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The importance of RCD Protection

When we visit our clients homes, we always advise on general electrical safety. It is part of our service and commitment to make homes in and around Hertfordshire electrically safer.

One recommendation we always give to our clients is to have an RCD fitted in their home if they do not already have one in place.

What is RCD Protection?

RCD stands for Residual Current Device and is fitted as standard to all new consumer unit (fuse box) installations. It is a sensitive switching device that quickly turns off electricity when danger arises to reduce the risk of death or serious injury.

The electricity is turned off in a fraction of a second and is far quicker and reliable than breakers and fuses. An RCD activates if you accidentally touch a live cable which could one day save your life. Electricity is not something we think about on a daily basis, particularly if we believe that everything is OK. It is easy to become complacent and that is where the job of the RCD comes in to play. We can all make a simple error, but don’t let it cost you your life.

Why is an RCD so important?

RCD protection is a ground breaking development and has been responsible for saving many lives and preventing serious injuries. However, there is still more to be done as there are many homes in the UK which are still without any form of RCD protection. Clearly more needs to be done to inform householders on the dangers of electricity!

Our recommendation from us here at Fulcher Edwards is to have an EICR carried out in your home by an electrical contractor in your area. Following the electrician carrying out a thorough investigation on the condition of your home electrical installation, you will receive a report and recommendations which will keep your home in optimum electrical safety. If you currently have no RCD protection, this will form one of the recommendations in the report.

Remember that RCD protection must be installed by a domestic electrician who will ensure that the new consumer unit is fitted safely and correctly and the RCD is working as it should be.

The RCD in the above photo is from a house in St Albans which we carried out works on. This RCD in particular protects all of the small power circuits in the kitchen and office area plus the electric underfloor heating, which is required by the 17th edition of regulation to have additional protection provided by RCD.

The information notice is also a requirement to make the occupiers aware that RCDs should be tested quarterly and also provides instruction on how to test the device.

Other things you can do to stay safe

If you are looking at lower cost ways to keep safe, you may like to consider plug in RCD protection. Plug in RCD protection costs as little as £10 on the High Street and the advantage of plug in RCDs are that you can plug in any type of electrical appliance anywhere in your home due to its portable nature. Commonly they are used in the garden to power appliances such as lawn mowers and hedge trimmers. This is because there is a higher chance of an accident occurring – you could accidentally cut through the cable.
It is worth bearing in mind that plug in RCD protectors only protect the appliance and the person using it.

Electricians will also carry out electrical work for you if you find the cost too high for a new consumer unit. This can include the fitting of RCD sockets in your home. By having a more permanent method of RCD protection installed, you will have peace of mind against the two biggest causes of electrical shock:

Using appliances that are faulty
Cutting or drilling through cables

Lastly, simply carrying out your own visual check of your electrics and appliances can be a life saver. Don’t use any appliances, lights or switches that are faulty or have visible damage such as bare cable showing, cracks, breaks or other damage. Taking a few minutes on a regular basis can really be the difference between life and death.

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The Dangers of Electrical DIY

Electrical DIY remains a big danger in the UK with electricity killing and injuring 1000’s of people each year Many people die needlessly by taking dangerous risks with electricity which could have been dealt with safely by a qualified and registered electrician.

What is electrical DIY?

Electrical DIY by it’s very name can mean anything from changing a socket to bigger, riskier jobs such as rewiring parts of your home. Most electrical work in your home is subject to Part P regulations which means that it is illegal to carry out work in your home without being Part P registered.

As a general rule, you can carry out basic electrical jobs like changing your plug sockets for like for like, however if you are considering electrical work in your home, we recommend that you do not attempt the work yourself. Here at Fulcher Edwards we see every week the problems that DIY work causes. Even a simple job can cause damage to the wiring within your home which would lead to expensive repair work and this alone could become more costly than a qualified and registered electrician doing the job in the first place!

The dangers of DIY

DIY electrical work worries us for several reasons. Firstly it’s the safety aspect. Many people assume that just because the lights are working that everything must be ok. In many cases this is not the case. Electrical fire is currently the biggest cause of house fires in the UK, and in many cases it is bad electrics that are the cause. DIY electrical work is often blamed for these fires because of the way the fires begin.

