There are around 25,000 electrical fires in the UK each year. Here, John Newbury, product manager at Ramtech Electronics, looks at how latest technology is now able to detect and prevent many more of these occurring

ome Office figures show that there are around 25,000 electrical fires in the UK each year, with 70 per cent of them causes by some form of electrical fault. They cause injury to 8,890 people and over £41 million of damage to businesses and homes. It is common for people to believe that RCDs will prevent all electrical fires, yet that is far from the case. RCDs are designed principally to avoid a person from being electrocuted and cannot detect the elevated temperatures generated by resistive heating from electrical faults. The Home Office report goes on to state that RCD’s are only able to prevent 20 per cent of electrical fires, or one in five. A common cause of electrical fires is resistive heating due to loose connections, faulty appliances or overloaded sockets and distribution boards. They all have one thing in common, which is the generation of excessive heat, resulting in the ignition of adjacent combustible materials. This abnormal heating of connections and components can develop long before a fire even starts, and is the root cause of so many avoidable and potentially life threatening electrical fires.

H A way of detecting resistive heat

If there were a way of detecting this build-up of heat before the point of ignition were reached then many electrical fires could be eliminated. This was the thinking behind the development of ‘WES Hotspot’, a new technology that monitors electrical installations and equipment, alerting building occupants to the risk of an electrical fire long before it starts. The technology has the ability to turn what would have been an emergency situation into a simple maintenance task, and can be easily retrofitted to any existing system or new build project.

The technology can be incorporated within sockets, consumer units and distribution boards, the key risk areas in a typical electrical installation, in order to provide permanent monitoring of heat. In the event of temperature exceeding 80°C, it can either automatically isolate power when an RCD is present, or instantly alert building occupants via a variety of ways, such as a BMS, fire alarm system, or a mobile device using our WES REACT system. The Thermarestor technology behind WES Hotspot works by activating as soon as abnormal heat (80ºC ± 5°C) is detected. Once activated, these single and multi-point sensors can either automatically isolate the circuit supply by operating an RCD or else provide a signal to an alarm system, long before the temperature can increase to the point of ignition. It can be connected to virtually any system to provide occupants with instant notification. The range has been independently tested and is compliant with all applicable statutory regulations and requirements.

‘ The technology

can be incorporated within sockets, consumer units and distribuon boards, the key risk areas in a typical electrical installaon

With RCDs only able to prevent one in five electrical fires, a growing number of building owners and operators are seeking smart, technology-led approaches to fire safety, particularly pre-ignition solutions that prevent a fire occurring in the first place. Advances such as this provide an effective, easy to fit solution that actively prevents electrical fires - making it highly valued by clients and building owners. The benefits apply to an almost infinite number of potential users, any building that uses electricity as a source of supply. Whether it’s a residential tower block, school, hospital or historic landmark, smart technology such as this has the ability to eliminate electrical fires caused by overheating.

RCD’s only prevent one in five electrical fires

A report* by DTI estimates that only 20 per cent of all electrical fires could be prevented by the presence of an RCD, which still allows the vast majority of electrical fires to occur, with devastating effects. The source of ignition in electrical fires within low voltage installations is excessive heat. Circuit breakers, RCDs and RCBOs are unable to detect heat generated at points of connection and therefore fail to respond to this major cause of fire until ignition has occurred.

RCDs are designed principally to avoid a person from being electrocuted and cannot detect the elevated temperatures generated by resistive heating. In order for an RCD to operate and isolate the supply (via a current imbalance) ignition would have already occurred.

Resistive heating of connections can generate heat in excess of 1000°C,

well above the ignition point of many adjacent combustibles such as PVC cable insulation and plastic consumer unit enclosures.

Miniaturisation of the technology, and an extended life from battery-powered devices, allows these kinds of devices to be fitted in a vast range of consumer units, distribution boards, sockets and electrical equipment, protecting building occupants from some of the thousands of electrical fires that occur each year. Being able to detect a fire before it starts means that it is more intuitive than existing protective devices such as MCBs and RCDs, because it responds to the excessive heat caused by wiring faults and overloads.

A preignition solution

It is clear that although RCDs and over-current devices do have an important role to play in mitigating the risk of an electrical fire, they are not able to address the majority of fault scenarios that may subsequently initiate fire ignition. Until now, there had not been a practical or straightforward way of detecting overheating of connections, yet these are a major cause of electrical fires. Smart technology is now capable of addressing the anomaly of electrical fires, meaning that routine installation of these relatively inexpensive devices could lead to a step change in fire safety.

* DTI Report: "Consumer Safety Research - Residual Current Devices - added value for home safety”

Newbury racecourse by David Wilson Homes. The project comprises of ten separate blocks totalling 366 apartments. Once activated, WES Hotspot within the Landlord’s distribution boards instantly sends an alert to Facilities Management personnel via the fire alarm system, but is also capable of signalling via any notification system, or by using the WES REACT app for mobile devices. This early notification of an electrical fault and the overheating of connections, transforms what would ultimately be an emergency call to the fire service, into a simple maintenance issue for the FM team. Within the apartments themselves, the device is installed inside consumer units and has been configured to automatically disconnect the power supply in the

W Case study

ES Hotspot was installed across a £100m+ development at

event of abnormal temperatures being detected. In removing this potential source of ignition, it provides the highest level of pre- ignition protection to electrical installations, by actively preventing electrical fires.

Rob Allen, sales director at David Wilson Homes, says: “Once we understood the ability of this technology to prevent electrical fires caused by heat build-up in electrical circuits it made it a very easy decision to specify it across our Newbury development. We were extremely impressed with the fire safety benefits it offers prospective buyers, residents and investors.” The range has been independently tested and is compliant with all applicable statutory regulations and requirements. It can easily be retrofitted to any existing electrical installation or deployed in a new build project.

amtech Electronics is a leading wireless systems technology specialist, delivering innovative safety and security solutions for leisure, construction, marine, rail and other industries. Ramtech Electronics has been a leading developer of radio frequency technology for over 25 years and continues to develop new technologies.


Ramtech is claimed to be the first company in the UK to develop WES+, which has become recognised as the system of choice for the UK’s top 50 construction firms, due to its ease of use, system reliability and the highest level of third-party certification. WES+ remains the only wireless fire alarm system for construction that complies with EN54 part 25.

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FIRE & SAFETY Stop electrical fires before they start

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