Jump to content
Thank you for the great forum, Safe Driving over the weekend. Sincerely Jason
Dex_

COC's aren't worth poo these days!

Recommended Posts

Hi,

So I at my last place had a ton of work to do when I sold it, just showing that the COC on my puchase was rubbish, likewise at my new place there were obvious issues. Furthermore my brothers place, a similar story.

Fast forward, a relatives place they purchased end of last year, today we want to change 2 light fittings, taking the old ones off things seemed odd - i.e lights live connected to earth, testing the wires things got worse! Constant 230V between live/neutral (red/black) at the light fitting - like always regardless of the light switch status!!! .... flip the switch, now you have 230V between the neutral and earth... (black/bare copper)...

unreal, and how do you prove it now, months later that the coc was shoddy?!

Edited by Dex_

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
2 hours ago, Dex_ said:

unreal, and how do you prove it now, months later that the coc was shoddy?!

You make a lot of noise at the electrician who gave the CoC. 😉

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Dex_ said:

flip the switch, now you have 230V between the neutral and earth

Sounds like they are switching the Neutral. Not advisable and not done in new installs, but also not the craziest thing I've seen. Or am I misunderstanding this?

Re CoCs for selling a house, they pretty much check that everything is earthed and that the RCD works. They will maybe unscrew a few fittings and do a few spot checks, but you should not be surprised if something stupid is missed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 minutes ago, plonkster said:

Sounds like they are switching the Neutral. Not advisable and not done in new installs, but also not the craziest thing I've seen. Or am I misunderstanding this?

Re CoCs for selling a house, they pretty much check that everything is earthed and that the RCD works. They will maybe unscrew a few fittings and do a few spot checks, but you should not be surprised if something stupid is missed.

I mean like fittings not earthed etc, those are things that should not be missed, i get there can be a mess where you can't see it, 

in this case, no they weren't switching the neutral, they were switching the earth, which was actually live...

so you have 3 wires
red
black
copper

switch off - 230V between red/black
switch on - 230V between red/black AND 230V between black/copper

 

I am no electrician but imo you should not see voltage between red / earth or black / earth and when the switch is off there should be no voltage between anything, when the switch is on there should be voltage only between red /  black

Edited by Dex_

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are honest electricians and a few not so honest. 

When I moved into my current house it became apparent early on that there was something up with the wiring. The person that we bought from took offence, but I told them that I'm not accusing them of being deceptive, they had to rely on the word of the electrician they hired.

Long story short: The electrician who did the work was qualified and licensed in Portugal but not in SA. He was not able to issue a COC. But he knew a guy in Rivonia (IIRC) who would write out a COC if you told him very convincingly that you were sure that everything was kosher and gave him a sum of money.

After having one of the outbuildings rewired because the wiring was lower rated than the circuit breaker, I called the Electrical Contractor's Board to lodge a complaint. They told me that they had lots of concerns about the person involved because he signed off a very high number of COCs, but they could only act on receipt of a complaint. So they took all the details down but I don't know what happened since. After all, my word against his, and they never sent anybody to inspect (and I'd fixed stuff anyway, like the plugs that were connected to the geyser element). Maybe they nailed him just because he couldn't be inspecting all those houses he was signing off on.

When I had my solar system installed the wireman took one look at the COC I'd got with the house, saw the name on it and said he wanted nothing to do with anything that guy had signed - so clearly that certifying electrician has some sort of reputation, and not a good one.

I'm now getting the house COCed from scratch. The solar installation is fine, the outbuildings are fine, the extension to the original building is fine, but the old, main house is apparently a real mess with multiple fire risks in the roof. The guy who is doing the new certificate is my brother in law. I asked him in because when we sold our previous house he did the COC for that, and was very, very picky. Which I appreciated, so he gets the job now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
37 minutes ago, Bobster said:

There are honest electricians and a few not so honest. 

When I moved into my current house it became apparent early on that there was something up with the wiring. The person that we bought from took offence, but I told them that I'm not accusing them of being deceptive, they had to rely on the word of the electrician they hired.

Long story short: The electrician who did the work was qualified and licensed in Portugal but not in SA. He was not able to issue a COC. But he knew a guy in Rivonia (IIRC) who would write out a COC if you told him very convincingly that you were sure that everything was kosher and gave him a sum of money.

