WITH winter on our French doorsteps it only seems like yesterday that many parts of the country were experiencing severe cold spells, writes Paul Wilkins.
Winter has a huge impact on many residents, particularly those in rural areas where life can be quite ‘cut off’ even during the high season, so cold spells can be somewhat demoralising.
Your home is pretty much your safety and comfort zone during the winter months and it needs to be kept warm and safe. There is very little you can do to ward off external influences, but there is plenty that you can do to prepare for them.
Before those shutters are closed and the wood is chopped here are a few things to add to the checklist in your preparation for winter.
Prepare for winter weather
Power cuts will be experienced by many over the coming months and these can be caused by external or internal circumstances.
In the event of external forces such as maintenance or fault to the incoming supply, lightning, high winds, flooding, storms, there is very little that can be done to prevent this other than be prepared.
Keep in a safe place torches, candles and matches where they can be easily located in the event of a power cut, along with blankets, hats and scarves. A power cut from external forces can last up to 24 hours.
Prepare for power cuts
To avoid power cuts from internal circumstances being aware of the following and acting on them accordingly will promote safety and limit further serious outcomes.
A power cut can be caused by a blown light bulb or lamp. This can be remedied by you by keeping a selection of bulbs and lamps in the house.
Before replacing a bulb, make sure the switch is in the off position. If the switch remains on, heat can build up quickly and the bulb will be too hot to handle.
If the fuse continues to blow or trip when reset or replaced you will need to contact a qualified electrician. Always replace a fuse with one of the same rating. Fuses are designed to protect the size of the cable and loading purposes. The wrong sized fuse could lead to cable damage and possible fires.
Importance of your earth
Be aware of your earth spike. Do you have one? Is it rated properly? Earthing is the most important part of your electrical installation, without appropriate earthing your home and occupants could be in serious danger, particularly when using faulty appliances.
Check electrical appliances regularly. Most items are well protected from basic electrical dangers as in shock or overheating.
There are a few things to look out for and also some measures you can take to make your equipment last longer. The main part is the lead, which is known as flex.
The flex used in appliances is suited to the power drawn from the mains to operate it. The thickness of the flex is compatible to the current used. If a flex is constantly twisted and bent it will eventually split to expose the inner cores.
This is no longer safe. Do not tape or cover exposed wiring. Flex should be replaced by a qualified electrician, or equipment disposed of.
Many French homes will continue to use extension leads to accommodate British appliances. Make sure they are surge protected. Many parts of France experience a lot of power surges.
A surge protected extension lead will ensure that the fuse in the extension lead is blown, averting a surge to your equipment and damaging your PC, telephone or other appliance connected to your extension lead.
If you are using a coiled extension lead, make sure it is unravelled. A lot of heat can build up in a coiled lead.
Electricity is not confined to your main dwelling and regular checking of your barn, outbuildings and pool house need to be factored in too.
External buildings and barns should either be supplied by a circuit from the main fuse board in the house or from a dedicated fuse board which is connected to the incoming supply.
This will depend on how many circuits or how large the load is. Circuits must be protected by a residual-current device (RCD), whether this is at the dedicated fuse board or supplied circuit.
Now would be a good time to make sure all your external lighting is in good repair and replace bulbs and faulty wiring. Don’t forget your satellite dish as these easily become dislodged during high winds.
Last but by no means least, check where your electrical supplies are and that they can be turned off if need be.
If you have questions about your electricity supply and are keen to discuss costs and possibly change tariffs, an English speaking service from EDF is available.
Paul Wilkins of Électricien Anglais En France provides an electrical service to domestic properties across the Deux-Sevres and surrounding areas. He is a fully insured, fully qualified electrician with artisan status, who is able to carry out a wide variety of electrical works.
Last Updated on 27 August, 2023.