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Four things to consider when replacing a consumer unit

Posted by Elaine Hammond on 1st August 2018

replacing a consumer unit

There are a number of reasons why property owners change their consumer unit. Perhaps one of the MCBs has blown and replacements are no longer available. Maybe they have taken possession of an old property and the consumer unit is not compliant with current regulations (soon to be the 18th Edition). Or maybe they are undertaking a rewire, refurbishment or larger renovation project.

Whichever is applicable there are four key things the electrical contractor should consider.

1. Your client is not a qualified electrician

The single most important thing for the electrical contractor to remember is that regardless of how much research they’ve done or how intelligent they are, your client is not a professional electrician, has never before replaced a consumer unit and is unlikely to be aware of all the issues.

The electrical contractor should always encourage the customer to have an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR), which should be carried out before replacing the consumer unit. This is to establish that the latest regulations are met and will ensure that the contractor isn’t left with faults to clear that were not included in the original contract.

The EICR test results will then help with the design and selection of protective devices for the new consumer unit.

Educating your client regarding the level of protection that is required under BS7671 will help you design a solution which matches their requirements, budget and expectations and need not be any more onerous than briefly explaining the following:

a. In general the UK Wiring Regulations require that all circuits are protected against both:

Overload – the fault which can result in fire in cables and damage to appliances.

Residual Current (or Earth Leakage) – the fault which causes electric shock, which can result in injury or death.

b. The Circuit Protection Devices: RCD, MCB and RCBO. What they are and what they do:

RCD – Residual Current Device

Protects a bank of circuits from residual current or earth leakage.

MCB – Mini Circuit Breaker - Protects an individual circuit against overload and fault currents

RCBO – Residual Circuit Breaker with Overload - Protects an individual circuit from both residual current and overload. It combines the aspects of both RCD and MCB and is therefore more expensive than an MCB.

2. Future proof …like there’s no tomorrow!!

There’s not a single building project in history during which the client did not, at some point, change their mind or the specification. As the project progresses they may change the gas hob to an electric one, decide that they want to put an electric shower in the guest room or decide they want to install a security system.

The electrical contractor must remember this is entirely reasonable and prepare for rather than react to it. Giving yourself plenty of wiggle room at the outset will avoid hassle and wasted effort later in the project when the inevitable happens. Explain at the start of the project that the consumer unit will serve the property for some considerable time and should be able to comfortably handle any changes and additions to circuit layout in coming years.

If during the design the contractor defines 10 ways is required then at the very least fit a 12 way consumer unit. If a 12 ways is required then go for 15, if 16 go for 20 etc.

3. High priority circuits and circuit separation

In order to properly specify a circuit protection solution which fits with the client’s expectations it is vital to ascertain which circuits require special consideration in respect of RCD’s.

Separation of high priority circuits is important because it removes any chance of that circuit being knocked out by an earth leakage fault on any other. This occurs in a standard RCD/MCB configuration when the RCD cuts the power to all MCBs it is protecting upon detection of a residual current fault on one. ..and of course, this problem is exacerbated when a greater number circuits fall under the protection of one RCD.

Common high priority circuits include smoke alarms and security systems but every client will have a different attitude to what constitutes ‘high priority’: the freezer in one home for example, may just be host to some out of date fish fingers, while another household’s freezer contains expensive cuts of venison! Home offices containing PCs, tropical fish tanks, stairwell lighting, swimming pool pumps and heating systems are all examples of high priority circuits.

4. Which type of consumer unit?

A number of factors determine which consumer unit you will ultimately fit, including the number of circuits, types of circuit and client’s budget. The three main models are:

i. Fully Loaded Consumer Unit

Fully loaded consumer unit

This is a popular solution due to its low cost and comprises a dual RCD board supplied complete with MCBs. They are suitable for smaller properties with less complex circuits and are available in a number of ‘ways’, depending on the manufacturer:

Hager: 6 way (VML733H), 10 way (VML755), 12 way (VML766), 16 way (VML716)

MK:  10 way (K7666SMET), 15 way (K7668SMET)

Wylex: 10 way (NHRSS10SSLHI), 15 way (NHRS15SSLHI)

Contactum: 10 way (DDS10166MS-PO1), 12 way (DDS12188MS-P010), 16 way  (DDS16166MS-PO1)

The main drawback with fully loaded consumer units is that they usually offer limited configuration flexibility and circuit separation. Indeed, some of the boards above are entirely fixed with no provision for high-priority circuits, such as the Hager VML755 which offers 5 fixed MCB ways on each RCD and does not allow for the fitting of RCBOs.

ii. Main Switch Consumer Unit

Main switch consumer unit

This is considered by some as the best circuit protection solution available as it offers total circuit separation but there is a cost implication. It is supplied with just the main switch and allows for every circuit to be RCBO protected. Whilst the consumer unit itself is not particularly expensive the installation of RCBOs makes this a premium solution. Such units are available in all sizes from 5 way up to 40 way. Hager and Wylex have a particularly good offering in the larger units over 20 ways.

iii. High Integrity Consumer Unit

High intensity consumer unit

This solution is becoming increasingly popular as it combines the best aspects of a dual RCD unit and main switch consumer unit. Built with three neutral bars, and supplied with 2 RCDs, the HI consumer unit allows for both 2 banks of MCBs and a further bank of RCBOs for high-priority circuits.

