Your switchboard is the single most important piece of electrical safety equipment in your home!
Here are tips from Kenner Electrics, your reliable Eastern Melbourne Electrician
What does a switchboard do?
All the power in your house runs through a switchboard, and the switchboard contains all the safety devices that are designed to protect your home and family from electrical hazards. As such there are very strict electrical regulations about how it must be set up. If your switchboard is old, chances are it doesn’t comply with modern safety rules and your home and family could be at risk of fire or electric shock hazards.
If your switchboard has any of these issues, it needs an upgrade.
If your switchboard contains old ceramic fuses, it should definitely be upgraded! Other older switchboards also may not comply with electrical safety regulations that are designed to keep you and your family safe.
If your switchboard looks new, or has been recently upgraded, check that it has the 6 Things a Safe, Modern Switchboard Should Contain.
So, what are some of the most common safety issues to look out for in old switchboards? And what should you do about it?
Asbestos was used in switchboards throughout Australia until the 1980s because of its fire-resistant properties. Old switchboard enclosures were once lined with asbestos and some electrical switchboard components are even made of asbestos. Due to the disastrous health consequences, asbestos is now a banned substance. Asbestos that is crumbling or requires disturbance for works/maintenance must be safely removed by a licensed asbestos removalist.
When Kenner Electrics conducts a switchboard upgrade that involves asbestos, we’ll call in a licensed specialist to remove any asbestos from your switchboard before the electrician starts the upgrade. Kenner Electrics engages a licenced asbestos removalist to make sure that your home is not contaminated by stray asbestos particles caused by incorrect removal of the asbestos. This also helps us to keep our electricians safe from long term health effects.
Old switchboards contain the older style ceramic fuses. These fuses only provide a very basic level of overload protection. And they provide zero protection against electric shocks!
Old ceramic fuses were not designed to last forever and any that are still present in switchboards are well past their useable life. Ceramic fuses are no longer allowed to be installed in people’s homes and we recommend an upgrade as soon as possible.
Our electricians regularly come across electrical faults that are caused when old fuses fail (when the contact points become corroded or damaged). This can make your lights flicker, appliances turn on and off and in some circumstances can even cause a fire in the switchboard!
When a fault causes a ceramic fuse to blow, they need to be rewired using a screwdriver. This can be difficult at the best of times, let alone if the switchboard is outside and a fuse blows at night, during a storm. When you pull out a fuse to rewire it, this exposes live parts inside the fuse holder.
This makes replacing fuses very dangerous for homeowners and tenants because there is a risk of touching live electrical parts. It’s not uncommon for electricians to find old fuses that have been removed and never replaced meaning the live parts are still exposed in the switchboard!
It’s possible to buy plug-in circuit breakers from hardware stores. These are inserted in the place of fuses and remove the need to rewire the fuses when they blow. But they still only provide overload protection and are not safety switches, so they do not protect against electric shocks.
They also rely on the old fuse holder contacts to be in good condition in order to work properly. So Kenner Electrics does not recommend relying on plug-in circuit breakers in your switchboard. A full switchboard upgrade is always the best option if you have old ceramic fuses.
Under Capacity Supply
Does the power ever go off when you are in the middle of making breakfast, cooking dinner, or turning the heater on? Modern homes require a larger electricity supply than homes in the past due to our heating, cooling and electrical appliances. Some new appliances, such as air-conditioners and electric cooktops, use a large amount of electricity. This puts a strain on older style switchboards and wiring which were not designed for our modern appliances!
You may not even have enough capacity from the supply cables coming into your house. Cables are sized according to circuit capacity, so a circuit that is drawing more power requires a larger cable. Under-sized cables can cause overloading of circuits, leading to nuisance tripping, power outages or even a fire.
If you’re getting a new appliance installed, consider getting an electrician to check your home first as you may also need to get a switchboard upgrade or a supply upgrade to ensure everything works correctly. You might even need to upgrade to 3-Phase power.
If your switchboard has any of these issues, it needs to be upgraded! Keep reading below to find out the benefits of upgrading your switchboard, and how Kenner Electrics can help.
Do I really need to get my switchboard upgraded?
Yes! All the power in your house runs through the switchboard, so it needs to have safety devices to protect your home and family from electrical hazards. If your switchboard is an old fuse board, or has no safety switches, then a switchboard upgrade is the most important piece of electrical work you could get done!
Need some more convincing? Here are some more reasons to have your switchboard upgraded:
- Have safety switches installed to keep your family safe
- Bring your switchboard up to current electrical standards
- Prevent nuisance tripping, or the loss of power to your entire house when a single circuit trips
- Have overload devices installed to keep your home safe from fire
- Relocate your switchboard to inside your house for ease of access and security
- Relocate your switchboard away from a non-compliant location for safety reasons
- Label the circuits so they can be easily identified in emergencies or when being worked on
- If you’re renovating your home, in some cases a switchboard upgrade will be mandatory
An average home’s switchboard can be upgraded in a day by a competent electrician.
Kenner Electrics only supplies and installs good quality, reliable products that comply with Australian standards from reputable manufacturers such as Hager, Clipsal, NHP and ABB. Our skilled electricians are up to date with the latest electrical safety requirements to give you peace of mind. We will provide you with a Certificate of Electrical Safety for all switchboard upgrade works.