TIP SHEETS

For information on electrical safety and general electrical advice, click on the following links...

Safety switches and circuit breakers
It’s important to note the difference between a safety switch and ordinary fuses and circuit breakers.

Safety switches are designed to protect you and your family against electrocution from Active to Earth faults, which are the most common form of electricity fatality. They are not a simple fuse or circuit breaker.

Fuses and circuit breakers are designed to prevent electrical circuits from overloading. They protect property, not people. Fuses and circuit breakers do not provide adequate protection against electric shock because the amount of current, which will injure or kill a normal adult, is so small that they may not detect the problem until the damage is done.

The severity of an electric shock is determined mainly by the amount of current flowing through the body and the time the current flows before it is cut off.

A safety switch cuts off the power supply when the current to Earth exceeds 30 thousandths of an ampere, a miniscule amount when you consider that many power tools, portable heaters, and so on use up to 10 amperes.

How quickly is the current cut off?

Within 30 thousandths of a second, about a thirtieth of the time taken for a single heartbeat, or the click of your fingers! That’s pretty quick.

There’s another way a safety switch can give you peace of mind: many horrific fires, caused by poorly fitted or degraded wiring, could have been prevented by one. If you decide to install a safety switch, also consider upgrading your porcelain fuses with modern efficient circuit breakers.

In fact, this would be a good time to do away with your old switchboard and fuses and replace it with a new moulded switchboard, to house your safety switch and circuit breakers.
What to do when your safety switch trips... top of page
We often get calls from customers who have suddenly lost their power and think that expensive electrical repairs are imminent. Relax! It could just be your safety switch telling you it’s time to buy a new hairdryer.

It is statistically proven that 95% of safety switch tripping occurrences happen at the exact moment your favourite footy team is about to kick the winning goal*. This usually means it has detected a faulty appliance and, in its infinite wisdom, has shut off the electricity.

To find out which appliance it is, turn off and unplug every electrical appliance you have, remembering your fridge and heating system. Then turn your safety switch back on and plug in your appliances one at a time. The offending appliance should once again trip the switch, in which case you need to get it repaired or replaced. Remember, your appliance does not necessarily need to be switched on to trip the switch (though it may).

If, however, you can’t find the cause, you may well be looking at a wiring problem, in which case you will need to contact an electrical contractor.
Trouble with your irrigation valves top of page
If you are having problems with irrigation valves intermittently stopping you may have a fault in the underground solenoid wiring.

We can locate and repair it for you.

Many people believe a bit insulation tape around a damaged 24 volt AC solenoid cable will do the job.

Be warned short term this is a great fix but over time and sometimes in weeks moisture will get into the cable and so your intermittent problems begin.

These repairs need to be carried out correctly from the start. We find lots of faults on cables that some one has already incorrectly repaired previously.
Fluorescent lighting  
Did you know that fluorescent light tubes drop off to about half brightness after twelve to eighteen months of use depending on the amount of hours they have been on for?
Tips on how to lighten your energy bill top of page
  • Use fluorescent and compact fluorescent lights in regularly lit areas.
  • Use daylight wherever possible and turn-off lights when you leave a room.
  • Dimmer switches can save energy but beware, a light dimmed down to one quarter of its input still uses half the energy. If you need to dim consistently, put in a lower wattage globe. Note that in most instances dimmer switches cannot be used with compact fluorescent lights.
  • Instead of having a security light on all of the time, install a movement sensitive light that switches itself on when it detects movement and off again after a short time.
  • Choose lightshades of light colours so they don’t absorb light. Dust and dirt also absorb light so keep them clean.
  • Lights which hold multiple globes are less efficient than those with a single globe. 6x25W globes are needed to provide the same light as one 100W globe.
  • Recessed lights must be vented, so they allow warm air to escape through the roof in winter, adding to your heating bills.
  • Use "task" lighting rather than whole room lighting when a small amount of light is required.
Getting the best results from your lighting  
  • The layout of your room and the colour of your décor will affect just how much light you get from your energy dollar. Light coloured surfaces reflect and distribute light whereas dark surfaces absorb it.
  • Make the best use of lighting by using low background lights for normal use and supplement these with task lighting like reading lights, down lights and fluorescent tubes only when you need them.
Questions & Answers top of page

Q Can I put a compact fluorescent lamp into my existing light fitting?
A Yes. Compact fluorescent lights come with bayonet or edison screw bases, so they can be used instead of incandescent light globes in existing light fittings. Note that the higher wattage fluorescents are longer than globes, so you need to consider this too.

Q Can I use a compact fluorescent lamp with a dimming switch?
A In most instances this type of lamp is not suitable as dimming will cause lamp failure. If you use a dimmer most of the time, you could replace the lights with lower wattage ones and save more money and energy that way.

Q Do low voltage lights costs less to run?
A No. You pay for electricity by the wattage of the lamp not its voltage. It will therefore cost the same amount to run a 50W low voltage lamp as it does to run a 50W normal voltage lamp.

Q Is it more expensive to turn a fluorescent lamp off than leave it on ?
A It costs more to start a fluorescent lamp than it does to run it. However, this increased start-up current is only microseconds long and therefore the first second the lamp is off will more than pay for the start-up. Frequent switching on and off of a fluorescent light will reduce its lifetime and therefore should be avoided.

Q What lighting do I need for my house?
A In general, areas which require lighting for longer periods, such as kitchens and living rooms, are best lit with fluorescent lights. For areas such as bathrooms, toilets and other places where lighting is only used for short periods, your best option is a normal incandescent globe (although fluorescent lights can still be used).

Q Are heat lamps expensive to run?
A Heat lamps use radiant heat to warm a person directly underneath the lamp while he or she is in the bathroom. If used only when required it is an economical form of heating a bathroom. If used unnecessarily or for longer periods, however, it can become expensive to run. Try to avoid excess or unnecessary use.

Q Is lighting a major part of my home's energy consumption?
A Lighting typically accounts for around 6% of your total energy use and 16% of greenhouse gas emissions, so it's important to use the most efficient lighting you can.

Q What are halogen lights?
A Halogen globes are a form of incandescent light and are best used for special "spot" lighting purposes.

Q I leave my hallway light on for long periods – what lighting should I use?
A Fluorescent lighting is best suited to areas which are lit for long periods such as hallways, kitchens and family rooms or you can also purchase low-wattage low-light LED's that plug into a powerpoint.

Q Do dimmers save energy?
A Dimmer switches can save energy but beware, a light dimmed to one quarter of its input still uses half the energy. If you need to dim consistently, put in a lower wattage globe.

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