What is a fusebox?
A fusebox, also referred to as fuseboard, is the central hub of your home’s electrical systems. It’s the electrical heart, or brain, which distributes power around your property as needed.
The clue is in the name; it looks like a box, or board, containing many fuses.
Usually, you can find it tucked away in a cupboard under the stairs or in a utility room. Other common places to look include the porch, hallway, or garage.
What is a consumer unit?
The terms consumer unit and fusebox are often used interchangeably, although a consumer unit is essentially the modern and safer version of a fusebox.
A consumer unit contains circuit breakers in place of old-style fuses that you would see in a fusebox.
The elements of a fusebox or consumer unit
Even if you’re not into DIY and you don’t have much of a technical mind, it’s a wise idea to get familiar with your fusebox, or consumer unit.
Not every situation requires an electrician and knowing the difference could save you costs in unnecessary callout fees. For example, if you are ever alone when your power goes out, you should know how and what to check. The fix could be as simple as flicking a switch in your consumer unit!
The main switch which controls the power for your property is often big and red to signify its importance. It allows you to instantly turn your home’s electrical supply on and off.
RCD stands for Residual Current Device and they are a safety feature on modern consumer units. Their purpose is to cut electricity flow if there is an electrical problem, which protects residents from faulty appliances or live cables.
If you’re unsure whether your consumer unit has an RCD installed, look for a “T” or “Test” button. This means there is an RCD, which can and should be tested every 3 months or so. You can do this yourself by pressing the button, and if your power does not switch off, there is an issue. You should call a qualified electrician to investigate further.
Circuit breakers are another type of protection and appear as a row of switches on your consumer unit.
Most commonly when lights go out in your home, it is one of these circuit breakers which has “tripped”. In this case, you can simply flick the switch back to an upright position to restore power.
A fuse is basically a short piece of wire held between two screws. You will see these appear in old fuseboxes, where there are many individual fuses instead of circuit breakers. The wire of a fuse has a low melting point, so when there is a high current flow, it will melt; disconnecting the circuit.
The breaking of the circuit should prevent shock or injury, though it is not a reliable a method as a circuit breaker.
When should I replace a fusebox?
If your consumer unit has a wooden back, cast iron switches or fuses in place of circuit breakers, it’s time for an upgrade. For one thing, a wooden back is fire hazard.
If you don’t have RCD then you should definitely upgrade to ensure the best protection for yourself, your family, or the residents of your property.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and taking advantage of the latest technologies and systems in domestic electrical installations is a smart idea.
What about the regulation?
Regulation has been in place since 2016 requiring new installations of consumer units to be metal.
However, this should not be misinterpreted: if you have a plastic, but modern, consumer unit, it does not necessarily need to be changed to metal now.
To avoid unnecessary expense, always get advice from a reliable, trustworthy, and qualified electrician.
How much does it cost to replace a fuse box?
As with everything, the cost of upgrading or replacing a fusebox varies depends on a few factors, such as the type of consumer unit needed, how many circuits are required, and how old the existing installation is and its condition. A reputable and honest electrician should be able to provide you with a free quote for the work.
Typical costs range from £350 - £600. You should be wary of any cheaper quotes, as the electrician could be looking to make up the money from you in unnecessary remedial works.
Who can replace my fusebox?
This job is best undertaken by a qualified electrician who can provide the physical parts as well as the NICEIC Electrical installation certificate and part P notification to building control.
How long does it take to upgrade my fusebox?
The length of time taken to upgrade or replace a fusebox or consumer unit depends according to the size of the property and the existing condition of the wiring and electrical systems. Typically, you can expect it to take around half a day, though your electrician can be more specific when they have more information about your property.