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Electrical Components Arranged On House Plans

Get to know your home electrics

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Whether you need an electrician now or later, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the basic set-up of your electrics at home. So let’s try and do that here.

From the street, a thick electricity cable enters your property through a fusebox, then through your electricity meter (where you can read the figure your provider will need to calculate your bill).

From the meter, a cable will feed into what is known as the ‘consumer unit’, a wall-mounted box (in a plastic casing) hosting on-off switches for all the electrical circuits you have in your property. The switches are called ‘fuses’ or ‘circuit breakers’.

The consumer unit comprises a switch on the far right of the console which turns on and off the entire electricity supply to the home issuing from the mains. This switch is called the Residual Current Device (RCD) protector. If there’s a fault in your electrical system, the switch will trip to the off position causing all the electricity in your home to be switched off.

The RCD controls the current to each individual electrical circuit whether it be to your lights, your power sockets, your cooker, your freezer, boiler, immersion heater etc. The circuit breaker switches for each of these are ordered in a row left of the RCD Protector. Each circuit breaker is calibrated by the amount of current (amps) that flow through it – higher for appliances that need a higher current.

It’s a good idea to label each individual circuit breaker i.e. the circuit for the lights upstairs, the lights downstairs, immersion heater, cooker, freezer etc.

The newer type of consumer unit will have a mains switch and two RCDs. One for one group of circuits, say supplying upstairs, another group the downstairs so you won’t lose power to the whole property in one go.

A ‘ring circuit’ is formed by a cable that connects a circuit breaker on the consumer unit to a circuit of various sockets around the building, before returning to the unit. These are sometimes preferred to a ‘radial circuit’, which is a cable supplying a linear arrangement of sockets (i.e. don’t return to the consumer unit). Appliances that plug into the sockets then have different amp fuses, higher for those requiring a more powerful current, which will isolate the appliance should they experience a surge of electricity.

Electricity is of course very dangerous, so if you have any problems around the home, do contact a qualified tradesperson. If you’re local, looking for professional, reliable Swindon electricians, we’re here ready to take your call.

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Does your electrical system at home need updating

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If you’re in any doubt that the electrical system in your home is outdated, you’re running the risk of overheating wires and sparking a fire.

Most of us take our electricity supply for granted or simply don’t give a second thought to what powers our lights, appliances and devices. It’s good to know then how to avoid a dangerous situation by understanding your electric power system.

In simple terms, your system is analogous to our body’s circulatory system. The heart is the electrical panel from which the circuits carry the electric current throughout the home to the lights, appliances and devices. The circuits therefore are like the arteries and veins.

The electric panel determines the amount of power that is available to the circuits. Each circuit distributes the power to different parts of the home, the circuit’s on-off mechanism controlled by a circuit breaker. The size and number of circuit breakers determine how the power is used in the home.

Often a problem occurs in an older property in which the system has become outdated. A large proportion of such homes were built for purpose with only 30 to 60 amps powering the whole, utilising only a few circuits.
So what are the symptoms of a home in need of an electrical system upgrade? Do any of these things apply?:
• Your circuit breakers trips (i.e. switches off) frequently;
• Your lights dim when you switch on other appliances;
• You’re using adapters or extension cords to create more electric outlets in the home.

If you answered yes to any or all of the above, you need your system checked out. In the case of the breakers, these should trip and cut the flow of power to the circuits. The circuits are a single wire connecting a series of outlets that can otherwise overload and overheat.

What will need addressing?
• Your panel will need upgrading to bring more power to your home. Or the panel or circuit breakers replaced if they are obsolete, damaged or dangerous;
• The existing meter and circuit breaker box replaced so the panel can handle more power;
• Additional circuits installed to distribute the power to your rooms and appliances and new electrical outlets provided, replacing the old receptacles.

Be extremely cautious about upgrading your system unless you’re qualified to do so. If you’re local, do call us for a professional consultation. We are Swindon electricians ready to help you.