Switch Boards

It’s a sad fact that over 1000 Australian homes a year are damaged or destroyed due to Electrical Fires. In addition, every year, over 40 Australians die from electrocution and over 10,000 are injured by electric shock.

Many of these accidents could have been prevented if there switchboards have been upgraded to current Australian Standards.

Australian Standard AS3000:2007 has just been released and it includes updated safety requirements for new australian homes. If your home has old style plug in re-wireable fuses these mandated safety requirements do not apply and you and your family could be at risk!

Contact Canberra Electrician for an Obligation Free Quote.

Read on to find out how to improve the safety in your home….

Switchboards of ALL NEW homes and commercial buildings are REQUIRED to be fitted with Safety Switches known as Residual Current Devices (RCD) to all circuits that have light fittings or power points. These Safety switches are hard wired into your switchboard in combination with a Circuit Breaker to provide two levels of safety.

The first element of safety is that the RCD (Safety Switch) is designed to turn off the electricity supply within 40 milliseconds, That is 40/1000th of a second, if there is more than a predefined level of power flowing to earth. These type of current flows can be caused by things like faults in equipment, or accidental contact with live parts of equipment. For example, an RCD can prevent electrocution death by sticking metal objects into power points or light fittings etc..

The second level of protection is in the Circuit Breaker part of the device. As they are hard wired they can not be accidentally changed with an incorrectly rated fuse. The role of the Circuit Breaker is to limit the current in the cable inside your home. If too high a current is allowed to flow in a cable it can over heat and catch fire.

RCDs (safety switches) can be purchased as a separate unit and used in conjunction with a separate circuit breaker or in a RCD/CB (safety switch/circuit breaker) combination unit.

Australian Authorities think these devices are important enough that they are mandatory in ALL new homes and commercial buildings……. and so should you!

Contact Canberra Electrician for an Obligation Free Quote.

Electrical Fires
“Fixed wiring under floors and in walls and ceiling spaces is frequently concealed and not readily inspected. If it was damaged when originally installed, has been damaged by later building processes, or has deteriorated through other causes, its degraded condition is generally unknown. Arcing between conductors, or resistive heating under overload conditions, can lead to ignition of electrical components and adjacent combustible materials. In fact, electrical distribution accounts for around 10% of all fires in dwellings.”

Source: National Association of
Steel-Framed Housing

Does your Switchboard need upgrading?

We upgrade switchboards to current electrical standards in the Canberra and Queanbeyan area.

Old Rewireable Fuses?

Many homes in the Canberra and Queanbeyan area have switchboards wire old style rewireable fuses. You can identify these units as they are made of a ceramic material and are usually black or white in colour.

These re-wireable fuses have a plug in unit that has a short piece of fuse wire connected between two screws on the unit. The exterior of the fuse unit indicates the amperage of the fuse wire to be inserted and is rated depending on the size of the cable in the circuit it protects.
Canberra Electrician - Old Switchboard

All very well in theory, but when a fuse blows and you do not have the correct fuse wire to replace it then what? Unfortunately some people replace blown fuses with whatever wire they can get their hands on.

The result of this can be quite disastrous.  The following two photos are from the switchboard shown above when the wrong type of wire was inserted in the fuse block.  Fortunately the home owner noticed a problem before this switchboard fire got out of hand.

Canberra Queanbeyan Electrician - Switchboard Upgrade
Canberra Queanbeyan Electrician - Switchboard Upgrade

Contact Canberra Electrician for an Obligation Free Quote.

Problems associated with rewireable fuses include:

    • Inconvenient to repair, night time, no fuse wire at home,
    • Prone to being replaced with wrong rated fuse wire, may cause electrical fire,
    • Chance of Electric shock or Electrocution while changing fuse due to exposed
      live contacts,
    • Large fuse blocks may be physically difficult to remove,
    • No RCD (safety switch) protection of power points and light sockets against
      accidental electric shock.
Upgrading your Switchboard can improve your safety!
“Each year more than 40 people are killed by electrocution in Australia, with 50% of those occurring in the home. In addition, there are more than 10,000 people injured each year using electricity.”

