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Testing & Inspection

Periodic inspection and testing is necessary because all electrical installations deteriorate over time, due to factors such as damage, ageing, corrosion, electrical overloading, etc. The purpose of inspection and testing is to provide a view as to whether the installation is in a satisfactory condition such that it can continue to be used safely.

What is done during the inspection?

Testing a socketFor a residential property, the inspection typically involves inspecting the incoming supply, the earthing/bonding arrangements, the consumer unit, and the circuits to socket outlets, lamps and switches, and other electrical equipment. A percentage of outlets, lamps and switches will be opened or removed for inspection, the number depending on the condition of the installation. Testing includes measuring continuity of the protective bonding conductors (the earth wires), the insulation resistance of the cables, the earth fault loop impedance, checking correct polarity, and correct RCD operation.

In order to carry out the inspection and testing, this will require the power to be switched off at times. Access will be required to all areas of the property that are covered by the electrical installation being tested. Limitations may be agreed, for example not to inspect in a particular area, or not to dismantle certain fittings such as fitted units or cabinets.

If any faults are found during the inspection or testing that present an immediate danger then the fault can be made safe by either a repair (permanent or temporary) or by switching off the circuit in question. Simple faults such as loose connections that can easily be corrected are normally fixed free of charge.

The time needed depends on the size of the property and number of circuits. For a typical 2 to 4 bedroom house with an installation in reasonable good condition, a periodic inspection and test will take between half and a full day when done properly, depending on the number of circuits.

How often should this be done?

The time interval between inspection and testing depends on the type of installation and its use. For general domestic accommodation, a maximum of 10 years is recommended, or at a change of occupancy, while for rented houses and flats, a maximum of 5 years or change of occupancy. Premises open to the public tend to require more frequent inspection and testing, in some cases, this should be as often as every year.

There may also be other reasons for inspection and testing to be done outside of these timescales, for example if required for insurance or mortgage purposes, for local authority licensing, or if there is suspected damage due to flooding or rodents.

If you are buying a house, you may have been asked to have this done on your new property – if not, you should seriously consider it. Compare it to an independent inspection on a car you are thinking of buying – as well as peace of mind, you have the opportunity to ask the seller to put any problems right, or reduce the sale price to cover the cost of any remedial work.

Costs and Outcome

The cost will depend on the size of the property, the number of circuits, and the condition of the installation. Typical prices to do this properly are around £120 for a 2-bedroom house, £140 for a 3-bedroom house, and £160 for a 4 bedroom house.

The outcome is an Electrical Installation Condition Report or EICR (previously known as a Periodic Inspection Report, or PIR) on the condition of the installation at the time of the test, typically a two-page summary, a two-page checklist of items inspected, and one or more pages of test results (one set of test results for each consumer unit or fuse board). If there are any areas of deterioration or deviations from the wiring regulations, these will be identified.

The wiring should at least meet the regulations that were applicable at the time of installation – these have changed over time, for example most sockets installed now should have RCD protection – this is a moderately recent requirement. Deviations of this kind, which were OK at the time, but could not be installed now, are marked as recommendations for improvement.

The report can be supplied on paper or as an electronic version (or both) as preferred.

This periodic inspection and testing should not be confused with Portable Appliance Testing (also known as PAT testing), which is conducted on the appliances. PAT testing is done to ensure the appliances are safe to use, rather than the building's electrical installation.

Croft Electric offers a full electrical inspection and testing service, with testing carried out to BS7671, for residential premises and offices, shops, restaurants and similar installations. Disruption can be kept to a minimum, and if needed, the inspection and testing can be scheduled for a weekend or evening, though ideally it should be conducted in daylight hours.

Contact Croft Electric if you require any guidance on any aspect of inspection or testing, or for a free estimate.