Does my switchboard need replacing and is it safe?
The answer is not a clear cut yes or no. The answer is reliant on a number of factors, but, in a lot of cases your switchboard is safe and does not need to be upgraded or replaced.
Most often people are told by an electrically qualified person (EQP) "your switchboard is old and / or unsafe" and they recommend you have it replaced with a new one.
Even though this statement can be frightening for a number of people and they are naturally concerned for their safety, don't panic. Simply by asking the right questions you will be able to figure out whether you need to replace the switchboard or only do some fix up of the switchboard or the switchboard is in fact compliant.
The EQP does not always have the information or experience to make this judgement. They need to show you by giving you in writing a document stating why the switchboard is unsafe, which Electrical Regulations have been breached and the requirements needed to fix the switchboard.
Some of the simple questions you need to ask to get information are:
It is common that in fact a lot of switchboards are still compliant (despite their age) because they still meet the electrical requirements from the day it was installed. Testing of the switchboard will prove this. Even though your switchboard may have porcelain fuses on it that are old, this does not mean they are not compliant. Only new work done since the switchboard was installed is required to meet the current Electrical Regulations at the time of the work.
In a number of cases, if the switchboard is safe to the original standards it was installed under (testing will prove this) then we do recommend maybe only doing some changes to make the switchboard easier to operate. This would come in the form of replacing the tops of the porcelain fuses with plug in circuit breakers. The plug in circuit breakers eliminate the need for fuse wire so if something in your house was to trip and stop working, then you could easily reset that circuit.
The homeowner can replace these porcelain fuse tops by themselves as long as they know the correct procedure to turn off power for safety and the correct replacement sized of the plug in circuit breaker needed. You can ask your electrician or contact us (for a fee) to provide you with a basic "How To" document.
If a new switchboard is required, then it will be bought up to the new Standards of today and this will require RCD protection and possibly a new main earth.