After having one of the outbuildings rewired because the wiring was lower rated than the circuit breaker, I called the Electrical Contractor's Board to lodge a complaint. They told me that they had lots of concerns about the person involved because he signed off a very high number of COCs, but they could only act on receipt of a complaint. So they took all the details down but I don't know what happened since. After all, my word against his, and they never sent anybody to inspect (and I'd fixed stuff anyway, like the plugs that were connected to the geyser element). Maybe they nailed him just because he couldn't be inspecting all those houses he was signing off on.

When I had my solar system installed the wireman took one look at the COC I'd got with the house, saw the name on it and said he wanted nothing to do with anything that guy had signed - so clearly that certifying electrician has some sort of reputation, and not a good one.

I'm now getting the house COCed from scratch. The solar installation is fine, the outbuildings are fine, the extension to the original building is fine, but the old, main house is apparently a real mess with multiple fire risks in the roof. The guy who is doing the new certificate is my brother in law. I asked him in because when we sold our previous house he did the COC for that, and was very, very picky. Which I appreciated, so he gets the job now.

yeah look I don't mean to lump all electricians into one pile, there are still some honest guys out there for sure, its just sad though that we have these issues :(

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
4 hours ago, Dex_ said:

do you really want that fool back there?

Nope you want a refund. 🙂 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
4 minutes ago, Dex_ said:

except you didn't pay for it, the previous seller did

O, you are right. What I should have asked, is the seller not responsible to fix?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
36 minutes ago, The Terrible Triplett said:

O, you are right. What I should have asked, is the seller not responsible to fix?

yeah but can you imagine how this will go....

I say you owe me to fix this because it is wrong, you say no it has been x months and it was signed off, even if you contact the electrician he wont remember or will just say not it was right we must have changed it etc

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Depending on what cable was used. If say a twin flat+E was used to and from the switch, it might look according to the colours that the neutral/black wire is live. It is a relatively common practice.

Though in the same breath nobody wants to pay R5000 for the COC inspection , but for the amount of work that should go into a COC that's what it should be for an average house and could take over a day to compile a detailed report and do the inspection with out any repairs. So most electricians assume the cabling is good , the earth leakage work , the connections and voltages in the Db are good the cable in the Db is the correct size for the breakers, there are labels in place, so at a glance everything is as it should be

On your COC form there is a box to tick for an alternative power supply , so for solar you could just tick the box and make mention of the solar and leave it as that. But yes the is a little more to do , but it would still be compliant.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 minutes ago, seant said:

Depending on what cable was used. If say a twin flat+E was used to and from the switch, it might look according to the colours that the neutral/black wire is live. It is a relatively common practice.

Though in the same breath nobody wants to pay R5000 for the COC inspection , but for the amount of work that should go into a COC that's what it should be for an average house and could take over a day to compile a detailed report and do the inspection with out any repairs. So most electricians assume the cabling is good , the earth leakage work , the connections and voltages in the Db are good the cable in the Db is the correct size for the breakers, there are labels in place, so at a glance everything is as it should be

On your COC form there is a box to tick for an alternative power supply , so for solar you could just tick the box and make mention of the solar and leave it as that. But yes the is a little more to do , but it would still be compliant.

 
I can't see how having constant power on the wire to the light would be common practice or how connecting live to the earth wire can be common practice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well hummmm , yes . If you measure 230v between live and earth that would be correct too. That they used a red wire to feed live power to the switch and return it to the light fitting on a black wire and then use the neutral wire (from the one that always has power on) is what I assume was done . So a live and a neutral are fed to the light fitting and from there a pair of wires go to the switch,  some times the live and neutral are fed to the light switch box and then go out to the light from there. It all kind of depends on is there enough space I the conduit for all the cables , what type of light switches do you have (do the need a live and neutral too like some dimmers or sonoff switches).   I'm not certain if you have live in the bare copper or are just measuring a voltage difference between a live wire and the earth wire. If you do have a high voltage on the earth wire then that is a whole diffrent problem than having the wire colours mixed up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, seant said:

Could you take some pics of the wiring and your measurements?

i cant now unless i go back there which isn't often, but in any case it is now wired how I would imo expect it

Edited by Dex_

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, seant said:

Well hummmm , yes . If you measure 230v between live and earth that would be correct too. That they used a red wire to feed live power to the switch and return it to the light fitting on a black wire and then use the neutral wire (from the one that always has power on) is what I assume was done . So a live and a neutral are fed to the light fitting and from there a pair of wires go to the switch,  some times the live and neutral are fed to the light switch box and then go out to the light from there. It all kind of depends on is there enough space I the conduit for all the cables , what type of light switches do you have (do the need a live and neutral too like some dimmers or sonoff switches).   I'm not certain if you have live in the bare copper or are just measuring a voltage difference between a live wire and the earth wire. If you do have a high voltage on the earth wire then that is a whole diffrent problem than having the wire colours mixed up.

so they way i saw it was completely wrong because there was constant power on the wires (red/black) which as you say might be the other way to switch, but then imo you need to provide another set of wires from the switch to the light, not piggy back on the earth. I measured 230 between red/black always, and between neutral/earth when the switch was flipped to on. - for the switch type you describe i would expect the live/neutral to be interrupted by the switch like in my picture below? upper is the light, left is the db, right is the switch, either could be switched i can image same outcome but obviously in practice one would be preferred. does that look like what you describe?

