Q&A: Becoming an Electrician in the UK

Filed Under: Electrical, Home repair    by: ITC

Q: For the last decade I have worked exclusively in the public sector.  While I’ve earned a good wage doing so, it’s not my passion, and I’m currently out of work.  I do find that I enjoy technically oriented tasks, and so I am very interested in working as an electrician in Liverpool. While I know that there is a process for training and certification, I’m unable to find helpful information on the web. I’m specifically looking for information on qualification, how long the training is,  how much it costs,  and if there’s an “apprenticeship period” I’ll have to cover off first. I’m also curious about the what a typical starting salary would be, and how much experience I would need before opening my own business. Read more…

Common Mistakes In DIY Electrical Projects

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Electrical, Home repair, Remodeling    by: ITC

In today’s declining economy more and more people are turning towards do it yourself home improvement projects. An electrical project is one of these many projects that they are undergoing as a way of saving money. It can be very expensive to hire an electrical contractor so you may be like many and decide to undergo the project yourself.

One thing that you need to be aware of however is that it takes careful planning and preparation to make sure that you are able to do the project. Although most times the home improvement projects tend to save you money, this is only the case if you have enough knowledge of the project you are undergoing and enough time to finish it. If you do not have these qualities you stand to cost yourself some serious money and also can get into some serious trouble. It can quickly become quite expensive to fix a very bad wire project then it would of originally if you hired the contractor from the very beginning.

There are a vast majority of people today in an effort to save money try and fix minor electrical problems themselves. Although these are just minor repairs you are still at great risk for an electrical shock. However this should not be your only primary concern because you also run into the risk of electrical fires as well. In most cases it is actually safer to consider hiring a professional for your electrical jobs. Besides these common problems there are other mistakes that a lot of homeowners do when they are trying to do an electrical job themselves.

First of all you need to be sure that you shut off your breaker box before you even begin your project. There are literally thousands of homeowners a year that suffer from electrical shock through failure to do this simple and easy step.

It is also a good idea not to splice any of your wires and then twist them together and cover them with electrical tape. You will be much better off to use the proper wiring from the very beginning to prevent any chance of an electrical fire later.

When you are looking to doing your home electrical repairs you need to be sure that you take a lot of considerable time and attention to the job. Failure to do this can result in serious injuries and can result in a fire.

As you can see just from the above tips the slightest thing that you do wrong can result in either serious damages or worse yet an electrical fire. If you still insist on going through this project yourself it is important that you take careful consideration and do plenty of research. This will help you prevent serious injury or electrical fires later.

Removing the old radiator

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Electrical, Home repair, Plumbing    by: ITC

One of the great deterrents to anyone wanting to remove a radiator is the prospect of having to drain the whole system. However, this won’t be necessary provided the radiator to be replaced has a valve at both the hot water inlet and the outlet. Once these are closed. you’ll be able to keep virtually all the system’s water isolated in other parts.

At the inlet end you’re likely to find the hand-valve which is the control by which you open and close the radiator. At the outlet end you’ll find what is termed the lock-shield – valve. When you come to inspect your radiator, don’t worry if their positions are reversed — they will still be equally effective.

The first thing to do when removing a radiator is to close these valves. The hand-valve is straightforward, but you’ll have to remove the cover to get at the lock-shield valve. You’ll be able to close this valve using a spanner or an adjustable wrench with which to grip its spindle.

As you turn it, it’s a good idea to note carefully how many turns it takes to close. And you’ll find this task slightly easier if you mark the turning nut with a piece of chalk before you begin. The reason for all this is to maintain the balance of the system. After it was first installed, your system would have been balanced.

The lock-shield valves of all the radiators were adjusted to give an equal level of water through-flow so that they were all heating up equally. So, by noting the number of turns taken to close the lock-shield, when you come to fit the new radiator you can simply open it up by the same amount — so avoiding the somewhat tedious task of rebalancing the whole system.

Once you’ve closed both valves. you can unscrew the nuts which connect the valves to the radiator inlet and outlet. Do these one at a time after having placed a low dish under each end to collect the water and protect the floor.

Use an adjustable wrench to undo the coupling nuts. It’s wise to hold the circulating pipe securely in place with another wrench. Otherwise, if you apply too much pressure to the coupling nut you risk fracturing the flowpipe, and this would cause you a lot of extra work and expense as well as causing quite a mess.

It’s a good idea to get the radiator out of your home as soon as possible-just in case it leaks any remaining dirty water on to your carpet.

