A ‘creative contraption’ in a cupboard – take your time with the visual inspection
By Chris Koen, Regional Director, Highveld Region
When issuing a Certificate of Compliance, it is imperative that you take your time when performing the inspection in accordance with SANS 10142-1 when completing Section 4 of the Certificate of Compliance. And it is just as important that you take care when you trace the circuits – because you could just easily miss some innovative ‘devices’ hidden in cupboards and dark corners.
Before I go there, let’s first look at the latest edition of SANS 10142-1 (Edition 2), which states:
- Earth leakage protection
- Except as allowed in 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206, non-auto-reclosing earth leakage protection shall be provided
- In a new installation for circuits that supply SANS 164-1 or SANS 164-2 type socket-outlets
- In an existing installation for all the circuits that supply socket-outlets when any such circuit or circuits are rewired or extended.
Note: It is recommended that earth leakage protection be installed in all circuits that supply socket-outlets in an existing installation.
- In circuits supplying water heaters
When is earth leakage protection not required? Let’s go to Clause 220.127.116.11:
18.104.22.168. The following do not need earth leakage protection:
- socket-outlets connected to a safety supply, but see (See Regulation 22.214.171.124 and 7.12
- a socket-outlet that complies with SANS 164-4 [plug and socket-outlet systems for household and similar purposes for use in South-Africa, Part 4, Dedicated system 16 A 250 V ac, i.e. a red dedicated 16 A adaptor] and that is intended only for the connection of an appliance for critical application (such as emergency lighting, a deep-freeze, a burglar alarm, data processing equipment, or life-supporting equipment);
- circuits that supply fixed socket outlets positioned out of normal reach, rated at less than 16 A and intended for the connection of luminaires (see 126.96.36.199); and
- A stove coupler that complies with SANS 60309-1 and of dimensions as given in SANS 337 (see 188.8.131.52.5).
Now that we know what the regulations say, let’s look at this scenario:
A homeowner called in a qualified Installation Electrician to sort out some nuisance tripping at his house. The homeowner said he had a Certificate of Compliance that had recently been issued by an “Installation Electrician”. He said he had paid R350 for the CoC and that it had taken “less than an hour” for the “electrician” to complete all the tests, inspection and issue the CoC.
The IE performed the inspection as required in section 4 of the Certificate of Compliance. One of the circuits puzzled him, and as he traced the suspect circuit, he found what can only be called a ‘contraption’ inside a cupboard. He examined the “dedicated adaptor” and tried to remove it but, to his amazement, discovered that this was not possible.
He found that the installer of the ‘contraption’ had made use of an adaptor rated at 16 A, which he had permanently fixed to the double socket-outlet by means of self-tapping screws – and there were no shutters on the adaptor and socket-outlet.
Photo 1 shows what the IE found: an adaptor socket-outlet creatively coloured in blue and one coloured in red/pink socket-outlet (using felt-tip pens). The red/pink socket-outlet was used for the dedicated system (alarm) in this electrical installation. The blue adaptor socket-outlet was used for normal earth leakage protected circuit.
The IE opened the socket-outlet to have a closer look and found that the adaptor’s earth pin was cut off, which meant that there was no earth for the blue normal earth leakage protected socket-outlet (photo 2).
There was another surprise when he examined the wiring at the back. He found that the neutral connection was made with a cable tie – and a cable tie was also used to connect the live red wire (photo 3).
Insulation tape was wound around the pin of the adaptor, and he found several types of wire in various sizes and in the wrong colours. This circuit fed from the distribution board protected by an earth leakage. The red/pink socket-outlet (dedicated for the alarm) had an earth connected and was protected by the earth leakage.
This is why it is so important for electricians to always perform the inspection according to SANS 10142-1 when issuing CoCs. Remember, take your time to trace all the circuits – you never know what could be lurking inside cupboards.