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The future for electrical and power installations

Jan 2012 Cable & Wire | Comments Off on The future for electrical and power installations
The future for electrical and power installations
 

Modular wiring systems are growing in popularity among UK electrical contractors, specifiers and end-users, providing significant improvements over hard wired alternatives and reducing onsite installation times by up to 70%. Dave Lewis explains more about the technology and the benefits provided.

Historically the UK’s approach to electrical installation relied on traditional hard wired system design. Modular wiring systems have really taken off more recently and most large scale capital projects now use modular solutions. The technology, using advanced quality-controlled manufacturing techniques and materials, provides a factory assembled and fully tested cabling system which replaces the traditional on-site wiring of electrical sub circuits.

Modular systems remove the need for on site electrical connections. The modular system is designed and produced off-site in a quality controlled environment and supplied pre-assembled and fully tested to site, rather than the more traditional conduit, trunking and hard wired system. This eliminates the need for onsite electrical connections and cuts the number of qualified electricians required at an installation, reducing installation time.

Advantages of the modular approach

Modular wiring systems offer a high degree of flexibility and versatility for both the installer and end-user. Risks for the installer, installation time and on-site skilled electrical man-hours are reduced. Cable snagging and site waste are also reduced while offering improvements in site safety. Because product is factory assembled in a highly controlled production environment, quality levels are assured.

A typical system might feature pre-wired factory tested pluggable distribution boards for supplying lighting and power over a large industrial site or multi-storey office complex. The use of prefabricated connectors and preassembled cables can provide a high performance, reliable and flexible wiring solution which offers significant improvements over alternative systems, reducing onsite installation times by up to 70%.

The great advantage of modular wiring is simplicity and versatility, and so any installation regardless of size and complexity can be converted to a modular system. This includes projects within the residential, retail, healthcare, commercial and education sectors. From single room solutions to the largest multi-million pound new build hospitals, systems can be either retro-fitted or newly installed to provide users with safe, reliable and convenient power and lighting services.

Specify and install

The majority of specifications come through a combination of mechanical and electrical contractors and consultants, but building engineers and project managers on some of the large new build and PFI developments have begun to specify product. Qualified and skilled electricians are generally required to oversee projects but, because components are easy to install and preassembled offsite, the amount of skilled labour needed onsite to actually install is reduced, so low-skilled operatives, with minimal training, can be used during the installation process.

Market development

The electrical wiring and accessories sector is evolving to meet the challenges placed on it by the introduction of new technologies, the availability of affordable skilled labour and the latest methods of construction such as off-site pre-fabrication, green and lean. During tough economic times there’s more pressure on everybody within the supply chain to deliver projects on time and within budget, and achieving cost savings in the process wherever possible.

The UK has often led the way in pioneering new electrical wiring technologies and solutions. Modular wiring is no different – we are already leading the way in Europe and moving rapidly towards fully integrated systems similar to those found in the more mature markets of North America. Elsewhere, there are developing markets in the Middle East, Asia and Australia, where mechanical and electrical specifiers are now looking seriously at the benefits of the modular approach with the adoption of some form of pluggable system.

Lack of early planning by the industry to accommodate a pluggable system at the design stage is a major issue for modular. Specifiers need to plan modular systems early if the benefits of the approach are to be fully realised.

The future?

Awareness of the benefits of modular wiring systems is growing quickly, enabling electrical contractors to complete even the most complex installations quicker and more efficiently than ever before. We will see modular wiring become more and more the norm with less input required by product suppliers as the contractor becomes increasingly familiar with the concept and systems.