Digital Online Regs- Review

by Editor on July 27, 2015

Electricians can now access the digital BS7671 online Wiring Regulations and supporting guides. You can subscribe to get the online Regs and all associated content direct from the IET’s ES Plus platform.

See my customer review of the Digital Regs down the page or find out more here- Digital Online Regs.

digital-BS7671-online-wiring-regulations

What A Waste Of Paper!

I’ve just had a clear out and binned the last three editions of the regs, onsite guide, guidance notes etc. a pile of books about two feet high. What a waste of paper and money! I ask myself, how often have I looked at these tomes? Hardly ever.

For Annual Assessment

Of course every electrician needs to hold the latest copy of BS7671 for reference, but in reality apart from update exams, I only ever need to show a copy of the latest regs and guides for my part P and commercial ECA assessments, and that’s only once a year.
I’ve had the new yellow amendment 3 for a couple of months and it’s still in cellophane wrapper (and probably will be until my assessment). Is this really progress? Maybe it’s time to go digital!

New Amendment Now In Force

The new edition of the IET Wiring Regulations (Amendment 3) published on the 5th January 2015 and by the 1st July all new electrical work must comply with the latest standards. All registered electricians are required to update their regs and guidance notes.

Get Regs & Associated Books Online

What is Electrical Standards Plus (ES Plus)?
Electrical Standards Plus is the new platform from the IET, providing digital access to the IET Wiring Regulationsand all associated content.

What content is included in ES Plus?
ES Plus contains the IET Wiring Regulations and supporting guidance, including the On-Site Guide, Guidance Notes and other related books from the IET.
It will develop to include additional content, including videos and pod casts. Content available to each user will depend on the subscription package purchased.

Do I need a subscription to use the ES Plus site?
You can search and browse ES Plus for free, however, to access content items you need to register on the site and order a subscription.
Limited free content is available without a subscription, but you will need to register on the site.

My Review of Online Digital Regs

I’ve had the digital versions of the regs from the IET for a couple of years from Vital Source Bookshelf, but now my subscription has expired so I’ve been looking a better alternative. Maybe cheaper option, and a little easier to use. Vital Source allowed me to download the regs and guides to my computer but the search facility, an essential tool when delving into the regs, wasn’t very good.

The best option seemed to be the IET’s new “ES Plus” platform so I’ve taken a years bronze subscription for £51.00 plus vat (£61.20). 3 years would have been £153 plus VAT.

The Bronze subscription contains online and offline access to the basic 2015 Amendment 3 titles from the IET.

Find out more here- Digital Online Regs

These are the IET reference books that you’ll need to show that you’ll have access to for your annual assessments and Part P:

  • BS 7671 IET Wiring Regulations
  • IET On-Site Guide
  • Guidance Note 1
  • Guidance Note 3

Pros Of Digital Regs

Always Up To date
With the online digital versions you will have access to updated content, giving you peace of mind that you are always working to guidance for the latest edition. A subscription lets you spread the cost of updating all of your books once new versions are released. No more checking IET circulars or printing off the latest corrigendum.

Searching
The bottom line with the bs7671 digital regs is- Can you find what you’re looking for?

Well, I found it a bit confusing at first, but soon got the hang of using the search box at the top of the page which works well. Enter the regulation number or phrase and you’ll be presented a list which highlights that phrase in all relevant publications. You can access only the info books included in your subscription package but any others are still shown with a padlock symbol. It is possible to only show the books you’re subscribed to by ticking a box, which is useful.

For example- If you enter the search phrase “short circuit” you’ll get these results:
Wiring regs (51)
Guidance (78)
Others (39)

Enter “adiabatic” and you’ll get index links to that word:
Wiring regs (2)
Guidance (5)
Others (32)

One value that I always enter into my test sheets but can never seem to find in the books is the 16.5kA Rated Short Circuit capacity of a BS 88 cut-out fuse. Can I find it using the search?
I enter “16.5” and get:
Wiring regs (1)
Guidance (5)
Others (10)
…and after a bit of sifting through the results- Aha! In the GN3 Initial Verification Section Table 2.8, I find that a BS88 fuse has a rated short-circuit breaking capacity of 16.5kA at 240 V. It works!

