Change fuse box

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eitherofus | 18:34 Mon 09th Mar 2009 | Home & Garden
7 Answers
Our bungalow is 12 years old. We want some electric lights in the loft and lanterns outside. We have been told we have to have a new fuse box because ours doesn't have circuit breakers. Is this right? We are pensioners and unfortunately do get conned when we want things done in the house or garden. What a sad old world it is. Can an electrician give us an idea of how much this will cost us please?


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Well, People........... I'm not an electrician, but there are thousands of installations out there with older type re-wireable fuses, or cartridge fuses. If you have re-wireables, they can easily be replaced with MCBs (circuit breakers) if you wish.
I do hope one of the sites "proper" electricians comes along soon to confirm, because in my opinion, someone has made you worry needlessly.
I think that The Builder is correct, though I am not a qualified electrician either. There is no obligation to upgrade a system to a Consumer Unit with circuit breakers just because one is doing other work on the house.
Frankly a 12 year old house must have one of the last not to be fitted with a CU from new.
I suppose that it just conceivavle that there is no space or capacity on the fusebox to enable extra circuits to be fitted but it sounds pretty unlikely.
I thought that Age Concern maintained a register of local contractors of various trades who are trusted to give older people good advice and service?
This sounds like a day's work at say �200 all in.
I'm an electrician, will I do?

Both previous answers are correct in that no-one can force you to upgrade a perfectly serviceable (and safe) Consumer Unit ("Fuse box" or CU) just because it has re-wireable fuses. However - if you have additional works done which involves adding new circuits/cables, then those works DO have to meet the current standards (BS7671:2008 17th Edition IEE wiring regulations and Part P of the Building Regulations).

Fuses and MCBs (miniature circuit breakers) both protect primarily against over current situations (if too much current is drawn then the fuse breaks or breaker trips) In addition we now have fault protection devices called RCD (Residual Current Devices) which look for live/earth or neutral/earth imbalances caused by faults and cut the supply to that circuit.

There are a couple of applicable parts of the current standards which apply in your case, 1) all circuits in special locations (kitchens, bathrooms, OUTSIDE) must have RCD protection to protect against fault conditions. 2) cables not buried at least 50mm in walls or having additional mechanical protection, by means of earthed conduit ,must have RCD protection. Your current CU doesn't offer this RCD protection and cannot be upgraded to include it - only replaced I'm afraid.

An electrician could add a separate CU, with MCBs and RCD protection, just to run the new outside light circuits, or change the old CU to a new one with MCBs and RCD protection for all circuits.

A separate small CU just for the new circuits would be around �35-45 including breakers and maybe half a day to fit at around �100-120 labour. Cont.........

{Part II}

A bungalow is normally not too large a property, with only a small number of circuits (5 or 6) so to change to a new CU would probably be just a days work at �200-300 for labour (depending on where you are in the UK) PLUS the cost of the CU and MCBs - budget �60-100+ for that. There is more work involved in inspecting the installation before the change, and testing and certifying it afterwards, than is involved in the CU change itself!!

Bear in mind I HAVEN'T seen the existing installation so my cost estimates are just that!
Question Author
Thanks for info although some of it is a bit beyond us.
We have cartridges at present with fuses (similar to plug fuses but bigger).
This is the really important bit for you;

If you have additional works done which involves adding new circuits/cables, then those works DO have to meet the current standards (BS7671:2008 17th Edition IEE wiring regulations and Part P of the Building Regulations).

This means the new circuits/cables would have to be installed to the latest standards and protected by RCDs - which means either adding a new small "fuse box" containing an RCD and circuit breakers (MCBs) just for the new circuits OR replacing the whole old "fuse box" with a new one which uses RCDs and breakers. The first choice is cheaper and simpler (usually!).
Well said LCDMAN, i'm a sparky too but I havent got the Part P qualification as I cant be arsed to carry out the domestic side as the commercial side makes more money for me to be honest, but I have changed the odd old fuse board in the past and I used to charge a round the �225 mark and that's supply and fit.

I was in one of the sheds recently, B&Q, and there was an old couple in there and the old boy had just retired and he wanted to change his outdated fuseboard for a MCB/RCD board. The sales bloke, a sparky, told him what he needed to do the job including 'tails' and gave him this to which the retired old boy asked, 'Is it easy to do as ive never done this before' and the sparky told him it was and loads of people have done it themselves, christ in a bottle I gave the B&Q sparky such a look of disgust that he made a sale to a non sparky and told him it was easy to do, I wouldn't mind but I had my work wear on with my name and trade on it and he never said a word.

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