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Video: Christmas Lights Literally Brighten Up the Earth

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 19th December 2014

Some scientists from NASA have be measuring the changes in light emitted from the earth over the festive period and also other highly celebrated holiday festivals such as Ramadan. They have seen an increase in brightness up to 100% in some areas. What's interesting is that they are actually able to pinpoint down to town and city level how each communities lighting patterns differ. For instance for those celebrating Christmas in the USA they can see a shift from light in the cities to rural areas as people travel out of urban areas for the holidays. However in general they have found that those celebrating Ramadan tend to stay put and the brightness of towns and cities in the middle east tends to increase during the holiday period. Check out the full video below:


The images were taken by the Suomi NPP satellite which carries an instrument called the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) which can observe the dark side of the planet - and detect the glow of lights in cities and towns.


Case Study - Robert Stearn Forgotten Heroes Bursary

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 16th December 2014

Name: Robert Stearn

Age: Over 50

Goal: To Become a Domestic Electrician

Course Taken: Bronze Package

Outcome: Working In Industry

I just had the pleasure of seeing a message on LinkedIn to congratulate Robert Stearn on his new job. Robert recently completed a Bronze course with Trade Skills 4U but his circumstances were slightly different than most of the others on the course.

Robert Stearn was forced to retire from the military in February 2000. He served from RNAS Culdrose as a supervisor of electrical maintenance and repair for 27 years during which time he was deployed in the Falkland’s, Middle East & Far East. Robert is fighting fit now but had been suffering from Thyroid Cancer and also Type One Diabetes which had been brought on by some of the medication he had taken whilst on duty.

Rob is clearly a very smart and presentable chap who due to the hardships he had faced fell into a dead end job working in a warehouse. When Robert applied for the Trade Skills 4U forgotten heroes bursary he realised it would mean quitting his job in order to take the training. Robert decided to take the plunge and quit his job in order to train on the Bronze Domestic Installer Course. It would mean having to find work pretty quickly once he had finished the course but he knew in the long run it would be worth it.

Like many of the forgotten heroes who had taken the course before him Robert excelled in his training and passed all 4 elements of his course first time. His previous technical and DIY experience helped as did his dedication and professionalism. Whilst at the centre Rob had met another student who was also from an Ex-Military background, Jonathan Ballard who runs an electrical installation company very close to Robert in the West Midlands.

The two kept in contact and within 2 weeks of finishing his course Jon was let down by a contractor and needed an extra pair of hands on some domestic projects. He called on Robert and the two started working together. Robert has said:

“The Bronze Course has given me the fundamentals to gain a foothold in a sustainable career. The C&G's are impressive but only if you can match them with some quantifiable experience. My aim is to be registered with one of the approved Part P schemes, which is the natural culmination of the Trade Skills 4U Bronze Course.

Since training I've registered as self-employed and I have been contracting myself out to Ballard Electricals. Jon Ballard is also Ex Forces and a long time student of Trade Skills 4U. It was perfect timing as Jon has recently lost a contractor. Since working for Jon I have installed lights, new sockets, fused spurs, a garage conversion, assisted in a first and second fix house rewire, a complete house rewire, from the initial Electrical Installation Condition Report, design and agreement to the first and second fix, making good, inspection and testing and handover back to the customer. I've even fitted a new Distribution Board under strict supervision from Jon. This is definitely the best placement I could have hoped for to gain experience.

When I phoned Trade Skills 4U I had no idea where this would lead yet, here I am doing it. No plan just one step at a time. Although I had the bursary to pay for my course, I had to give up my job and spend what was left on my credit card to pay for travel, food and accommodation. This has been a big risk for me but one that has paid off. Trade Skills 4U has been brilliant at getting me through my exams to put me in a position where I can become registered in an approved Part P scheme.  Jon Ballard is brilliant at teaching me how to apply my classroom stuff into real life experiences. At this rate I doubt it will be long before I'm registered.  I have no idea where this is all going, Jon has big plans and wants his business to grow bigger, if we continue to work well together then I could grow with him. Not bad for a man without a plan.”

It is great to see the difference it can make but simply getting the right skills to help you change career. Robert has really done well for himeself and now works self employed on some projects whilst also subbing himself out to Jon Ballard. This enables him to work independently and also gain valuable experience from an experienced sparky.

