Getting the electrics right is an important part of kitchen design and it’s vital to get everything in the right place. While doing a kitchen design it makes sense to completely over-spec the electricity supply and provisions for appliances and gadgets as it’s not a job you want to have to revisit a couple of years down the line.
There are essentially three elements to deal with when it comes to the electrical work; the 13 amp socket circuit for kitchen appliances, the 30 amp supply for high load appliances such as electric cookers, and the lighting circuits. Kitchen design will need to take into account of all three.
Kitchen Design and Appliance Placement
As placing the kitchen appliances is one of the first tasks of the kitchen design process, a lot of the placement of the 13 amp supply will be effectively decided for you. Kitchen appliances like washing machines, fridges and dishwashers can be simply plugged into an ordinary socket. But, particularly if you have young children, it might be wiser to have the sockets concealed below worktop surfaces or behind cabinets and have separate switches to isolate them at a higher level.
Quite apart from the safety aspect of young children playing with electrics you won’t be the first parent to have lost a freezer load of food because one of your inquisitive little darlings has inadvertently switched the freezer off.
With sockets for smaller kitchen appliances such as toasters, kettles and food processors, you should count up all the things that you have that need sockets, then allow for double that in your kitchen design. The average kitchen in the 1960’s had just one or two sockets while a modern one is more likely to have over a dozen, so you just don’t know how many more you will need in the future.
Electricity Works for Smaller Kitchen Appliances
There needs to be a separate circuit for the cooker and any other high load devices. This should have a separate 30amp circuit breaker on the electrical supply main board, which will be situated close to the meter. Cookers should not be plugged in with an ordinary plug and socket but hard-wired into a wall plate with a separate switch to isolate the supply when necessary.
Kitchen Lighting and Electricity Supplies
Kitchen lighting now plays an important part in design and the days of a single bulb in the middle of the kitchen are long gone. Kitchen lighting is covered in detail in our article in the Kitchen Ideas section, but from an electricity supply point of view there are effectively three main types of lighting.
The first is the ceiling or wall mounted lights that are supplied from a 5 amp lighting circuit, usually run through ceilings, with switches by the entry points. In essence there is no difference between these lights and those in any other room, except that you might want to have adjustable spot lighting to be able to direct light where it’s most needed for cooking and cleaning.
The second group is low level lighting, often mounted in a chain underneath wall cupboards and used to floodlight the kitchen worktop below. This is particularly useful in low light areas and has introduced extra flexibility into kitchen design. It can use either a lighting circuit or a 13 amp socket supply.
The third is low wattage lighting which often uses halogen lighting and has increased in popularity in the UK in the last twenty years. These have a separate transformer, which is usually hidden above the ceiling, to take the 240 volts of a domestic electricity supply down to 12 volts. These have come under fire recently as the halogen bulbs are not particularly environmentally friendly, but newer versions with led lights are coming onto the market now.
Electrical Works and Health and Safety
As with any electrical works, safety is paramount and the electrical aspects of a kitchen design are no different. In England and Wales the average householder is now almost barred from doing any electrical work more complex than re-wiring a plug.
It is possible to do the work yourself but you will have to get it inspected by a building regulations inspector. The only other alternative is to get a professional properly qualified electrician in to do the electricity supply work and implement the kitchen design.
With electricity, it’s definitely a case of ‘better safe than sorry’.