Consumer units and when should I upgrade one?
Some people call them the fuse box, some people call them breakers, as many know whatever you call it the consumer unit distributes the incoming electricity to the various parts of the house.What isn’t widely understood is that the consumer unit is there to potentially save your life, However equally a faulty consumer unit can also be responsible taking it, a good consumer unit provides a high level of user safety older one little or no protection of life. Dramatic but unfortunately factual.
How does a Consumer unit work and why does it keep me safe?
A modern consumer unit not only controls the routing of electricity throughout your home, it is wired in such away that should there be a fault it will by design disconnect that same supply to protect you and your family.
The old wired fuse boxes are very different from modern safe consumer units. The older fuse boxes worked in a way that was primarily designed to protect the wires rather than the users. To protect the wires the simple principle was to introduce a weaker link (the fuse) into the circuit so that it would be this weak point that “blew” and disconnected the current.
This is all well and good, unfortunately a fuse would quite happily deliver a potentially fatal dose of electricity to whatever or whoever was connected to it and had caused the fault. I’m sure most people know about using a broom to move people away from a electrical shock, there was no thought with the old systems that the current would have stopped, and its unlikely that it would have!
Taking a massive leap in saftey new consumer units employ RCD’s to provide a dual type of protection. Not to put this too lightly RCD may one day save your live of the life of a member of your family. Unlike the older fuses and RCD or (residual current device) can detect faults in wiring, appliances and your electrics long before they become a danger to the user. Unlike the older, slower fuses an RCD reacts FAST!. to give you some idea of just how fact and how safe:
Fatal electric shock in time and current is 1/10 of an ampere (amp) of electricity going through the body for just 2 seconds
Old fuse (60 amp) disconnects at at 60 amps+ in around 5 seconds
An RCD disconnects on a fault in less than 0.04 of a second and is tested to do so, reliably.
So I have and old box, should I upgrade?
I would personal advise everyone to upgrade there old systems to rcd protected ones as soon as possible. It is the one improvement you can make to your home that will make it a safer place to be, however this doesn’t always mean a whole new consumer unit so it is essential you speak to a registered, qualified electrician who can decide what needs to be done.
Consumer units with wooden backs almost always need replacing as these can often date back to the 1950s
Consumer unit Upgrade Price guide
Supply and fit a new consumer unit for standard three-bed semi-detached house. £300-£433
If you have any questions regarding Consumer unit upgrades or would like a free quote contact us today.