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Equipment in bathroom cupboard
vantech
71 Posts
Question

Hi, 

The regs stipulate zones for bathrooms, however I need some guidance on bathroom cupboards.

I have completed an inspection where there is heating control equipment located inside of the bathroom cupboard. This is mounted inside of an IP rated enclosure with a sealed transparent hinged door. There are no metallic parts, no switches etc, just the digital interface for the product itself. 

There is also a network switch, mounted inside of a locked rack enclosure. 
 

Am I right in thinking this is OK and I can treat this as a separate location? 

There are no sockets or switches on show - only 13amp unswitched fused connections. 
 

Thanks. 

26 Replies
Chris Pearson
3072 Posts

Section 701 does not mention cupboards.

I immediately thought of an airing cupboard and immersion heater,  but they are permitted even in zone 1 - 701.55(x) - although difficult to see how it could be achieved.

I think that what is described does not fall into the prohibition in 701.512.3 because it is not a switch or socket.

Therefore it is compliant. That notwithstanding, it seems to be perfectly safe, so no comment required.

AJJewsbury
2958 Posts

Doors define the limit of a 701 location in the same was as walls, floors, ceilings, fixed partitions and so on - so as long as the cupboard has a door, it's likely to be compliant. No need for it to be locked or accessible only using a tool.

Traditionally that was always the case as we had plate switches for immersion heaters in the airing cupboard next to the bath, even when switches (other than pull ones) were banned from bathrooms, and sockets on the landing just outside of the bathroom door.

   - Andy.

mapj1
4166 Posts

Generally “the zones”  stop at fixed partitions, walls and so on that do not move, and at the entrance door to the bathroom - as the assumption is presumably that it would be immodest to shower with the door open, and all these objects will intercept water splashes .

Now as an aside   I'm not sure that the writers of the regs are particularly worldly wise or well traveled sometimes in the assumptions made about behaviour like that, but there we are.

Now you do not say where this cupboard door is, in relation to the bath or shower head etc, but you could ask ‘if it was left open, would anything electrical get wet ?’

As it happens it sounds like nothing inside matters if it gets wet with some odd drops anyway, so even if the door was taken off the cupboard completely you would be OK.

However, for future notes or for other readers, if there was an accessible 13A socket in the cupboard, then you may need to consider it a regs non-compliance. How seriously to take that non-compliance  would depend on the likelihood of getting it wet, or of a wet handed user fresh out of the tub reaching in to do something with it… the bogey case everyone raises is the use of a hair dryer that then gets dropped in the bath while plugged in and someone is in the bath

 Unless it is a big bathroom and a 3m offset can be maintained. Not sure there are many hair dryer leads that long, or indeed that anyone in their right mind does that, but again, it is a (safe?) assumption.

The other consideration is condensation, and that all depends on temperatures of outside walls being colder  etc and how good the ventilation is, and what to do is not really well defined in the regs but still needs thinking about properly.

Mike.

 

 

keylevel
43 Posts

I moved into this house a few years ago, and one of the bathrooms has a cupboard at the end of the bath where the washer and dryer go. Ventilation is good and they cannot be operated from the bath, so I'm not concerned 😉

vantech
71 Posts

Thanks all! As I expected! 

ebee
1336 Posts

If we have a bath with a shower head at the tap end and the cupboard has the door open (or is easy openable) and a standard person could be still in the bath and easy reach round into such cupboard and touch switch/socket/controls etc then should we be concerned? Well who would imagine someone actually doing that? Me. Who would imagine some years back a similar such person reaching up to a batten lampholder without a H O skirt and changing the lamp whilst live? Me. 

 

 

Never underestimate the determined ingenuity of complete and utter idiots!

 Actually Charly Darwin had a way to sort `em out

Chris Pearson
3072 Posts

AJJewsbury:

No need for it to be locked or accessible only using a tool.

There are shed loads of cables under daughter's bath 'cos the CU is below. The side of the bath is screwed into place so they are not in zone 1; but what if she had one of those wee cupboards where the spare loo roll and Flash may be stored?

Chris Pearson
3072 Posts

ebee: 
If we have a bath with a shower head at the tap end …

Or even at the opposite end; but I do take your point.

gkenyon
1792 Posts

mapj1: 
 

Generally “the zones”  stop at fixed partitions, walls and so on that do not move, and at the entrance door to the bathroom - as the assumption is presumably that it would be immodest to shower with the door open, and all these objects will intercept water splashes .

Now as an aside   I'm not sure that the writers of the regs are particularly worldly wise or well traveled sometimes in the assumptions made about behaviour like that, but there we are.

