Frequently asked questions about fuse boxes and consumer units

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Fuse boxes have been a part of traditional electrical grids in houses for as long as we can remember. But that hasn’t been the case for quite a few years now. If you are still using a fuse box and are tired of blown fuses and replacing them, bear with us to understand the complications of replacing a fuse box with a consumer unit.

There are a wide variety of consumer units available on the market, which may be confusing at first glance. We will go over the basics of how a consumer unit works to understand, so you will better the distinctions between the model and what they would mean for your home.

If you don’t find the answer to your question, call us at Electric Works London to find out more, and get our latest deals and offers.

What is a Consumer Unit?

Consumer units are more commonly known as fuse boxes. They are also known as other titles such as a fuse board, a distribution board, a circuit breaker box, an electrical panel and others. But let’s focus on the function of the consumer unit. It is perhaps the heart of the electrical circuit, connecting the city’s power grid to your home. Its main job is to supply power and keep the current in the recommended range to avoid damaging your electrical appliances or wiring.

How does a consumer unit work?

A fuse box (consumer unit) comprises the main switch, the fuses and circuit breakers, and the RCDs (Residual Current Devices).

A consumer unit is comprised of the main power switch, fuses or circuit breakers (depending on how old your circuit is) and devices that monitor and safeguard residual current called RDSs.

The purpose of the main power switch is obvious; it controls the flow of electricity from the primary grid to your house. While the fuses and RCDs monitor the electrical current and are tripped or blown-in case of an emergency or accident. 

The difference between fuses and circuits is their operational status. At the same time, fuses need to be manually changed and can only protect the circuit once, while breakers can simply be switched back after they are tripped by a hike in voltage or an unexpected fluctuation.

While the fuse wire will melt if triggered, you will have to take out the old fuse and replace it.

Am I supposed to change my consumer unit every five years?

While you don’t necessarily have to change your consumer unit every five years, you are legally required to order an inspection of your fuse boxes or consumer units and the rest of your electrical circuitry.

If you have rented the property, the landlord is obligated to carry out the consumer unit test every time a new tenant moves in or five years have passed since the last check.

If you own the house and live there yourself, you can delay the inspections every ten years, but that’s not a recommended course of action if you are concerned with electrical safety.

Do building regulations prohibit me from changing the consumer unit unannounced?

You need to tender your request for replacing your consumer unit to the housing authority before the work has begun. Once you have a permit, the process can start. However, you will need a certificate to prove the safety of your consumer unit to the housing authority. In some cases, the electrician can issue a certificate for their work if previously certified by the housing authority.

Does size matter when it comes to consumer units?

It does. And it would be best if you considered any future upgrades or expansions you have in mind when you’re choosing a new consumer unit. It should not just fit the current electrical demands of your property.

Remember, as you install new fixtures or buy new electric appliances, your circuits will expand. By the time you add a new device, you may run out of circuit slots. This, in turn, will force you to install an even bigger consumer unit that will cost more. So think ahead and choose wisely. If you have 12 circuit breakers installed, choose a 16 or even 20 slots unit.

Should I apply circuit separation plans in my fuse box Installation?

Some electrical fixtures or appliances have a higher usage priority, some of which are universal and others may vary based on your personalised use of electrical devices. For example, if you are a professional software developer or a graphic designer, you might want to keep your computer equipment on a more secure circuit board. That’s what electricians call circuit separation. Some fixtures are universally installed on a different high priority circuit board, such as smoke detectors, fire alarms or panic rooms.

Are there different types of consumer units?

We have three available options when it comes to buying consumer units:

  • Fully Loaded Unit: Our go-to economic choice is dual RCD boards and one MCB or metal consumer unit. This is a simple solution for small circuits, and its main issue is a lack of room for improvement or configuration.
  • Main Switch Unit: this unit offer more protective options, such as protection against earth faults or overloading. It’s designed for complete circuit separation and costs more than regular units.
  • High integrity consumer unit: This model works as a combination of a dual RCD and central switch unit, offering total circuit separation and protection for high priority circuits while giving residual current protection for the rest of your circuits.
  • High Integrity Unit: this unit combines our former options, offering both RCD protection and circuit separation. It can also protect your board against residual current overload.

Cost of replacing fuse box with consumer unit in the UK

The initial cost of removing a fuse box is around £175 in London, while a basic unit will cost you about £250. The most electrician will offer consumer unit replacement services at approx. £650. The average cost would therefore be more than £1,000 in London. This estimate is very straightforward, and final fees may vary based on a few factors. Whether the consumer unit needs to be relocated can drive up the prices much higher, as it is more complicated than any other service we mentioned. The electrician may also charge you for moving the supplies as well. But it’s mandatory to hire a licensed electrician for replacing your consumer unit because of its sensitivity and impact on electrical safety.