A consumer unit, like any other electrical appliance, has an age limit. How you treat your appliances and your energy consumption behavior determines how long a consumer unit lasts. For example, fluctuations in the current could lead one or several miniature circuit breakers or MCBs to overload and flow, and they may not be replaceable due to the nature of the incident. It could be that the consumer unit is so old that it is no longer up to code and regulations mandate that it be changed. Maybe the customer wants to refurbish or has a larger renovation part in mind that requires a heavy-duty consumer unit.
Whatever the case, you should know that replacing a consumer unit is not a job for an inexperienced electrician, since there are many small details in installing the unit that only a certified electrician is aware of them. It is not as simple as buying a new consumer unit and figuring out how to replace it yourself.
What is the point of an EICR Report?
Any consumer unit must have an electrical installation condition report or EICR. This inspection is carried out before replacing a consumer unit. The report will indicate whether the consumer unit is up to code and any faults are marked in it.
This EICR report is also a key factor in figuring out new designs for renovation purposes and will help you choose what model of the protective device is best for your new consumer unit.
Under regulation codes in the UK, all circuits must be protected against the possibility of an overload, which could lead to an electrical fire in the wires or appliances, and residual current which is also known as earth leakage could lead to serious shocks and even loss of life.
Different types of Circuit Protection Device
There are a variety of circuit protection devices that you may consider installing after replacing a consumer unit, and each of them corresponds to a certain electrical threat. These protective devices are designed to prevent loss of life and damage to property in the event of an electrical emergency.
There are generally 3 types of electrical protection devices, RCD or residual current device, which guards a series of circuits from earth leakage. The next one is MCB or mini circuit breaker, which stands to prevent an overload and protect the board against fault currents. The other one RCBO, which is a residual circuit breaker with overload, and does the job of both RCD and MCB protective devices, which means it can prevent an overload and also protect the consumer unit against the residual current. This means the device is more expensive than the other two, but it offers the combined protection for your consumer unit.
Figuring out which protective device to install for your home when replacing a consumer unit is up to the electrician, who will take into account different variables such as the number of electrical appliances, the drain on each fuse, and the possibilities of an overload and residual current.
What Type of Consumer Unit should I buy?
Like any other choice in electrical appliances and facilities, the type of the consumer is determined by several factors, the most important of which are quantity of circuits, their type, and of course, how much you are willing to spend on replacing a consumer unit.
You could choose a Fully Loaded Consumer Unit, which is rather cheap and has two RCD boards, with a complete set of MCBs. This model is suited for smaller properties and simplified circuits and has variations in different numbers of ways.
The real issue of installing this model is their rather strict configuration which offers limited options and circuit separation.
The second type is a Main Switch Consumer Unit, which most experts deem is one of the best consumer units, it offers complete circuit separation but it is rather expensive to fully install, but for good reason. It supports RCBO protection for all circuits. The unit itself is not quite expensive, but with the installation of multiple RCBO units, it can prove quite costly. The upside is complete protection of up to 40 ways of circuit boards.
The Third Type is the High Integrity Consumer Unit, and it is gaining some traction as it is the combination of the previous models. It has three neutral bars and 2 RCD units, with space for 2 MCB banks and another RCBO bank for high-priority circuits.