For someone of Robert's age it is almost impossible to contemplate carrying out a full apprenticeship which is why the option of training as a domestic installer worked so well for him. He could get trained quickly, draw on his existing knowledge and skills, find work quickly and start earning within a short period of time. Robert took quite a big gamble when he quit his job but this was a calculated one which has quite clearly paid off already.

If you wish to find out more about the Bursary Scheme at Trade Skills 4U visit www.tradeskills4u.co.uk/bursary .


Categories: case study

New & Unusual Christmas Gift Ideas For Electricians

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 12th December 2014

Christmas is once again creeping up very quickly, and once again you will be faced with well meaning family members wanting to add to your toolbox this festive season.  Rather than be faced with the usual drill sets, hammers and those delightful spanner sets, we set about searching for more unusual tools and accessories for electricians – how many of these have you heard of?

Duckbills Utility Belt & Suspenders

The ideal present for an electrician with a bad back! Too many years of crawling around in lofts and trying to fit in spaces you're just designed to fit into, can leave your back feeling a bit worse for wear.  Carrying around heavy tool belts doesn't help and actually means 5-6 days per year off work.

Put an end to this misery by putting this ergonomic tool carrying system on your Christmas list. Featuring patented Maxcon docking technology, the system is basically a back friendly frame of Velcro on which several modules (where you put your tools) can be placed. Everything then sits movement free creating a stable back friendly method of carrying around essential tools. Has the added benefit of making the owner feel like Batman!


Milwaukee Tools Heated Jacket

For the electrician who has to work on a freezing cold building site! Electricians who work on site at this time of year will be familiar with layering! Long johns, hats and fingerless gloves are all essential work wear between November and February! Go one step further with a heated jacket from Milwaukee tools!

Powered by an M12 Red lithium battery, it provides up to 6 hours of continuous heat per battery charge.  The heat output can be adjusted to provide the right amount of heat in differing weather conditions.  The jacket itself is wind and water resistant with a fleece lining and is machine washable and dryable.  There is also handy additional storage pockets and even a USB charger!



Coast H27 Head Torch

A head torch that is actually useful. Head torches provide a useful hand free method of working in dark areas.  However they are also famed for not being hard wearing and can end up becoming a bit of a joke amongst work mates!  The H27 head torch from Coast puts standard head torches to shame.  To start with, this head torch can be worn underneath a hard hat thanks to a removable top strap.  The impressive light output of 309 lumens means the head torch is ideal for use in a variety if situations.  The light also has a grip twist focussing ring a change of light from beam to spot for example even whilst wearing gloves.

The pure beam focussing optic allows you to shed light on a large area whilst the Bulls-eye spot beam can pinpoint objects from 122 metres away whilst creating a halo of light around you.  Good for up to 3 hours 45 minutes and runs on AA batteries.  The head torch  is weatherproof and waterproof and adjustable so you can position the light exactly where needed.


Never have to wind up a power cord reel again! If winding up a power cord reel or several is just another unwanted chore at the end of the day then you need a power cord reel which does the job for you! The RoboReel does exactly this job at the push of a button.  Not only does this save you the sweat inducing job of winding reel back in several times a day, but it also makes life easier having a 360 degree rotation meaning you can move it around the workplace as you wish.

This is different to dangerous spring loaded versions that are on the market.  RoboReel slows down during retraction so you won't get a whipping reaction.  Retraction also stops if there is an obstruction or someone steps on the cable.  RoboReel retracts 50 feet of heavy duty 12 gauge power cord in less than 10 seconds at a controlled speed.


Hornet Time Clock

Pay staff accurately and reduce paperwork. Reduce the paperwork associated with payroll and pay staff accurately with a wireless time clock.  Which can be used anywhere.  Clock in and out in seconds and streamline payroll in seconds.  The Hornet time clock ensures you stay compliant by working many supporting accounting programmes including Sage.

Ensure staff are paid accurately for hours worked by managing staff in real-time as well as keeping tab of expenses such as overtime.  The Hornet time clock is rugged and weatherproof and will take care of staff movement and payroll leaving you to get on with more important aspects of running a business.



Zircon Multi Scanner

Find out quickly what lies behind the wall. Working tidily is essential especially when working in homes which won't lend themselves to making holes in walls un-necessarily.  This Multi scanner from Zircon will make a useful time saving tool for busy electricians who need to quickly assess what lies behind walls.  Whether providing a quotation for a customer or carrying out initial fault finding, this handy gadget will find and trace live wire up to 50mm deep within walls thanks to the WireWarning detection system.  It will also locate wood or metal joists up to 19mm deep.

