Building Blox: Week 32 – How we get electricity, gas, BT, TV to homes

What we did:

  • Electrical second fix;
  • Connecting electricity mains, gas, BT and TV to houses.

With the utility services fed up to the front of the properties, it was time to finish off the internal wiring and connect up to the mains inputs to give ourselves power and gas. Almost as important as power, the all important telephone lines and TV aerial were also installed – this was almost an oversight on my part, but luckily I managed to get all my proverbial ducks in a row to avoid any delays!

Following on from the electrical first fix and installation of the electrical mains, we could now finish the electrical work.

Electric power points and lights being installed

Electric power points and lights being installed

Planning out electric points

When planning out the electrical schedule, a map of where all the light, power, telephone and TV aerial sockets should go, I tried to imagine how people would be using the space. As a novice (interior) designer, I under/mis specified what would work best, so some changes came in.

For an electrician, and many other trades, client changes are gold dust; this means they can hike up their margins. For example, when quoting for a set specification ahead of the job, quotes needs to be competitive and so lower margin, but after they’ve got you as a client, work has started and you’re tied in, prices for equivalent work go up dramatically. I know this isn’t rocket science, but another reminder of the importance of getting things right in the tender!

If in doubt, over spec!

Here is a map of the final electrical schedule, amateurly done on my Macbook, but the electrician and others said it worked for them, until he did it wrong and then blamed me… *sigh*

Electrical schedule showing power, BT, TV and lighting installations

Electrical schedule showing power, BT, TV and lighting installations

Scheduling in the installation of electric and gas meters was key to ensuring the rest of the job could be finished. Yes, the tradesmen could have continued with external power, but this would have been slower, and almost as damagingly, give them an excuse to be slow. Practically, the kitchen appliances, heating, etc couldn’t be tested and any issues rectified, so it’s key to get these dates in early and work towards them.

We have power!

A quick lesson on how you get power: Generators create electricity from a range of fuels –> National Grid transmits this electricity across the UK –> Distributors (e.g. SSE, UK Power, etc.) operate regional networks from National Grid’s national network to our homes/businesses/etc. –> Suppliers (EDF, E.ON, etc.) use these networks to buy/sell electricity. I said the lesson would be quick(!), but more here.

As I’m plugging into SSE’s local network, they dictated the design and installation to my houses, but as I would be signing up with British Gas as a supplier, they installed the meter. I’m sure you’ve heard about smart meters through the ‘Gaz and Leccy’ adverts. The jury’s still out on how much benefit these bring customers and how they have/will impact prices, but as suppliers are obligated to provide smart meters to customers now, these were fitted as standard. From my time consulting for a manufacturer of smart meters, personally I think the high cost of developing the tech has simply been passed on to consumers.

Anyway, here is my installed meter and some light!

We have gas!

A quick lesson on how you get gas (I know that probably didn’t sound right): Gas arrives to the UK via huge underground pipes and tankers (in liquid form) –> National Grid transmits this gas across the UK –> Distributors operate regional networks (e.g. National Grid (they control 4/8 of these), Northern Gas Networks, etc.) from National Grid’s national network to our homes/businesses/etc. –> Suppliers (think the same names as with electricity) use these networks to buy/sell electricity. More here.

As Cadent (National Grid brand) run my local network, they had to sign off on the design here, however the supplier, British Gas again for ease, installed the meter. Unfortunately this in the majority of cases is put in an ugly brown box close to the front door. Next to this you can see the grey BT box coming into the house and the white (now painted brown) waste pipe from the downstairs WC.

External gas meter housing box

External gas meter housing box

We have a landline internet!

Yes I corrected myself above as what else do you need a landline for now these days… Then again, with 5G coming in the next couple of years decade will we even need landlines to provide our homes broadband?

How phones work: BT control and maintain the networks –> Suppliers use these to provide us services. Simple.

We have TV!

This was almost an oversight on my part, forgetting to ask the electrician to wire in TV points! A specialist installer (because they are working at height) then had to come in to fit the aerial which would work for all 3 properties.

But similar to landlines, with more content being viewed ‘Over-The-Top’ i.e. streaming on the internet (Netflix, Amazon, etc.) maybe we won’t need TV aerials or satellite dishes in the near future. Lastly, if you’re wondering about Sky, tenants will have to come to me and arrange the installing of Sky dishes to avoid multiple ugly  dishes outside!

With things almost there inside, for next next couple of weeks we could focus on the landscaping and balcony.

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