A year into the 18th Edition of the BS 7671 - IET Wiring Regulations, Michael Kenyon says it is raising safety standards in surge protection, EV infrastructure and energy efficiency.
06 January 2020 | Michael Kenyon
Earlier this year, the UK became the first nation to enshrine into law the net-zero target, committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 100 per cent below 1990 levels in 2050.
To meet these obligations, drastic action will be needed to amend the way our buildings use energy. In particular, non-domestic buildings in the UK account for 17 per cent of our energy consumption and 12 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.
Greater use of electricity as a power source will be the cornerstone of meeting the UK's environmental obligations, presenting the electrical industry with opportunity to grow and diversify its income stream. However, the FM sector must first understand the 18th edition standard and the direction of travel its evolution is likely to take.
Green light for energy efficiency
As the first edition of wiring regulations to have a dedicated focus on energy efficiency - although part 8 of the 18th edition was later relegated to appendix 17 - it's expected to become a fundamental part of the next major amendment to BS 7671 in 2022.
Appendix 17 offers expert guidance on the lessening environmental impact of electrical installations, through measures such as replacing traditional standard filament, halogen and fluorescent lights with super-efficient LEDs as one of the easiest ways to cut energy costs.
Power factor correction is also covered as a sought-out energy-efficient measure that uses high-quality, reliable capacitors that compensate for any wasted reactive power demand, restoring power factor as near to unity as possible. In this way, power factor correction (PFC) units can achieve significantly reduced power consumption and CO2 emissions, along with lower electricity bills - another great revenue stream for electrical contractors.
It's likely that as appendix 17 develops into part 8, there will be greater guidance on where electronic equipment creates an unclean distorted electrical supply and can damage equipment by creating heat/overload.
Remember: Now is the time to refresh industry knowledge on existing guidelines.
A step up for fire safety
BS 7671 - IET Wiring Regulations has also furthered the standards of electrical safety, in particular addressing the risks of fire safety. For instance, one of the most significant recommendations in the 18th edition is that all new installations should be fitted with arc fault detection devices (AFDDs) to mitigate the risk of fire in final circuits from arc fault currents.
Since the 18th edition went live, the electrical industry has transitioned well to the new standard, with wholesalers now stocking AFDDs, surge protection devices (SPDs) as well as fire-resistant cable supports.
Surge in surge protection
Section 443.4 also sets out changes and guidance on protection against overvoltage, advising the use of SPDs in public sector buildings such as hospitals, where they could potentially save lives.
SPDs are being used to preserve the cultural heritage of historic buildings by reducing the risk of fire from overvoltages as well as minimising disruption to commercial activities in a number of industries.
Although not a new technology, SPDs have not been used as widely until the 18th edition, with section 443.5 introducing a new more complex risk assessment for electricians using such devices and leading to accreditation bodies such as NAPIT and NICEIC offering seminars on the practical application of this assessment.
The market has also responded, with manufacturers now selling 18th edition-compliant distribution boards readily installed with SPDs.
A bright future
As electrical safety faces its biggest shake-up in decades and amid the very real threat presented by climate change, energy efficiency will lead to a rapidly changing business landscape for FMs.
Realising the business opportunities this shift presents will require a best practice approach in which the industry invests time and resources to ensure compliance with the 18th edition and its anticipated updates.
Michael Kenyon is technical manager at H&S expert Bureau Veritas