I checked online and see what you mean that you can measure voltage between live and earth, I don't really understand this, is it just the power grounding? and is it normal and expected (really trying to understand here) - to note i did directly find the earth wire on the one pole of the light switch so that it got live power when switching, i confirmed that with a continuity test on the wire isolated.

the switch is the run of the mill 2 pole jobby being open or closed.

light.jpg

Edited by Dex_

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The bare earth on one pole of the light switch is a definite NO , no questions there. Thought on the metal switches there is an earthing point and then the two connections of the switch.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, seant said:

The bare earth on one pole of the light switch is a definite NO , no questions there. Thought on the metal switches there is an earthing point and then the two connections of the switch.

yeah so what made it sneaky, is that somewhere the wire is joined, i.e the wire type at the light and the wire type at the switch are different, somewhere there is a join, but you cant access the roof to find it, i wanted to try but their roof tiles were literally stuck shut with how it was painted to the point i could feel tiles wanted to break applying any lift to the bottom to slide them. So in the light switch the wire was a simple white insulated wire, but on the light side the wire was the more common twin flat with earth, you can definately tell it was changed from the original installation, none of the wires were common, i.e it wasnt just the earth that looked different. I confirmed it was the earth with a continuity test (it took some ingenuity to do this as you can imagine one end is up on the ceiling and the other is coming out of a light switch hole a few meters away :) it was also very obvious that the earth had live to it since the bare earth was connected to the existing lights brown/live wire.

I used that earthing point you mention to connect the earth wire to, the house is running steel conduits to the db board which is acting as the light switches earth.

Edited by Dex_

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm an electrician licensed to do COC's and in our industry this is a common problem, 20-30% of my coc's are for installations that was certified but didn't comply. The biggest problem is that coc's isn't regulated, the ECB did this when the Chief inspector gave them the rights to regulate all of SA's coc's, then a few years back, think 2009, that right was taken away from the ECB because the government said they'll regulate it themselves, how many installations do you think has been spot checked since then? Nada. Or even kept record of? Nada. The only record keeping that happens is the coc number being registered to the electricians' name, which gets sold in bulk. But none of the registered numbers could be linked to a certain property if the original old yellow paper has been destroyed in an accident or even deliberately destroyed by a person.

 

The law states that a COC is valid for an eternity if nothing has changed on the electrical installation. OR in the case of the property being registered/transferred (sold), the COC may not be older than 2 years. Also note that insurance companies loves COC faults as it's one of the 2 points they hammer on when a property burns down. They demand a COC, and the fire departments findings report to check for arson. If the COC states you've got 25 plugs, but they are able to count 28 plugs, you can kiss your insurance payout goodbye (or most of it) as you've issued them a false legal document, they never tell you this when you sign up for the insurance though.

 

My recommended solutions for future coc's:

