Understanding 5 critical electrical specifications in an apartment !
As a new home buyer, we end up going through umpteen brochures or websites and sift through a lot of information in the ‘specifications’ section. We sometimes glance through them without a good understanding, or much interest, and consider them to be standard across all builders. This is not the case. A home buyer must be able to read between the lines, understand what a certain specification means, and know the implication thereof, in terms of the ‘grade’ and ‘quality’ that a certain specification offers. A specification is all about the functional and technical utility aspect of the element being showcased or claimed by a builder.
Specifications are normally related to sanitary, electrical, doors/windows, flooring, painting, amenities, door handles, chrome plated fittings, accessories used in spaces like kitchen/toilet/bath, and many other interior or exterior elements.
Sometimes, we may not even be aware of what the specification is all about, what’s happening on the technology front in the market, what’s latest and what’s not, what to choose or reject, and even what to ask the builder.
We also witness various brand names being quoted in the specification section of the brochures or websites in a bid to impress the home buyer. For instance, a commonly observed description in most specifications is, ‘Jaquar or equivalent chrome Plated (CP) fittings’, ‘Modular switches of Havells/Legrand/Anchor or equivalent make’ and so on. By mentioning the ‘brand name’ and stating ‘xyz brand or equivalent make’, the builder not only tells us ‘what to expect’, but also educates us on the ‘preferred and contemporary brand’ that makes an apartment desirable for a given segment. In other words, the specifications give us an idea about ‘what to look for’, and ‘how to go about comparing’ the specifications across different apartment options.
As a home buyer, we must develop the ability to be differentiate the various brands being offered in the name of ‘specifications’ and ‘amenities’.
In this article, we shall focus on 5 common and oft-quoted ‘electrical’ specifications, and understand their implications for a home buyer.
Importance of ‘specifications’, their ‘utility’, and their ‘quality implications’
We are faced with various brand names of various fittings which the builders claim to be of ‘premium’ quality, or ‘reputed make’. Not always do we understand what a certain specification or a brand name means, be it electrical, sanitary, doors/windows, tiles, kitchen or other elements part of the apartment.
So much so, that it is the builder who ends up educating us, and we simply get to hear about the various elements being provided by the builder. In such a scenario, we are ill-equipped to know what we are paying for, and whether it is worth it’s salt. Worse still, we are unable to make out the difference between the offerings made by competing builders.
‘High grade specifications’ vs. ‘Cost’
We must know that there is a cost element involved when we choose a higher grade of material, fittings, etc. and these obviously cost more. We cannot blindly say that one builder is more expensive or unreasonable compared to another without knowing the cost element of specifications being offered.
Higher the ‘grade and quality’, the more superior would be the utility, technicality and the functional benefit!
Top 5 critical electrical specifications
So, let’s get started with the 5 most commonly encountered terminologies related to electrical fittings. Understand what they mean (product information), and learn what they do for us (features & benefits)!
1. Electrical wiring- the basics
Electrical wiring is usually an insulated conductor used to carry current to the devices and appliances in the house like lights, fans, air-conditioners, washing machine, geysers etc. The State electricity board provides the electricity supply up to a certain point outside the consumer premises. Insulated wires are taken out to various places/points in the premises to supply power to different types of loads like fans, refrigerators, A.C. and so on.
The wire (conductor) is usually copper or aluminium wire.
A good wire should have a long installation life. It must be durable and conform to standard specifications, and not be affected by changing weather conditions decades after decades. Safety is another critical factor, especially leakages, shocks and fire-hazards. The appearance of the wires should be aesthetic. A marginally higher cost should be acceptable since a compromise by ‘choosing a lower grade of wiring’ can actually turn very expensive in the long-run, especially when problems come up. Besides, wiring should be accessible to allow alterations and extensions in future, although in an apartment, flexibilities to extend or alter the configuration are relatively limited. Wiring should be maintenance-free and must be sturdy/strong enough to be safe from any mechanical damage.
Investing in a ‘high grade and quality wiring’ is a must because of factors like future extensions/alterations, construction of the building, fire hazards or special conditions, corrosive fumes, dampness, type of wire and materials used, nature of load (power), safety of the system, and the cost factor.
2. Fire retardant concealed copper wiring
‘Copper’ as an element has the least resistance and allows smooth flow of electricity without getting heated up. This means it has least possibility of catching fire. The technology today has made it possible to make ‘fire retardant’ concealed wiring, which runs inside the conduits that are embedded in the walls/floors. These need to be approved by the ‘Bureau of Indian Standards’ (BIS).
- Fire retardant cables are designed with superior technology to resist any kind of combustion
- More important, the fire retardant cables ‘resist the spreading of fire’ into other areas
- Even the cables are made ‘low smoke’ so that it does not emanate toxic gases that are a threat to human life, in the eventuality of a fire
- These fire retardant reduce the hazardous fumes which can cause injury to those inhaling them. Hence, the fumes emitted are very low when such a ‘superior grade’ and ‘higher quality’ fire retardant wiring is used
High Grade & Quality Brands in India: Finolex, Havells, Polycab, R.R. Cables, KEI Kabel, Syska wires among others
3. Distribution Board
A Distribution board is also known as panel board or panel breaker or electric panel, and performs the task of dividing the electrical power feed into subsidiary circuits. It also provides a ‘protective fuse’, which is actually a circuit breaker for every circuit in a common box like enclosure.
