Complaints to electricity companies have seen a sharp increase in recent months as more and more consumers have questioned the quality of supplies.
Grievances have ranged from sluggish and unresponsive electrical items to noisy cables, damaged fuse boxes and smelly sockets.
After receiving a significant volume of mail on the subject, the consumer organisation Huh? commissioned an investigation. Their report, based on evidence supplied by a forensic electrician, revealed that the electricity that we use at home might not be as pure as we have a right to expect.
Samples of electricity were taken from eight separate locations and put through a number of laboratory tests. In summary, the main findings were:
- The electricity incorporated significant quantities of impurities. All but one of the samples contained iron fillings - this is a normal consequence of modern electricity manufacturing methods, but these impurities should be filtered out before they leave the generating station.
Failure to do so can result in increased wear and tear on electrical equipment, and could explain why some customers complained that they could hear 'rattling' and 'tearing' noises coming from their wires.
- Other impurities and foreign objects were also found, including traces of asbestos, human hair, faecal matter and, in one case, a shoe. Such material can cause dangerous blockages in electrical equipment, causing fires and even explosions.
Some of the larger items could disrupt the supply to a dwelling completely, effectively acting as an electrical dam and allowing dangerous reservoirs of current to build up below ground.
- The voltage of domestic supplies within the European Union is 230 volts, and yet some of the electricity sampled contained bits of electricity that were significantly outside this range. Much of the impurities were around the 70 to 150 volt range, which suggests that suppliers have been trying to slash costs by cutting their electricity with cheap, sub-standard power imported from elsewhere.
However, in one case a lab technician came across a chunk of electricity that registered over 900 volts. To say he was shocked is an understatement, and had he not been wearing rubber soled shoes he would have been done for.
- Upon placing the samples beneath a scanning electron microscope, it was noted that the charged particles were not properly linked up. In the words of the report "all the little men were not holding hands".
This would mean that the current would be unable to flow, and is symptomatic of a shoddy and incomplete manufacturing process.
A spokesman for the energy industry responded by saying that the report is 'bullshit' and that any problems that customers may have encountered were down to isolated attacks by squirrels.
When asked to elaborate, he responded: "No, not squirrels. I meant those other things. You know, those things that flap about in water, with the big teeth and everything. They come out at night and nibble your cables. Yes, it was them."
A better spokesman for the energy industry has subsequently responded that the issues that were raised in the report were the result of faulty equipment at several main generating plants. He apologised for the inconvenience and he asked customers to bear with them while the problems were resolved.
He also asked customers to disregard anything his colleague may have said about squirrels. The person in question has, apparently, just undergone something of a domestic difficulty at home, and has been granted compassionate leave until he can get himself sorted out.