This means that standard circuits such as lighting and ring finals are given commensurate residual current protection, whilst high priority circuits are afforded total circuit separation. HI Units were introduced by Wylex about ten years ago and originally were only available in larger duplex arrangements of over 20 ways. Nowadays however, all the major manufacturers offer HI solutions with models as small as 10 ways, offering both the homeowner and professional electrician excellent flexibility over circuit design at affordable prices.

We hope this article helps with your decision making when replacing a consumer unit and we would like to thank Gil-Lec Electrical Wholesalers for supplying the content for this article. 

Categories: wiring regulations, consumer unit, electrical installation condition report, eicr

Farewell 17th Edition, Hello 18th Edition

Posted by Elaine Hammond on 3rd July 2018

farewell 17th edition

As many of you will already know, on the 1st July 2018 we said goodbye to the 17th edition wiring regulations to make way for the 18th Edition. The C&G 2382-15 17th Edition course has now been replaced by the 2382-18 18th Edition course. So we thought we would take a quick look at the 17th edition and some key talking points.

IET Wiring Regulations Explained

The IET Wiring Regulations is essentially a set of guides that electrical contractors comply with, whether it be for domestic, commercial or industrial installations.

Every professional electrician and domestic installer work to the latest edition of the wiring regulations and will need this if they want to register or remain as a domestic installer with a competent person’s scheme.

Did you know that the wiring regulations were originally published by in 1882?

In fact, there have been requirements for safe electrical wiring since way back in 1876. However, it wasn’t until 1882 that the then Society of Telegraph Engineers and Electricians, who later became the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE), which now forms part of the IET, published the ‘Rules and Regulations for the Prevention of Fire Risks arising from Electric Lighting’. The original document consisted of just 4 pages!

The history of the 17th Edition

In January 2008 BS 7671:2008 17th Edition was released, followed by its first Amendment 1 in 2011. The next Amendment 2 came into effect in 2013, followed in January 2015 by the final Amendment 3.

When Amendment 3 was released it included some significant changes; one being Chapter 41, which was introduced to improve the level of protection against electrical shock. It stated that 30 mA RCDs will be required for socket outlets that are for use by ordinary persons and are intended for general use.

Another major change was Regulation 421.1.201 which required consumer units and similar switchgear assemblies in domestic premises to have a non-combustible enclosure or be enclosed in a cabinet or enclosure constructed of non-combustible material and complying with Regulation 132.12.

Regulation 521.11.201 was also a major change which required that wiring systems within escape routes require a suitable fire resistant means of support so that they are not liable to premature collapse in the event of fire.

Other changes included the electrical condition report section, new requirements for mobile and transportable electrical units and changes for the installation of luminaires and light fittings and sections relating to microgeneration and solar photovoltaic systems.

Hello 18th Edition

Whilst it’s time to say goodbye the 17th edition we can now say hello to the new 2382-18 18th Edition courses, which we will be delivering in centres nationwide from July 2018.

We appreciate that whilst changes are not always welcome in all sectors, the new regulations are a major step forward to improving the safety and protection of property as well as enhancing areas like electric vehicle charging, which will be in huge demand over the next few years.

The IET urges that all electrical professionals ensure they are familiar with the new requirements as all installations designed after the 31st December 2018 are to comply with BS 7671:2018.

We believe that scheme providers will be asking their members to hold the new edition although we do believe that existing members will be given some flexibility.

To help you get ready for the changes, we recently reviewed the 18th Edition and identified some of the key changes that you need to be aware of. To find out more please click on the link 18th Edition Wiring Regulations - Major Shift or Update?

However, at a glance below is a list of the main changes to be aware of:

Part 1 Scope, object and fundamental principles

Part 2 Definitions

Chapter 41 Protection against electric shock

Chapter 42 Protection against thermal effects

Chapter 44 Protection against voltage disturbances and electromagnetic disturbances

Chapter 46 Devices for isolation and switching - A new Chapter 46 has been introduced.

Appendices

The following main changes have been made within the appendices

Appendix 1 British Standards to which reference is made in the Regulations includes minor changes, and additions.