  •  Stay away from these cheap R500-R850 COC's.
    I know everyone is always googling and calling for the cheapest coc prices around, but it's most (not all, you might have an 20m2 building) of the time the guys that doesn't conform and just makes a quick hit and run, usually not available in a year or two when you're getting problems from the new owner who notices there's live earth wires on a light when changing the fittings. Remember a coc is valid for an eternity, you got the electrician so you stay liable. It's like selling an i7 working computer, the customer returns blaming you that you sold him a i7 when infact its an i5, you cant then tell him it's your electricians fault because he told you its an i7, you're going to have to take the punch and do whatever the law states around selling goods, and if that electrician is gone, well then you've got one less foot to stand on. There's such laws regarding property laws as well, I'll get to that.
  • Only use ECB registered electricians. found here 
    You can take up any disputes with them, they'll sort out the electrician, even if you're not a member. This also ensures you that he's got all necessary qualifications and all licenses are up to date (Make sure to check his ECB registration card, credit card size, and that it hasn't expired once he arrives on site). They also push us to do refreshment courses every now and again to keep the standards up to date. They can also assist in court if you get taken to court because of your old property that didn't comply to standards (in case the new owner takes you to court), they assist in shifting the blame to whoever is really responsible. If you used an registered electrician this can usually help to sort matters outside of court. Stuff can get viscous in this industry, very little are actually aware of this. Keep in mind that a COC is a legal document, if the property doesn't conform to what is written on that document then it is an illegal document (because lies are written on a legal document, like in this case earth wires being live, but was stated that it's not). ECB still continued regulating COC's (the electronic versions at least) for their registered electricians, so always make sure before using an electrician that they are very well issuing the electronic version registered with the ECB, this will allow you to always have an electronic version available that's stored on their servers, and to make sure there's evidence of that specific coc number being registered to that property and that the specific electrician did it, which should also keep track of his latest contact numbers and registration numbers.
  • Google the companies name.
    In most cases where I've done coc's for non-compliant properties, just a simple google search revealed bad reviews/comments. Clients then always says they didn't think about this and again, was only looking for the cheapest. A bad comment here and there is normal, you can sell a perfect apple to someone, there will always be that one or two clients that will complain because the apple isn't the correct color shading. But if the comments are about the electrician not answering calls, or going missing, or stealing, etc. then red flags should go up. Reputable companies doesn't change numbers and doesn't dodge calls, but rather resolves issues.

 

Solution regarding your original post:

  • Don't change anything on the installation, if something has changed and you didn't get an updated COC, the original COC will be voided. Personally I always take pictures of all aspects of the installation to cover myself in this regard. If this electrician did the same and something has changed, and he's got the photos to prove it, then there's nothing you can do and everyone will just be upset because of the time wasted.
  • Contact the previous owner to contact the electrician that did the COC. Tell him you're giving him the opportunity (If you want to, I would be generous in this regard) to go back to the premises to make sure his COC complies to standards and that you're getting a second opinion once he's states the property does comply (even if he fixed something after he's been back). Then get your second opinion (another electrician that doesn't know about what is going on, otherwise it wouldn't be an honest opinion).
  • If he doesn't fix something, you can contact the ECB, if he's registered they can advice on what the next steps should be.
  • If he's not registered (the ECB might also advice on the newest procedures to follow here) you can contact the Department of Labour(DOL), they will start a dispute and advice you to get an Approved Inspection Authority (AIA). He will then go out and check the whole installation and report back to the DOL. If the AIA finds the property doesn't comply but the COC states it does, they could take away his license. I think they also contact him at some stage to fix his stuff before they take his license, but he'll then have a tick against him for future disputes if he does go to fix it, but atleast not loose his license.
  • You can sew him (electrician) without using the above procedures, but your attorney will then charge you to do it himself anyway. Maybe with the added advantage of holding the old owner responsible for the legal fees as he used the (in the wrong) electrician.

I've rarely heard of people going to such extremes. but according to law that's what the procedure is like, usually the electricians gets such a fright when stuff starts happening against them they just give in and go fix it. But every time people leave problems like this, those electricians just goes out and scam's the next person. And the next. And the next. And usually it's innocent people who loose properties or gets harmed by an unsafe installation, that fall victim due to an electrician that just wanted to make a quick buck.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
10 hours ago, Dex_ said:

yeah but can you imagine how this will go....

This is what I was referring to ...

2 hours ago, FranMilec said:

Contact the previous owner to contact the electrician that did the COC.

(if I read it right, the previous owner is) ... going to have to take the punch and do whatever the law states around selling goods, and if that electrician is gone, well then you've got one less foot to stand on.

 

@FranMilec You got MY attention! Am so going to ask my preferred sparkies to be on that list. At least they take copious amount of photo's of everything they gave a CoC for. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, The Terrible Triplett said:

(if I read it right, the previous owner is) ... going to have to take the punch

@The Terrible Triplett You've read it right 🙂
The OHS act regulations states that the User or Lesser of an electrical installation (If there's a lessor, it depends on what the contract says), whichever the case may be, is responsible for the safety, safe use, and maintenance of the property. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, seant said:

So a live and a neutral are fed to the light fitting and from there a pair of wires go to the switch

That's the typical British ceiling rose arrangement, and you're right. There is nothing wrong with that. Returning live on a black wire is also not illegal if it's a twin cable (eg surfix), it is in fact the correct thing to let the live-live (the unswitched one) be the red one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
3 hours ago, FranMilec said:

You've read it right 🙂

And my preferred Sparky was ECB registered till Gov took over AND he is in the process of rejoining seeing that the Gov effort is a mess.

So for me, your info checked out. Thanks for the eloquent post.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...