A spotlite pointing system and and audio tone indicates the location of the target and features an easy to read display screen.  A four mode switch makes it easy to change functions.

Black and Decker Gyro Screwdriver 

Put an end to endless screwing! Screwing on endless sockets and switches can become a wrist aching job! The Black and Decker Gyro screwdriver is the worlds first motion activated screwdriver that controls variable speed and direction.

Simply grip the trigger and turn your wrist right for forward and left for reverse and rotating your wrist to adjust the speed.





Makita Multi Charger

Never be without a charged battery! Batteries going flat on drills whilst working can be a real headache.  Make sure spare batteries are always fully charged with this 4 port multi charger from Makita.  Charge 2 18V li-ion batteries at the same time.  It is able to charge 2 3.0Ah li-ion batteries in 60 minutes and up to 4 of these batteries in 120 minutes. The charger can be stored in the gang box neatly and is easy top carry under the arm or carry with the optional shoulder strap.  Comes with an easy to read charging display.



Dewalt DCV582 Cordless/Corded XR Wet & Dry Vacuum

Clean up cordlessly! Tidy up mess in both wet and dry environments without needing power! This wet and dry vacuum from Dewalt vacuums wet and dry without any need to change the filter.  Featuring a 2 metre long cord with a wide nozzle and crevice tool.

The vacuum is powered by 18V Dewalt battery packs or mains supply.  Made for tough environments, compact and easy to carry.

Other useful gadgets such as kneeling boards, video inspection cameras and even a cordless site fan ready for next Summer will make brilliant Christmas presents to an aspiring electrician!

Some of these gadgets you may have not come across before, but believe us, they will make working life a whole lot more pleasant and easier!


What's a brownout and when can I expect one?

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 18th November 2014

If you read our recent blog post "The Biggest Blackouts In History" you will know that blackouts in the UK are pretty rare. However we keep hearing the term Brownout being banded around amid warnings that one is coming. But what exactly is a brownout and why are we being told one is coming? All is explained below:

What is a brownout?

A brownout is the reduction or restriction of availability of power in certain areas.  In basic terms, this means reducing the power to household items such as lighting, appliances and equipment.  You might for example, see your lighting dimmed and your appliances running on less power than normal.

This doesn't mean (necessarily) that household electrical items will stop working, however knowing what a brownout is and why it's occurring in the first place can help to understand what is going on with your home electrics at that time.  Firstly, it is important to understand that it won't just be your household that is affected.  Brownouts occur across areas – so it might only be certain streets that are affected, or it might involve a whole town or area.  The overall effect of brownouts are yet to be decided – if at all.

Is a brownout expected in the UK?

Brownouts are not actually a new phenomena and have been seen before in the UK in the 1970's.  In more recent years, and perhaps in many of our own lifetimes, we have not actually witnessed them, so they can seem a bit alarming and backwards.  In reality, they are nothing to be feared and in a nutshell, a brownout is a method of rationing electricity to avoid potential blackouts occurring.

We do not know when a brownout is expected in the UK, but we have heard on the grapevine that one could be on the way this Christmas.  A Liberum Capital analyst, which is considered an expert in the field predicts a 10% chance of a brownout occurring this Winter.  Even with this prediction in place, there is still a 90% chance that the UK will not have one.

Why are the brownouts happening?

The cause of the brownouts (if they occur) will be due to four EDF owned nuclear reactors that were shut down for safety reasons in August.  According to EDF, a crack was found on one of the boilers as part of a routine inspection, and a decision was made to shut the other 3 reactors down.

EDF state that there should be a phased return to power between October and December 2014, however, according to an article in the Independent, it could be as long as into next year before the reactors are switched back on. The reactors produce around 4% of the UK's electricity.

The National Grid has expressed concern over the prospective shortages of power and is seeking emergency supply to cope with the Winter months.  The National Grid state “We have already taken the sensible precaution to tender for Supplementary Balancing Reserve this winter, owing to uncertainty over plant availability. The tender process – which does not specify volumes – is sufficiently flexible to cater for any new information from the market.”

Will appliances and other items be affected?