A common cause of electrical fire is the overheating of cable where the wrong sized cable has been used. Cable has also been positioned incorrectly and the heat from it can cause fire in lofts, joists and inside walls.

The other concern is the lack of testing that takes place beforehand. Work carried out by an electrician is tested to ensure it is safe before it is switched on. There is no way of knowing if DIY electrical work is safe. DIY or bad electrical work doesn’t always kill you instantly either. It can be a number of years before the result of bad electrics catches up with you, and the fact of the matter is you don’t know when that will be.

Are you worried about DIY electrical work you have done?

The first thing to know is you are not alone and we won’t preach to you about how dangerous it is! As electricians in Hertfordshire we rectify DIY jobs on a daily basis and ensure your property is left electrically safe.

Of course it can be difficult to know exactly what you have done electrically over the years, so a good starting point is for a qualified and registered electrician to come and carry out an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) which will identify any areas in your home which are an electrical risk.

As a householder, you will then be making an informed decision about repairing DIY electrical work.

If you get into difficulty with DIY work

Stop working immediately and contact a qualified and registered electrician. It is better to do this sooner rather than later as electrical damage can be costly to repair if it is badly damaged. Never attempt to make ‘bodge’ repairs just to get the lights back on. This will leave you and your family at risk of electrical fire, injury or worse.

An electrician will inspect the work, and carry out the necessary remedial works to ensure your home is electrically safe.

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Why Use an NICEIC Registered Electrician?

Here at Fulcher Edwards, we find that the majority of our customers don’t understand what Part P registered actually means. However most customers have heard of the NICEIC and feel they should look for these ‘letters’ when searching for an electrician.

Whilst the true meaning of what the NICEIC does never means very much to the general public in 90% of cases, it is actually known for being a mark of quality and that a safe, high standard of workmanship will be achieved by the registered electrician. This can be a huge peace of mind for customers when searching for the right electrician, and takes out the need of understanding what the Part P building regulation means.

Why are we NICEIC registered electricians at Fulcher Edwards?

So why have we always been and always will be NICEIC Registered electricians? Quite simply, it is for our customers peace of mind, not just for the fact they recognise the NICEIC as a mark of quality but also for our belief in each and every job being carried out to the same high standard and ensuring customer satisfaction.

The reason why Fulcher Edwards was set up back in 1981 was to fill a gap in the domestic market. As electricians with several years experience it frustrated us to see the lack of care and attention to electrical work being carried out in peoples homes. It is our goal to provide a comprehensive electrical service that is friendly, efficient and geared towards helping home owners and businesses in Hertfordshire, London and all areas within the M25.

Why use an NICEIC registered electrician?

Another great reason why we would always advise using an electrician who is registered with the NICEIC is that the electrical inspections are thorough, stringent and really test our electrical knowledge. If you use an NICEIC registered electrician, you will be sure of a safe standard of work from a person who takes genuine pride in what they do.

Another good reason is the customer protection you will receive. All electrical work we do carries a 6 year warranty which is backed by the NICEIC.

Quality workmanship and a friendly manner are all part of the service here at Fulcher Edwards.

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Keeping your home safe from electricity this Bank Holiday

I think most people would agree that we take electricity for granted and forget the damage it can cause if not treated with care. Electricity can kill, can give you an electric shock and it can also cause a fire.

Below are some guidance notes on electrical appliance safety that every homeowner should follow to help protect there family and home from a fire:

1) Check your sockets on a regular basis to see if they feel hot and if there are any burn marks. A registered electrician can check for you to see if they need repairing or replacing.

2) Regularly check the flexible cables on all your appliances for damage, such as fraying and general wear and tear. Then check to see that the cable is fastened securely to the plug. If any appliances show any sign of the above then stop using them until they are repaired. Checks should always be carried out before you plug any appliance into a socket.

3) Do you know how old your wiring is? Electrical installations should be checked at least every 10 years in a house and when you move into a new home. Look at it as an MOT for your home, the same reason you have your car checked. If you live in rented accommodation, the electrical installation and appliances provided are the landlord’s responsibility. You have the right to ask to see a copy of the certificate or report confirming that the installation meets the UK national standard BS 7671 so you know how safe they are.