Appendix 3 Time/current characteristics of overcurrent protective devices and RCDs

Appendix 6 Model forms for certification and reporting

Appendix 7 (informative) Harmonized cable core colours

Appendix 8 Current-carrying capacity and voltage drop

Appendix 14 Determination of prospective fault current

Appendix 17 Energy efficiency

For more detailed information please visit the IET’s website.

City & Guilds 2382-18 3 Day 18th Edition Course

The 18th Edition course will in fact be very similar to the 17th edition to ensure that you are up-to-date with the latest industry regulations on wiring and the safe use and operation of electrical equipment and systems.

The following subjects are still included:

Scope, object and fundamental principles

Definitions

Assessment of general characteristics

Protection for safety

Selection and erection of equipment

Inspection and testing

Special installations or locations

Appendices

The expected changes are:

Protection against over voltages - Clause 443 is likely to be overhauled.

Protection against fire - Chapter 42 will be updated with extra information on arc fault detection

Electrical Embedded heating - Section 753 will be extended to include embedded electrical heating systems for surface heating, and will include de-icing and frost prevention systems.

Energy efficiency – this will be a brand new section

C&G 2382-18 1 Day 18th Edition Update Course

If you passed the 17th edition with the 3rd amendment since the 1st January 2015 you only need to take the shorter one day 18th Edition Update course. The course covers similar topics to the three day course, as listed above, however as there are fewer changes to cover it can be complete in a shorter time.

Courses delivered in 8 Centres Nationwide

Due to high demand, both of these courses are available from 8 centres nationwide:

Gatwick - covering South London, Kent, Sussex and Surrey

Warrington - covering Manchester, Liverpool, Bolton and the North West

Leeds – covering the North East, Sheffield, Harrogate and York

Central London - right next to Euston Station

Coventry - covering Birmingham, Leicester, Northampton & Midlands

Hertfordshire - covering North London, Herts, Bucks and Essex

Cardiff - covering Wales and South West

Durham CCC (North East) - covering Newcastle, Sunderland and the North East

You can rest assured that the training you receive from Trade Skills 4U is delivered by experienced tutors who have worked in the industry. We are also able to boast, that our pass rate for the 2382 qualification is over 98%, which is well above the national average, and we have no reason to believe that this will change with the new qualification.

Categories: wiring regulations, 17th edition, 18th edition

Why It’s Important to Take Your 17th Edition by April 2013

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 27th November 2012

17th edition wiring regulations courses are amongst the most popular in the UK for domestic and commercial electricians. The course itself covers all the relevant wiring regulations that the industry need to follow when carrying out any installation work.  17th edition courses are completely theoretical and are designed to be taken by those who already have practical hands on experience of electrical installation.

 

So why is there now a deadline to take this course?

There is only a deadline if you are looking to register as a domestic installer. If you are working with domestic electrics you must register with a competent person’s scheme such as the NICEIC, ELECSA and so on. However the rules governing who can register as a qualified supervisor are set to change on the 6th April 2013. Anyone registering from this date will need to have completed a new qualification designed specifically for domestic electricians. However no one currently knows how long this will be, who can actually take this qualification and if those who are already part qualified will be able to map in or will have to retake the whole course. In fact it is those who are already a qualified electrician or a part qualified domestic electrician that will benefit the most by taking their 17th edition course and registering by the 5th April 2013.

While there is still some confusion around the format of the new qualification what we do know is that you can still register as a domestic electrician up until and including the 5th April 2013 under the current rules. The minimum requirement to register by this date will be that you have passed your 17th edition wiring regulations and as long as you have registered by this date you will be governed by the current regulations and will be guaranteed to be assessed by the NICEIC or similar scheme provider.

This means generally that we are already seeing an increase in demand for 17th Edition Courses and this is only going to increase in the New Year. However the change not only impacts 17th edition courses it also means for many looking to qualify as a domestic installer there is more demand for the courses that contain the basic knowledge required as to be a domestic installer. Here are Trade Skills 4U this means our Bronze Course package which contains the 17th Edition Wiring Regulations, 2392 Inspection & Testing, 2393 Part and a 5 day practical workshop will also be in short supply come the new year.

Up until the start of this year experienced electricians who had taken their 16th edition wiring regulations could take a 1 day 17th edition update course. However due to a number of amendments to the 17th edition, this course has now been discontinued by City & Guilds and now everyone looking to pass it must take the full City & Guilds 2382-12 which is 3 days long.

So for now the message is simple. If you are intending to register as a domestic electrician in the New Year you should act now to make sure you are able to register by the April 2013 deadline.

 

Categories: wiring regulations, 17th edition