There has been speculation that modern gadgets may malfunction or sustain damage from operating at a lower voltages and may even burn out.  There is no evidence documented to suggest that this is the case.

In reality, once electricity leaves the power plant, it forms a basic supply, and individual gadgets and appliances have built in transformers that convert the ordinary basic supply into the correct voltage (for example 15 volts for a laptop.) Therefore in simple terms, the voltage supplied by the energy company is not necessarily the voltage that is actually used in the home.

Some households in the UK have voltage optimization units fitted in their homes where the supply of electricity in the home is more consistent to around 220V.  This prevents the natural fluctuations of electricity which occur which can see supply vary to between 200-250V.

Based on these variables it would seem unlikely that household electrical items would be effected by the brownouts. However much of this would depend on how often the brownouts occur and how long for.

Awaiting the brownouts

Chances are the UK will not be affected at all this Winter and many energy consumers will probably be blissfully unaware of the potential brownouts, leading us to make the conclusion that brownouts are possibly being a bit hyped up!




Is This The Worst Electrician In The UK?

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 11th November 2014

Last week watchdog covered a so called “electrician” carrying out a variety of tasks in people’s homes. The work he carried out was shocking to say the least and extremely dangerous. We think that the episode is excellent and really shows some of the worst working practices by a so called “electrician” who quite clearly has never had any proper training or if he has, is simply too lazy to put into practice what he learnt in a training centre or whilst working out there in industry. He are some of his most shocking moments:


1. He attempts to fit a new socket without even turning off the power supply at all. In the programme the producers actually get so worried for the electricians safety that they get their actress to intervene and insist he turns off the power at the consumer unit. This is after she repeatedly asks him if he should turn it off, he says no its fine!


2. He doesn’t even secure the back box for the sockets to the wall. The whole socket is very likely to come away from the wall in a very short period of time.


3. He completely removes the fuse for the hob ignitor meaning if there is a fault there is nothing there to protect the circuit.

Then Watchdog get him back in to replace an old fuse box to see just how far this electrician will push it with his unsafe practices and not to anyone’s surprise he does the following:


4. He doesn’t carry out an initial inspection of the property or test the circuit where there are some obvious issues. He carries on regardless re-connecting what is essentially a faulty circuit.


5. He then simply removes the tag for the service cut out box without any consent from the electricity company. Yes we know this is fairly common practice, however we can be pretty sure he will not inform the electricity company afterwards or secure it properly.


6. Possibly the most shocking of all. When it gets dark the electrician then decides to generate some extra light to work from by simply connecting a light directly into the service cut out box essentially running light directly off the incoming mains. The light even goes out at one point and he simply pokes around with his fingers to get it working again. If the light develops a fault it could affect the power to the whole street and even effect the distribution network.


7. To top things off when he leaves and the work is inspected we find the consumer unit is buckled, the wiring is complete chaos and he has actually broken the cover for the service cut out too. This is a potentially lethal issue and is simply the icing on a cake of horrendous electrical work.


So we think this makes a clear case as to why you should use a registered electrician. This can give you the confidence that the work will be safe and if for any reason it is not you have a clear way to rectify any issues with the scheme provider.

The programme does mention that it is illegal to carry out notifiable work without being registered electrician but this is not strictly true. There are many experienced and trained electricians who for one reason or another are not a member of a scheme. In this instance the electrician will need to notify building control about the job and their competence to do the job (ie qualifications and experience). They will need to complete all the necessary tests and paperwork and building control will inspect the work and issue the Part P certificate to the home owner. However in order to keep it simple for homeowners the message really is find a registered electrician. You can quickly and easily find registered electricians here: http://www.electricalcompetentperson.co.uk/

If you want to watch the full episode for yourself you can find it here:



Best Electric Cars for 2015

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 7th November 2014

Despite a low start, sales of electric vehicles (EV) are now starting to get better thanks to an improving charging infrastructure in the UK and improvements made to the vehicles themselves.

Show popper or show stopper

The electric car market is going to see major advancements in the EV market in 2015 with most mainstream car manufacturers introducing an EV model into the market.

If you have previously been put off by the current offerings, then 2015 may well change your mind.  Models that rival the traditional petrol and diesel models – in terms of looks and performance are set to make an appearance.

Love them or hate them the quadricycle EV's have dominated the market to date. These are perfect for city dwellers who are happy to zip around in something that is no bigger than a mobility scooter, however for those who need boot space or travel more than 100 miles a day then an EV has not been a practical option until now.

