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4 Differences Between Residential & Commercial Electrical Installations

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Last Updated on 31 October 2022.

Electrical installations are one of the final things you’ll be doing when building a new building.

Electrical installations are one of the final things you’ll be doing when building a new building.

The walls and structure are up, windows and doors are in, so next is making sure you’re infrastructure for electricity usage is in place to power your premises.

The thing is, no two buildings are the same, so no two electrical installations will be the same.

Similarly, electrical installations also differ from residential to commercial settings.

Here we go into 4 fundamental differences between residential and commercial electrical installations:

(And click here to find out more about rewiring and new fit-outs for your electrics.)

1. More involved at planning stage

Electrical blueprint

Commercial, compared to residential, is a lot more involved at planning stage.

You’ll usually find there is an architect, consultant and/or electrical designer involved at planning stage, and there will be umpteen building regulations which will need to be followed.

Depending on the use of the building and its reliance on electricity, this will be more involved. E.g. a cinema’s electrical blueprints is going to look pretty different compared to a convenience store!

Electrical designs can get complex, but for good reason.

We always recommend getting as granular with this as possible, because the more detailed and specific it is, should you need to add equipment or machinery on at a later stage, your electrical contractor would easily be able to tell whether this would be a strain on the current power or not.

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For instance, commercial buildings are going to have a few different aspects you wouldn’t see in a residential home, and commercial buildings are also likely to change structure more often due to expansion or re-purposing.

You typically wouldn’t, for example, see automatic doors, elevators or sprinkler systems in your average household.

The materials used in commercial settings is also different to materials in domestic settings to ensure they’re resistant to heat and corrosion, and are adequately insulated.

You’ll also find back-up power in commercial and industrial settings to cater to emergencies, which isn’t the case in most residential homes.

2. Accessibility over aesthetics

Commercial settings prioritise accessibility of electrics as opposed to aesthetics because of the need for repair, shut-off and ongoing maintenance.

Compare this to a residential setting, electrics will be far more concealed where you’ll only see sockets on the wall and your fuse box.

The last thing you want is exposed wiring being played around with by kids or pets!

Wiring in commercial buildings tends to be protected inside of tube-like conduits, whereas domestic wiring is protected inside multiple layers of plastic sheathing in the form of thin wire, which is designed to protect against anyone who might touch the wire and get an electric shock.

You’ll very rarely see conduits in commercial settings used in residential environments.

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3. More power!

Electrical power

More power is needed for commercial buildings due to the reliance of machinery, alarm systems (such as your fire alarm and intruder alarm, as well as CCTV), and computer equipment.

Commercial wiring typically needs three-phase power instead of residential wiring which generally needs only single-phase power. That means more wires in the cable, so more current can be distributed to the circuits to supply more power as needed.

(They are divided into phases because that’s essentially dividing the electrical load so the property isn’t overloaded with power!)

We’re seeing a lot of this, at the moment, for example with EV charging point installations.

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People are committing to buying or leasing electric cars hoping to get a charger at their home without first doing the homework to check if their home’s power is sufficient to draw the level needed to charge a car safely.

Commercial settings typically don’t have an issue when they’re three-phase, but domestic homes are often needing to apply for an upgrade to their Distribution Network Operator, which in this region is UK Power Networks.

4. Fixed Wire Testing

This is also called an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR), whereby your electrics are tested periodically to check for faults and ensure your electrics are still fit for purpose (with no overloading), and safe to use.

When you’re first getting your electrics installed, you’ll be issued with an Electrical Installation Certificate, which is kind of like your first EICR; and then henceforth you’ll need to do your testing inspection as often as required.

How often this is required is usually stipulated in your periodic Fire Risk Assessment.

However, there are general rule of thumbs for different building types – check out the table which explains how often an EICR is needed depending on type of building and business you’re in.

Residential or domestic settings, for example, typically need an EICR every 10 years. Whereas most commercial settings need it every 5 years – largely due to the reliance on electricity as mentioned above, and the higher currents drawn.

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There was a change to The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020, which came into effect in April 2021, and meant that landlords in private rented properties needed to make sure they had an up-to-date EICR which was carried out every 5 years.

Before this, it was only mandatory in HMOs, but following this law, it went from being a recommendation in other privately rented homes to a legal requirement.

Now to look at some similarities…

The BIGGEST similarity between residential and commercial electrical installations is ensuring that whoever is installing, repairing or servicing your electrical installation is a competent electrician.

After all, it’s public health and safety – as well as your own – that you’re putting at risk.

Commercial electricians are typically trained to a higher level as there’s more legislation and regulations they must comply with in commercial settings, such as The Electricity at Work Regulations Act.

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When you’re vetting your electricians, you should be looking at:

  • Their accreditations and memberships (are their NICEIC or NAPIT approved?)
  • Their reviews and recommendations (do they come recommended?)
  • Previous portfolio of work/case studies (can they demonstrate competence?)
  • Service quality and aftercare (do they offer post-service aftercare, such as telephone support?)

Why Trust WFP?

We’re a fire, security and electrical company that’s been taking care of commercial premises to keep them safe and legally compliant since 2003!

We’re fully accredited by BAFE, SSAIB, NICEIC and SafeContractor, not to mention being members of the Fire Industry Association (FIA). More than that – our customers trust us and we’ve got a number of reviews from loyal business owners and property managers who know that when they want it done right, they come to WFP!

So, if you need help with your electrical installation – we’re here to help you!

Give us a call or pop us an email today! 👇

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2 thoughts on “4 Differences Between Residential & Commercial Electrical Installations”
  1. industrial electrical installations

    Inspecting equipment with thermal scans can ensure your facility’s equipment is running normally with no disruptions or inefficiencies.

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