WHY IT SHOULD BE SUNSET FOR TERMINAL STRIPS

Brett Smyth from global electrical manufacturer, Ideal Industries, discusses the benefits of switching from terminal strips to lever or push-in connectors for electrical distribution network installations.

From using an app to book a GP appointment, to ordering smashed avocado on toast; it seems we’re always been urged to try something new these days. Different isn’t always better – ask anyone who’s been starving on site by 11am because they’ve swapped out their full English for avocado! When it comes to switching from terminal strips to lever or push-in connectors, however, there are compelling reasons for electricians to make the change and for wholesalers to point them in the direction of connectors.

Better the Devil They Know

As with many commodity items used in the electrical sector, terminal strips have become the default setting for electricians simply because they’re the method they have always used. Keeping to the same routines can mean missing an opportunity to save time and improve quality, however, which could deliver commercial advantages for the electrical contractor. Simply by switching to lever or push-in connectors, it could be possible to save man hours and achieve a more consistent and compliant installation.

The challenge is that electricians have a tendency to remain loyal to the products and installation techniques they used when they trained. Despite working in a sector where continuous learning is integral to professional competence and compliance, therefore, they often stick with what they know, especially when it comes to routine tasks like making connections.

As a manufacturer with significant research and development resources and the international reach required to adopt best practice innovation from around the world, Ideal Industries is always on the look out for better, faster and easier ways of carrying out electrical installations. However, we recognise that expecting experienced professionals to adapt habits that have been ingrained over decades is like asking someone to ditch the sugar in their tea overnight. That’s why we’re working with colleges to support training of the next generation of electricians using lever and push-in connectors by offering complimentary products so that they can practice using consumables that are faster, easier and more consistent. As these young electricians start to influence how projects are run, they will generate increased demand for lever and push-in connectors through the wholesale channel.

We continue to believe, however, that there are also benefits for more experienced electricians willing to make the switch. And, just like cutting the sugar from tea, it’s a switch that offers clear benefits and, once made, is unlikely to be reversed.

The other barrier to change when it comes to switching from terminal strips to lever or push-in connectors is perceptions of cost. This is an area that offers a win/win scenario for both wholesalers and contractors. The unit price of connectors is slightly more than terminal strips, creating an opportunity for increased margins for wholesalers. Meanwhile the time savings they offer electricians easily offsets the minimal additional costs. 

Indeed, connectors not only help to keep the job within programme, but can also reduce labour costs over the length of the project. What’s more, making the switch removes any inconsistency associated with the tightening of terminal strip screws, thereby building value into the cost of the connectors by reducing the need for quality assurance checks or call backs.

Advantages for Electricians

Switching to connectors ensures that installations are consistently safe and compliant with current wiring regulations. The 18th Edition requires that traditional terminal strip connections should be accessible for annual inspections in compliance with BS EN 60670-22, which makes it difficult to select a suitable location for terminal strip connections, leading to non-compliance for many projects. Conversely, lever and push-in connectors are classified as maintenance-free when used in conjunction with an approved enclosure box, so can be part of a compliant installation anywhere within the property.

Using connectors rather than terminal strips also ensures every connection is consistent because there is no variation in the tightening of the fixing screw that fastens the cable in place. Ideal Industries’ Connectors even include a stripping guide on the side to aid consistently accurate stripping of the cable prior to connection, along with a CPC port for relevant testing. 

This standardised approach to making connections ensures lever and push-in connectors deliver a fit-and-forget solution, removing any margin for error. This means that routine connections can be given to less experienced operatives on site, freeing-up the team’s most experienced professionals.

Developing Opportunity

To further enhance the opportunities of connectors, Ideal Industries is now introducing the In-Sure Gen 2 Lever Connector. Robust and well-designed at an attractive price point, like all our lever and push-in connectors, it offers a user-friendly, cost-effective and quality-led alternative to terminal strips that provides wholesalers with an opportunity to achieve improved margins while steering customers to a product that will help them save time and improve quality on site.