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Upgrading Older Consumer Units and RCBOs: What You Need to Know

Updated: Jun 12

Do I always need to upgrade my consumer unit when getting new electrical work done?

In this blog I am not going to explain what an RCBO is, or a rewireable circuit breaker/fuse is, and the reason for this is because it’s been covered here in this blog so if you’re unsure please check it out! This was for work I completed at a property in Bath, but new Consumer Units have been installed in Radstock, Chiclcompton, Oakhill and other surrounding areas.

An overview of what I have written about can be found in this video:

So the answer to the question above is: not necessarily… I’ll explain why! Before I begin, you should be using qualified electricians when conducting any electrical work which requires electrical testing, and when new circuits are involved they should be registered with Napit or the NICEIC. 

Consumer Units and RCBOs: The Different Types of Electrical Work I do

There are four different types of electrical work that I mainly deal with: 

  1. New Circuits (Electrical Installation Certificate) - should be Part P Registered Electrician

  2. Additions and Alterations (Minor Works Certificate/Testing) - should be a qualified Electrician 

  3. EICRs (Electrical Installation Condition Report - usually requested by homeowners if they’re concerned or Landlords that need a certificate to continue to rent their properties) - should be a qualified electrician 

  4. Maintenance (no certificates or testing required)

If you have an older consumer unit… one that has old rewireable fuses or one with just Circuit Breakers and no RCD protection then unfortunately this will limit certain types of electrical work that can be carried out, and it’s not as straightforward as adding an RCBO to a consumer unit as in the video here, and the reason is rewirable fuses are well before the time of RCBOs. Things such as additions to circuits, new sockets or additional lighting, basically any alteration to a circuit, including new circuits, you cannot have these completed unless you have RCD protection, the only exception maybe for fixed equipment i.e. radiators.

So, can we get around this? The answer is yes, and no! In the video I explain why in this instance you don’t necessarily need a new Consumer Unit - this is a well known brand and one in which you can find replacement RCBOs, but in older rewireable fuses this wouldn’t be possible, you would need to install an RCD protection outside of the consumer unit - so if you wanted a new socket you would need to use a BS7288 which has an RCD on the socket itself. Any new RCD should also be Type A!! I will discuss what a Type A RCD is in my next blog… it’s quite a big deal for you and your home.

when upgrading or changing the characteristics of an electrical circuit you must ensure that you are complying with the regulations.
BS7288 RCD protected Socket

The downside to replacing a circuit breaker (BS 60898) with an RCBO (BS 61009) is that the other circuits still remain unprotected and it’s likely that the older consumer, having been installed to the previous regulations, is plastic and therefore combustible. New Consumer Unit installed are metal and will most likely have SPD protection and you should also be offered AFDD protection! 

If you don't know what the different types of circuit breakers and rcbos are you can watch an earlier video here:

Again, many thanks for reading and if you enjoyed it then please feel free to share it and subscribe to my next instalment!! 

Rich (your Local Electrician), completing electrical work in and around Radstock and all surrounding areas, including but not limit to:

  • Paulton

  • Midsomer Norton

  • Oakhill

  • Radstock

  • Stoke St Michael

  • Leigh Upon Mendip

  • Mendips

  • Shepton Mallet

  • Wells

  • Peasedown St John

  • Chilcompton

  • Westfield

01761 325 007


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