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How Safe is your Consumer Unit?
 
The consumer unit (you might know as the ‘fuse box’) in your property or premise is central to the safe delivery of electricity you use, but do you know how safe it is? Most people don’t pay any attention to it unless something goes wrong.
 
What does an old consumer unit look like?
 
The problem with electricity is that it is dangerous if not managed correctly and safely. Your consumer unit sits between the power cable that comes into your property or premise and your electrical wiring installation. It usually has a big switch (to switch off the entire supply to your installation) in it and either coloured fuse wire holders (that have fuse wire wired through them) or little circuit breakers (you might know them as ‘trip switches’) for each of the circuits in your electrical installation.

If your consumer unit looks like the types in the pictures below, it is probably time you had it inspected. These date back to the late 1950’s and are very basic in there construction and safety features (or lack of them).

 
Please click on the images to enlarge them.
 
     
 
 
 
What’s the problem?
 
There are 2 major safety issues with this type of board. The first is they don’t cope well if a short circuit occurs in one or more of your electrical circuits. This might occur if for example you drill or nail through a cable in a wall. The second safety issue is by far the most serious danger to anyone using the electrical installation where this type of consumer unit is installed and is in service. It is a fact that people and animals can suffer injury or even death if they come into contact with mains (230 volt AC) electricity. In fact it only takes a tiny amount of electric current to flow through the human body at this voltage to have devastating consequences.

The good news is that there is now a device that can protect against potentially fatal electric shock currents flowing through you if something should go wrong. It is called a Residual Current Device or RCD. It’s a bit of a mouthful, but basically it switches off the electricity before a dangerous earth fault current flows through you that could kill you. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the older types of consumer unit are not equipped with RCDs. So if you are unlucky enough to encounter a faulty kettle or toaster or shower where the electricity is escaping where it shouldn’t, you could suffer serious injury or death.

 
 
 
What can I do about getting it checked?
 
If your consumer unit looks like the ones in the pictures and you are not sure whether it is safe or haven’t had it inspected in the last 5 years, ask the experts. Give AETCS a call or email and we’ll be happy to advise you on the safety or otherwise of your consumer unit (230 volt single phase or 415 volt 3 phase), associated earthing connections and general safety of your electrical installation. Don’t worry we won’t charge you for looking – and who knows, it may just save your life…
 
 
   
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