August 7

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Consumer unit replacement – how often and why?

Every home in the UK with electrical wiring has a consumer unit. As a matter of fact most of the times you may hear it being referred to as fuse box. The item is a significant part of any electrical network. Each and every electric power line in the home comes from it. It is utmost important that the CU or fuse box is smoothly functioning and safe. This brings up the question to relevance, how often should a fuse box be checked?

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Let us try exploring the correct answer through this blog post.

How often should a CU be checked?

It is very important to always be attentive to your CU or electrical consumer unit. Promptly report any problem to a licensed electrician. Get the device checked at least once in every ten years although it can be checked more frequently in much shorter time intervals.

While you are buying or selling a property, your mortgage provider will not ask you changing an RCD in the consumer unit but will definitely want to the CU checked. And if you do not comply the sale will not complete. If you put a property on rent then the unit has to be checked at least once in every 5 years. But when the existing tenants are moving out and the new ones are set to move in, take this chance and get it inspected afresh to make sure the device is safe for the people who are about to occupy the premise.

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When it is ideal to replace an electrical Consumer Unit

There is just no need to replace a consumer unit if it is not defective or damaged. But problems may arise with older versions of the device that do not have RCDs. An RCD is the significant component a fuse box is made up of. In circumstance of current overloading it is the RCD that breaks the electric current to avoid incidents of fire or electrocution.

Moreover the previous versions of consumer unit are made of plastic and are still common across the country. But the plastic ones are not as safe as the units that are made of metal or metal-dad. Even if the plastic unit installed in your home is functioning smoothly yet it is better to upgrade it to metal unit to be on the safer side.

Now you may ask why is it so? The reason is very simple; if there is an incident of electrical fire inside the CU made of metal, it will not spread as fast as from inside a plastic unit.

 

Who has the authority to change an existing electrical consumer unit?

Even if you are confident about doing the job yourself, you should not actually try it unless you are not a fully certified electrician. The work involves too much risk and anyone other than a fully certified electrician is more likely to put himself in severe jeopardy while attempting it.

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When it is about time to upgrade the unit, just contact a licensed electrician to do the job for you. If the job is left undone then it will not comply with building regulations. After the work is done the electrician provides you with work certificate along with copies of various results of relevant tests that were carried out as a part of the job. Finally you also get a certificate issued by your local building regulations when the work is thoroughly completed.

How do I recognise an old electrical consumer unit

People who purchase new properties usually want to know whether the CU is old-fashioned and an upgrade is necessary. Here are a few tried and tested tips to accurately determine the age of an unit.

If you are buying a new property, it is likely that you will want to know whether the consumer unit is out of date and in need of an upgrade. In this case, there are certain things you can look for to determine the age of the unit.

Older versions of electrical consumer units are hardly made from the same material. Mostly Bakelite – a kind of plastic – was used in their making. The modern fuse boxes are not made of Bakelite anymore. Having an old fuse box installed at your home is not illegal but to be safer than sorry you should get it upgraded as early as possible. Modern units have a simple grey or white casing along with a row of switches including a red isolation switch. All other switches are in black and each one of those is associated with each of the electrical circuits installed in your home. Any modern version of CUs has at least a pair of RCDs.

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If you are still not convinced then you should try looking for the signs mentioned below:

  • A cabinet made from Bakelite or any light grade metal.
  • Absolutely zero RCD protection. Comparatively modern units have a test button that is usually marked with a ‘T’. the older units even lack this.
  • You will find metal pin connectors that are well pushed into the board.
  • In case you come across a unit with wooden back you should know it is very old. Such units existed way back in the 1950s and are obviously obsolete now. You have to get such units replaced immediately.

However the best way out is to take a qualified electrician with you to check out all these factors.

Why it is better to upgrade an old consumer unit

Certified electricians handling consumer unit replacement over the years point out absence of an RCD is the single biggest reason for which you must get your old consumer units upgraded. RCD or residual current device makes a difference as vast as the safe usage of the box and a potentially life-risk situation.

Moreover, older CUs are also likely to have vulnerable or exposed cables and wires. In other words these are more susceptible to electric shocks and electrocutions. If you come across any CU is such condition just hire an electrician immediately to get it fixed.

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