Fuse boxes – when should they be replaced?

The fuse box is the heart of electrical protection in your home so it is essential that it works correctly. It basically controls and distributes all of the electricity in your home. Make sure that you know where it is in case you ever need to turn off the electricity in an emergency. Newer style fuse boxes are also known as consumer units.

What is a fuse box?

It is made up of three things. Firstly there is a main switch which is the one to use if you need to turn off the electricity supply. Secondly, there should be residual current devices (RCD). This is an important safety feature because in the event of a fault, overload, lightning strike etc. these switches will trip the circuit, disconnecting the electricity instantly. Lastly, there will be either mini circuit breakers (MCBs) in newer units or fuses in older units. Fuses will melt in the event of a fault or overload which will disconnect the circuit whereas circuit breakers are designed to switch off (or trip) in the event of a fault.

Should I replace my fuse box?

The main difference between the old types and newer ones is that old style fuses can take several seconds to burn out whereas an RCD will switch off the electricity in fraction of a second. In the event of an electric shock this difference could save your life.

The other thing to consider is that although your older style fuse box may be in good working order, over time wiring can become loose, screws can loosen and safety will be affected. When your fuse box was installed it would have been in line with regulations at that time but regulations have changed so it may not meet current standards.

If your answer to any of the following questions is no then it is likely that you will need to replace your fuse box:

  • Does your fuse box have at least one RCD button?
  • Has your house been rewired in the last ten years?
  • Was your house built after 1990?
  • Does the fuse box or wires feel warm to the touch?
  • Do your lights flicker sometimes?
  • Is there any smell from the fuse box area?
  • Is your fuse box under the stairs of in a cupboard?

If you are in any doubt, arrange for a qualified electrician to have a look and advise you.

Replacing your fuse box

Before carrying out a replacement, your electrician should test the electrical installation to make sure it is safe and working correctly. This means that any faults can be rectified before the new unit is fitted. The quote should cover materials, installation cost and time/labour for the testing.

Once the unit has been installed, your electrician should record the test results on an Electrical Installation Certificate and issue a certificate for compliance with Part “P” of the Building Regulations.

Replacing a fuse box is a serious job and should only ever be carried out by a qualified electrician.

1st of July 2015

On the 1st of July new regulations came in for consumer units.  They must all be made from non-combustible material i.e steel enclosed.  All new installations from now on must be made this way and if you need help or advice on this please get in touch.

Barton Electrical are Part P registered and fully NICEIC approved. All Barton Electrical staff are fully trained to the latest standards, and in the latest techniques – and have the knowledge and equipment, to work swiftly to deliver a totally safe, quality installation.

Contact us to discuss any of your electrical needs or concerns and we will be happy to help.