If you have a medium to large number of appliances to test (e.g. upwards of several hundred), or are thinking of adding PAT testing to your portfolio of services, then a PAT testing system could well be worth investing in.
Here we’ll define a system as a downloading PAT tester, kit of accessories, downloading software suite and any training as appropriate to ensure you are competent and qualified to get the most out of it.
There are many good manufacturers of quality PAT testers from the big names in test equipment such as Fluke, Martindale Electric, Megger, Metrel, Seaward etc. All of which are available from Instrotech.
For the purpose of this article we are going to focus on arguably the most popular of the downloading PAT test systems with the Apollo range from Seaward.
Step 1. Choose your PAT Tester.
The Seaward Apollo currently has three models within the range. All can be powered either from the internal battery or via the mains, all feature a QWERTY keyboard, and all fully meet the tests required by the IET 4th Edition Code of Practice.
• Memory for 2,000 records
• PC download via USB
• 25 User Configurable Sequences
• 50 User set sites and locations
• Point to point testing (requires accessory)
• Remote data transfer via Android devices
All of the above plus:
• Memory for 10,000 records
• PC download & upload via USB
• 100 User Configurable Sequences
• 100 User set sites and locations
• Point to point testing (accessory included)
• Tester clone facility
• Multiple password controlled user accounts
• Auto-incremental asset ID
• User definable comment lines and configurable checklists
• Risk based re-test calculator
All of the above plus:
• On-board digital camera
• Memory for 50,000 records & 2,000 images
• Built in universal risk assessments
• Health & Safety certificates
• Data transfer via USB flash drive
• Remote data transfer via Android + iOS devices
The Apollo 600 is the top of the range and with an inbuilt camera (great for logging visual faults). It goes beyond being a PAT tester as you can now record any workplace test or inspection making it a complete Health & Safety tool.
Step 2. Add a Kit to Create a Bundle
Step 3. Add Downloading Software
Seaward produce PATGuard 3 as the complete software solution for record keeping, storing, and producing reports on test/inspection data downloaded from your Apollo. It can even produce invoices, schedule retests and upload retest data to your tester (model depending). The various options on PATGuard 3 license durations include:
• 1 Year
• 3 Year
• 5 Year
• Network license
Tip. It is worth noting that licenses run concurrently so if you are getting close to the end of a current one then let it run down to the last moment before entering a new code. They are also locked to a specific PC. Should your computer fall over / get replaced then a quick call to Seaward Customer Support will get that license code released so you can re-assign.
You will also need PATGuard 3 if you wish to CSV export any data from the Apollo. This is a bit cheeky as the data download from the Apollo is in a format that requires PATGuard 3 to do the CSV conversion. Work arounds are out there but can be a bit long-winded.
Other software suite options are available that will work with the Apollo (e.g. SimplyPATs) but PATGuard 3 has been specifically designed with the Apollo range in mind.
Step 4. Training
There are several options available when it comes to PAT related training.
If you are new to PAT testing, or it has been over 5 years since you last trained (in order to stay up to date with the latest IET Code of Practice), then we’d recommend a 1-day classroom based PAT Training Course. The best are those that provide both the theory plus practical experience as you require both by the IET to be deemed a “competent person”.
The downside to online courses is that they can only ever provide the theory. I’ve also been told (on more than one occasion) that some C&G courses lean heavily on the depth of theoretical content which can be a bit too much for some.
Most classroom based PAT training courses are 1-day, ours is so popular that we now run open courses every other week. If you have 5+ delegates then it maybe more cost effective to book a course tailored just for you. These can be carried out in our Training Academy or at your site.
Apollo Product Training
If you have a fleet of Seaward Apollo units and wish to know how to get the best out of them (as like with smart phones people are often only using a small percentage of the total capability of the device) then we have options for ½ day Apollo specific course run either by ourselves or direct from Seaward. Again these can be held at our place or yours and are suitable for when you have several Users to train together.
PATGuard 3 Software Training
The same goes for PATGuard 3 as there are dedicated training sessions on how to get the best out of the software taught by Seaward either at our premises or yours.
Step 5. Anything else I should know?
Yes, a few bits which I’ll try to cover here.
PAT testing Adaptors. Depending on the type of appliances you are testing you may require adaptors in order to connect them to the tester. I’d suggest buying these as and when needed (any reputable brand should be fine). The most common PAT test adaptors are:
• 110V adaptors (either with IEC connector for testing 110V extension leads, or domestic plug to connect 110V appliances to the tester. The latter comes with the Apollo Pro or Elite kits).
• Adaptors for testing 3-phase appliances (4 pin or 5 pin, star or delta).
• IEC kits for testing power cords (e.g. cloverleaf or fig.8 as used on many laptop chargers).
Cost of Ownership. The Apollo should be regularly calibrated to ensure measurement accuracy and traceability. I’d suggest an annual calibration and to use an Authorised Seaward Service Centre, such as Instrotech, where the Engineers know the testers inside out. It is also worth having the firmware regularly checked and updated as the Apollo series is an evolving platform. For a small charge a Service Centre can usually do this for you, so why not have it done while it is in for CAL? Alternatively, it isn’t an overly complex process if you wish to do the firmware update yourself.
Tip. Please remember to regularly back-up your Apollo to your PC. Treat it as you would a smart phone. If anything were to happen to your unit, through fault or accident, then you could stand to lose up to 50,000 records (this is also the same should the unit require repair as the Service Centre are likely to reset back to factory settings).
Other Things to Consider. This includes factoring in the software license renewal and any consumables such as labels for the printer (if you have one of the Pro or Elite kits). Label rolls can vary from 130x to 350x per roll depending on the size of label you use. You will need official Seaward labels as they have specific markings on the back that the thermal printer head uses to line up with, but it is worth shopping around as prices for Seaward Test n Tag labels can vary (especially if you buy in bulk).
Step 6. Further information
If all of the above sounds a bit daunting or makes the head hurt with the worry of expense, then there is another way which is with hiring!
By hiring you only need to pay for equipment as and when you need it (also a good back-up option should one of your testers be out of service for a period of time). Hire equipment comes ready calibrated, serviced, and firmware updated. You can opt to hire all items (apart from labels which are purchase only), or just the parts you need (including PAT adaptors). On the flip side, hire equipment tends to operate on a first-come-first-served basis and PAT testing does have seasonal peaks which may affect availability.
Tip. There is even a work around on the PATGuard 3 software as Seaward offer a 28-day free trial on their website -the only caveat being that you can only have 1x trial per PC.
I hope this article has been useful. If it has given you a thirst for knowledge, or even if it has been as clear as mud and you’d like further clarification, then do feel free to call myself or any one of our fully qualified PAT specialists here at Instrotech on 01923 442244 as we’re always more than happy to discuss and advise on all things PAT test related.