Electrical circuits tested for £6. A facebook ad popped up on my feed advertising electrical testing for £6 a circuit. A typical fuseboard in somebody’s home contains around 8 circuits making that a cost of £48 to carry out an electrical test and inspection. Given the need for electrical testing such as moving home, renting out your property and to meet legislation, this very low cost could appear to be very appealing to a customer. However, can electrical circuits really be tested for £6?
Let’s look at this in more detail to find out if circuits can really be tested for £6 and what you actually get for that price.
- £6 gets you about 1 ½ pints of Fosters in your local.
- £6 gets you 6 rolls of Plenty One Sheet kitchen towels.
- £6 gets you a DVD that has been released for quite a while.
- £6 gets you 3 bags of apples from the supermarket.
- £6 gets you just over 5 litres of petrol
- £6 gets you a Toby Carvery Breakfast and a drink
£6 isn’t a lot of money! Can electrical circuits be tested for £6?
Although it can be tempting to contract an electrician who offers testing each circuit for low rates. Some are advertising electrical circuits tested for £6. Let us explore what is required to carry out testing.
Many properties have no previous testing records including installation and periodic testing. Many circuits have been altered and added to over the years. One of the first steps of testing a circuit requires identifying what is on the circuit. I call it a point count. How many points does it have, i.e. how many sockets, fused spurs or lighting points are on that circuit. There are a few ways of doing this, but often it involves turning off the circuit and counting up lights that aren’t on, or plugging in a socket tester or appliance to check if it has power or not, THEN turning the circuit back on to check the points come back on just in case lamps are not working or a socket is fed via an isolator that is turned off. This task alone can vary in time. In a house it can be relatively quick but an office, a restaurant, a car show room… can really vary in time. Don’t forget that power is required to be turned on and off for this task.
This may affect commercial operations so many commercial premises may require this to be carried outside of normal working hours. Why is the point count important? The point count is important because it forms part of the record to show what is on the circuit and essentially what you are testing. If an outlet is missed, essentially it won’t be tested and how can you as the duty holder prove it is safe to use? A socket can have a reverse polarity which can be dangerous, or missing an earth which can be potentially dangerous. If it is missed, are you discharging your legal duty as a client?
Straight away we have spent about 3 minutes in a simple domestic environment verifying the points on 1 circuit. In a small commercial environment, I would like to say an average of 5 minutes.
If there are 12 circuits on an install. That is 36 minutes on our domestic and 60 minutes on our light commercial such as a retail unit.
Testing electrical circuits
Now let’s get the tester out, check that it is functioning and start testing a circuit.
What tests are required to be carried out? The following are ‘some’ of the tests that are required to ensure the circuits are safe and meet requirements.
- Earth CPC continuity
- Ring continuity
- Insulation Resistance
- Earth Fault Loop Impedance
- Functional Testing – RCD Trip Times
The above tests require further turning on/off the circuit as some are dead tests, some are live tests. How long does it take for each circuit? Well again it depends what is on the circuit. Testing is actually quite intensive if you do it correctly. There are ways of not doing it correctly by still being able to obtain results. I can point you to a couple of videos which prove this, but that is for another time.
I would say an average circuit takes 20 minutes for a simple domestic circuit and 30 minutes in a light commercial.
BUT…. It doesn’t stop there! We haven’t completed our visual inspection and observations. These are any defects we find that are not found via test equipment as such. These are defects which are coded C1, C2, C3 or FI (further investigation). These form part of the report that are items that are dangerous, potentially dangerous, items that are not immediately dangerous but do not meet the current electrical standards and items which are not apparent but require further investigation such as faults. These could be accessories which show thermal damage, cables that are showing the inner insulation because the outer sheath is missing or damaged, damaged sockets, etc. The list is quite extensive and reports tend to have a tick box section to highlight if any items are cause for concern.
This again can vary in time depending on the condition and age of the installation and should be carried out with attention to detail because ultimately if something is missed, you could easily have part of the installation that is not safe but also cannot be picked up by test equipment.
I would say a domestic could take 1 hour because some of it you will be doing as you test the circuits but you have to write it up. A light commercial could be 1 hour 30 minutes.
That’s the circuits ‘tested’, but hang on. There is one vital part missing which forms part of the report. We need to inspect and carry out testing to the consumers electrics after the electricity supply meter, verify the supply details such as earthing arrangements and main bonding conductors. Some circuits on a distribution board or consumer unit will be fed via a sub-main from another distribution board. They may require testing to as the supply is a distribution circuit. Inspection of the installation at the origin is important because without knowing some important details, you are unable to verify that the measured Earth Fault Loop Impedance values are acceptable and that the installation is safe and suitable because the installation doesn’t just include the circuits.
Let’s say the installation on the domestic and commercial is very simple and distribution board / consumer unit are local to the meter. I would say 15 minutes is sufficient time to inspect and test.
Don’t forget we also have employment rights and working hours which stipulates break times plus we tend to get hungry in the middle of the day.
We don’t want anybody to work like a dog plus they require time to browse LinkedIn so let’s be kind and give them a 1-hour lunch break.
