3 Ways Electrical Design Affects Your Daily Life
You’re taking a hot shower. Steam fills the bathroom. Suddenly you hear a loud noise and the power goes off. Now you will have to get out of your shower, call the maintenance guy, wait for him to come over and fix your problem, and last but not least, pay him. This is not bad luck, and definitely not your mistake. This is purely an electrical design problem; the light fixture might not be well insulated, or the power receptacle was of the wrong IP rating. In this story, no one got hurt, but in many cases someone does.
However, the benefits of proper electrical design are not limited to safety. Investing in proper electrical design will also add to the comfort and functionality of any structure or public space.
Safety Through Electrical Design
In every country, Codes and Standards are available and more or less enforced to ensure that every household, office, and public area are safe to be in. These electrical design Codes and Standards cover every small detail, from the size of the cables and wires used in the installation, to the water and dust resistance of every power receptacle or light switch, and even where it is allowed to have a power outlet and where it’s not.
These are a few examples of rules that every electrical engineer designing the electrical scope of work of any selected project should abide to:
- Under no circumstance, a pipe containing any kind of fluid, can be installed above a conduit containing an electrical wire or cable
- Bathrooms containing a shower or bath, cannot have a light switch installed inside. Power receptacles (for shaver or hair dryer) should have an IP rating of 6X or above.
- When calculating the size of any wire or cable, the engineer who is responsible for the electrical design must add a safety margin of at least 25%, considering that the load might increase with time.
You hear a lot of people say that my house was built by my grandfather who was not an engineer, and we never faced a problem. Well this can be true, but you have to consider the following:
- Electrical design problems often take years to appear. For example, a cable that is overloaded can overheat and melt over years, without any apparent effect. However, at some point the cable will cut, and can cause a short-circuit which is potentially lethal
- Even though it is very rare that an electrical design fault occurs, its consequence can be extremely dramatic, for example a piece of furniture catching fire or an unprovoked electrocution. Therefore, it is imperative that all safety measures must be taken, starting from the design phase of the construction
Proper electrical design does not only provide safety, but also comfort to the users. Some people might notice these design tricks that facilitate your life, others won’t.
Take for example the electrical design of the lighting system. The lighting switches must always be located, if possible, on the wall adjacent to the door handle. This will make it much easier for the user, to automatically locate the lighting switch even if she/he’s not familiar with the area. Moreover, if the longest stretch in a certain room or area exceeds approximately 10 feet, there must be two 2-way light switches on each exit of this room or area. This will prevent the person to travel a distance of 10 feet in a dark area.
Another example, when designing the lighting system, the electrical engineer must calculate the intensity of the light in each room, depending on its function. For example, a retail space should have a minimum of 500 Lux, allowing clients to see and read whatever they need. For a restaurant dining area, the range should be between 200 and 500 Lux, depending on the ambiance you want to create. In short, electrical design must take into consideration that any area has a recommended level of lighting intensity based on what this area will be used for.
Enough about lighting. Let’s talk about how power design helps you feel more comfortable in your living or work area. Imagine you’re in your living room, sitting on your couch, and your phone battery is dead. You get your charger and you look around. There’s no power outlet. How annoying it is to have to charge your phone away from you just because there’s no plug next to your couch?
Even though it might sound silly, but while designing the power system part of the entire electrical design, the engineer should take into consideration the furniture design of each room and distribute the power outlets as best as possible to ensure comfort. The same could be said about other systems like data, TV and telephone.
Even though functionality is interlinked with comfort, it is worth talking about how technological advancement in electrical design and engineering now allows more uses for devices that exist in every household.
For example, IoT (internet of things) now allows you to connect all your home devices, including your power panel and breakers to be connected to your phone for monitoring and control; you can now, while at work, check if you left your AC switched on, turn on your water-heater before you arrive home, close your curtains, check your security camera, and even cut the power from your home, all in one application on your phone. These are only some of the applications that a capable electrical engineer can include in his design, and can offer you for a cost that does not exceed 10% of what you would originally pay for a plain system.
In the end, it is safe to say that if you need your office or your house to be safe, comfortable and functional, there is no alternative than to hire, from the early beginning, a qualified electrical engineer to design and supervise the installation of all your electrical-related systems.