Portable appliance testing is required in some countries to ensure that an appliance's electrical cords, insulation and wiring meet precautionary standards against fire and electrical shock. Office buildings in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom must have professionally trained and certified Pat testers who visit every two to five years to test and certify appliances.
For laptops and other appliances that are moved around frequently, at least a visual Pat test is required every year. The wear and tear that occurs in transport may cause power leads to fray or batteries to be damaged.
- Skill level:
Check your laptop's power cable and cord for any frayed or worn spots, especially at the point where it connects to the adaptor or the electrical plug.
Plug your laptop into a live wall outlet, not a power strip. Look for sparks when the plug makes contact with the outlet. If your laptop has a two-pronged plug instead of three prongs, do not be surprised if you do see sparks when you plug it directly into the wall. This means that you have an ungrounded plug. See the Warning section for safety suggestions about ungrounded plugs.
Unplug your laptop from the wall outlet or power strip with it still powered on. Note the battery icon that appears on your desktop. If it indicates that your battery is fully charged, this means that you should have enough auxiliary power to avert any loss of data that could result from a power outage.
Leave your laptop powered on and unplugged for 15-30 minutes. Your battery shoud have plenty of power for this period of time and longer if it is holding a charge properly. Now log off and shut down your laptop. Leave it off for another 15 minutes.
Turn on your laptop and allow it to boot with only the battery as a power source. If it is strong enough to run your full start menu with no balks or warning messages that you are low on power, your battery is not damaged and is fully operational.
Check the bottom of your laptop for a rating plate with a CE and double-box symbol which will tell you whether your laptop is a Class 1 or Class II appliance. Since most laptops are Class II appliances, a simple Pass-Fail Pat tester will be sufficient to establish that it is electrically safe to use, if you want to go beyond a visual test.
Unplug and power down the laptop. Plug its power cord into the Pass-Fail Pat tester and then touch the other end of it to a metal portion of the laptop. The Pass-Fail meter will indicate whether the laptop is safe for use. Date a test label and affix it to the bottom of the laptop so that you will have a record that it was tested on at given date.
If it fails the Pass-Fail Pat test, you may have to replace the power cord, the battery or both. First take it to a qualified technician for a full Pat test. Under no circumstances should you continue to use an electrically unsafe laptop.
Tips and warnings
- If you wish to become certified in Pat testing to do in-house tests for a variety of appliances, you can take distance learning courses for Pat Training. This could save your company considerable money if outside testers no longer have to be paid to come in on a regular basis.
- If your laptop does not have a three-prong plug on its power cord, it is not grounded when you plug it into a residential wall outlet. It would be safer to plug your two-prong laptop cord into a power strip, which will always have a grounded plug. This will protect you from power fluctuations or shocks if a surge of electricity or a lightning bolt should come through during a storm.
- Another way to increase the safety of your laptop is to see if you can order a three-prong power cord to replace your two-prong one. As long as the serial numbers match on the old and new, it will be a safe fit.
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