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Circuit Tracer Solves Hidden Wiring Problem

Using a handheld circuit tracer, a Kent-based electrical services company has solved a five-year old hidden wiring problem in a residential apartment, at the same time as helping the customer save at least £1,500 in repair costs.

Ammes Ltd provides electrical services to commercial, industrial, retail and domestic markets in the South East of England. Based in Kent, the company offers a wide range of services to its clients, including the installation of the latest wired and wireless digital control systems, installation of energy efficient lighting and the investigation of faults. The firm compiles test reports and risk assessment analyses for customers, using the latest testing facilities including heat seeking photographic equipment.

Ammes maintains a number of residential sites in London. One particular site in Chelsea has very high specification apartments, with prices ranging from £1 million up to £7 million. Mark Botterill, partner at Ammes Ltd comments: “In early 2008, we were called out to a job at one of the apartments in Chelsea. The customer, who was introduced to us through the apartment concierge, had been suffering from an intermittent problem with the apartment’s electrical sockets and a miniature circuit breaker, which kept tripping. Some sockets didn’t work at all and this problem had been going on for around five years. Typically, owners of the apartments use it as their second home and so do not occupy them full time. I guess they learn to live with such inconveniences.”

Before approaching Ammes, the client had already been unsuccessful with four other companies, through either a lack of know-how or just unable to find the intermittent fault. The client had been quoted between £2,000 and £5,000, partly due to the high specification of the décor in the apartment but also due to the companies not being confident of what the issues were.

Mark continues: “Some investigations by other companies had been carried out without success and so the customer approached us for help. I sent in two electricians to investigate. Our initial tests showed very little. Next, our electricians removed socket faces, testing as they went. This highlighted a suspected area. It was now that the electricians made use of the SureTest® circuit tracer from Ideal Industries. The circuit tracer showed that a short circuit was present, although only intermittently.

Removing a back box on one of the sockets showed a taped up twin and earth in the cavity and un-terminated cable at the distribution board. The circuit tracer showed that these cables were not connected.

The SureTest® circuit tracer is a powerful, versatile and easy-to-use device for locating circuit breakers and hidden wiring problems in industrial, commercial and residential environments. The device is safe to use on both de-energised and energised circuits up to 600V AC/DC.

The unit comes with Ideal’s patented SwivelDisplayTM , the industry’s first rotating super-bright OLED display, which ensures readings stay upright, even if the tracer’s receiver is pointing downwards. Peter Halloway, Channel Manager at Ideal Industries Ltd comments: “SureTest® can be used to locate fuses and circuit breakers, pinpoint breaks in wires and shorts to ground and can trace wiring concealed behind walls, floors, ceilings and underground. The device has a CATIII 1000V safety rating. We have designed the circuit tracers to be exceptionally easy to use, for example, rather than having a standard series of blinking LED lights like most competing models, our display provides a numeric value between 0 and 99, plus a variable pitch audible indication for quick, simple-to-understand tracing feedback.”

At the apartment in Chelsea, the electricians were armed with a SureTest® circuit tracer, which Mark Botterill had purchased back in 2007, after attending a seminar by Ideal Industries on BS7671: 2008 (IEE Wiring Regulations 17th Edition). As Mark adds: “At first glance, I thought the SwivelDisplay on the SureTest® receiver was just a gimmick, but the electricians are finding it very useful and it saves time on the job.”

After a short time tracing the cable in the apartment, the problem was identified and traced to a fitted wardrobe. According to Mark, a screw that was holding the wardrobe against the wall was creating the short circuit. “Our guys were able to cut a small hole in the wall and replace this section of cable,” explains Mark.

Now that Ammes had solved the short circuit problem, the tracer was used to solve the other problem in the apartment. “All the other apartments at the Chelsea site were wired in rings, but our client’s apartment was wired radially. Tracing both ends of the discovered cables resulted in the tracer locating the other ends in the same area but on opposite sides of a wall. After asking for the client’s permission to cut a hole in the wall, Mark’s team located the other ends of both cables and terminated these into a double socket. The protective device was changed and the client now has the ring circuit they should have had installed from the start. The client was very happy and was only charged £500.

Mark concludes: “Compared to the original quotations, the client saved at least £1,500. We also restored the radial to the intended ring circuit and walked out feeling rather pleased with ourselves. SureTest® saved us time and we are now going to start using it for periodic inspections too.”

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