Electrical wiring in homes needs to be connected through a consumer unit in order to have electricity properly distributed. The main purpose of a consumer unit is to have separate circuits for different areas of the home that are protected by a circuit breaker. Most modern homes today have separate supplies for the main living area, bedrooms, as well as outdoor spaces such as the garage. The consumer unit will be the central point for the wiring systems that connect all electrical devices around the home.

FuseBox Consumer Unit

Before the development of consumer units, homes used to be fitted with fuse boards. One of the main disadvantages of a fuse board is that it can be costly and difficult to fix once damaged or broken. Consumer units contain miniature circuit breakers that can be reset by anyone through a switch. This is a much safer option and easier to get around even when a person does not have technical knowledge of electrical wiring and circuitry.

With a miniature circuit breaker, it is also convenient to turn off the flow of electricity for specific areas only such as when you need to replace a light bulb. You won’t need to turn off the electrical supply for the entire house anymore.

Ensuring the safety of your home

There are two primary functions of a consumer unit, each is aimed at ensuring the safety of your home. First, it protects all the wiring and cables connected to devices such as appliances from overload. Electrical overload is one of the main causes of a fire. A consumer unit also protects the person from electrical shock when there is an earth leakage. Consumer units vary in size, makes, and brands but in general, there are five main types of consumer units:

  • Main switch consumer unit
  • High integrity consumer unit
  • RCD incomer consumer unit
  • Dual RCD consumer unit
  • Surge protection consumer unit

Anyone of these types of consumer units can be used for homes. The choice only depends on the homeowner’s preference for circuit separation as well as the governing budget.

Using circuit protection devices

Consumer units are used in conjunction with circuit protection devices. These devices are vital to making to the reliability of circuit protection. Here are the different types of circuit protection devices and their purpose:

  • Main switch
  • RCD (Residual Current Device)
  • MCB (Mini Circuit Breaker)
  • RCBO (Residual Current Breaker + Overload)

The primary purpose of the main switch is to isolate the consumer unit and all the other devices connected to it. By switching off the main switch, you will cut the power to all circuits that are connected within the unit.

This device protects circuits from possible earth leakage. One example of earth leakage or ‘residual current’ is electricity that cuts through a lawnmower cable. When there is earth leakage, the RCB device will cut off all current from all other circuits within the consumer unit.

The primary use of this device is to protect cables and devices from overload. This is particularly applicable for appliances that are connected to the consumer unit. Along with an RCD, an MCB is used as an additional protective device.

This is a speciality device that combines the benefits of an RCB and MCB. This device is meant to protect the circuitry from overload and earth leakage. Since this is a two in one device, it is certainly more expensive than an MCB or an RCB.

These devices are no doubt essential for any consumer unit. These will reinforce the safety feature of a consumer unit for every home.

Choosing the right consumer unit

When choosing the right consumer unit for your home, you need the help of an electrician in order to make the right decision. Oftentimes, an electrician would recommend a consumer unit depending on how many outlets there are in the home. An electrician will also determine the right size according to other parameters such as a number of required outgoing modules and number of ways needed for command functions.

In the old days before the 18th Edition Wiring Regulations you could use plastic consumer units which were cheaper to purchase, but these have now been replaced by metal which also look more aesthetically pleasing. The physical location of the consumer unit is also a consideration. If it will be for commercial or industrial use, a more rugged design is preferred, ready to withstand harsher, dustier conditions.

The best brand to go for is FuseBox, they provide a great selection of high quality 18th Edition compliant consumer units with residual, overload and surge protection for a very attractive price.

FuseBox with surge protection
FuseBox with surge protection
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