That isn’t it…. The report isn’t finished. It required typing up and finalising. Some will do this whilst on site (which was always my preferred method) but some will go away and type up or some even manually write up! It all takes time. Many contractors who are accredited by a Competent Person Scheme which will require a Qualified Supervisor to review the report and counter sign it. Again, it adds time. I would allow 30 minutes for completing this part for domestic and 40 minutes for commercial and I believe that is incredibly kind! Kind to the client, not to the contractor! To do it correctly and cross reference a couple of regulations for each observation if it’s not cut and dried, on most installs would take a heck of a lot longer than this to do correctly.
How long does it take to test an electrical circuit?
To sum up on our domestic install with 12 circuits and commercial install with the same number of circuits, we have the following:
Domestic electrical testing
|Point Count||36 minutes|
|Testing 12 circuits||4 hours|
|Visual inspection||1 hour|
|Test and inspect the origin||15 minutes|
|TOTAL||7 hours 11 minutes|
Commercial electrical testing
|Point count||1 hour|
|Testing 12 circuits||6 hours|
|Visual inspection||1 hour 30 minutes|
|Test and inspect the origin||15 minutes|
|TOTAL||10 hours 55 minutes|
If we were charging £6 per circuit and we had 12 circuits, that is £72.00
If we were charging £18 per circuit and we had 12 circuits, that is £216.00
If we were charging £30 per circuit and we had 12 circuits, that is £360.00
Is the amount of work outlined above worth £72.00? Is it worth £216.00? Or even £360.00?
Does 7 hours of domestic work sound like value for £72.00 or almost 11 hours of commercial for the same cost? What are you really getting for £72.00 when the cost of carrying out electrical work includes wages, training, pensions, staff healthcare, holiday, vehicle costs, tools, test equipment, 3rd party accreditation schemes and management?
You tend to get what you pay for
I guess that is down to you as the client, but from experience, you tend to get what you pay for!
The times shown in this article and times taken as pure estimations. They do not resemble an accurate portrayal of EVERY installation but I do not feel they are unreasonable. However, I would like to point out that every installation is different. Every premises has a different use. Every installation will vary in condition, age, standard, and type of wiring methods used and the records available, quality of previous works etc.
I cannot see how periodic inspection and testing can purely be quoted on price per circuit unless you absolutely know that every circuit is exactly the same and has no variables.
Let’s face it, no business wants to lose money
I understand that many companies will accept that ‘some you win’ and ‘some you lose’. However, it is very easy to carry out a report without actually following to the recommended industry guidance so that the contractor will not ‘lose’ at all. I have seen over the years many contractors who cut corners and reduce standards because let’s face it, what business wants to ‘lose’ money?
Does commercial pressure play a part?
I have heard of inspectors being under pressure by their managers that they ‘have to’, test 60 circuits in a day or have targets to meet. Many inspectors are on a price per circuit. Why is such an important task being rushed or incentivised by money or pressure? What is common is the inspector running out of time so writes LIM (limitation) on the report for various items including testing circuits. Limitations should be agreed by the client prior to carrying out the work, not made by the inspector as a way to type up a report and for the company to charge for the full price leading the client to believe all has been tested when it hasn’t.
The EAWR 1989 is the law!
Can we please take a moment to remember why we are carrying out inspection and testing, and for a second let’s forget the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989…. We are carrying out inspection and testing to ensure the electrical system is safe within the building to prevent risk of injury or death by electrocution or fire of people or animals.
Shouldn’t we be making sure we do our absolute best to prevent such injury or death? When did it become socially acceptable to scrape the barrel to pay for such important safety testing? Regardless of potentially being unlawful to not carry out electrical works safely, isn’t it immoral too?
Is it a good idea to price per circuit?
I do get asked to tender electrical condition reporting per circuit and I am not totally opposed to the idea at all, but not for 6 quid. My preferred method of pricing electrical testing is quite simply to attend the property, look at the distribution boards, number of circuits, and, also what the circuits supply. The time spent can massively vary on use and property type. For example a hospital ward involves far more than a commercial car show room.
I simply work out the testing job as a breakdown of the Point Count, Testing number of circuits, Visual inspection, Test and inspect the origin, Lunch and Paperwork. Add them together to work out the time spent on the job and multiple that by the hourly rate for the location of the job. Part of this equation I have highlighted in this article.
When I get asked by some clients why I don’t price per circuit, I simply explain that not every circuit can be the same price when they vary so much. Pricing via a site survey is fair more accurate in my opinion and doesn’t allow for any unnecessary pressures to allow for the job to completed accurately so the client is not exposed to any errors that they could be accountable for. I am always happy to provide the estimated time I have quoted for and if we largely over-estimated the work, I am happy to provide a part credit.
No unnecessary pressure is put on my test engineers. The importance of making sure we are thorough is the priority. I appreciate some contractors will be quicker than others. I also appreciate some contractors will work for less than others. I just hope that when you are ordering your testing and inspection, you understand that comparing two company’s prices isn’t always comparing apples for apples when making your choice for your competent person(s).
What do you get for £6? Can electrical be circuits tested for £6? I will let you be the judge of that.
Written by Dan Jackson AKA Dans the Engineer originally in Kent on 12th May 2018 and re-published
Please note the prices and times listed in this article are no reflection of any particular situation and are for thought provoking purposes only when choosing an electrical contractor to undertake works. The £6 comparison of items are approximate and may vary.