Dealing with internal corrosion in radiators

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Electrical, Home repair, Plumbing    by: ITC

Internal corrosion in modern radiators arises from an electrolytic reaction between steel of the radiators and the copper circulating pipes of the central heating system. This results in the production of a corrosive black iron oxide sludge (magnetite) and hydrogen gas.

In a similar fashion, if the original installation of your heating system was somewhat messily done, then copper swarf, produced when the pipes were cut, could have been retained within the circulating pipes.

This will also corrode the steel at any point where the two come in contact — usually within a radiator. Because the raw material from which the sludge is produced is the metal of the radiators, eventually they will leak and need to be replaced. And as the sludge is also attracted by the magnetic field of the circulating pump, its abrasive qualities are a common cause of early pump failure.

Early indications of serious internal corrosion are a need to vent one or more radiators at regular intervals, and cold spots on their surfaces. If in doubt, the diagnosis can be confirmed by applying a flame to the escaping gas when the radiator is being vented. If it burns with a blue and yellow flame, you can be sure that hydrogen is in the system and will have been produced by the chemical reaction of the two metals.

Once you’ve confirmed that corrosion is present within the system, you’ll have to flush it through and introduce a reliable corrosion preventative chemical into the feed and expansion tank. By doing this, you should be able to prevent further corrosion and so save your system.

Fitting Services in a Partition Wall

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Electrical, Home repair, Plumbing, Remodeling    by: ITC

Careful planning is essential when arranging a partition — this extends to working out cable and pipe runs and installing them as you build.

The time to put either cables or pipes into a stud partition is when the framework is finished.

Whenever installing cables or pipes in any kind of wall, remember that they must always run vertically or horizontally directly to or from each fitting.

To run cable through the framework of a stud partition, bore a 3/4in hole through either the head plate or sole plate into the ceiling or floor void as appropriate and, depending on the direction from which the cable is to come, drill similar holes through the centers of any bracing that cross the cable route.

Feed in the cable. leaving plenty of excess. Cut a hole in the drywall for the fitting and feed the end of the cable through this as you fit the drywall in place.

Working in the same way. make sure the holes you drill through the framework are larger than the diameter of the pipe. This will make maneuvering them into place easier and allow them to expand and contract as the temperature fluctuates. Keep the number of joints inside the partition to the bare minimum and make sure you test any plumbing system before you finish the cladding; if there is a leaking joint you will be able to rectify it. If the pipes are to drop down from the ceiling you could remove a floorboard in the room above and feed them down through the partition from there.

Alternatively, pipes can be clipped into notches cut in the edges of the bracing and studs. Using a back saw and bevel- edge chisel, cut notches wide enough to accept a pipe clip of the right size and deep enough so that the pipe does not touch the drywall cladding.

Electrical cables can be run across the surface of the blocks in pipes and held in place with clips.

For pipes, use a hammer and bricklayer’s chisel to cut out a channel across the face of the blocks, making it wide enough to accept the appropriate size of pipe clip and deep enough so that the pipe will be flush with the surface.

Should you want to bury a hot water pipe, it is best to run it through another pipe of the next size up, which will act as a sleeve and allow for expansion.

Getting a Building Permit

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Electrical, Home repair, Plumbing, Services    by: ITC

A building permit will probably be required if you plan to do the following:

1. Alter or change the external appearance of your house. For example if you: add a porch; add a screen in a porch; add or remove a window or door, or if you build a fence or wall.

2. Do any electrical work.

3. Do any plumbing work.

4. Add or remove any structural element.

5. Build an addition to your house.

6. Erect a separate building on your property.

Applying for a building permit

To obtain a building permit, a set of plans showing your proposed alterations must be submitted to the local Building Department where they will be checked for compliance with the National and local Building Code. If the plans are up to code a permit will be issued, usually for a small fee.

The permit will be valid for one year after which time a new application must be made if the work has not started. The permit must be displayed prominently at various stages of the construction work you may be required to call in the local building inspector to check the work for compliance, for instance, before and after any footings have been made.

This checking procedure ensures that the work is indeed being carried out according to the approved plans and that the method of construction and the quality of the materials is up to the standard set out in the Building Code. Although this procedure may not be necessary on your particular job, however, the Building Inspector may call by at any time to check on the progress of the work.

Always be sure to complete the job according to the approved plans. If you are in any doubt, call the building inspector and ask his advice, never try to guess. This could be a waste of your time and money as any work not covered by the approved plans or not up to the standards of the code may be condemned at any stage of the building.

