ESC advice: what is a fusebox, and more about the mains switch, the fuses, and the RCDs(consumer units tips)

After quoting the Electrical Safety Council about the Plugs and the Fuses(for more electrical safety), the article below continues to give us some advice regarding the consumer units – the fusebox each one has in their home. What is a fusebox? Or, what is a Consumer Unit? According to ESC in their article entitled, Your Fusebox, a consumer unit or fusebox is used to control and distribute electricity around our homes. They usually contain:

  1. A – Mains switch
  2. B – Fuses or Circuit Breakers
  3. C – Residual Current Device

Your Fusebox / Consumer Unit – the Mains Switch

The mains switch allows you to turn off the electricity supply to your electrical installation. Some electrical installations have more than one mains switch, for example, if your home is heated by electric storage heaters, you may have a separate consumer unit (fuse box) for them. The consumer unit should be easy to get to, so find out where the mains switch is to turn the electricity off in an emergency.

Your Fusebox / Consumer Unit – the Fuses

Rewirable fuses have a piece of special fuse wire running between two screws. When a fault or overload current flows through the fuse wire, it will become hot, and melt when the current goes above an acceptable level. The melted fuse breaks the circuit, disconnecting the faulty circuit.

Your Fusebox / Consumer Unit – the Circuit Breakers

Circuit breakers are automatic protection devices fitted in the consumer unit which switch off a circuit if there is a fault. Circuit breakers are similar in size to fuseholders, but give more precise protection than fuses. When they ‘trip’, you can simply reset the switch. However, you first need to find and correct the fault.

Your Fusebox / Consumer Unit – the Residual Current Devices

An RCD is a switching device that trips a circuit under certain conditions, and disconnects the electricity supply. If your electrical installation includes one or more RCDs, test them regularly. You can do this by following the instruction label, which should be near the RCD. The label should read as follows: ‘This installation, or part of it, is protected by a device which automatically switches off the supply if an earth fault develops. Test quarterly (every three months) by pressing the button marked ‘T’ or ‘Test’.’ The device should switch off the supply. You should then switch it back on to restore the supply. If the device does not switch off the supply when you press the button, contact an electrician. Testing the button every three months is important. However, do not hold the test button for a long period if the device does not trip. If the RCD does not switch off the supply when you press the test button, get advice from a registered electrician.

If your fusebox has a wooden back, cast iron switches, or a haphazard mixture of fuses it is likely that it dates back to before the 1960s and will need to be replaced[read the entire article about Your Fusebox on the ESC website].

There are at least two types of consumer units – the Domestic Consumer Units and the Industrial Consumer units – find them via the Electrical Items section / Consumer Units.

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