4) Check the current rating of an electrical adaptor before you plug appliances into one. Always make sure that the total current used by the appliances are not more than the adaptor’s rating.

5) Turn off any electrical appliances like TVs, computers and hairdryers that you are not using, especially at night as this is when a fire can spread quickly and cause more damage. This also helps you save energy and will help reduce your electricity bill.

6) Always take care when using hand-held electrical appliances and switch them off and unplug them when you have finished using them. This is particularly important if you have items that can get very hot like hair straighteners, hairdryers and curling tongs which, if left on can easily cause a fire by being in contact with any flammable material that they are in contact with.

Things You Shouldn’t Do!

1) Don’t use a bulb with a higher wattage than the one printed on the light fitting or lamp shade you are using.

2) Never cover the air vents on fan heaters or storage heaters.

3) Don’t overload electrical adaptors by plugging too many appliances in to one socket especially appliances like kettles, heaters and irons as they have a high electrical current. A registered electrician can install extra sockets for you which would be much safer.

4) Never let flexible cables trail under rugs or carpets.

5) Do not dry clothes on electric heaters or place it near curtains or furniture.

Get A Smoke Alarm!

If a fire starts in your home, a smoke alarm will give you the valuable time you need to escape. Its important to check yours regularly as someone is twice as likely to die in a house fire if your smoke alarm does not work. Speak to your local Fire Brigade as they may be able to install one for you free of charge as part of there free home fire risk check. Alternatively, contact your local electrician to find out if installing smoke alarms if a service they can provide. Here at Fulcher Edwards we are an Aico approved smoke and Co2 alarm installer, we can also provide maintenance to your homes smoke alarm.

Remember that electricity can kill, so you should always follow advice on electrical safety as it could save your life!

 

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Identifying electrical safety in your student accommodation

Electrical safety can range from niggly problems such as the electric tripping just as you’re about to save your work, to serious electrical issues that could result in electrical injury or even death.

Choosing the safest university housing

It will soon become apparent if there is a problem with your student housing. The unfortunate reality is that once you have signed the tenancy agreement, it will become a lot more difficult to rectify the issue in the future. It is far easier to be aware of potential pitfalls before making the final decision on which housing to opt for.

 

Therefore we recommend you always ask to see the EICR certificate and evidence of PAT testing before signing the tenancy agreement.

What to look out for

Dangerous electrics at best can be a menace. In the worst instance it can kill. When viewing the property there are often tell tale signs that the electrics are not in the best of conditions. An over reliance of extension leads is a tell tale sign that there are not enough electric sockets in the rooms concerned. Too few sockets is a sign of dated electrics and there could well be other problems. Pay attention to how the current tenants are living and the condition of the other electric fittings such as switches and sockets. Signs of discolouration, metal backed sockets and broken fittings are all signs that the electrics need some attention.

An over reliance of extension leads can cause overheating and house fires. It is not worth risking your equipment and essentially your life on a property with outdated electrics which could be potentially dangerous.

How safe might the electrics be?

With electricity, everything is neatly hidden away. Therefore it is tricky to tell if there is a problem with the electrics when on the surface they look good. The only way of knowing is if a qualified and registered electrician carries out an electrical safety inspection on the property electrics. This is known as an EICR. If the property is satisfactory then a certificate is issued to confirm this. As the tenant, it is important you ask to view this certificate.

The recommendations are for landlords to carry out an EICR every 5 years or with every change of tenant. Although it is not the law to have an EICR carried out, landlords must still show how they ensure the electrical safety of their tenants. Most reputable landlords carry out an EICR on their property.

What about electrical appliances supplied at the property?

Whilst it can be quite handy to have a washing machine and fridge freezer ready to use in your property, it is important that the appliances are actually safe to use. Faulty or dangerous appliances can cause fire or electric shock. Landlords who supply electrical equipment should have the equipment PAT tested regularly to ensure that the equipment remains safe to use.

Electricity can and does kill – statistics from Electrical Safety First show that 27 people every week are killed or injured by electricity. Ensuring that your property will be electrically safe is the best thing you can do prior to moving into your student property.

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Are you charging your phone safely?