The following cars will all be hitting a street near you very soon so keep your eyes peeled:

BMW i3 Hatchback

Termed by BMW themselves as electric and electrifying, we think we'd have to agree.  This does not look like your average EV. The interior is extremely spacious and completely flat (no gear stick) and the dynamic exterior is symbolised by a black band and wide tyres.  The i3 features a fully electric engine which is almost silent and emission free, coupled with an extender, a small engine which allows additional mileage (around 65 miles) for a cost of just 9p!

According to BMW the i3 reaches 0-60mph in 7.2 seconds and has a range of 100 miles on one battery charge.  This makes it an ideal option for commuters who want the freedom to use an EV on all types of road safely without feeling out of depth.

Tesla Model S Saloon

If you're looking for a sportier car that is not so much run of the mill, then the Tesla is a serious contender.  It has been built to compete with executive cars such as the Mercedes E class and the BMW 5 series. American influenced, the Tesla has been dubbed as “hardcore amazing” by the Wall Street Journal.

Able to carry 5 adults easily thanks to the 5+2 seating arrangement this is a car that is able to handle serious commuting for serious people who are looking for reliability and performance from an EV.  Tesla claims it has a range of 285 miles at a steady speed of 65 mph. The acceleration is pretty impressive too at just 3.2 seconds 0-60 mph.  With zero emissions, company executives will save themselves a small fortune on tax and emissions charges.

The only downside to the Tesla is the basic price – it starts from £55,335.

Volkswagen Golf Blue-e-motion hatchback

Practicalities of family living has been considered in the development of the Blue-e-motion.  The design is based on the multi award winning Volkswagen golf.  The lithium-ion batteries are neatly located under the rear seats to free up boot space to an impressive 279 litres.  The Blue-e-motion accelerates to 62mph in 11.8 seconds and has a top speed of 86mph.  The range is pretty decent too at over 90 miles on one battery charge.  As expected, the drive is completely electric and has no tailpipe emissions.

With all the modern design features expected from a new car, the e-golf has a distinctive blue trim that differentiates itself from it's conventional models.  The drive itself feels exactly the same as driving a conventional model too and is very quick off the line. There is additional passenger space too which is another plus point.

Ford Focus Electric Hatchback

Ford have designed it's latest Ford Focus Electric on it's award winning counterparts.  The styling, technology, performance is the same as expected of Ford's award winning petrol and diesel counterparts.

Quietly powerful, with cutting edge engineering and zero exhaust emissions are offered as standard on the Ford Focus Electric.  With a range of up to 100 miles and no oil or traditional engine parts, the running cost is lower than a traditional car.

The external charge port is the main distinguishing feature of the Ford Focus Electric.  A body trim and wrap around headlights come as standard ensuring your electric car remains stylish.

The sexiest electric car for 2015 - BMW i8

If these cars haven't quite got you going just yet, then we think the latest offering from BMW is going to be one of the best offerings in EV technology in 2015.

The BMW i8 is the ultimate in forward thinking future proof EV driving. The BMW i8 Concept is the next step in the evolution of the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics Concept. The result: The most progressive and innovative sports car of its time.

Retailing at a massive £99,773 this is not a car for the faint hearted nor for those seeking performance and quick charge times of their EV.  With a range of just 30 miles and a charge time of 4 hours, image over patience will be the challenge with this car.

However once on the road, the BMW i8 offers performance that cannot be beaten by any comparable vehicle with a combustion engine.  An acceleration speed of 0-60 in less than 5 seconds and fuel efficiency of 104 miles per gallon, it delivers the performance of a sports car with the fuel consumption of a small car.

Coming soon to the UK but has featured at the Frankfurt Motor Show....watch this space

Show popper or show stopper

The electric car market is going to see major advancements in the EV market in 2015 with most mainstream car manufacturers introducing an EV model into the market.

If you have previously been put off by the current offerings, then 2015 may well change your mind.  Models that rival the traditional petrol and diesel models – in terms of looks and performance are set to make an appearance.

Love them or hate them the quadricycle EVs have dominated the EV market to date, these are perfect for city dwellers who are happy to zip around in something that is no bigger than an invalid carriage, however for those who need boot space or travel more than 100 miles a day then an EV has not been a practical option until now.






