Fuse boards are known within the electrical industry as consumer units, however many of our clients still refer to them as fuse boards, so to keep things nice and simple, we will refer to consumer units as fuse boards within our article.
Your fuse board is the hub of your home electrical system, so it is important that you have a basic understanding of how it works. Should your lights trip or you need to test your RCD or worse still an electrical emergency occurs, you will know what you need to do.
It is better to prepare yourself in advance rather than panic should an incident occur.
Your fuse board should be accessible
Firstly, it is important that your fuse board is easy to access. Commonly fuse boards are located in outside cupboards, under stairs cupboards or hallway locations. Ideally you should be able to safely reach it. Avoid storing items around the fuse board, which can make it difficult to access should you need to. If your lights do go off in your home, the last thing you need to be doing is trying to move things around in order to find the fuse board!
Fuse board basics
There are three things that are useful to know about which you will find on your fuse board:
Residual Current Devices (RCD)
Circuit Breakers (or fuses)
Next, we will explain in more detail what each item does and how it keeps you safe.
As the name suggests, the mains switch allows you to turn off the electricity supply to your home. It is worth familiarising yourself with the main switch in your fuse board as this is what you will need to use in an emergency. Some homes will have more than one mains switch, for example if you have electric storage heaters, in which case you may have more than one fuse board. The mains switch is the large red switch located on the left hand side.
Residual Current Devices (RCD)
The RCD trips a dangerous circuit by disconnecting the electrical supply instantly. It’s action is far quicker than fuses or circuit breakers which only offer limited protection. In our opinion, every home should have RCD protection.
If your home has RCD protection, you will find the RCD test button on your fuse board. The button will be clearly marked with ‘T’ or Test. To ensure the RCD protection remains activated, it should be tested at least every 3 months. Pressing the Test button should activate the RCD instantly. If the electricity does not switch off, this indicates a problem, and you need to consult a domestic electrician in your local area.
These are protection devices found in your fuse board that switch off a circuit if a fault develops. They are a similar size to fuses and are found in a row across the centre of your fuse board. They also offer more precise protection than a fuse. Should a fault occur the fuse ‘trips’ by turning the switch ‘off’. Should a trip occur, simply look at your fuse board to see which switch is ‘off’ and simply switch it back on to reset it. However if the trip is a persistent problem, it is worth contacting an electrical contractor to take a look.
Older Fuse Boards
Older fuse boards may have re-wirable fuses in place or circuit breakers. Re-wirable fuses have special wire that runs between screws. If a fault develops it burns and melts the wire which disconnects the circuit.
If your fuse board has a wooden back, cast iron switches or a mixture of fuses it is likely to require a replacement to ensure your electrical safety in your home is not compromised.
We always recommend upgrading your fuse board to one which has RCD protection even if your fuse board is more modern than what we have suggested above!
Remember a replacement consumer unit must be installed by a qualified electrician. Here at Fulcher Edwards we are committed to your safety and would always recommend that you consult a qualified electrician if you have any concerns about your electricity.