A mistake that perhaps many of us are guilty of making is the way we charge our phones. Phone batteries are known for going flat at the most annoying of times. The most sensible way of charging a phone is on a worktop away from wet areas or soft furnishings. However this can also mean that you might miss an important phone call or can’t continue with that live chat in comfort!

Inadvertently this can lead to dangerous methods of phone charging which leaves the phone at risk of overheating and causing a fire.  In the past there have been cases of housefires which were caused by the householder charging their phone under a pillow. Whilst this situation could easily be rectified, we reckon that lots of people are guilty of charging their phone under their pillow without realising how dangerous this could be.

When phone charging can become dangerous

As electricians in Hertfordshire we are seeing increasing electrical jobs where we are repairing electrical damage caused by using the wrong type of charger when charging items such as smartphones. Typically this is when universal chargers are being used which are not compatible with the type of phone being charged.

When the wrong charger is used, it can cause expensive damage to the phone itself and your home electrics. It can even start a house fire or explode leaving you with serious burns. The socket quickly overheats and damages the wiring within the wall. This is why we do not recommend the use of universal chargers for any electrical device.

We recently attended a fire damaged property in Hertfordshire which was believed to be caused by a faulty phone charger. You can see from the photos on the right the level of damage which can be caused by simply using a faulty or incompatible phone charger.

Charge your phone on a hard surface

Charging using a genuine phone charger is safe so long as the manufacturers instructions are followed. However this doesn’t rule out an electrical fault developing which could still result in a fire. This is why it is important that you charge your phone in a sensible location at all times. If the worst does happen and a fire occurs when charging, the fire is unlikely to spread as quickly if the phone is situated on a hard surface such as a table top. Soft furnishings such as bedding, cushions, and rugs can often act as fuel to the fire which can quickly spread to other areas including wiring inside walls.

If you suspect electrical damage has been caused by using an incorrect charger, please contact a qualified and registered electrician as soon as possible.

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Understanding your Fuse Board

Fuse boards are known within the electrical industry as consumer units, however many of our clients still refer to them as fuse boards, so to keep things nice and simple, we will refer to consumer units as fuse boards within our article.

Your fuse board is the hub of your home electrical system, so it is important that you have a basic understanding of how it works. Should your lights trip or you need to test your RCD or worse still an electrical emergency occurs, you will know what you need to do.

It is better to prepare yourself in advance rather than panic should an incident occur.

Your fuse board should be accessible

Firstly, it is important that your fuse board is easy to access. Commonly fuse boards are located in outside cupboards, under stairs cupboards or hallway locations. Ideally you should be able to safely reach it. Avoid storing items around the fuse board, which can make it difficult to access should you need to. If your lights do go off in your home, the last thing you need to be doing is trying to move things around in order to find the fuse board!

Fuse board basics

There are three things that are useful to know about which you will find on your fuse board:

Main Switch
Residual Current Devices (RCD)
Circuit Breakers (or fuses)

Next, we will explain in more detail what each item does and how it keeps you safe.

Main Switch

As the name suggests, the mains switch allows you to turn off the electricity supply to your home. It is worth familiarising yourself with the main switch in your fuse board as this is what you will need to use in an emergency. Some homes will have more than one mains switch, for example if you have electric storage heaters, in which case you may have more than one fuse board. The mains switch is the large red switch located on the left hand side.

Residual Current Devices (RCD)

The RCD trips a dangerous circuit by disconnecting the electrical supply instantly. It’s action is far quicker than fuses or circuit breakers which only offer limited protection. In our opinion, every home should have RCD protection.

If your home has RCD protection, you will find the RCD test button on your fuse board. The button will be clearly marked with ‘T’ or Test. To ensure the RCD protection remains activated, it should be tested at least every 3 months. Pressing the Test button should activate the RCD instantly. If the electricity does not switch off, this indicates a problem, and you need to consult a domestic electrician in your local area.

Circuit Breakers

These are protection devices found in your fuse board that switch off a circuit if a fault develops. They are a similar size to fuses and are found in a row across the centre of your fuse board. They also offer more precise protection than a fuse. Should a fault occur the fuse ‘trips’ by turning the switch ‘off’. Should a trip occur, simply look at your fuse board to see which switch is ‘off’ and simply switch it back on to reset it. However if the trip is a persistent problem, it is worth contacting an electrical contractor to take a look.