Categories: electric cars

Halloween Hall of Horror Installations

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 31st October 2014

The last thing anyone wants on halloween is for the lights to go out. However if some of these horrors are lurking in your home then thats exactly what could happen. Everyone likes a little shock on halloween but no one wants an electric one so beware and don't have nightmares once you have seen our top ten Halloween Hall of Horror Installations below.

1. A very bad rewire – now this is a bad wiring job! Maybe the guy was a spaghetti maker! Disconnect the supply and start again – but this time use a qualified (and registered) electrician.

2. An example of a bad installation beneath floor boards.

(Image credit: eclipse-electrical-kenilworth.co.uk)

3. Faulty electrical system – a common defect in homes.  When was yours last checked? Electrical faults are often hidden in closed walls, panels and consumer units.













4. Is it a Halloween creature?  This was found lurking above a dry wall ceiling.  Yes that's a stove wire buried above that duct – with a lighting circuit on one leg.  It's not just the UK that celebrate Halloween as you can tell by these American sockets!

5. Open electrical panels are dangerous.  Fuse boards and consumer units should have a cover on them to protect accidental touching of the inside.

(image credit: Daniel Friedman)

6. Problems associated with a new installation.  Cables installed touching hot central heating pipes. This job does not comply with electrical regulations for obvious reasons.











(image credit electrspect.co.uk)

7. Electrical inspection....Can you remember what you learnt during training?  It might be time for this bad 'electrician' to do some refresher training!

8. Insulation Nightmare (on Elm Street?)  An electrician removed existing fibre glass insulation in order to accommodate the electrical installation and never properly replaced it.

9. Electrical panel suffered a short circuit due to the bad aluminium conductors.  Studies have shown that aluminium wired connections in homes have a high chance of overheating compared to copper wired homes.

10. Our crowning Glory....

Electrical Danger! - enough said! Worst install ever?

Don't have nightmares! These are possibly the most scary electrical installations ever! If you have any concerns about your electricity contact a qualified and registered electrician as soon as possible.


The Biggest Blackouts In History

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 28th October 2014

We have all experienced a power cut in our homes at some point or another. Often they are caused by random events and freak weather conditions but it is very rare these days in the UK to have a major blackout that effects large numbers of people. We thought we would do a bit of digging and see how big the biggest blackouts in history were. We expected them all to have been many years ago, however to our surprise we discovered many of the biggest happened in the last few years. So here are the top 5 in reverse order:

5. 11th March 1999 – Brazil & Paraguay Blackout – Affected 97,000,000 People

At the time the 1999 Southern Brazil Blackout was the biggest in history. The blackout covered major cities both sides of the border between Brazil and Paraguay including Sao Paulo, Rio De Janeiro and many more. At 10:16PM lightning struck an electricity substation in Bauru and caused a chain of events that took out the power to an estimated 75 to 97 million people. Happening late at night made the situation worse and the government had to deploy 1,200 military police and close many tunnels to prevent looting and attacks. 60,000 people were stuck on the subway when the power went down and had to wait until after midnight for power to start returning.

4. 18th August 2005 – Java- Bali Blackout – Affected 100,000,000 People

At 10.23 AM on the 18th August 2005 a transmission line failed in west Java. This led to a cascading failure of 8 power units in both the west and east of the island. The amount of power available dropped and there was a shortfall of 2,700 MW, roughly half the required supply. The blackout lasted until 5PM that day. Whilst the impact was less severe during the day time, disruption to transport, business and usually day to day life remained huge. Following the blackout the government ordered the police and national intelligence agency to investigate the root cause of the event to prevent it from happening again.

3. 2nd January 2001 - 2001 India Blackout – Affected 230,000,000 People

When the 2001 India Blackout hit virtually all of northern India went down. The whole region ground to halt and many hospitals were unable to function properly and millions of people were unable to draw water from underground wells. Trains stopped working and lines were blocked for up 15 hours. At the time this was the biggest blackout in history only to be gazumped 11 years later. It was estimated that the blackout cost the economy over a billion dollars in lost revenue and there were angry scenes across the region where consumers and business leaders called for the electricity systems to be privatised.

2. 30th July 2012 – 2012 India Blackout 1 – Affected 330,000,000 People

The 2 biggest blackouts in history were caused essentially by a late monsoon and extreme heat in New Delhi. Essentially extra power was required to run the agricultural pumps running irrigation in paddy fields. This coupled with the fact that the hydropower plants were generating less power than usual (again due to the late monsoons) put a huge strain on the system.

