A consumer unit, often referred to as ‘the fuse board’ is the means by which your home or business electrical installation is connected to the incoming ‘mains’ of a property. One of the jobs of a consumer unit is to divide up your installation into individual circuits giving some discrimination to the installation. Another is to protect the cables from being overloaded by having fuses that will disconnect if the amount of current on that circuit becomes greater than the cable can safely carry. Thereby preventing overheating and the risk of fire.
On modern consumer units an additional function is the protection of the users from electric shock. This is achieved using Residual Current Devices or RCD’s for short. Their sole purpose is to monitor the current of a circuit and on detection of an imbalance, usually caused by a short circuit, disconnect the circuit from the supply before the voltage can rise to a point where it is dangerous to the user.
Should I upgrade my consumer unit?
Many older consumer units do not have RCD protection built into them. This does not necessarily make them unsafe but they would no longer comply with current regulations. This means that if you are planning on undertaking any new electrical work maybe as a part of a building extension or outbuilding supply, the new electrical circuits could not be connected to the current consumer unit without some adaptation. This is the perfect time to upgrade your consumer unit.
Similarly if you are purchasing a new house and are worried about the electrics, upgrading the fuse board would give you peace of mind. The installation of a new consumer unit also requires a full inspection, test and certification of the whole electrical installation so any electrical problems would be discovered just by virtue of having the old consumer unit upgraded. In addition, the main earthing cable and main bonding cables to the gas and water supply pipework are often upgraded at the same time. Many homeowners and developers often have an Electrical Installation Condition Report done on an old installation and as long as the condition of the cables is still fine and there are no other issues they upgrade the consumer unit to bring the installation up to the current standards.
Another good reason for a consumer unit upgrade would be if the current one has rewireable fuses. Many people on discovering a blown rewireable fuse are unsure about rewiring a new one and in some cases may use the incorrect size of fuse wire. This can be of concern to landlords who would rather their tenants just re-set a miniature circuit breaker than mess around in the dark with fiddly fuse wires.
So in conclusion, a consumer unit upgrade and associated inspection, test and certification is a good investment for your home or business.
For more information on consumer unit configuration options please click here