Source: IDC News ISSUE 4 SUMMER 2006

Installing RCDs (Safety Switches) in your home WILL lower the risk of Electrocution to you and your family.

Plug-In Circuit Breakers – The Cheap Alternative??

For many years now it has been possible for the home owner to buy Plug-In Circuit Breakers and “Up-grade” their own circuit breakers. A sure sign that this is not the best way to do an upgrade is that you do not have to get these Plug-In Circuit breakers from an electrical wholesaler or electrician, no – you can buy them at your local Woolworths or Coles.

While plug in breakers do seem like a convenient solution to allow quick restoration after they trip the have two distinct disadvantages when compared to a proper switchboard upgrade. Firstly they provide no RCD (Safety Switch) protection against accidental electrocution, and secondly, as they are a plug-in device, they suffer the same problems of having an incorrect rating placed into a circuit, increasing the possibility of electrical fire.

Problems associated with plug-in circuit breakers include:

  • Inconvenient to repair, night time, no fuse wire at home,
  • Prone to people purchasing and installing an incorrectly rated plug-in circuit breaker, may cause electrical fire,
  • Chance of Electric shock or Electrocution if removed due to exposed live contacts,
  • No RCD (safety switch) protection of power points and light sockets against accidental electric shock

The truth is that plug-in breakers DO NOT provide the same level of safety as a RCD

Contact Canberra Electrician for an Obligation Free Quote.

The smallest amount of electrical current can kill.

It takes only a tiny amount of electrical current to seriously or fatally injure a normal, healthy adult.

The severity of an electric shock is usually determined by the amount of current flowing through the body and the length of time the current flows before it is cut off.

A RCD (Safety Switch) cuts off the power supply when the current to ‘Earth’ exceeds 30 thousandths of an ampere, a minuscule amount when you consider many appliances such as power tools and portable heaters can use up to 10 ampere.

When a difference in current flow occurs, a RCD (Safety Switch) will cut the power within 40 thousandths of a second, about a fortieth of the time taken for a single heartbeat, or the click of your fingers.

Source: Clipsal Australia

Contact Canberra Electrician for an Obligation Free Quote.

Switchboard Upgrade Alternatives

Partial Upgrade

It is possible to do partial upgrades to your switchboard. In this case only circuits containing light fittings and power points need be upgraded. This is achieved by installing RCDs or RCD/CB combos in a small housing on your existing switch board.

A partial upgrade will give you the following benefits.

  • improved safety against accidental electrocution
  • hard wired connection to those circuits protected by the device (reduced fire risk)

Circuits not upgraded, but left with old style re-wireable fuses or plug-in circuit breakers will still be exposed to the possibility of incorrect rated devices being installed and higher fire risk.

Full Upgrade

A full upgrade involves replacing all old fuses on your switchboard with a new RCDs and Circuit Breakers mounted in a complete new housing.

  • No more accidental risk of contact to live wires at the switchboard.
  • No more inconvenience changing old blown fuses.
  • Restore power at the flick of a switch.
  • Hard wired protection of your home electrical cabling against overload faults.
  • RCD (safety switch) protection of ALL your power points and light fittings.

Correctly rated devices are Hard Wired into the switchboard preventing accidental connection of an inappropriately rated device. All circuits containing light circuits and power points will have RCDs installed.

This switchboard was upgraded to current australian Standards to prevent any reoccurrence of this type of fault.  Circuits are now protected against over current faults as well as earth leakage faults.

Canberra Queanbeyan Electrician - Switchboard Upgrade

The benefits of upgrading your switch board include:

  • easy circuit restoration when circuit tripped due to overload,
  • protection against electrocution with earth leakage breakers,
  • prevent cables overheating and cable fires

If you are interested in getting your switchboard inspected and upgraded, contact us for an obligation free quote.

Contact Canberra Electrician for an Obligation Free Quote.