- A distribution board is the main electricity supply system that a consumer sees near the entrance of an apartment
- The main cable of power-supply comes from outside, and is connected to this distribution board
- Using ‘breakers’, the cable gets distributed to all other secondary circuits such as lights, fans, plugs, power-points, A/C points etc. across the home
- These special ‘circuit breaker is the main part of these panels, and it’s main role is to ‘split the total electrical power’, and distribute it to ‘mini circuit breakers’; Each Distribution board is controlled by a switch disconnector
- The usual components of a Distribution board are: bus bar, fuse links, switches, earthing/bypass equipment, and residual current detector; All interconnected wires run through the Distribution board to ensure proper, safe and adequate power distribution
- Fuse is the key element in the distribution board that assures safety, and prevents ‘over-current’ from passing through the circuitry
Distribution boards these days are aesthetic, user-friendly. When a circuit trips due to erratic power fluctuations or short-circuits. Thus, The Distribution board is an ‘automatic protective’ and a ‘bypass’ equipment which connects, controls and protects all the branch circuits that are fed from one main circuit of a wiring installation. The distribution board must be installed in a safe place without dampness, so that it is prevented from corrosion.
High Grade & Quality Brands in India: MK, Legrand, ABB, ROMCAB, Havells, CANDLE among others
4. MCB- Miniature Circuit Board
MCB automatically switches-off an electrical mini circuit whenever an abnormal condition in the electrical network is encountered. This includes conditions such as an overload or short-circuit.
- MCB electronic switch is designed to function automatically
- MCB detects problems inside a circuit by identifying extreme flow of current
- When there is a large surge of power, it can break the loop; This is where MCB comes in action, and switches off automatically
- The circuit MCB needs to be manually switched-on (reset), and the loop is reactivated again
- Whenever the circuit overheats the MCB, it trips (goes-off) within a timeframe of ‘2 seconds to 2 minutes’
- This is why MCB is better than the old-timer fuse which would melt itself to break the circuit
- MCB can go upto 100 Amps, and are much easier for electrical devices as well as human intervention (safety)
- Identifying the fault becomes easier with MCB, as you can see the knob of the MCB turned-off
- The knob of MCB is a better, more sensitive (compared to fuse) and easier to re-start (better user experience) option compared with the fuse-wire based older option
High Grade & Quality Brands in India: Legrand, Havells, Finolex, Siemens, Schneider, ABB, Orient, Eaton, Hager, C&S, Polycab, BCH, Wipro, L&T among others
5. Modular Electrical Switches
Modular switches are not any different from the traditional switches we have seen in the traditional houses of the good old times (30 years or beyond), except that these are far safer and better!
Technology has improved over time, and the latest modular switches are far more convenient, sturdy, safe and easy-to-use! We need the modular switches in our homes to offer long lasting efficiency. For this, the modular switches must be made by reputed companies that have an extremely high standard of ‘grade & quality enhancement rigour’ and stringent ‘quality-control measures’.
The highest grade of modular switches go on to have ‘anti-weld’ designs that are embellished by hidden-screws with shuttered-sockets, and a brilliantly smooth and silent operation.
- Modular switches are our primary interface while using any electrical device. We touch them! Hence, they become an important part of our lives, and are responsible to give us illumination, mood, comfort, and relaxation!
- Elegance and sophistication of homes are enhanced multifold by beautiful, sturdy and high-grade modular switches that are spread all over our house
- They make you feel safer, are made of fire-retardant materials, and may even have spark-containing child-safety features (shuttered sockets)
- Modular switches come in different designs, colours, styles, and finishes. They are very appealing to touch and use, and are technologically tested to function (switch on and off) even a million times
- Modular switches of companies that are high on ‘grade & quality’ can be very aesthetic; these are a pleasure to touch, feel & use; These are easy to install and remove
- Multiple functions can be achieved with some high-grade (more expensive) modular switches like home automation, home security, and data-transmission-capabilities
- High grade modular switches even allow us to connect all kinds of plugs with comparative ease; Some switches offer the convenience of not having to buy country specific adapters
- High grade modular switches can withstand high voltage and power draw, and can be used without any fear for hot-plates, cooking appliances, boilers, sandwich makers, and other high power-drawing home appliances in the kitchen or elsewhere
- Devices like geysers, air-conditioners and washing machines need a high grade of switches that can withstand the high load that’s required by such appliances
High Grade & Quality Brands in India: Havells, Myrius (by Legrand), GM, Legrand, Schneider, Siemens, Anchor, Wipro, Phillips, Simon, Polycab among others
Electrical fittings are an integral part of our daily interaction with our dream home. We touch, see and feel the modular switches multiple times a day. Besides keeping us safe from electric shocks, the modular switches being sturdy, long-lasting, and adding to the aesthetics of our home is extremely important.
Modular switches give that unrivaled Midas touch of class and sophistication to our home, and remain enchanting for a very long time!
The functionality of poor-quality modular switches drops drastically. The durability of a low-grade modular switch is unpredictable. Poor quality & grade switches start wearing off very soon leaving us unprotected from the perils of electrical hazards, and that’s something a new home buyer must realize early on.
We feel far safer touching and interfacing with modular switches that are high on grade and quality.
For a new home buyer, this must be one of the critical criteria one should look at while choosing an apartment. If the specifications are poor on modular switches, it indicates a compromise! Electrical fitting is NOT an area you want to compromise on while acquiring a home for your loved ones!!
‘Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.’– Janis Joplin
To know more about “Must-Know Basics Of Electricals For An Indian Home Buyer- Part I“. Click here!