Older Fuse Boards

Older fuse boards may have re-wirable fuses in place or circuit breakers. Re-wirable fuses have special wire that runs between screws. If a fault develops it burns and melts the wire which disconnects the circuit.

If your fuse board has a wooden back, cast iron switches or a mixture of fuses it is likely to require a replacement to ensure your electrical safety in your home is not compromised.

We always recommend upgrading your fuse board to one which has RCD protection even if your fuse board is more modern than what we have suggested above!

Remember a replacement consumer unit must be installed by a qualified electrician. Here at Fulcher Edwards we are committed to your safety and would always recommend that you consult a qualified electrician if you have any concerns about your electricity.

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Test it Tuesday

Did you know that if you have a working smoke alarm, you are half as likely to die in a house fire?
Unfortunately many of those who have a smoke alarm don’t test it very often if at all.

The recommendation is to test your smoke alarm on a weekly basis and try and build the testing into your routine so that you don’t forget. We have called our blog today ‘test it Tuesday’ as Tuesdays are fast becoming a good day to test your smoke alarm thanks to growing publicity surrounding the catchy name. It is very simple to test a smoke alarm, simply press the ‘test’ button for a few seconds and the smoke alarm will emit a high pitched beep. This means all is OK and the smoke alarm should alert you in the event of a fire in your home. If you do not hear a beep then, this normally means the batteries need replacing or in the case of a mains powered smoke alarm, it will need a qualified electrician to come and take a look at it. It is better to discover a problem during testing than to risk the alarm not alerting you in the event of a house fire.

If the smoke alarm is located too far out of reach, rather than stand on a chair, use a broom handle to test it, this is much safer. Never be tempted to take the batteries out of a smoke alarm to stop it from beeping during cooking or if steam from your shower gets in the way or for any other reason. Many people who do this forget to replace the batteries afterwards and this leaves them with no way of being alerted in the event of a fire. If your smoke alarm is beeping when carrying out routine household tasks such as cooking the dinner, this normally means your smoke alarm is not situated in the best place in your home. At Fulcher Edwards we offer a design, installation and testing service for smoke detectors. This means that not only do we ensure your smoke alarms are situated in the best locations within your home, they will also comply with current British standards. We offer these services to both householders and businesses large and small in and around Hertfordshire.

There are two types of smoke alarm, either battery or mains powered. Mains powered smoke detector systems are far more complex and need to be installed by a qualified electrician, battery powered smoke alarms are a cheaper option, however the importance to test weekly is paramount as the battery is the only source of power the alarm will have to alert you of a fire. Most newer fire alarm models now have a 10 year life with an in built battery meaning it is not possible to remove the battery this is why it is important to choose the right location in your home for your fire alarms. Your local fire service may be able to assist with locating your battery powered smoke alarms.

It is important to keep fire alarms free of dust in order for them to work to their best. A simple hoover nozzle used to clean the vents is normally sufficient every few weeks.

It is also a good idea to talk to your family and discuss what the best route from your home would be in the event of a fire blocking the main entrances to your home (i.e. front and back door.) Ideally a way of leaving the house via an upstairs window is a good plan to have and is often known as the ‘Plan B Route.’ This would be an upstairs window which opens out full length to enable an easy exit perhaps onto a roof further below such as a porch or conservatory roof. Always remember to leave a window key in the same room. Many householders don’t consider of alternative ways to leave their home in a fire, however it is important to know what to do should the situation occur.

So remember Test-it Tuesday, and don’t forget to test your smoke alarms in your home and business today.

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Light Up Your Garden

Believe it not, it would seem that we are actually having a Summer this year! If your lucky to have one, your no doubt making the most of your garden at the moment with plenty of BBQ’s with family and friends that probably continue late into the evening. This time of year your garden is an extension of your home so why not take the time to decorate it like you would your lounge or kitchen? By this we mean with lights and not just by having one to light up the garden to help you see, but by using them to make a feature of your garden.

There are different types of lighting designs available that would enhance any type of garden whatever size it may be. Just by adding lighting to your walls, trees, shrubs, patio, decking, steps, pond or summerhouse will instantly bring your garden to life.

