Your home Consumer Unit (AKA Fuse Board, Fuse Box, Distribution Board) is where the electricity supply meets your home circuits. It contains ways to make you and your house safe. It does this by helping to protect you from dangerous electric shocks, and to limit the heat which could build up in faulty wiring which can lead to damage or fires.
You might have an old "board" in your garage which could be made of wood or bakelite, with rewireable fuses, or you might have a more recent unit with cartridge fuses or electronic circuit breakers (which we call MCB's).
All new and upgraded domestic installations must these days also include RCD protection (Residual Current Device). These are fitted to all household circuits and they monitor the "leakage" current in your circuits, ready to break the supply extremely quickly if they detect a fault. - A fault, for example, might caused by be damage or deterioration in your wiring, or it might be you receiving an electric shock.
An electric shock in the absence of RCD protection is much more likely to be damaging or fatal ! You can find more information about RCD's here
If you would like me to add new circuits ( for example, new wiring for lights, sockets, anything really), to your house, Regulations mean that you must have RCD protection and some other important safety measures (such as your "Bonding") in place. One of the best ways to do this if you have an old Consumer Unit is to first get that upgraded. This typically can take me two days since it means I must inspect and test ALL of your household circuits, and frequently update the earthing and the "Bonding" in addition to fitting a new the Consumer Unit.
Whilst I'm doing all that work, it's very common (and from practical experience..nearly always), that I uncover faults in your wiring which I need to fix. I'll put right the small things as I test, whilst working my way through your property. If I find bigger problems, then sometimes we do need to take a view on it.
- The types of faults I can typically find when I inspect and test for a new Consumer Unit in old houses are varied. For example, poor original workmanship resulting in exposed or vulnerable joints, open circuit cables, high resistance junctions, sockets or switches, inaccessible & faulty junction boxes, inadequate bonding, dangerous lack of earthing, incorrect cable rating, water damage to cables, rodent damage. Old DIY wiring alterations can be a particular fruitful source of imaginative bodges.
Electricians work to BS7671. The IET Wiring Regulations BS7671 "Requirements for Electrical Installations" has undergone 17 major updates and numerous revisions since it was first written. Each stage has brought requirements up to the latest understanding and has incorporated additional regulations for your safety. It's quite a weighty document. Our current version is the yellow one below.
Making these Consumer Unit upgrades, I will also take a hard look at your electricity supply, the Earthing and the "Bonding" and the connections to your electricity meter. It's surprising how many old properties have potentially dangerous supply problems. Despite the spiders, this one turned out to be fine.
My copy here is looking a little tired, it gets used!
If you have one of these on your wall, you will probably need an upgrade before I can do any work on your wiring. For your own personal safety you might also be interested in an upgrade!
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