Plumbing you say, well yes, you see we all know that water and electrics don’t mix, I mean we are all told the stories of the death of someone who has taken a radio or a heater into a bathroom and for them to be electrocuted when the device has fallen into the bath.
When water gets into the wiring of an installation it can causes a short circuit where electric current can pass from the live wire to the neutral or earth wire which then either blows the fuse or pops the circuit breaker.
Well the emergency electrical call out I was sent to last week was a classic case of water in the electrics, the tenant described the fault as ‘the circuit breaker to the ground floor lighting circuit trips out, and then you can reset it but it trips again four or five minutes later’.
When I arrived on site I had noticed that the young lady had wet hair (and no I’m not commenting on her looks for salacious reasons; you will see that there is method in my madness later on) and that she was preparing to go out. I was pointed to the consumer unit but could not reset the circuit breaker.
The usual method to find a fault on a circuit is to divide the circuit and determine at which end the fault is then to divide that part and so on, from this I found that the fault was at the back of the house, and the dividing line also was under the bathroom.
I had noticed that there was a damp patch in the living room, below the bath, so I asked the tenant if there had been a leak, which she informed me had happened a long time ago, which turned out to be a false lead; because I thought that I had better check just in case, sure enough the ceiling was damp, only slightly, but enough to give off that musty smell that dampness gives off.
So I pop upstairs, remove the bath panel and low and behold the underside of the bath and flooring is wet, what turned out to be was a broken seal around the bath, the tenant had just had a shower, and the water had penetrated into some electrical connections under the bathroom floor.
Now there is a second problem here, and this is to do with the electrical installation, BS 7671 the electrical regulations maintains that all screw connections should be accessible, in this case there must be a junction box under the flooring of the bath, the flooring is tiled, well up until the bath panel at least. So it is impossible to get to the junction box without ripping up the bathroom floor or cutting holes in the living room ceiling.
In the end I have left the faulty part of the circuit disconnected from the rest of the circuit, so that the tenant has some of the lighting up and running, I asked them not to use the shower, to have the bath seal repaired and give the underside of the bath time to dry out. On returning two weeks later there was still a damp patch; the tenant had still been using the shower against my advice, a wasted trip which of course I will have to charge for.
To cut a long story short, if you are having trouble with your electrics tripping out, before you call an emergency electrician, check to see if you have a leak first, it may save you time, money and the inconvenience.