Some shocking things you may need to know …
By Leonard Gildarie
This week, based on questions asked by our readers, we will specifically be dealing with wiring your home.
This is a critical element if you are building now as there are new regulations regarding how electrical wires are to be installed. Additionally, and in my view just as important, is the fact that many mistakes are made by home builders in this aspect.
It is true that many would want to cut corners and save money by using electricians who are generally unaware of the new codes introduced by the government. On the other hand, it is a fact also that some electricians, in addition to being eager to grab the job, fail to tell home owners of the potential pitfalls and dangers.
Officials of the Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL) have been complaining that many homes, and we are speaking particularly of the older ones, have wiring that are outdated and in some cases more than a few decades old.
In addition to the potential of causing fires, it could lead to irritating problems such as low voltage and even damage to valuable appliances. It should be a priority for a general inspection to be done. The folks down at GPL have been saying that if there are sparks on the power line leading to your building, it could be a fault in the home. Another warning signal is if a particular fuse is blown time and again…it is more likely an indication that something is bridging or wrong within the home.
If you are starting to build and your contractor indicates that he will be needing power, it would be a good idea to apply for a temporary meter. This allows for electrical saws and other equipment to be used while building.
Based on what your contractor tells you, it will basically consist of a main switch, an electrical outlet or two, a light socket and wires to allow GPL to connect power.
These will have to be installed on a board at least three feet square and erected on support that is around 1.8 meters in height.
Before we get to the process, there is a major issue that needs addressing.
There are numerous persons operating as electricians. However, it would be pointless to wire your home if you can’t get a permit from the Government Electrical Inspections department.
This permit is taken to GPL which uses it as a basis for hooking up power after the application and other processes would have been completed.
Many of these electricians are not certified. While they are knowledgeable, officials are now arguing many of them are not familiar with new regulations which government is working to implement. These include the use of conduits or PVC piping to place the conductor wires in the walls and a number of tests that are in keeping with new standards.
There is training underway by government for electricians to be made aware of the new national electrical code. Many home owners will relate experiences to you of failing to get a permit because the electrician is not certified.
I guess I’ve strayed a bit…back to the essentials.
So you need a temporary meter. Your contractor can build and supply you with the circuit board or you could purchase them yourselves and have it built.
This circuit board is then taken by the electrician to the Government Inspections department in Kingston where a certificate is issued, once the required standards are met.
This certificate, along with your land documents and identification, is then used to apply for power at GPL.
GPL is only issuing prepaid meters for the temporary boards. The board has to be placed in a conspicuous area, visible from the road. This connection could take up to two weeks as GPL has to ensure there are poles and connections in the area near the building site.
A temporary meter can cost you up to $35,000, inclusive of the permit and cost of materials.
If you are building a concrete home, it would be a good idea for the electrician and contractor to work along since walls may have to be chipped for conduits, outlets and switches to be installed. Many people wait until the walls are plastered before calling in the electricians. I have found that that when a plastered wall would have been chipped, it is difficult to repair it.
Some folks prefer the switches and points in their home to be installed “in” the walls while others prefer them “on” the walls.
New regulations are called for electrical wires or conductors, as they are officially referred to, to be placed in the PVC pipes or conduits. The conduits are to protect the wires.
It is a known fact that the wires, if not handled properly when being installed, can be damaged.
Authorities are saying that the new codes stipulate how many of the cables are to be placed in the conduit at any point in time. There are no objections now to wires being installed in plain view on a wooden wall.
Now, your electrician should ask you about the equipment in the home. The reason for this are that the breakers, electrical switches which cut power to a particular outlet if there are faults detected, have to be of a certain capacity to handle the load of a particular equipment.
When planning where your outlets and lights are, think deeply. I would recommend a few on the outside to cater for a possible water pump or music or tools. These must be protected from the elements.
On the inside, plan the placements of your outlets carefully. While the regulations will be specific as to how high the outlets should be, if you have children, think about installing protection caps that any decent electrical store should have in stock.
I recently realised that maybe a few more outlets should have been installed in my home.
The installation of water heaters and other heavy duty equipment should be done with the help of a certified electrician, because of the complexities involved.
Now, after your house would have been wired, it has to be inspected by the government electrical inspectors (not GPL) who, once satisfied, will issue a certificate. This inspection is a resistance test and not inspection of actual wiring.
So it is your responsibility to ensure that the wiring is done according to standards. After the certificate from the inspector, you can now take that with your land documents and ID to GPL to have power to the building.
There are some persons out there who have gotten GPL contract workers and others to illegally transfer the temporary meter to the home. Not a good idea. In all likelihood, the seal at the bottom of the meter will have to be broken, which obviously is tampering.
All it takes is $3,200 to have the power to the building. In any case, GPL is now issuing prepaid meters for the temporary circuits. Remember, we all want to cut costs, but it will be quite expensive if GPL finds out.
Be safe, be wise. Don’t fly the kites near the power lines. And don’t forget to write us at [email protected] or call me at 225-8491.
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