Switch Board Upgrades


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Switch Boards

Upgrades and Repairs

Switchboards and their protective devices are the items that can save your life, or save your house from burning down. Some older homes have systems that do not provide a high level of safety if they have the old slow acting rewire-able ceramic fuses and have not been fitted with a safety switch, Some older switchboards also have a fire retardant material made of Asbestos which poses a risk if it was disturbed by additions or modifications. So what are the options for replacement and what are the benefits?

Essentially there are two main protective devices. These are circuit breakers and safety switches. These devices provide protection to the wiring, appliances, and the occupants by interrupting the electricity supply due some specific electrical faults. The circuit breaker has limited function in that it protects the cabling and appliances in the house if there is a short circuit fault or an overload. However it cannot protect the occupants against all forms of electric shock.

The Safety Switch has a different function that provides protection for the occupants against a greater number of situations that can cause electric shock. This is called personal protection. These devices cannot provide protection against short circuit or overload. Together, the circuit breaker and the safety switch can be used to provide a high level of protection. A third type of device has now become the standard in protective devices for domestic electrical. It is a combination of both the circuit breaker and the safety switch called an ‘RCBO’. With this device fitted to each individual circuit in the house the best available protection is provided to every electrical item throughout your home. In addition, it’s easier to diagnose faults due to the capacity to discriminate between circuits. When a fault occurs will likely be on one circuit only, causing minimal interruption to the general power supply in your home. Read on for more details.

Older Switchboard Safety Issues

Ceramic Fuses

Switchboards in older homes were made to a different standard other than what we have today. They consist of switches, which have no overload or short circuit protection, little to no ‘personal protection’, and they have rewire-able fuses, which consists essentially of a thin piece of wire, that explodes when too much current is passed through it. These devices are slower to react than circuit breakers, and also don’t react quickly or reliably to overload situations. No new electrical work can legally include the addition of these obsolete devices. Most of these are being taken out and upgraded to the latest standard.

When fuses do ‘trip’ they are not easy to ‘reset’ as they need to be rewired with the correct fuse wire. This also is an issue as they can be rewired with the incorrect gauge wire, allowing more current to pass through the device and causing a potentially deadly threat of fire due to the circuit wiring in the house getting too hot. Also, when the fuse is removed, there are exposed live parts with no protection, and if touched, could cause extreme electrical burns or cardiac arrest if the path of the current was across the heart.

So what is the best replacement option?


We often recommend upgrading entire switchboards to the latest regulations. This includes replacing separate safety switches and circuit breakers with the combination device mentioned earlier called an RCBO. These devices protect the wiring in the house which includes Short Circuit protection & Overload Protection. RCBO’s also include personal protection (Circuit breaker-Safety Switch combination) all in one.

By installing RCBO’s each individual circuit has RCD protection. This means that if that circuit has a fault only it will trip. Wheresa with a large 4 pole RCD it may turn off up to three circuits even if only one circuit is faulty! Another plus for RCBOs is that faults on circuits are cumulative, which means that if there is a 10ma fault on the power circuit, a 15ma fault on the light circuit, there is only 5ma left before the RCD will trip (@ 30ma). All circuits connected to an RCD will need to be investigated to reduce this fault condition, which can be costly and difficult to find. Installing separate RCBO’s gives the full 30ma to each and every circuit reducing nuisance tripping, and helps with finding the fault quickly, saving you money in the long run!

Contact us for a quote on upgrading your switchboard!

Circuit Breakers & Safety Switch (RCD) Issues

Older homes with circuit breakers also have issues that may arise – with age the plastics in the devices can start to break down, we have seen where circuit breakers work when operated but are extremely sticky, or do not operate at all. All Safety Switch manufactures recommend that they are operated every 3 – 6 months off and back on again to confirm operation. The correct procedure to test these devices is to press the test button, and if it does not turn off or trip immediately, the device should be replaced. The correct trip time is 0.4 of a second for a RCD and 0.3 for a circuit breaker (which is measured with a special tester) if there is any delay, your device is unsafe and should be replaced.

Upgrades Required For Solar Installation

To have Solar fitted and the appropriate metering connected your meter box and switchboard will need to be up to the latest standards. As the rules have changed over the years older boards no longer are compliment with current standards. This includes the switchboard enclosure which also needs to be up to standard for the new meter to be installed. Older switchboards may have been built out of timber, chipboard and then lined with asbestos sheet or other ACM (asbestos containing materials) These need to be replaced for the meter electricians to install a new solar meter. Other requirements that need to be addressed are wiring issues affecting the arrangement of the incoming supply. Things like the provision of a meter Isolation link and a meter neutral link. These requirements are implemented to make it safe for the meter electricians to replace these meters without risk of electrocution.

Send us a picture of your meter box and switch board and we can quote an upgrade ready for solar!

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