Update Your Lighting

Posted on: 11 August 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Learn how to update your lighting and fit additional power sockets.

Expectations with regard to lighting have changed tremendously in recent years. Gone are the days of dim rooms and dark corners. We expect bright lights and well-illuminated rooms. So how does one upgrade lighting?

The first point to make is don’t just change out ‘standard’ ceiling roses - that's the round fitting with the dangling wire - for halogen fittings. Halogen lights are very popular, look attractive and are good at providing illumination for specific areas but they are not good at providing general purpose or background lighting. In many cases think in terms of using halogen lights in addition to the ‘normal’ lighting, particularly in work areas such as kitchens.

Secondly if you have any concern about power bills, and given recent price rises many do, then do remember it is quite easy to install lighting that is expensive to run. 2000 watts of kitchen lighting is not that uncommon and that’s the same as a running fan heater on high.

Thirdly if your house is pre-1970 check out the existing cabling. There are still a lot of older houses with no ‘earth’ cable on the lighting circuit. The way to find out is to turn off the power, unscrew a ceiling rose and look for a green or green/yellow sleeved wire, or in even older properties bare copper. If there isn’t one and only black and reds then you cannot fit a light that is made of metal as these generally need earthing. If you are desperate for that metal fitting then an earth cable will need to be run to the lighting point; relatively easy in bedrooms of houses but not so simple downstairs or in flats.

If you are doing the work yourself do remember many ‘feature’ lights come with a simple connector for one cable and the typical ceiling rose is used as a junction box for 3 or more cables. If in doubt call an electrician to do the fitting. It’s usually about an hour’s work.

Finally do remember that energy saving bulbs can both reduce costs and help with the environment. I do have to agree that they do not always produce the best light and can be downright ugly but do use them where it is practical to do so.

Power Sockets

The number of electrical gadgets in homes continues to increase and to power them many of us find we need additional power sockets. Older houses are particularly susceptible to the ‘not enough sockets’ syndrome and modern properties built to strict budgetary limits can also need additional points installing. Before undertaking the fitting of an additional socket a few points need considering:

  • If what you have is a single socket that needs making into a double, or a double to a triple, a simple replacement ‘converter’ can be fitted that negates the need to change the backing box in the wall.
  • Does the work need approval under Part P of the building regulations? The answer is yes only if the socket is in a kitchen, unless you are just fitting a converter. Most other areas don’t need specific approval so you could do the work yourself if you are so inclined and can do so safely. Remember sockets are not allowed in bathrooms.
  • Where is there an existing point that the new socket can be connected to and is it on a ring main? This point is what will drive the cost of the work.
    • If there is a point nearby or on the other side of the wall and that has two cables going to it the job is made a lot easier. Two cables usually means a ring main so this can either be extended or a spur run from it.
    • If the nearest point is a long way off, or it’s not on the ring main, then other and typically more expensive cabling will be required. Having floorboards helps. Modern houses typically have large sheet flooring which needs to be cut into. If the floor is downstairs and concrete then the cable may need ‘channelling’ into the wall.

If you don’t want to go through the upheaval then will a simple plug in extension suffice? The answer is yes in a surprising number of cases but do remember trailing leads can be a hazard, particularly for the more elderly.

Incidentally such is the volume of electrical items left in ‘standby’ mode in our homes that international standards are being planned to reduce the power such equipment takes. A University of Strathclyde study estimated that around 13 per cent of power requirements for homes is used to simply keep items such as televisions and computers on standby. Whilst this is mostly a concern for appliance manufacturers the average household could save £40 a year just by turning more equipment off when it’s not in use.

By Roger Runswick

Roger Runswick is a director of 50plus Handyman and a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers. 50plus Handyman provides a professional property maintenance service for householders and businesses, carried out by a mature workforce for people of all ages, offering experience and reliability to customers.

For further information visit http://www.the50plus.co.uk/

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