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A consumer unit, or fuse box as some still call it, is the heart of a home. It is the distribution center of the electrical supply and has a big responsibility: protection. It has the ability to ensure the security of our electrical equipment and protects us from electric shocks, fire or explosion caused by arcing, faulty electrical equipment and installations, and transient over voltages.
However, having a consumer unit does not mean that the household is automatically, fully protected. Being compliant to relevant standards and regulations provides a fair protection, but it’s also important to consider the type and age of devices inside the consumer unit to get the full package of protection.
Domestic electrical issues cause approximately 20,000 fires in UK every year. In the recent tragic event at Grenfell Tower in 2018, it was reported that the fire was caused by a malfunctioning fridge-freezer, raising questions about whether the danger could have been recognized beforehand if the correct protection equipment was already in place.
All of this highlights the importance of compliance to standards and getting regular checks of installations. As your consumer unit is the heart of your home’s electrical system, it is critical that it’s updated to meet today’s energy demands and safety requirements.
So is your consumer unit really up-to-date?
Make sure you are compliant with BS 7671 Wiring Regulations UK: 18th Edition
The CENELEC Harmonisation documents and BS7671 Wiring Regulations are regularly updated to keep pace with new emerging technologies such as electric vehicle charging, surge protection and arc fault detection.
The latest edition of the Wiring Regulations was published in July 2018, enforced in January 2019, and enhanced with Amendment 1 in January 2020.
With 18th Edition and Amendment 1, the following major topics have been clarified, changed or added:
• Chapter 41 Protection Against Electric Shock – Disconnection times & additional protection with RCDs, which are mentioned as a required protection measure
• Chapter 42 Protection against thermal effects – The introduction of arc fault detection with AFDDs , which are mentioned as a recommended protection measure
• Section 443 Protection Against Transient Overvoltages of Atmospheric Origin or Due to Switching – contains significant changes refering to SPDs, which are mentioned as a required protection measure
• Section 521 Supporting of Cables Against Premature Collapse – all wiring systems are supported with fixings and accessories such that they will not be liable to premature collapse in the event of a fire. Suitably spaced steel or copper clips, saddles or ties are examples that will meet the requirements of this regulation.
• Section 722 EV charging – Suitable protection for EV charging systems in different earthing structures
Make sure you review the protection requirements for your installation together with an 18th Edition certified electrician.
What else can you do?
Replace damaged socket outlets and switches
Find out how old your wiring is
Old or faulty wiring is a major cause of home fires. You can often determine the age of your home’s wiring by the materials used. In the UK, for example, wires coated with lead, fabric or black rubber were used in homes prior to the 1960s. Have an 18th Edition certified electrician inspect your home’s wiring if you have any concerns.
Use appliances safely
Even if your electrical system is in good shape, your household appliances and devices may be unsafe. Worn cords and damaged plugs increase your risk of both fires and electrical shocks. Improper use, such as running power cords under rugs or installing bulbs with more wattage than the light fixture was designed to handle, is dangerous as well.
A little knowledge and effort goes a long way towards making your home safer.
Courtesy: Romain Grand