A New Year, a New Regulation.
A happy new year to one and all, and with a new year comes a significant change in our industry. As of 1st January 2016, all consumer units shall be manufactured from a non-combustible material or be enclosed in a non-combustible material.
This complies with regulation 132.12 of the 3rd Amendment to BS7671:2011 (IET Wiring Regulations 17th Edition) and means that a metal consumer unit shall be installed in all domestic properties.
Why Do We Need This?
The reports from the fire investigators show an increase in the amount of fires which actually started within the consumer unit. This has been down to a number of factors, of which poor workmanship seems to be at the core.
There has been a failure to tighten all connections to the correct torque as specified by the manufacturer, resulting in loose connections which under load have begun to arc and overheat. You can rest assured that when I install a consumer unit, each connection is tightened using a torque screwdriver. This has become an essential tool for any competent electrician.
Many problems have occurred from the incoming neutral conductor incorrectly tightened. I have witnessed such faults and found the main switch in the consumer unit has melted and stuck in the on position. Can you imagine if in an emergency you couldn’t switch off the electrical supply to your own home!
Whilst a poor connection seems to be at the heart of this problem, there is still a need to contain the fire should one start. This is why we have seen a trend towards a metal non-combustible enclosure than the plastic type.
What if my consumer unit is in an outbuilding or garage?
With every regulation there can always be a grey area and this is no exception. There is a use of the term “premises” in Regulation 421.1.201. So what if your consumer unit is installed in a shed, outbuilding, garage or to the outside? A consideration has to be taken to whether the outbuildings are integral, attached or within close proximity of your home. If a fire breaks out, is it likely to cause damage or endanger your household? There is always risk in everything we do and danger is never too far away. For piece of mind, seek advice from an expert and contact me. At the very least consider a test and inspection on your property. Better to prevent and maintain than to face the consequences of “if only I wish I’d!”