A Guide to Bathroom Electrics

The bathroom is one room in the house where there are even stricter safety standards than usual. Although it might seem that these requirements are an annoyance, particularly when you’re trying to get the bathroom finished so that the family can use it, they are all designed to keep everyone safe.

Bathroom Electrics and Health and Safety

Electrical regulations are subject to change and it’s important to realise that the information here is just that, information. Anybody considering electrical work of any kind should check the current safety regulations and restrictions before carrying out any work.

It cannot be stated clearly enough: if you are not completely sure that you know what you are doing with electrics you must not work on them, and that goes for all electrical work, not just in bathrooms. For this reason it is likely that most householders would be better off employing a qualified electrician than trying to do it themselves.

Pull Cord Switches for Bathroom Lighting

One of the earliest restrictions implemented for bathroom electrics was the stipulation of a pull cord switch for the main light instead of a normal one such as you would find in any other room.

The rational here is to keep wet hands from the electrical part of the switch; it’s only the cord that gets wet. If it’s really going to be a problem running the wiring into the ceiling for a pull cord then you are allowed to use an ordinary switch but it must be outside the bathroom.

Wiring for Appliances in a Bathroom

Appliances in a bathroom should be wired in via fused connection units, not ordinary three-pin plugs. These units must be mounted out of reach, which in a bathroom usually means outside the room. With some appliances, like radiant heaters or convector heaters, this might not be practical, so the fused units should be mounted high on the walls so that they cannot be reached by someone in the bath or at the basin.

Electrics for Shaver Sockets and Wall Lights

The one exception to this is a shaver socket which is approved for bathroom use. These have an internal transformer which isolates the user from the mains while using it. They often come in a combined unit with a light which can be very useful when positioned over a mirror in front of a basin, particularly for shaving.

A shaver socket and light unit should be wired into the 13amp ring main but ordinary wall lights will take power from the 5amp lighting circuit. There are no specific rules about wall lights in a bathroom but they come under the same general rules as other devices.

So you won’t be able to install wall lights that have their own switches, they must be linked to pull cord switches or ordinary switches outside the room. You might be able to install wall lights that have their own individual pull cord switches but then you would have to mount them in places where they couldn’t be reached by someone while they used the bath, shower or basin.

Electrical Connections for Shower Units in the Bathroom

The shower is another area where electric regulations are quite tough but in this case it’s often about the higher power requirements of a shower unit as much as the proximity to water. Obviously the unit itself must be waterproof but most of the wiring, if you’re lucky, can be done from behind the shower, if it’s attached to a stud wall.

The shower must be supplied direct from the fuse box or consumer unit on its own circuit with a 30amp rating. The cable must be routed via an isolating switch which should have a red light which indicates whether the power to the shower is on or off. Again this needs to be out of the reach of anyone using the shower, usually by the door.

Why Most People Use Electricians

Regulations on electrics have generally been tightened up over the last few years and anything other than a direct replacement of an item is likely to come under Building Regulations. This means that the work will have to be notified to a Building Control Officer before the work is started and they will have to grant permission for the work to begin. Once it is completed they will return to inspect the work and certify it.

The other route, which is far less aggravation, is to employ a suitably qualified electrician. Because of their qualification they are allowed to work without that permission and self-certify the job. So the sensible and safest course of action for most householders will be to employ an electrician to do the work for them.