If you're questioning the reliability of your fuse board or consumer unit as they are often called,
but, not sure if it is necessary to upgrade.
Stick around to find out when and why it is important to have a reliable fuse board.
Don't get bogged down in the correct terminology of your homes fuse board / fuse box / consumer unit / distribution board...
The important thing is to know the importance of it and how its features can keep you safe in the event of a fault occurring.
You may look at your fuse board maybe once a year or more. The truth is, most people only really think about theirs when something trips the power.
As a minimum, most fuse boards consist of a variety of fuses or circuit breakers.
Each circuit in your home whether that be your sockets, lights, cooker, shower... Will be protected by a circuit breaker.
The technical term being an over current protective device.
As the name suggests these are devices designed to break the circuit and cut power to a certain circuit in the event of a fault.
An example of this type of fault would be a loose cable behind a socket coming loose and touching the earthed metal box behind.
This would cause an over current and cause the protective device to operate.
The problem here, is that with rarely giving the fuse board much thought, how can we be sure that the protective device will do its job?
Let's talk RCD's
An RCD is an additional safety device that works alongside your circuit breakers.
RCD's usually protect a number of circuits. This is called a split load RCD.
Or, in more modern fuse boards they are circuit breakers with built in RCD's. They are called RCBO's
The purpose of the RCD is to constantly monitor the current flowing through the circuits that they protect.
The live and neutral cables in a circuit should have an equal amount of current flowing through them at the same time during normal conditions.
Taking the example used previously of the loose live cable at the back of the socket touching the earth back box, this would mean an imbalance in the amount of current flowing through the Live and Neutral cables.
This is where the RCD would operate and "trip"
The latest requirements for electrical installations state that any new installation or even any alteration to an existing circuit must have RCD protection.
If your fuse board does not have RCD protection, this is a sure sign an upgrade is needed.
More Information on RCD's
Another requirement in today's installations is the need for protective bonding.
This is another form of protection that takes every fixed metallic object such as pipes, radiators and your boiler and makes sure that in the event of a fault and they became live, they would not cause harm.
This is a simple but, highly effective method of protection.
You may have seen a small tag connected to a pipe with the label "Safety Electrical Connection - DO NOT REMOVE"
Your main incoming pipe from either the gas or the water (assuming they are metallic pipes) has a cable attached to it that runs directly into your fuse board and connects to the earth terminal.
This means that every piece of pipework added on will be earthed.
The idea is that with one end of the pipework going to earth and the cable connected to the fuse board also connected to earth. There will be equal potential (voltage) everywhere.
Most new build properties and even some older houses have a plastic incoming pipe, and as plastic is not conductive, protective bonding is not necessary.
More Information on Protective Bonding
A Surge Protection Device or SPD are used to protect every aspect of your electrical installation. From your fuse board, circuits, accessories, appliances in the event of a surge of current most commonly found in lightning storms.
The effects of a sudden surge in current from a lightning storm can mean instant failure of appliances, computers, TV's and other sensitive equipment.
At the time of writing this post (November 2020) SPD's are not a compulsory requirement for an electrical installation however, they are an advised addition to a new fuse board upgrade.
It is understood that this could change however in upcoming amendments to the wiring regulations.
As more and more technology is added to our homes, we feel that the additional cost of the device with a fuse board upgrade is minimal in the grand scheme of the things that it protects.
The current electrical installation requirements (2020) state that the material used for the fuse board must be a non combustible material. This means any new fuse board installation must be made of metal.
The reason for this is because of fire risk protection.
If your current fuse board is made of plastic don't automatically assume you require an upgrade however.
This rule only came into effect for NEW installations in January 2016.
As I say this is for fire protection if a fire were to start inside a fuse board.
This fire would be contained within the board long enough to allow occupants to escape and emergency services to attend or to extinguish itself.
So, how would you know if you require an upgrade?
Take a look at your fuse board right now and look for an RCD (it should have a little test button) and say RCD on it.
If you can't see one chances are your fuse board is dated pre July 2008.
Without RCD protection unfortunately, your home isn't as protected as you may expect.
(An Example of an older style fuse board)
If your Fuse board DOES have an RCD or RCBO's that's good news, but, ask yourself when you last pressed the test button?
As a device with moving parts, without regular testing, sometimes they become stuck in position.
Test your RCD now.
If it trips then it is working as it should be.
At Doherty Electrical we want to make sure we offer clear transparent advice and guidance.
If you are unsure on whether your fuse board is in need of an upgrade.
Simply send a photo of the front by email to email@example.com or via Whatsapp on 07390 028 350 and we would be happy to advise you further.
To keep up to date with our work visit our Gallery section on the website or check out our latest blogs
For a free no obligation quote of a fuse board upgrade please get in touch
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