There are many types of styles and effects you can choose from for your front or rear garden, ranging from traditional, contemporary to eco-friendly and you don’t necessarily need to light every area of your garden or spend a fortune to create a great effect.

Below are the different type of effects available to add that wow factor to your garden:

Uplighting
This is when lighting is placed at ground level by placing a light at the base of a tree, shrub or garden building which creates dramatic effects by giving depth and contour.

Water Lighting
This is when lighting is placed in or around a water feature such as a pond. Water is great for acting as a natural mirror and adding beautiful reflections.

Downlighting
This works well when it is used to focus on a particular feature or plant as it can produce some wonderful shadows. This type of effect can also double up as a security feature too if used on a doorway of a building.

Shadowing
This effect can be achieved when placing light in front of a particular object like a statue where it will illuminate it. This works even better if there is a wall or building nearby.

Step/Path Lighting
This type of lighting is usually at low level and helps make the area safe and creates an interest as to where does a particular path or step lead to.

Cross Lighting
This is when lighting hits a particular object from both sides, which adds a softness to the lighting. This works well on benches.

Washing
This type of lighting creates a soft glow effect by placing light at the base of a wall or hedge so that it washes over the surface of them.

Moonlighting
This type of lighting is very effective and provides a romantic feel. This is done by placing and positioning a light in a tree for instance, where the light will be broken up, which then creates a dappled effect on the ground.

Most people think that only landscape gardeners can carry out these type of works, however some electrical services companies do have there own design team who can discuss your ideas, order suitable lights and install them for you and you will still gain the same results. However if you would prefer to use a landscape gardening company, its worth checking with your electricians before searching, as they may work closely with some already. By doing this you not only get a recommendation but the electrical works will be carried out by a company you already know and trust.

Deck lights, rope lights, sensor lights, LED and even security lights are just some of the many different lights on offer to you that can be used, so why not think about updating your garden and adding that wow factor while the summer season is upon us and enjoy it for many more years to come!

 

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Electrical Safety Advice For Your Holiday

It’s that time of year again when we all look forward to jet setting off to a hot destination for some well deserved chill out time with friends or family. Even though your escaping the hustle and bustle of everyday life, electrical safety is something you need to stay very much on the ball with even whilst abroad. Some countries do not have the same safety regulations as we do in the UK so some vital checks should really be part of your holiday routine to keep you safe.

The Electrical Safety Council recommend a few vital checks when travelling abroad and how to keep safe when it comes to electrical appliances.

Your hotel room – check that:
•There are no bare wires that can be touched where electrical accessories have been removed or damaged
•Sockets and light switches are not damaged or have their covers missing
•Light bulbs are properly inserted into all light fittings and are not broken or cracked
•There are no trailing extension leads or overloaded sockets and never ignore the warning signs of burning smells, sounds of arcing (buzzing and crackling), fuses blowing or scorch marks on plugs and sockets

Bathrooms – check that:
•Electrical accessories cannot be touched whilst in the bath or shower

By the pool – check that:
•Electrical appliances are kept away from the water

On camp sites – check that:
•There is Residual Current Device (RCD) protection or a similar device that will cut off the supply if there is an electrical problem
•Flexible cables are positioned appropriately to prevent them being damaged
•Electrical appliances are stored in a dry place

Keeping yourself & your family safe is not difficult if you follow a few simple rules:

1.Never touch electrical equipment with wet hands.
2.Never touch light switches if they are cracked or show signs of damage.
3.Never plug equipment into a socket which looks damaged/cracked or has part or all of the cover missing.
4.Never use mains powered electrical appliances in a bathroom.
5.Always check that cables are securely attached to electrical equipment and are not cut, nicked or damaged in anyway. There should be no joints in the cable and certainly no repairs with insulating tape. Cables should also be checked for signs of overheating, such as discoloration.
6.Always check that the travel adaptor you are using is the correct type for the country in which you are travelling and never force it into a socket if it does not easily fit.

Wherever you are on holiday, no-one should have to compromise their safety so always report any electrical dangers to the person responsible. This could be your hotel rep, tour operator or the hotel manager. If the danger is not removed immediately, insist on it being moved.

These types of checks will put your mind at rest so you can really enjoy your break.  Fulcher Edwards wishes you all a safe and happy holiday!

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