Working backward and forward through your searches is straight forward as long as you’ve got a good internet connection.  Click on any of the suggestions to open the section or click your browser’s back button to return to the search results.

Offline Feature
As far as I can make out, you can’t bookmark pages but a very useful feature is that you can create a PDF of a section and download it. This could be good for regularly referred to sections such as tables charts. Print them off to keep in your van or save to view on a mobile device.  For example:

The Final Circuits chapter 7 of the On-Site Guide gives some really good reference info for installation electricians.
It would be useful to download the whole of chapter 7 to your mobile device (576kB) which includes:

7.1 Max lengths of radial and ring circuits
7.2.1 Grouping of circuit cables
7.2.2 Socket-outlet circuits
7.2.3 Lighting circuits
7.2.4 & 7.2.5 Requirement for RCDs
7.2.6 TT systems
7.2.7 Choice of protective device
7.3 Installation considerations inc Floors and ceilings (joists, prescribed zones etc)
7.4 Proximity to electrical and other services inc. comms cables & induction loops
7.5 Earthing of equipment having high protective conductor current
7.5.3 Socket-outlet final circuits
7.6 Electrical supplies to furniture

You can make your own PDF copy of the whole of this section by clicking a download button and saving to your device.

Likewise you may want your own copy of Max Earth Fault Loop Impedance Values tables from the Guidance Notes 3.  The download gives you the whole of Appendix A.

If you want offline to smaller sections- I’ve also just tried copying and pasting a diagram to a Word document which worked fine, or for a table or smaller image to display on a mobile phone you could simply take a screenshot saved as a jpeg.

Obviously these offline features of the digital regs would be for your own personal reference and not for reproduction or business use.

Cons of Digital Regs

  • You’ll always need an internet connection to view the online books which can be a problem when out on site.
  • Reading the text of the webpage is fine on a laptop or tablet but it’s very difficult to see on a mobile phone.
  • Viewing them is not simply like flicking though a book so you’d need to get used to this new method.
  • There’s no long index as you’ll find in back of each book but you can use a combination the chapters list on the left and the search facility at the top of the page.
  • You can’t bookmark pages so you can return to them later (as far as I know), but you can make sections available offline, copy or download (see Pros above).
  • The search feature won’t find broad match phrases. For example, a search for “BS 88” (with a space) will return lots of results, as expected. However search for “BS88” and you’ll get zero results.

Conclusion

I think that these digital online wiring regs and supporting guides from the IET are definately a step forward. The search feature is going to be the key to its success and really needs to be improved to help users more easily find what they’re looking for. A range of exact and broad match options would be helpful.  That said, it was never particularly easy to find what you were looking for in the ever expanding regs book. That’s why our copies tended to have ‘dog eared’ pages and sticky note markers. So all things considered, this is progress!

The price of £51 plus vat for 1 year is acceptable although you’d think that they’d be able to give you a discount for a 3 year (or longer) period. I guess they’re taking advantage of the fact that electricians will always need an updated copy. The fact that you’ll need to be online would make a downloadable version of all the books (as with Vital Source) more convenient, but we’re now in an online world. And think of all the trees we’ll be saving!

How do you get digital regs?

As soon as you place your order, you get sent your contact & order details to the IET asking them to set up your subscription. You will then receive an email from them with your username and temporary password within 24 hours. This email will contain a link to the IET Electrical Standards Plus website where you must validate your log-in details to activate your subscription.

Find out more here- Digital Online Regs

A Better or Cheaper Way?

What are your views on the online regs? Or if you know of a better or cheaper and more convenient way of updating your regs literature then please let me know.  Comments below- Thanks.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Smiler August 14, 2015 at 08:19

How did you find the new online (offline) version vs the VitalSource version?

Personally, I think it’s a massive step backwards – the offline issue with images, the poor navigation tools, the loss of the bookmark/highlight features. I think I may go back to the paper versions.

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