"Presuming an assumption" is asking for disaster, according to the laws of Engineering! Ignoring the adage ‘Assumption is the mother of all cuffups’ is sure to invoke Murphy's Law.

The real reason the location containing the bath or shower stops at a fixed partition or door is quite simply, it's considered to be an indicator of the extent or boundary of the location. The issue being how do you define such a location? You run the risk of unintentionally including a whole structure. It's not an easy debate, and one that I'm sure will cycle round for further debate when any work is done on Section 701 (or IEC 60364-7-701 internationally).

Yes, it does lead to some socket-outlets, switches, etc., outside of the location potentially being within the proscribed distances [if the door is open] but on the other hand, practicability tells us that the bathroom light switch not being outside the bathroom might be more of an issue than the far-fetched risk of someone trying to operate it from within the bath or shower.

Zoomup
3856 Posts

How many official electrical  reports of fatalities do we have in the U.K. from wiring accessories being splashed in bathrooms or shower rooms? Abroad people have been killed when dropping something into an occupied bath such as a phone charger. But here in the U.K?

 

Z.

gkenyon
1792 Posts

Zoomup: 
 

How many official electrical  reports of fatalities do we have in the U.K. from wiring accessories being splashed in bathrooms or shower rooms? Abroad people have been killed when dropping something into an occupied bath such as a phone charger. But here in the U.K?

 

Z.

Your point being, what we do here works because there are few, if any, and those cases being where people run extension leads into their bathroom?

mapj1
4166 Posts

I did try and look into this in the early 2000s, when I wired a bathroom here to the VDE standards of the day so we could have  a full power schucko socket near the sink in our own home.  

At the time the little data available suggested that in the UK we have a similar number of  fatal exploding hairdryer accidents, but like a game of cluedo, these are in the bedroom rather than the bathroom, and in all cases it is mostly mangled cords. Bathtub electrocution  is very rare, so rare as to be a non-issue in countries that do permit sockets in the bathroom, which is most of 230V land.

I note that the most recent  BS7671 DPC was looking to reduce the 3m to 2.5m.  I did comment actually that it may be clearer not to faff with the numerical value, but to remove the number  altogether and to replace it with something indicating intent, such as ‘out of reach’ or ‘where splashing is unlikely’. 

“ In zone 2: switchgear, accessories incorporating switches or socket-outlets shall not be installed with the exception of:

(i)switches and socket-outlets of SELV circuits, the safety source being installed outside zones 0, 1 and 2, and

(ii)shaver supply units complying with BS EN 6 1 558-2-5. Except for SELV socket-outlets complying with Section 414 and shaver supply units complying with BS EN61558-2-5, socket-outlets are prohibited within a distance of 2.5 m horizontally from the boundary of zone 1.”

Used to be 3m, clearly post brexit arms are shorter. ;-) 

The key thing to not get lost is not the compliance or not with the letter of the regs,  but is to be quite sure the installation safe for the way it will be used .. 

Mike.

vantech
71 Posts

Zoomup: 
 

How many official electrical  reports of fatalities do we have in the U.K. from wiring accessories being splashed in bathrooms or shower rooms? Abroad people have been killed when dropping something into an occupied bath such as a phone charger. But here in the U.K?

 

Z.

In the USA I believe it’s actually required by regulation to install a socket next to the sink. 

Most of continental Europe has sockets by the sink. 

The UK is is very strict on this, but you have to wonder why and if there is actually a benefit with the use of RCDs. 

I have a 230V socket outside of my own bathroom door and it’s used for hairdriers, inside the bathroom, every day and I have seen this is countless properties. 

Actually my own view is that its more dangerous to traipse a cable across the landing, causing a trip hazard, than it would be having the socket by the sink. 

gkenyon
1792 Posts

vantech: 
 

ZIn the USA I believe it’s actually required by regulation to install a socket next to the sink. 

Most of continental Europe has sockets by the sink. 

The UK is is very strict on this, but you have to wonder why and if there is actually a benefit with the use of RCDs. 

It is wholly incorrect to think that RCDs will protect you.

Consider someone immersed in a plastic bath, with plastic drain, and not touching taps (or taps have plastic pipes), and a Class II product is dropped in the bath.

There is NO ‘residual current’. The OCPD will operate, but it is likely the person in the bath will be seriously injured or killed before that happens, as the electricity tracks through salt straight to the person's trunk, as it's the most conductive thing in the water, to get from Line to Neutral.

