Ever wonder what that box down the side of your house is? Maybe there’s a soft dangerous humming sound coming from it. Chances are, you don’t know much about it, only that when the power goes out, you’re out there in the storm randomly switching these backwards switches on and off. Or, maybe you have an older switchboard that is filled with porcelain rewirable fuses, even more confusing!
The switchboard is the hub of your home’s electrics, all circuits start, and end here. Protective devices capable of saving your home and life live within. Unimaginable amounts of energy pass through here, enough to turn steel into a liquid and your home into a pile of rubble.
Are switchboards really that dangerous?
Newer switchboards are designed to be user (homeowner) friendly. Protective covers are designed and rated to suppress a small explosion if you are to be standing in front of it while you’re resetting electrical safety switches. The moment you remove the protective cover and expose the terminals and wires, you’re exposed to a hazard, this is only to be done by an electrician. On the other hand, older switchboards can be extremely dangerous. Rewirable fuses expose live terminals when the fuse is removed. The homeowner then has the ability to install the incorrectly sized fuse wire which can be catastrophic.
Is your switchboard safe?
Generally, a modern switchboard is going to be safe. The free online electrical safety check is an easy way to identify how safe your switchboard is. Alternatively, a Vested Utility electrician can do an electrical safety check, this will include testing the operation of your circuit protection. If you have an older home with old switchgear, it is possible an upgrade is necessary. This will greatly improve the safety of your home and family and could even save a life.
A Vested Utility electrician is more than capable installing or upgrading a switchboard. Industrial, commercial or residential.
Switchboard layout- a homeowners guide
All modern switchboards are pretty similar in layout. They will have a main switch and individual circuit switches (RCDs or electrical safety switches) it is the law that everything must be legibly labeled. Switches in your switchboard will appear to be backward. If the switch is pointing up the circuit is on (opposite to a lightswitch)
The main switch is exactly what it sounds like. When the main switch is in the off position, there should be no power anywhere in your home. If you are ever required to turn your main switch off, it is recommended you first switch all the individual circuit switches off followed by the main switch. The opposite process is followed when turning the main switch back on- ensure all individual circuits are off, switch the main switch on and then turn all the individual circuits on.
It is not uncommon for multiple circuits to be fed from one RCD. If you don’t understand how the circuits are wired, this can prove confusing during fault finding. Subcircuits must be labelled to identify their corresponding RCD as illustrated in the simplified diagram below.
In the example above, if RCD 1 is off or tripped out, neither bedroom lights or living room light circuits will have power. If RCD 2 is off or tripped out, neither bedroom powerpoints or living room powerpoints will have power.
If you do find yourself in a situation where you have no power, there are a couple of things you can do yourself before you call an electrician. Visit the fault finding page for further information.
If you have any questions, please contact Vested Utility or leave a message in the comments box below