Electrical Switchboard: Is It Time to Update Yours?

Electrical Switchboard: Is It Time to Update Yours?

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Residential properties have always evolved to keep up with the constantly changing way of life. Apart from structural and architectural changes, and the technology that makes our homes comfortable by today’s standards, one thing that keeps evolving are the home utility systems, like plumbing, electric, gas, heating, etc. The number of lighting fixtures, appliances, and entertainment sets has grown significantly from the time when most of the homes standing today were built, so it’s not uncommon for homeowners and renovators to replace the switchboard as soon as they can.

What’s wrong with the old one?

The primary concern of every homeowner or host should be the safety of the home occupants and guests. If you moved in the new home which is older than your previous one, there’s a good chance that the switchboard might not be on the same page with the current regulations. Although switchboards have always used fuses to protect electrical circuits, laws in many countries, including Australia require them to have the lifesaving Residual Current Device (RCD).

RCD vs. fuses

Unlike what many homeowners think, fuses are designed to protect circuits and appliances, not lives. The ‘heart’ of a fuse is a thin copper wire, calibrated for the given amperage. If an appliance short-circuits, the current value increases and the copper wire inside the fuse melts, breaking the circuit. Although it takes only seconds, the whole process is too slow to prevent electrocution. An RCD, on the other hand, is designed to detect the slightest misbalance between the supply and return current, shutting down every circuit you're home in milliseconds.

Home additions and extensions

While improving safety might be the first reason to replace your older switchboard, there are a couple of more. In some cases, home renovation may require an update in this field, depending on the changes that are made. While cosmetic and decorative renovation might not include electrical work, when you are adding a new bedroom, bathroom, granny flat, or remodeling an attic into an additional living space, you need to count in the additional power the new space will draw.

The more consumers, the higher the load

The rooms you add will have more outlets and more light fixtures, with more electrical consumers drawing power. Your existing switchboard may not be able to handle the additional load, which can lead to circuits falling out, as fuses blow to prevent damage and potential fire. When dealing with a power outage, instead of trying to be a saviour, it’s always better to let the professionals handle it. Operating 24/7 service shifts, this Sydney-based emergency electrician will diagnose the cause of an emergency and fix it with guarantee and insurance on their job.

Allowing for specialized equipment

Another reason for upgrading the existing switchboard which is often overlooked is the installation of specialized equipment within your premises. If you’re fitting your garage with a car hoist, purchasing a woodworking lathe for your hobby, a rail for mobility impaired access, or simply introducing a more powerful air-conditioning system, the increased power demand will require an updated switchboard.

Single phase vs. three-phase

While in the past most residential properties used single phase power which provided 230 volts for the lighting and electrical appliances, in many cases, that is not enough. Upgrading to three-phase power, where three separate 230V circuits are used throughout the home along the main 380V three-phase circuit, provides better stability, especially if you have larger appliances. Heating and cooling systems of today are typically powerful enough to allocate them on a separate circuit, while the remaining two are used for lighting and outlets.

Who can replace your switchboard?

No matter how experienced you think you are or how many home electrician videos you’ve seen on YouTube, keep in mind that only a licensed electrician can upgrade your switchboard. Apart from the immediate risks associated with amateur re-wiring, unlicensed electric work often voids your home insurance policy and is by now made illegal in many jurisdictions. A professional electrician not only possesses the equipment and experience but is able to guide you to making the right decisions based on your needs.

Whether you’re remodeling an older home or planning an extension to your existing property, it’s highly probable that you’ll need a new switchboard to support the new power requirements. In either way, the work should be done by a licensed electrician who provides warranty for their work.

By Lillian Connors