New consumer units: protection from electrocution and fire

I regularly hear from someone moving to an older part of Cardiff like Cathays or Splott saying they need a new consumer unit. The reasoning is usually “it looks old,” or “the one in my other house looked safer.” Fuses do not provide protection for coming in to contact with a live conductor. The latest models with rcd protection do.

A consumer unit (also called fuse box or board among other things) protects the cables, building and occupiers. You might not even need a replacement consumer unit, but if you do, I can replace it with the latest AMD 3 standard and provide the certification so you won’t have any hiccups should you decide to sell or rent your home in the future.

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 Cardiff residents have a new consumer unit installed by a registered electrician is because the wiring regulations now require almost all circuits to be protected by an residual current device (rcd).

Rcds help 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.

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 consumer units are replaced and then people 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 so it makes sense to hire a local registered electrician in Cardiff do some testing before removing the old one!

What to expect when you have your consumer unit replaced

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 unit is being replaced.

Just how much work is involved replacing a fuse board with a consumer unit?

It is not simply a matter of unscrewing the old one and fitting the new one unfortunately! 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.

How much does it cost to replace an old fuse board with the latest up-to-date consumer unit in Cardiff?

A rough figure for new consumer unit installation is between £350 and £500. The cost depends on the number of circuits and if additional work is necessary to complete the job – such as upgrading the meter tails and main earth cables. Access will determine how long the job will take (and therefore the price) – some fuseboards are located in far from ideal locations! Sometimes extra circuits have to be introduced due to overloading and crowding of the circuit protection. Sometimes, what can appear five circuits can turn in to eight. Its not unusual to see three or four cables connected to one circuit breaker. Most circuits are one cable, aside from ring final socket circuits which have two. Dual rcd consumer units (also known as split load) are cheaper than full rcbo units which offer additional benefits.

If you live in Cardiff and need a new consumer unit, or just need advice from your local electrician on what is necessary to bring your installation up-to-date; 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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