If your plans are rejected by the building department for non-compliance you will receive a notification of the reasons given. In some cases this may be simply dealt with by getting your building contractor to amend the plans making sure all the changes are incorporated before re-submitting them.

In other cases the layout of your property may make it impossible to comply with the requirements of the code. In this case you may seek an exception to the law by filing an application with the Zoning Board of Review. When filing for an exemption, evidence supporting your position must be presented with your application, together with a block plan showing all lots within a specified distance including all buildings and marked with owners’ names and addresses.

A plan of your lot showing the existing structures, and plans and elevations of the proposed work must also be submitted. A decision will be made after a public meeting of the Board during which any member of the public may speak for or against the project.

Fitting a new radiator

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Electrical, Home repair, Plumbing    by: ITC

Your new radiator will probably have four holes or tappings – one at each corner -and each one will have a female screwed thread. How you connect the radiator up to your system depends on the way in which the old one was fitted. Nowadays it is usual for the flow and return connections to be made to the bottom two holes but. of course. if your system had the flow pipe at a higher level then you’ll have to reconnect it in the same way.

Fit an air-valve into one of the top tappings. First wrap PTFE thread sealing tape anticlockwise round the male thread of the valve and then use a radiator key that grips inside the body of the valve to screw it home. Unless your radiator has a top inlet the other top tapping must be plugged with a blanking off plate. This should also be wrapped with PTFE tape and screwed home in the same way as the air vent.

You’ll then have to fit tail pieces and coupling screws (either new ones, or the ones from the original radiator if you can remove then)) on to the new one. Again wrap each thread with PTFE tape before fitting them. Its a good idea to buy new wail brackets for your replacement radiator. After all. you can’t be sure the old ones will be suitable. You should drill and plug the wall and then fix the brackets in place. Fit the radiator so that the inlet end is a few millimetres higher than the outlet valve. This W make venting easier. You can now fix radiator in place and connect the coup nuts to the hand-valve and Jock-shield va and screw them up tightly.

You’ll have to open the air-valve at the tcc of the radiator so that the air in it car ze displaced as it fills with water. All you oz slowly open the hand-valve and allow 7-S. radiator to fill. When water starts to flow f rd– the air-valve you’ll know all the air has bee- displaced and you should immediately close the valve. Finally, open the lock-shield value by the same number of turns and part turns took originally to close it.

Home Repair Tips – Heating and Air Conditioning

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Electrical, Home repair    by: ITC

Homes are heated by one of three methods:

• Hot water

• Steam

• Warm air

Hot water systems use a pump to circulate hot water from a boiler to all the rooms in a house. Keep the radiators clean and the tops uncovered so that heat can circulate. About once a year, drain the boiler and expansion tank. Turn off the burner and the water coming into the tank.

The process is the same as flushing a hot water tank. Attach a hose to the drain and open the vents on the highest radiators to let in air. After the water runs clear, close the drain and open the water supply. Relight the burner. When you hear water entering the radiators, close the vents again.

Refilling the tank will let air in. As the air rises it becomes trapped in the radiator and keeps the water from circulating. You will have to “bleed” each radiator. This is done by opening the radiator to let out the air. As soon as water comes out, close the radiator. Be careful when catching the water. It will be hot.

A hot water system is controlled by a thermostat. The thermostat controls an electric pump which circulates water throughout the house.

Bleed the radiator of trapped air by opening the knob until water just begins to trickle out. Be careful: the water will be hot.

A steam system is similar to the hot water system. It does not have a pump though, because the steam circulates freely. Noises occur when water becomes trapped in pipes that do not slope back toward the boiler. This may be cured with a block of wood under one leg of the radiator. Knocking may also occur if the steam valve is not fully open or closed.

Loose packing in a valve is often responsible for steam leaking. This can be repaired just as you would a faucet. Turning down the packing nut may stop the leak. If not, repack the stem.

Basically a warm air furnace heats air which is circulated by a blower. Warm air systems may be electric, gas, or fuel oil heated. Heated air travels through ducts and out through grills or registers in various rooms. As with the other systems, a warm-air system must be kept clean. Clean or change the filters monthly when the heater is in use. Change them at least once a year. Also clean the fan blades and vacuum around the registers. If necessary, tighten the belt.

The motors in all systems need oiling. Use a lightweight motor oil and fill the cups or filling tubes in the motor. Fans and water pump bearings need oiling as well. If pipes or ducts run through cold areas, they should be insulated.