At 2:35AM circuit breakers on a 400 kV line tripped. As this line fed into another transmission section, breakers at the station also tripped, and power failures cascaded through the grid. All major power stations were shut down in the affected states, causing an estimated shortage of 32 GW. Officials described the failure as "the worst in a decade". The power remained off until 8:00AM but had a knock effect for the rest of the day where planes, trains and the Monday morning rush hour were all effected. The blackout effected over 25% of India population and it took around 15 hours to restore 80% of the service. However this was rather short lived.

1. 31st July 2012 – 2012 India Blackout 2 – Affected 600,000,000 People

At 1PM the next day a relay problem near to the world famous Taj Mahal started a chain of events which eventually saw numerous power stations across the northern region of India go down. The result was that nearly half of India’s population went offline (around 9% of the world’s population!) with 22 of 28 states without power. The blackout lasted around 12 hours and caused even more problems for a country trying the deal with 89% humidity. Outrage followed and the existing power minister ordered an investigation into the cause, however he was not in his post on the 12th August 2012 when the report was issued. The investigation concluded the following:


Weak inter-regional power transmission corridors due to multiple existing outages (both scheduled and forced);

High loading on 400 kV Bina–Gwalior–Agra link;

Inadequate response by State Load Dispatch Centers (SLDCs) to the instructions of Regional Load Dispatch Centres (RLDCs) to reduce over-drawal by the Northern Region utilities and under-drawal/excess generation by the Western Region utilities;

Loss of 400 kV Bina–Gwalior link due to mis-operation of its protection system.

It’s no surprise that India occupies the top 3 spots in this top 5. This is in part due to the huge number of people that live there coupled with an infrastructure which is outdated and often not fit for purpose. India is the 3rd largest electricity consumer in the world behind the USA and China. It is estimated that 27% of energy generated is lost in transmission or stolen! Around 25% of people in the country still live without any electricity at all and the country is used to suffering smaller outages on a regular basis.


Categories: blackouts

New Planning Laws & How They Effect You

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 21st October 2014

In April 2014, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced the Housing Standards Review outcome which reduces the housing standards pages of guidance from 1000 to fewer than 10.

One of the main changes is the options available to householders to get building work checked to ensure compliance.  In the past, building works were subject to several checks with builders having to get the same pieces of work signed off by a range of different organisations.  Inevitably this lead to needless delays on building projects.   Under the new changes, technical competencies will be assessed by Building Control only.

More control for house builders

The changes are very important to anyone who is planning on carrying out new building works.  This is anything from a home extension to a full new house build.  One of the key changes was option to use an Approved Inspector in place of Building Control which is known as an initial notice.

An Approved Inspector is a person who takes overall responsibility for a project and the compliance of it.  A house builder for example could take this position putting them firmly in the driving seat of their building projects rather than relying on Building Control for the project to progress.

The initial notice and what it means

The main change is that householders have the option to use a nominated person, known as the Approved Inspector who has overall named responsibility for the job including the building control function for the work. Known as on site approval, this person will be responsible for providing the details of who is carrying out the individual aspects of the work (i.e. plumbing, gas, electrics etc) and supplying the Local Authority with details of their qualifications and registration details if relevant.

If you plan to use an Approved Inspector, then both the householder and Approved Inspector need to jointly notify the Local Authority that the Approved Inspector is carrying out the Building Control Function on the project.  This is called the initial notice.

The option to use the Building Control Services of a Local Authority will still be available, and this will be known as pre-site approval.

On-Site Approval

For householders opting for an Approved Inspector, the Building Control Service will make a series of statutory and routine inspections of the work as it progresses to ensure that all aspects of the building regulations – including Part P and other relevant legislation is being complied with.

Notice of  no less than two days must be given to the Local Authority before the project commences

Notification of completion must be given no more than 5 days after completion.

In respect of other stages, no less than 1 days notice to be given.  If the Local Authority is not informed of the relevant stages, they can give written notice asking for the work to be opened up for further inspection.

Pre-Site Approval

Householders who opt for a Local Authority building control service will have three types of planning application approvals that can be made.  The charges made for these services will vary between Local Authorities and consist of three options:

Building Notice - Apply for building regulations approval from Building Control Services by giving a building notice.