As I said, no protective conductor, no alternative path other than L-N, so an RCD is wholly ineffective. This is not a theory … it was proven in an investigation after two children died in a bath in Germany after a shaver on charge from the mains fell into the water and killed them both.

I have a 230V socket outside of my own bathroom door and it’s used for hairdriers, inside the bathroom, every day and I have seen this is countless properties. 

That's quite common … also for mains powered hair clippers

Actually my own view is that its more dangerous to traipse a cable across the landing, causing a trip hazard, than it would be having the socket by the sink. 

No argument from me.

gkenyon
1792 Posts

Incidentally, in the case in Germany (and a similar one in France), the courts did not blame the electrical installation for the deaths … but lack of supervision by the parents. However, I'm sure we'd all agree that if something can be done to help prevent such accidents, it should be.

vantech
71 Posts

gkenyon: 
 

vantech: 
 

ZIn the USA I believe it’s actually required by regulation to install a socket next to the sink. 

Most of continental Europe has sockets by the sink. 

The UK is is very strict on this, but you have to wonder why and if there is actually a benefit with the use of RCDs. 

It is wholly incorrect to think that RCDs will protect you.

Consider someone immersed in a plastic bath, with plastic drain, and not touching taps (or taps have plastic pipes), and a Class II product is dropped in the bath.

There is NO ‘residual current’. The OCPD will operate, but it is likely the person in the bath will be seriously injured or killed before that happens, as the electricity tracks through salt straight to the person's trunk, as it's the most conductive thing in the water, to get from Line to Neutral.

As I said, no protective conductor, no alternative path other than L-N, so an RCD is wholly ineffective. This is not a theory … it was proven in an investigation after two children died in a bath in Germany after a shaver on charge from the mains fell into the water and killed them both.

I have a 230V socket outside of my own bathroom door and it’s used for hairdriers, inside the bathroom, every day and I have seen this is countless properties. 

That's quite common … also for mains powered hair clippers

Actually my own view is that its more dangerous to traipse a cable across the landing, causing a trip hazard, than it would be having the socket by the sink. 

No argument from me.

They afford some protection, and certainly enough for most situations - fully agree there are of course instances where they may not offer any protection, but for the most part they do - the instance where a shaver fell into a bath is just as likely to happen with a blow drier dragged into the bathroom from the nearest 13amp. 

Chris Pearson
3072 Posts

gkenyon: 
There is NO ‘residual current’. The OCPD will operate, but it is likely the person in the bath will be seriously injured or killed before that happens, as the electricity tracks through salt straight to the person's trunk, as it's the most conductive thing in the water, to get from Line to Neutral.

As I said, no protective conductor, no alternative path other than L-N, so an RCD is wholly ineffective. This is not a theory … it was proven in an investigation after two children died in a bath in Germany after a shaver on charge from the mains fell into the water and killed them both.

I am struggling with this. We have in the bath water a couple of electrodes. The bather is in contact with neither of them. How can the bather be a lower resistance between them than the bath water?

mapj1
4166 Posts

he or she is not necessarily lower res than the bath water, nor do they need to be. But if current is flowing in the water, there is a voltage gradient along the current path. Put a hand in and you can tap into that at any point along the resistance, rather in the manner of the slider of old style school rheostat.

 Now, if you have one end of your body near one electrode and the other end of your body near the other, you get a significant belt. Much like step voltages on wet ground, but larger contact areas.

As you fill more of the bath with body you displace the parallel water path, and the problem gets worse.

However if the the two electrodes are close together, and you keep well away from them, you only see a  small fraction of the terminal voltage.

M.

gkenyon
1792 Posts

Chris Pearson: 
 

gkenyon: 
There is NO ‘residual current’. The OCPD will operate, but it is likely the person in the bath will be seriously injured or killed before that happens, as the electricity tracks through salt straight to the person's trunk, as it's the most conductive thing in the water, to get from Line to Neutral.

As I said, no protective conductor, no alternative path other than L-N, so an RCD is wholly ineffective. This is not a theory … it was proven in an investigation after two children died in a bath in Germany after a shaver on charge from the mains fell into the water and killed them both.

I am struggling with this. We have in the bath water a couple of electrodes. The bather is in contact with neither of them. How can the bather be a lower resistance between them than the bath water?

Electricity does not flow in ionic solutions in exactly the same way it does in solid conductors. 

AS mapj1 pointed out also, there are voltage gradients … but it is slightly more complicated than that. The presence of the body distorts the electric field in various ways, some to do with “salt” (ion) concentrations. 

Add to that, that the body resistance is lowered, and there are a lot of pathways for the current to enter the body - it's not simply hand-to-feet or hand-to-hand shock.

