Help Businesses Increase Energy Efficiency by Making Low Carbon Choices

In terms of purchasing wire and cable products, specifiers and contractors are increasingly briefed to source the environmental option. Dr Jeremy Hodge, chief executive of the British Approvals Service for Cables (BASEC) reminds specifier’s to think green when providing solutions to a customer’s needs.

With the current simplification consultation for the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme closing this month (18th June 2012), carbon reduction and energy saving are a huge priority for large public and private sector organisations who will compete against one another to cut their energy bills the fastest, in a bid to rank the highest in a league table where the leaders will be financially rewarded.

The advantages of a triple bottom line of economic, environmental and societal benefits are becoming increasingly apparent and electrical installations are one area where substantial improvements to energy and wider environmental performance can be achieved.

Contractors and specifiers in the UK, whether individual or corporate, should be encouraged to make low-carbon choices, thus reducing the pressure on the energy infrastructure. A number of assessment methodologies have been developed which help purchasers compare the environmental merits of one product or technology over another.

For wire and cable, the key issues are recyclability, life cycle assessment, embodied energy, hazardous substances and in-use efficiency.


Wire and cable using copper or aluminium conductors has the advantage of using readily recyclable, high value materials in an easily separable form. Recycling industries for copper and aluminium are well-established and perform a valuable function. Copper from cable may be reused without fresh refining if it is segregated from other copper and non-ferrous waste metals (for example from plumbing).

Life cycle assessment

Life cycle assessment is a valuable appraisal technique widely used for manufactured products. All environmental aspects of the product (such as embodied energy, materials use and waste) are assessed for their impact over the whole life cycle of a product, including recycling or reuse. The methods are formalised in the ISO 14040 series of standards.

For insulated wire and cable products, one of the main factors influencing life cycle impact is the operational lifetime of the product. If cable has to be replaced within its advertised life expectancy this significantly degrades life cycle performance. Hence specifiers should choose cables and installation designs which are (1) less prone to failure in use, and (2) less prone to performance degradation over time. So choose cable from a reputable manufacturer, with the appropriate approvals demonstrating compliance with specifications.

Hazardous substances

Numerous countries have introduced legislation on the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic products, including the European Union (RoHS), China and parts of the USA. The provisions are targeted at specific heavy metals (such as lead, cadmium, mercury) and certain bromine-containing flame retardants. As a result of these changes, cablemakers and polymer compound suppliers have made significant changes to eliminate or reduce the quantity of these substances in their products.

Energy efficiency in use

The usage of energy in a building throughout its life dominates carbon emissions, so true green buildings should focus on maximising in-use energy efficiency. For electrical systems this includes the use of low energy lighting and air conditioning / heating solutions, and minimising electrical distribution losses. Two approaches are of value: cable sizing (too low a cross sectional area means they will run hotter and with greater losses) and cable routing to eliminate excessive cable length. Evidence is beginning to emerge that increasing the size of low voltage distribution cables will reduce carbon emissions and that this can pay back in as little as 10 years. Rapidly rising energy costs will give a boost to this approach, and can offer short term gains, but will end users, in today’s economic climate, be prepared to pay the upfront costs?

Choosing the right cable for the job

At BASEC’s world class laboratory electrical power and wiring cables, data and signal cables and ancillary products are rigorously tested to meet necessary and appropriate standards through detailed examination of manufacturers' production processes and controls, full initial type testing and regular surveillance testing. BASEC can in principal certify any type of cable, including bespoke and novel designs.

The technical specifications for cables are set out in standards at British, European and international level, supplemented in many cases by industry, application or company specific specifications. In addition to the construction and materials requirements (for example the types of plastics to use) these documents also specify the testing that needs to be applied in order to demonstrate and verify compliance. Most cables require between 30 and 60 different tests and examinations.

Common cable types:

Building wiring and flexible cables

BS 6004 - This is the main standard for PVC wire and cable commonly used in final circuits in buildings. There are 11 separate construction types set out in Tables, including the familiar ‘flat twin and earth’ ‘meter tails’, ‘conduit wire’ and other types.

BS 7211 - This standard offers Low Smoke Halogen Free (LSHF) versions of many of the types of wire and cable found in BS 6004. There are nine separate construction types set out in Tables.

BS 6231 - This is the primary British standard for single core instrument wire and includes the higher temperature rated type known commercially as ‘tri-rated’. This means it can simultaneously comply with the British, American (UL) and Canadian (CSA) standards.

BS 6500 - This is the main British Standard for flexible cables. It incorporates a number of construction types of various materials, many of which are harmonised with European standards and are within the HAR scheme.

BS 8436 - This is installation cable for use in final circuits, with an integral earthed screen and LSHF sheath. It is intended for use at shallow depths in partitions and related applications. It is nail penetration tested in conjunction with an RCD to meet Wiring Regulations requirements.

Armoured and special cables

BS 5467 - These are armoured power cables with XLPE or EPR insulation and PVC sheathing. They are used in many construction, commercial and industrial applications. Two, three, four, five and multi-core versions are available.

BS 6724 - These are armoured power cables with XLPE or EPR insulation and LSHF sheathing, commonly used where public access is a factor. Two, three, four, five and multi-core versions are available.

BS 7846 - These are fire resisting armoured power cables with XLPE or EPR insulation and LSHF sheathing and enhanced circuit integrity properties. Two, three, four, and five core versions are available.

BS 7629-1 - Commonly used with fire alarm systems to BS 5839-1 and emergency lighting systems to BS 5266-1, this is a widely used type of ‘soft skin’, fire resistant screened cables. They have low emission of smoke and corrosive gases when affected by fire.

BS EN 60702-1 (IEC 60702-1)
- Often used in emergency systems, this is an internationally harmonised standard for mineral insulated cables. They have high fire resistance and properties designed to survive fires.

Further information about BASEC is available at or you can contact BASEC directly at or +44 1908 267300+44 1908 267300

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