For the electricians of the country, we are in the dawn of a new era – the 18th edition is upon us. From the 1st of January 2019, all electrical installations in the UK must conform to BS 7671:2018. Possessing a deep understand of the 18th Edition framework is essential for electricians who will be working on any type of electrical installations. Whether you’re designing, installing, or testing you must understand the changes and comply accordingly. Importantly, the changes are not retrospective, meaning that it’s only aimed at new installations. The changes laid out in the regulatory framework will affect the day-to-day workflow of electricians. There are changes to sections such as voltage overload protection, fire safety, wiring systems, and more. Likewise, there has been many changes in Part 2 – which covers definitions – many of which have been modified or expanded upon.
As well as the new regulations introduced, there are also new additions to the appendix of the regulatory framework, namely (and most controversially) appendix 17, which is all about energy efficiency. The appendix gives suggestions for optimising the efficient use of electricity in electrical design, construction, and assembly of installations. Electrical contractors will have breathed a sigh of relief when this section was added to the appendices and not the regulatory requirements. If energy efficiency in design was added as a requirement, that would have added a great deal of complexity to new electrical works, and involved many added costs for contractors and clients alike. Although, most commercial electricians will already consider energy efficiency as an important factor in their work, as it’s demanded by many commercial facilities managers.
This is another big difference between the 17th and 18th edition. To comply with the 17th Edition wiring regulations, the requirements for surge protection were determined ad hoc by the engineer, who would use a risk assessment to make the decision. Now things have changed a great deal, and in all certain circumstances, overvoltage protection is required. This essentially means any circumstances where there will be a large number of people, or in any commercial, public, or industrial setting, surge protection will be a required element of the electrical installation.
Shocking changes to Chapter 41
Chapter 41 is all about protecting people against electric shocks. The most significant change is that metallic pipes that enter a building with an insulting section at the entry point, do not need to be connected using equipotential bonding. As a quick refresher for the electricians that may have forgotten (I’m sure there’s many), equipotential bonding involves joining earthed metalwork together, thus ensuring that it is at the same potential at all points. This reduces the risk of any equipment damage or personal injury occurring.
The new regulations states that AFDDs (Arc Fault Detection Devices) are recommended in AC final circuits of an installation. Arc fault currents are a fire risk. Protecting against thermal effects should mitigate fire-risk. There may be some cases where an AFDD is required on circuits to protect against arc faults. Further fire-related regulations include that now all aspects of an installation must use metals clips for the wiring system. Previously, only wiring systems that were located within fire escape routes required metallic clips. However, all clips do not have to be metallic across the whole electrical installation. The new regulations states that there must be an adequate number of metallic clips in place to maintain the integrity of the wiring system in fire condition. The expected proportion of metallic clips needed is 25%, so don’t throw out the plastic clips just yet.
Of course, as per usual with the IET wiring regulations, you can certainly expect future amendments. The 17th Edition underwent three key amendments in its 10 year tenure. The 16th edition went through 6 key amendments in its 17-year tenure. As such, it’s likely we’ll see the first key amendment by 2020, which may involve the inclusion of more energy efficiency factors as part of the regulations. The 18th Edition was published in July 2018, so if you’re an electrician, make sure that you read it thoroughly before it becomes regulation.