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Is a contractor only as good as the equipment they install?

Lee Johnson, Managing Director of Advanced Electrical Services explains...

Here’s a bold statement for you: ‘A contractor is only as good as the equipment they install.’ I read this recently in a trade magazine article and it caught my attention because it only tells half of the story. Although we all understand the importance of using quality products, I believe the standard of the installation should take precedence.

The best quality electrical equipment

Anyone employing an electrical contractor would be horrified by some of the dangerous products that can be found in our industry, from cheap, sub-standard cable to non-compliant circuit breakers. But even if the company you hire turns up with the best quality electrical equipment, it can be dangerous if it’s not installed correctly.

To my mind, quality is not only about the equipment being installed: it also includes the method of installation and the reassurance that the work has been safely carried out. Nobody can be sure a circuit is safe without testing it first, so how come some electricians don’t test their work or issue certificates upon completion?

Electrical consultants - who polices quality?

The problem is: who polices quality and consistency within the industry? As an end user, do you use a consultant, who gets paid a percentage of the contract value of the project? If you do, you need to make sure you know what they are asking for on your behalf.

Store fit out with lighting

To give you an example, we recently carried out a small but high-end store fit out with nearly £40k of lighting. The store was approximately 20m long x 8m wide, with lights sourced mainly from Italy and South Korea. When they arrived (eight weeks from order), the lights were no different from those produced in this country, except they cost a fraction of the price. We then saw the consultant twice on site during the works: at the beginning and at the end of the job. You can see more examples of our recent work on our Case Studies page.

Electrical contractors and accreditations

Although I’d advise anyone hiring an electrical contractor to look for accreditations, historical signs of competence and the benchmarks of the industry, you can still get caught out. I’m afraid to say you can’t always rely on a contractor’s membership of the NICEIC (the UK’s voluntary regulatory body for the electrical contracting industry) as a guarantee of quality. In fact, I can’t believe the standard of work we see carried out by some NICEIC registered contractors. And what’s the sense in allowing NICEIC contractors to decide themselves where to take the inspector during the annual inspection? Would it not be better for you, the client, if the inspector chose which job to inspect? It would certainly keep the contractors on their toes.

If you want to be sure of your contractor, your best bet is to do some research yourself. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at our blog on Six things to consider before hiring an electrical contractor.