Electrical System Risk and Safety: Making electricity work for you
Electricity has long since become a necessity. Living without it is not only uncomfortable, but, to the vast majority, just a few hours of electricity-free life is unimaginable. Day-in and day-out, electricity is used for greater productivity, efficiency, and comfort. Behind the power outlet is a complex electrical system which provides great benefits as long as it is used and handled properly. But its use must come with caution in order to maintain a safe environment. That said, it is indispensable for property owners, developers and tenants alike to be familiar with the electrical system and its proper use.
The electrical system is a network of components used to supply, transmit and use electric power. Although the basic principles about electrical systems are the same, there are regional factors which differentiate the UAE from other countries. The environmental conditions and the local regulations are some additional factors considered in the design, installation, and maintenance of this system. For this month’s issue, Snag & Inspect covers basics of electrical systems, the risks it involves and how to ensure safety. In addition, this issue also presents a summary of Reserve Funds – a timely topic as more residential and commercial developments are introduced to the real estate market.
Switching Off Electrical Hazards
Nothing beats caution when it comes to preventing electrical hazards. As everyone uses electricity one way or another, it is important be aware about its safe use.
As the UAE positions itself higher in the global economy, the quality of living improves as well. Buildings of all shapes and sizes are erected in stretches of desert, while old houses are renovated to keep up with the modern trend. As residential and commercial establishments are kept up-to-date, the more tenants and owners are becoming dependent on electricity. Real estate stakeholders should ensure that the quality for electrical systems are at par with international standards.
Factors in System Design Designing electrical systems, even for the simplest residential properties, require meticulous work. An effectively designed system will have measures to prevent dangers such as overload, short-circuit and electric shock. The materials used should be able to withstand the electrical load that is going to pass through it. Circuits that are meant for lighting fixtures will be different from those which are meant for appliances or equipment. Residences will be designed differently from offices and from industrial properties. The system must have layers of insulation and safety features. To avoid electric shock, no live parts should be exposed and safety enclosures should be in place around components. Further, electrical systems are not the same for all countries, it must be suitable for the conditions in its operating environment. The weather in the Emirates is usually sunny with occasional fog, rain, or sandstorms. The air is frequently dusty and can be corrosive and the outdoor temperature can soar above 50°C. The electrical system must be suitable for such extreme conditions. For example, ventilation and air-conditioning facilities are running most of the day since the climate is generally hot, hence the materials (such as cables) must be designed for continuous use. And although rain is infrequent, the entire system must be fully waterproofed.
Awareness of signs – Be attentive to unusual buzzes, as well as the smell of burnt rubber. If there are flickering lights, sparks from the electrical system, or circuit breakers that frequently trip, it is probable that the system needs to be repaired. Electric shocks, even slight tingles, are signs of compromised insulation.
Proper use – Use appliances and equipment properly, always refer to the manuals. Ensure that no part of the electrical system, nor the appliance are close to water sources or fire. The use of anything electrical in bathrooms, near pools and other hazardous places should always come with adequate safety measures. Before use, check that it is in good condition. Check the cables for cuts or cracks in the insulation, and the entire device for signs of damage. Invest in the periodic maintenance of equipment.
Expert Service – If there are signs of electrical hazards get the services of licensed professionals to isolate the problem and resolve it. Renovation of properties and installation of major appliances should be done by specialists to guarantee that the work is done as per standards. The local authorities, such as RERA and DEWA, mandate the periodic maintenance, inspection and testing of electrical systems. They also regulate importers, distributors, and contractors to prevent counterfeit electrical products from being used.
Looking Ahead – An Introduction to Reserve Funds
Condominium associations, planned communities, and cooperatives are in charge of preserving the value of individual and communal property. Community associations must have funding schemes for the repair and replacement of major components of the residential complex – such as pools, gates, elevators, walkways and roofs.
Funds designated for replacement and major repairs of association assets that are not annual expenses.
i. The Association owns the assets that the unit owners as a whole have contracted for the right to use. Just as if you were to have the right to use a car from a car rental company, you would be responsible for the care taking and fuel as well as a rental fee for the right to use the car even if you don’t drive it!
ii. The association charges a fee for taking care of (maintaining) the asset and the utilities for it by charging an Operating Budget Service Fee. For the right to use the asset the association charges a Reserve Budget Service Fee designed to replace the asset or handle a major repair in the future. (Un-like the car rental company it does not include a profit!)
iii. Buyers and lenders are becoming aware of the need for reserve funds to be in place on purchases of long term investments in real estate iv. It is in the law that an association must have a reserve fund budget established based upon a reserve study.
i. The study to establish the budget for the reserves needs to be started in advance of the initiation of the operating budgeting process
ii. The reserve budget is approved as part of service charge approval as a separate line item
i. Reserve funds are separately accounted for in the financial reports and the service fees invoice details the reserve fund fee that is included the invoiced amount.
ii. The reserve funds should be in a separate bank account to eliminate the possibility of accidentally using the funds for operating expenses
i. Contact the RERA preferred reserve study professionals
ii. Develop the RFP that follows the RERA requirements and is appropriate for your association
Before plugging in appliances check whether it is compatible with the electrical output from the power socket. The plug should also be compatible with the shape of the socket. Adapters are used to match the shape but it does not change the voltage.
There is no “standard” voltage for appliances. It varies from place to place and the type of appliance.
When the appliance is not compatible with the electrical supply use an appropriate voltage transformer or converter.
Some dual-voltage appliances can be switched from 110-120 volts and 220-240 volts. It can be automatic or the user might have to flip the switch depending on the outlet voltage.
Multi-voltage appliance are compatible with worldwide ranges, 100-240 volts.
Always check whether the appliance, equipment or fixture is in good condition before use. Check the cables and the body for defects.