Fuse board, fuse box, consumer unit, are all the same devices and it is very important that you are aware of yours and its location.

Your fuse board will contain three essential components- The main switch, fuses and/or circuit breakers and Residual Current Devices (RCD).

Once you have located your fuse board have a look at it and make yourself familiar with all the fuses and switches, particularly the main switch as you may need to turn the main switch off in the event of an electrical emergency.

The four main types of consumer unit

  • Dual RCD Consumer Unit   

A dual RCD Consumer Unit is supplied with the main switch and two RCDs and offers a cheaper solution.

Consideration must be given to circuit design in this situation. You should not, for example, put all of the lighting circuits on the same RCD as an earth leakage fault on one of those circuits will cut power to the entire bank leaving your home with no lighting.

Despite the limitations of dual RCD consumer units, they remain extremely popular due to the cost. Most 'fully loaded' consumer units are dual RCD configurations.

  • High Integrity Consumer Unit  

With three neutral bars, which in essence gives three banks of circuits a high integrity consumer unit offers the best of both worlds.

Allowing for the use of RCBOs and two banks of MCBs they offer total circuit separation for critical circuits and highly cost-effective protection for standard circuits.

High integrity consumer units are becoming increasingly popular with electricians- because they make circuit design easier and homeowners- because they offer excellent protection without breaking the bank. They are particularly good in projects requiring 12 or more circuits.

  • Main Switch Consumer Unit 

A Main Switch Consumer Unit is so-called because it is supplied empty of all protection devices except the main switch. Whilst it may be populated with an RCD and MVBs.

Many electricians consider this the best circuit protection solution as each circuit is protected from overload and earth leakage individually, thus preventing nuisance tripping caused by earth leakage on other circuits.

  • RCD Incomer Consumer Unit  

An RCD Income Consumer Unit is a special type of protection device., generally used in workshops, garages, garden offices and sheds which use small amounts of circuits.

The defining difference between this and other types of consumer units is the fact that it does not have a 'main switch'. Isolation to the board is handled by a single RCD. In other words, all incoming electricity is managed by the RCD, hence the name.

This type of consumer unit offers no circuit separation as it may only be populated with MCBs. Earth leakage on every circuit in the arrangement is dealt with by the one RCD. That means that residual current fault on any circuit will cut power to all other circuits. For this reason, they are almost never used in the main dwelling.

Other types of fuse boards include:

IP or 'Ingress Protection Code' is defined in IEC standards which classify and rates the degree of protection provided by mechanical casings and electrical enclosures against intrusion, dust, accidental contact and water.

The fuse board is required to have a minimum IP rating to prevent a person from touching live parts and to prevent conductive and combustible materials from falling into the fuse board. If you notice a gap or hole large enough to fit a finger in it, it is likely that it is not safe or compliant with current IET wiring regulations.

Fire protection should also be installed at cable entries to ensure the fire cannot spread.

  • A Dual Tariff Fuse Board is used in properties that have no gas supply. These are commonly found in tower blocks and some maisonette properties. These work by keeping your electrical heating supply separate from general household electricity. The electrical heating supply will switch on during off-peak times and switch off during peak times to save on electricity costs.
  • Occasionally referred to as 'Skeleton Boards', these are spine backplate assemblies designed to fit within a Mantel or Clifton type enclosure which is essentially a type of metal utility cupboard which may also contain an electric meter. Many local authorities historically favoured skeleton consumer units as the main framework for consumer protection within homes. Electrical contractors did not like this type of consumer unit due to it being very awkward to work with, it can result in some eccentric arrangements and hazards arising in fault conditions such as the RCD tripping due to a simple bulb blowing downstairs and then plunging the entire house into darkness. Of course, electric installers working on older social housing still come across these and experience some difficulties in bringing the property up to current electrical safety standards. Although skeleton consumer units are very outdated, there is still a market for them, mainly for replacement purposes rather than an upgrade. This is because the applications and/or locations can make it tricky to substitute them with a modern fuse board- either for reasons of space or the ability/inability to provide sufficient circuits. Fortunately, the modern equivalents take much of the fuss away and provide a faster, cleaner and easier installation than would have previously been the case.

  • A Double Stack Fuse Board is for larger installations with multiple circuits. In comparison to an average fuse board which is between 6, 10 or 14 way, a Double Stack Fuse board can accommodate up to 40 way outgoing circuits.      

 

  • A Garage Consumer Unit or a mini consumer unit is used to extend the electrical distribution to an outdoor building such as a workshop, shed or outdoor office, connecting the desired lighting or electrical outlets to the main power supply. If only a small amount of load points are needed to power up through the mains supply, a garage consumer unit will suffice for any outbuilding rather than a larger consumer unit.
  • A Flush Consumer Unit is a fully populated, dual RCD metal consumer unit. Its recessed design allows for a flush finish to the wall with a modern, smooth, curved profile cover.       

 

If you are unsure what fuse board you have, get in contact with Mr Fusebox for further advice.

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