to get the technique right.

There are many different types of saw. We will be concentrating on the saws which we think the DIYer is most likely to use. 

What you will learn…

On this Saw-sational Skills course we introduce you to different ways of cutting wood. We help you learn to choose the right sawing technique for the right circumstances.

Sawing by hand…

We will start with some hand sawing, including an introduction to cutting accurately with a coping saw. These are really useful skills when fitting Skirting Board, or scribing shelves and end panels.

Then we will progress onto introducing you to using cordless jigsaws and circular saws.

Cordless Jigsaws…

Jigsaws are extremely useful tools for the DIYer, but they are also difficult to get accurate results with.

We will teach you some simple techniques, and then give you lots of practice, so that you leave the course feeling much more confident in choosing and using a jigsaw, and getting accurate results on your DIY projects at home.

Circular Saws…

Lastly we will introduce you to using basic circular saws. These versatile saws can be extremely helpful in your DIY projects. However, they can initially appear to be a little intimidating. We will teach you how to use them safely, and show you techniques for getting the best out of them.