Understanding your Fusebox



Your fuse box, otherwise known as a consumer unit, is best regarded as the electrical working hub of your home. Would you know what to do if your lights went out, or there was an electrical emergency in your home? Indeed, do you know where to find your consumer unit? Many householders don’t. 

Familiarising yourself with your consumer unit It is worth your while locating your consumer unit before it becomes a necessity.  Consumer units are generally found either underneath the stairs, in hallways or in an outside cupboard so check these locations first.   

Making Access Easy Consumer units at various heights – commonly underneath stairs they are located at floor level.  Try to keep the area around consumer units clear of household items so you can easily access the switches on your consumer unit should you need to. Similarly, consumer units in hallways are located higher up on a wall, so consider how you would access it should you need to.  It is not recommended to stand on a chair to reach it, so you may like to consider storing a set of stepladders nearby in order to reach the switches. 

Electrical Experts – offer testing and inspections for landlords and home owners: 

  • Visual Inspection 
  • A visual inspection of the property, with a report of its condition provided 
  • EICR (Domestic Electrical Safety Inspection) 
  • A full inspection and testing of circuits in the property, with a report of its condition and test schedule provided  
  • PAT (Portable Appliance Testing) 
  • Testing of items that are plugged into electrical outlets. (washing machines, kettles, tumble dryers etc) 

Understanding the basic switches on a consumer unit There are three things that are useful to know about which you will find on your fuse box:  

  • Main Switch  
  • Residual Current Devices (RCD) 
  • Circuit Breakers (or fuses) 

The Main Switch The most important switch to familiarise yourself with is what is known as the main switch.  This is the switch which simply switches your home electrics on or off.  In the event of a problem with your electrics, you need to switch the main switch into the off position.  This protects you and your family from electric shock or injury. The main switch is the large red switch commonly found on the left-hand side of consumer units. 

RCD An RCD is a device fitted on consumer units fitted in recent years.  RCD’s have been responsible for saving many lives as it cuts the electricity if a fault develops with an appliance, if someone in the household accidentally touches a live cable or any other electrical problem is discovered. Finding out if your home has RCD protection is not difficult.  Look for a T or Test button on your consumer unit.  If you do have RCD protection in your home, it is important that you test your electricity switches off when you press the test button.  It is recommended to test your RCD at least once every 6 months under new regs.  If your electricity does not go off when the Test button is pressed, it is important to contact a qualified and registered electrician asap as this indicates a problem with your electricity. 

Circuit Breakers The row of switches found on your consumer unit are the circuit breakers.  These offer protection from the dangers of electricity – they are more effective than a fuse, and less effective than an RCD.  If your find your lights go off, then chances are it is a circuit breaker that has ‘tripped’. If you look at your consumer unit, you will find that one of the switches will be in the ‘off’ position. Simply switching the switch back to the ‘on’ position will re-instate power to the lights. 

Fuses Some older style fuse boxes have fuses in place of circuit breakers.  Known as rewireable fuses, the fuse is effectively a wire that runs between 2 screws.  If an electrical fault or overload runs through the wire, it creates heat which melts the wire.  This action effectively breaks the circuit by disconnecting the faulty circuit and hopefully preventing electric shock or injury. 

Don’t ignore tripping If you find that your electrics are tripping often, this could indicate a problem with your wiring in your home.  Continuously re-setting the circuit breaker will be causing more costly damage to the wiring.  If tripping is becoming a problem in your home, it is important you consult a qualified and registered electrician who can investigate the problem further. 

When an upgrade may be necessary There are many old fuse boxes in properties, and they may seem to be working correctly.  Some fuse boxes have been in situ since the 1960’s making them nearly 60 years old!  However, it is worth while considering an upgrade for your household to benefit from the latest electrical regulations and protection.  If your fuse box has a wooden back, cast iron switches or different types of fuses then this often means an upgrade would be highly recommended by your electrician.  This is so you can be certain that your consumer unit will protect you in an electrical emergency. Similarly, if you do not have any RCD protection, then an upgrade would be worth your while. 

Consumer unit safety Consumer unit upgrades should always be carried out by a qualified and registered electrician.  Never compromise your safety by attempting to do it yourself.  Additionally, the installation of a consumer unit must be carried out in accordance with the Part P building regulations.  Your electrician must give you a Part P certificate which confirms that the consumer unit has been installed in accordance to these recommendations. 

Electrical safety inspections are one of our specialties, and request a service call from East Kent Electrical Ltd offers a level of convenience, safety, reliability, and professionalism that has served millions.  

Please contact us to discuss your electrical queries, projects or to arrange a quote via the contact page. Call and speak to Trevor at East Kent Electrical Ltd directly on 01843 290107. 

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