Do you need a new consumer unit?

I regularly receive emails (usually from someone moving to an older Cardiff property) saying they need a new consumer unit. The reasoning is usually “it looks old,” or “the one in my previous house looked safer.” A consumer unit (also called distribution board, box of tricks and fuse board amongst other things) protects the cables and occupiers to a certain degree. I’m the electrician you can hire to check your electrical installation in your Cardiff home or business. You might not even need a replacement consumer unit, but if you do, I can replace it for you so it’s up to the latest AMD 3 standard and certified so you won’t have any hiccups should you decide to sell or rent your South Wales home.

What makes you think you need a brand-new consumer unit anyway?

Maybe the fuse board has been in the house since you moved in, or looks different to the one in your previous place. That might not mean you need to replace it though. One reason electricians may suggest a new consumer unit for your Cardiff home or business is that the wiring regulations now require almost everything to be protected by an rcd.
A residual current device (rcd) is a device that helps prevent electrocution and fire. If you are looking at your electrical setup now and see something which does not have a test button anywhere in sight – then, yes, you have something relatively old one by modern standards.

Older rewireable fuses and cartridges did not come with rcd protection

Old electrics doesn’t necessarily mean unsafe, but you are unlikely to have any new electrical installation work (such as a new shower circuit, extra sockets, or power outdoors) without having rcd protection carried out by a qualified electrical contractor. All registered electricians in Cardiff, Penarth and Dinas Powys work to the latest wiring regulations and will provide you with the necessary documentation should you need a new consumer unit. Be clear you want the electrical installation certificate and building control notification when getting quotes. Don’t accept things like you don’t need it, or someone else will come at a later date to certify it. Whoever installs and tests it should be able to provide you with the necessary documents.

If you are going to replace an old fuse board with the latest residual current protection from Contactum or British General; the last thing you want is up-to-date circuit protection whereby some circuits will not stay on or randomly disconnect because of an underlying earth fault the previous non-rcd protected distribution board was never designed to detect (and didn’t offer additional protection to people, livestock, and buildings). Sometimes home and businesses have consumer units replaced and then experience random power loss on a particular circuit such as lighting or kitchen sockets because no testing has been carried out prior to replacement. Intermittent earth faults can be time-consuming to diagnose.

What to expect when you have a replacement consumer unit installed

Power for every circuit (lights, sockets, shower, cooker etc.) will be switched off whilst the old unit is removed, circuits tested and finally replaced. Sometimes additional work can be required – like extending cables to allow the new unit to be relocated elsewhere if necessary. If you work from home and need mains power or Internet access (your phone line is unaffected, although the broadband equipment won’t work without power), then bear this in mind if you need to work whilst the distribution board is being replaced.

How much work is involved replacing a distribution board?

Fitting a new consumer unit requires a fair bit of electrical testing and installation. It is not a matter of unscrewing the old one and fitting the new one. Access to the whole property will be required as some of the tests require checks at socket outlets and light fittings. The easier the access, the more straightforward the job will be when it comes to testing, labeling and certifying your new electrical installation.

Replacing a domestic consumer unit can take a complete working day, sometimes longer if there is additional work required such as upgrading the main earth and bonding connections. Once installed, your electrical installation will provide additional protection for your home, garden, office, shop or club – and everyone using it. A sticker will be placed on the new board with the recommended re-test date and you will be provided with an electrical installation and building compliance certificate.

If you live in the Cardiff or Vale of Glamorgan area and think you may (or hope you don’t!) need a new consumer unit, or aren’t sure about what you have; please get in touch. I will be pleased to help, even if it’s to say that you don’t need anything at this moment in time.


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