Regularisation - If building work has been carried out without Building Control approval, regularisation will enable owners to have the building work approved as an alternative to prosecution.

Full plans - Submit a full plans application to the Local Authority for approval.

Pre-Site or On-Site?

The main consideration will be cost.  Using an on-site Approved Inspector will be an added cost initially, however you will also have a person who has overall responsibility for ensuring the project goes to plan, and therefore being more stringent in terms of overall building control standards and making sure things go smoothly.

Pre-site could be more costly overall with the standard of work carried out not being so high, with householders still having to source each trade on an individual basis and effectively taking on the role of an approved inspector. 

How Does This Effect Electricians

The senario with approved inspectors mirrors that created on the 1st april 2013 when DCLG created Third Party Certification scheme for Part P. Essentially they are trying to streamline planning by handing responsibility to private companies and individuals. At present there are around 170 approved inpsectors in the UK, however this number will grow. As such now is a good time for electricians to establish contacts with Approved Inspectors who will be on the look out for electricians who are willing to work on building projects over the longer term and be depended upon for quality and reliability.

If you want to find an approved inspector in your area check out the full list here.



Electrical Darwin Awards Top 5

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 17th October 2014

For those of you who have come across them before you will know that the Darwin Awards are a light hearted way of recognising how stupidity and natural selection combine to kill a person or prevent them from being able to reproduce. The stories quoted are all true and sad as many are, they are all mildly amusing too. We have picked the top 5 related to electrical accidents and listed them below in order of stupidity (1 being the most ridiculous) for your reading pleasure:

1. Eugene Duncan (1 June 2008, West Virginia)

Eugene Duncan tops our list despite the fact he survived his exploits by the skin of his teeth. Eugene had a power line running through his back garden and (maybe following the release The Dark Knight in 2008) decided to climb a pylon and repel himself down one of the lines using just a single piece of rope. Eugene came into contact with a power line carrying 46,000 volts resulting in a huge electric shock and quite a large fall. Amazingly Eugene survived his ordeal but was charged with trespassing by his local police department.

Unfortunately we couldnt find a picture of eugene, however the above pic is equally worrying. It is a Czech girl who mistook a high voltage pylon for a bridge whilst high!

2. Gabriel Thomas Mondragon (15 March 2008, Washington)

Gabriel Thomas was an environmentalist with attitude. He sought to make people pay for their apparent sins against nature by cutting off the power supply for thousands. His plan showed he had considered the risks and took precautions, yet he completely underestimated the true power of the line through which he chose to cut. Using rubber gloves for insulation and a tree saw attached to a metal pole Mondragon cut through a 69,000 Volt line. He was found lying on his back, with the gloves partially melted on his hands and his pants burned away from his body. Amazingly he survived and was quoted as saying ”I did it to punish the rich white people of Orcas Island and make them pay for the death of the whales and the depletion of the rain forests”.

3. Daniel (14 February 2002, Pennsylvania)

Daniel and his best friend loved to practice their marksmanship in a local field. However on this occasion their choice of target would prove to be rather costly. Electrical insulators are used to hold power lines in place and they are there for a reason. So when they both shot 6 of the insulators holding the power line above them aloft it soon fell to the ground throwing sparks out everywhere. Despite remaining unscathed at this point Daniel was worried about a serious fire breaking out and opted to simply pick the lose sizzling wire up with his hand and was instantly electrocuted.

4. Michael Anderson Godwin (March 1989, South Carolina, USA)

Michael Anderson Godwin was just 28 years old when he was sentenced to death in South Carolina. Following an appeal he managed to avoid the electric chair, but unfortunately even that couldn’t save him from himself. In March of 1989, Godwin was sat on his steel prison toilet, trying to fix a pair of headphones attached to his TV. He bit into the wire, and the rest is history. The irony of this is astounding.

5. Arthur de Souza (10 January 2010, Brazil)

In 2010 a municipal guard named Arthur de Souza Coelho had enough of the crime in his neighbourhood and decided to take action to protect his car from being stolen. He installed a small but shockingly powerful electric fence around his pride and joy and it worked, no body touched the car. It’s a good thing too as the fence proved to be fatal. When Arthur forgot to turn the fence off one morning he was electrocuted and the inevitable happened.

The message remains clear and simple. Electricity is dangerous so don’t mess with it otherwise you could end up on the list above.