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Round off your service with PAT

Mar 2018 General, Test Instruments | Comments Off on Round off your service with PAT
Round off your service with PAT

If you’re an electrical contractor who doesn’t offer PAT testing, it’s time to think again. Today’s customers increasingly prefer to place all of their electrical work with one supplier, says Simon Wood of Megger, so if you don’t offer a complete service, you may well be missing out

Almost all businesses need PAT testing so, if you’re an electrical contractor, it’s a certainty that sooner or later you’ll be asked if you offer PAT testing services. If you have to say ‘no’ that’s bad in two respects – first of all, it’s turning away work that could bring you extra income. Second, and possibly even worse, it means the customer has to find someone else to do their PAT testing and that someone is very likely to be one of your competitors, who now has a foot in the door.

Of course, you may well have decided that the high-volume PAT testing business isn’t for you. You can, however, still meet the needs of customers who need small-scale PAT testing services, primarily as an add-on to the contracting work you do for them. But to do so you’ll need a PAT tester and, for many contractors, this is the sticking point. Why invest hard-earned cash in expensive equipment to provide a service that’s only going to be a small part of your business?

Affordable equipment

A few years ago, this was a valid comment, but recently a new breed of PAT testers has appeared on the market. They’re simple to use and they’re inexpensive. So what’s the catch? For users who carry out modest numbers of PAT tests, there is no catch! But it has to be said that these low-cost instruments are not designed for high-volume testing and, therefore, they don’t have features such as internal memory to store results. This certainly isn’t an issue for contractors who offer PAT testing as an add-on service, however.

What can you expect when you buy one of these new-generation instruments? The first thing you’ll notice is that they’re small and lightweight and, if the instrument is one of the simplest models, you may be surprised to notice that there is no provision for connecting it to a mains supply. These models use the “substitute leakage” method for earth leakage tests, which means that they can be powered entirely by internal batteries. You’ll also quickly discover that these testers are easy to use, and it’s almost impossible to make mistakes when testing with them.

They feature pre-programmed test groups with fixed pass/fail limits for testing Class I and Class II assets, as well as extension and power leads. They automatically carry out the required tests in the correct sequence, with a minimum of user intervention. When the test sequence is finished, the testers clearly and unambiguously show whether the asset has passed or failed. Insulation is typically tested at 500V by default, but a good tester will also have a 250V option for safely testing IT equipment and assets with built-in surge protection.

These basic battery-powered PAT testers are suitable for testing all common types of portable appliance but some contractors may prefer an instrument that offers a little more flexibility. To meet their needs, testers are available that retain the simplicity – and crucially, low cost – of the basic models, but provide useful extra functions.

Typically, these more versatile testers offer mains-powered leakage testing along with facilities for making live-circuit measurements to check the mains supply and socket polarities.

They can be used for testing RCDs and, as well as providing automatic pre-programmed testing, they allow continuity, insulation and leakage tests to be performed individually. Users can also set their own pass/fail limits and test durations.

Don’t forget training

The new-generation testers make it possible for every electrical contractor to offer PAT testing as part of their portfolio of services, but it is important to remember that having the right tester is not the only thing that needs to be considered. Anyone who offers PAT testing services must also make sure that they’re competent to do so. Fortunately, this requirement is easily addressed. Inexpensive short training courses – typically lasting just one day – are readily available and will provide all of the PAT knowhow needed to ensure competence.

In the past, some electrical contractors have decided that offering PAT testing services involved too much expense and effort to make it worthwhile. The new-generation low-cost testers have greatly reduced the monetary investment needed, however, and their simplicity means that very little investment or time is required to get to grips with them. In addition, as mentioned, PAT competency training is easy to find.

So, if you are one of the many contractors who has been holding out against offering PAT testing, do your customers and your business a favour, and think again.