Central air conditioning may operate through the heating ducts. However, many homes have individual room air conditioners. The main thing is to keep the filters clean when the air conditioner is in use.

To stop radiator pounding make sure the pipes are level so water is not trapped. Also try adjusting the valve.

Make repairs with the furnace off and the boiler cold. If steam leaks out the radiator valve, tighten the packing nut. If that doesn’t work, remove the packing nut and repack the stem with packing cord. Reassemble the valve.

A warm air heating system heats air and blows it through heating ducts. The air can be heated by oil or gas burners.

Home Repair Tips – Water Heater Systems

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Electrical, Home repair, Plumbing    by: ITC

Some older houses still heat water by running it through coils in an oil furnace. Some very modern homes use solar energy to heat the water. The most common water heaters are gas or electric.

Regardless of the type, all water heaters require some maintenance. A leaky water heater should be replaced by a new one. But other problems can be avoided or cured. They include:

• Build up of sediment in the heater

• Top fittings that leak

• Leaky pressure relief valves

Rust or other sediments can build up in the tank. You should drain the tank about once a year to remove them. Turn off the heat, and shut water entering the heater. Open any hot water faucet in the house to let in air so the tank will drain. Attach a water hose to the drain spout of the water heater. Wear gloves because the hose will be too hot to handle. Drain the water into a floor drain or a pail that is lower than the tank spout. When the heater is empty, run more water into it. Keep draining it until the water runs clear.

If the fittings at the top of the tank are made of different metals, electrolysis may cause them to start corroding. An insulated fitting should have been used. Sometimes the fittings can be replaced in time.

Pressure relief valves keep the tank from bursting. A leaking pressure valve may mean that the water pressure is too high. This happens when the water is too hot or when there is no regulator between the meter and the house. A leaking pressure relief valve may also be worn out and need replacing.

Gas and oil heaters have some particular problems. If the flame is not a blue color, call the gas or oil company to come and adjust it.

When the pilot light in a gas heater goes out, turn off the gas. Clean around the pilot light and burner with a stiff brush. Vacuum the exhaust vent and underside of the heater. To light the pilot again , set the dial to PILOT. Hold the dial or button down, and light the pilot. Keep holding it down until the pilot stays lit. Then turn the dial to ON and set the thermostat.

Water heaters can be made more efficient by wrapping them in a special thermal insulating blanket. You can also save hot water by making sure none of your faucets are leaking.

Open a hot water faucet to let air into the water heater. Drain and refill the tank. Continue until the water runs clear.

Pressure relief valves are spring valves that leak when there is too much pressure in the water heater. This usually happens when there is too much heat or the local water pressure is too high. The cure is to lower the water temperature or install a water pressure regulator between the meter and the house.

Occasionally the pilot light on the water heater goes out. Turn the control to OFF and wait five minutes for any free gas to escape. Then turn the dial to PILOT. Hold the red button down (or the dial if there is no button) and light the pilot. After about a minute the pilot will continue to burn when the button is released. Turn the dial to ON, and the heater should operate normally.

Home Repair Tips – Meter Reading

Filed Under: DIY Outdoor, Do it yourself, Electrical, Home repair    by: ITC

Every house has an electrical meter. The meter keeps track of the electricity used. By reading the meter regularly and keeping records, you can get a good idea of when and where you are using the most electricity. For instance, when the air conditioner is on, you will use a lot more electricity than when it isn’t. Leaving a color television on for a long time will make a big difference too. The electric company reads this meter to determine your electric bill.

You will notice that some of the dials on the meter read counterclockwise. To read the meter, start from the left. The dial hand is usually between two numbers,. Write down the smaller number. Continue reading each dial the same way. Remember the numbers on the second and fourth dials run counterclockwise. The final number completes your reading and tells you how many kilowatt-hours you have used. A kilowatt-hour (abbreviated kwh) is one kilowatt of electricity (one thousand watts) being used for one hour.

If you read the meter the next day and subtract the first day’s reading, you will know the total number of kilowatt-hours used during that day,

The hands on the dial faces turn the same direction as the gears under the dials. So every other dial is numbered backwards or counterclockwise.

Each dial hand is usually between two numbers. To read the meter just read the lowest of the two numbers on all dials.

A 100-watt light bulb will take 10 hours to burn 1000 watts (one kilowatt). A thousand-watt toaster burns one kilowatt (1 kw) in one hour.