What Is a Consumer Unit?
You just might have heard the term "consumer unit" often, and still not understand what it is all about. In fact, as long as you have electricity supply, a consumer unit is something very useful and functional to have. Which in fact you do! Although you might not exactly know what it is or what it does, it is quite easy to recognize. And of course, you need not to be so techy to understand the basic, yet vital details about using a consumer unit. It is mostly located in the utility room, garage or somewhere not so open within the home. This is probably for safety purposes as well.
What Is a Consumer Unit?
A consumer unit is also commonly known as a fuse board. It is a device that is a type of distribution board that helps in protecting cables from overload and then damage or accidents. This is done by distributing the electrical power supply to other points where power is needed within the building. (That is, from the main power to the individual subsidiary circuits within the same building or property.) The consumer unit is a crucial electricity component that serves to prevent overload accidents such as electric shocks or fire outbreaks.
Main Components of a Consumer Unit
So, in the real sense of it, the consumer unit is a main controller of the electricity that powers your house. Before you go poking through the consumer unit in your house, which might look like an electrical mystery, you need to understand what the components are. A consumer unit is basically composed of three major parts.
The Main Switch
The main switch is the central control switch, as the name implies. It is the part of the consumer unit that’s responsible for controlling electricity coming from the electric meter and through the consumer unit, then through to other circuits. It is manually controlled, and is mostly always kept on, except when there’s a need to work on electrical repair and it has to be turned off as a necessary safety measure.
The Residual Current Devices
The Residual Current Devices (RCDs) are simply those switches that usually switch themselves off if overload or leakages are detected. They monitor the electric currents and are quite sensitive to high currents, which makes them trip off. The circuits in a consumer unit are usually in two sets, and one RCD controls each one. So, when power goes out suddenly in your house alone, the electrician might simply have to check the RCD in the fuse box or consumer unit to know what went wrong. They help to prevent electrical appliances from damage or burning out.
The Circuit Breakers
These are vital components of a consumer unit, and also function as control switches that regulate particular sections, rooms or appliances within the building. There are individual circuit breakers for different sections or rooms. This makes it easier to detect the area the problem is coming from.
Installing a Consumer Unit
As you can see, these three components explained are basically simple to understand. However, the fact that you understand these basics doesn’t mean you have the skills to install one. Installing a consumer unit would require you to be (or have) a good electrician to help in doing that. Besides knowing how the RCDs and circuit breakers automatically operate, this is not all. Aside from knowing how to set the timer to switch off some circuits at required times, you should be cautious about messing with the consumer unit or removing parts if you’re not too familiar with it. It might require some technical skills and knowledge to detect what is needed. Thus, having a professional handle the major work might be the smart thing to do.
Best Consumer Units for Sale
There are different types of consumer units from different brands, which mostly serve the same purpose. However, choosing the right one to buy is important, so that you get the best quality for your money. Here is a list of some quality consumer units for sale on amazon.com
Garage Consumer Unit with 63a/30mA RCD& 1×16amp & 6amp MCB’s IP55
This is a quality and well-rated consumer unit sold by ElectricalWorld. This product is an IP55 rated enclosure with latching lid, which protects the electrical components from water or damp conditions. It is quite affordable and easy to purchase. You can easily have this installed in your garage or outhouse by an electrician or professional. Also, you need not worry about assembling the parts when you buy it, as it comes pre-assembled with its ratings already set.
Honeywell K6552sMET 8-Way MK Sentry Fully Populated Metal Consumer Unit
Another popularly known consumer unit is this product from Honeywell. This is particularly preferred as a result of being easy to install. Also, it is a populated consumer unit, and also a standard in its design. That is, it comes in a corrosion-resistant Zintec steel material. It specifications include 63A 30mA RCD, 6×MCB’s (3×6A, 1×6A, 2×20A).