Finally, it may not be ventricular fibrillation that kills someone, but drowning due to muscle spasms and lack of control. 

IN fact, limitation of voltage in immersed situations is not a guarantee of protection against electric shock - a few volts is all it takes. IEC TR 60947-5 recommends that, whatever the operating voltage, current limiting (at a very few mA - strong muscular reactions occur at as little as 5 mA) is the only feasible option for equipment intended for use where people are immersed in water.

Zoomup
3856 Posts

gkenyon: 
 

Zoomup: 
 

How many official electrical  reports of fatalities do we have in the U.K. from wiring accessories being splashed in bathrooms or shower rooms? Abroad people have been killed when dropping something into an occupied bath such as a phone charger. But here in the U.K?

 

Z.

Your point being, what we do here works because there are few, if any, and those cases being where people run extension leads into their bathroom?

Ah! A question mark. What we do does indeed work for safety. But I think that these days with modern methods of construction we may be going overboard. Decades ago with iron baths, many accessible metal pipes and big metal radiators, using water pipes as the main earth electrode, and towel rails in bathrooms the electrical risks  were greater than today. Who sprays the shower rose upwards? And if they do is it really an electrical risk even with an ordinary L.E.D. light fitting. The risk of a cracked glass bulb is much reduced due to them fading away.

Many modern bathrooms and shower rooms have an all insulated tub or shower tray. The floor is covered with vinyl or a synthetic carpet, and pipes are mainly plastic or inaccessible. An upstairs bathroom is placed on an insulating wooden floor. We don't really consider many of these aspects.

I think that modern bathrooms and shower rooms are inherently safer these days due to modern construction methods.

And full R.C.D. protection affords a very good safety provision.

Perhaps a kitchen sink is a more risky place where an electric appliance like an autojug kettle/base may drop into the full bowl of water. The sad example given by Graham above is a very rare and avoidable event. Of course if the charger had been fed via a U.K. double wound isolating transformer from a shaver outlet the deaths may not have happened. Or would they?

White Dual Voltage Shaver Socket | Now At Victorian Plumbing.co.uk

 

Z.

AJJewsbury
2958 Posts

Of course if the charger had been fed via a U.K. double wound isolating transformer from a shaver outlet the deaths may not have happened. Or would they?

I suspect a separated circuit wouldn't have helped in Graham's example - the shock current flowed from L via the water and victim to N - no path to Earth involved. A 230V separated circuit (like from an isolated shaver transformer) would have been able to supply such a shock current just the same.

Perhaps a safer policy would be 30mA RCDs plus making all equipment deliberately class 1 with earthed parts around the live conductors (even if those live parts aren't exposed to touch) - so making a L-N shock without a L-PE residual current less likely.

   - Andy.

Chris Pearson
3072 Posts

Mike, Graham, thank you - I think that I have the picture.

I can visualize the current through the bath water like the flux around a bar magnet. Most of the resistance of the skin will be lost, so with a conservative figure of 1000 ohms for body resistance, 10% of mains voltage will give a 23 mA shock, which is more than enough.

I also take the point about drowning, but I would expect the autopsy to differentiate that from VF.

Zoomup
3856 Posts

AJJewsbury: 
 

Of course if the charger had been fed via a U.K. double wound isolating transformer from a shaver outlet the deaths may not have happened. Or would they?

I suspect a separated circuit wouldn't have helped in Graham's example - the shock current flowed from L via the water and victim to N - no path to Earth involved. A 230V separated circuit (like from an isolated shaver transformer) would have been able to supply such a shock current just the same

But if the electric shaver was supplied by a 20VA shaver unit that would reduce the shock current wouldn't it? The shortest path is between the L and N at the underwater shaver, inside the shaver. When that short occurs the Voltage would be reduced substantially along with the current available.

 

There are though many, many recent reports of bathers being electrocuted when a phone charger falls into the bath tub. Supplied directly from a powerful source I imaging. Perhaps we should just use 12 Volt caravan type appliances in bathrooms.

 

Z.

Chris Pearson
3072 Posts

Zoomup: 
Perhaps we should just use 12 Volt caravan type appliances in bathrooms.

Battery toothbrushes and their chargers, and shavers are fine in a bathroom, but it's beyond me why anybody would use anything electrical whilst taking a bath. A flannel, brush, sponge, or loofah does a perfectly adequate job.

Zoomup
3856 Posts

It is the phone on charge that people can not be parted from apparently.

What everyone already knows…

 

Shaver Sockets for UK Bathrooms - With Isolating Transformer - Bing video

 

Z.

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