If you’ve noticed that all those new appliances, which you’ve bought over the past several years, are causing problems to your existing power supply, it’s probably time to inspect and upgrade your existing electrical switchboard.
In case you didn’t know, electrical switchboards have a task of distributing electrical current from one source of supply to all those power outlets around the house. Basically, the switchboard simply directs electricity to other devices, which is why it’s important to have one whose capacity is big enough for all the appliances and devices you use at home. The flow of electrical current from the source to power outlets is controlled by different switches on the switchboard.
Old and new switchboards
When old switchboards were designed, people didn’t use as many devices as they do now. What was enough for a heater, a fridge and a dishwasher doesn’t necessarily have to be good enough to serve the additions, such as microwaves, A/C units, home theatres, computers and stereos. The current flow is simply too big for such switchboards. Even if you add solar panels, you should replace the switches and install new meters, which needs extra space in the meter box.
On the other hand, contemporary switchboards feature safety switches, which shut down the main power supply the moment a problem, such as a power leakage from a broken wire, appears. For example, old switchboards are unable to react like that, which often leads to electrical fires. Some people wish to add safety switches, but can’t do so, because the size of the meter box doesn’t allow it. If that’s the case, the only solution is to replace the entire switchboard.
Furthermore, outdated switchboards feature rewirable fuses and they are a great fire hazard, since they can catch fire easily. Unlike the old ones, modern switchboards have circuit breakers, which provide a much greater degree of safety. Also, old ceramic fuses are a threat in case of fire. If you detect that the fuse wire is protruding from the fuse holder, you need to upgrade your switchboard immediately. The greatest problem here is the cable insulation, which can melt easily and catch on fire as electricity runs through the wires.
How to recognise the need to upgrade your switchboard?
If you have too many devices connected and supplied through the switchboard, you might experience problems with your power supply. Also, if you notice that your lights are flickering for no reason, that might be a signal of a weak switchboard.
Another symptom is overheated cabling in the switchboard, which is something you need to inspect every now and then. This is especially true for buildings older than 30 years, where you might notice that a fuse is blowing as soon as you start using more than one device.
Upgrading the incoming mains
Once you’ve installed a modern switchboard, you will probably need to have the new incoming mains, too. Those are the cables that allow electricity to run from the point of entry to your house to the switchboard. The old homes used to feature the 6 mm incoming mains, which could run with approximately 40 amps and that was enough for the few devices that were used then. However, modern average-size houses feature the 10 mm incoming mains (63 amps), while larger houses need the 16 mm incoming mains (80 amps).
Installing the switchboard
The most important thing is to hire a licenced professional, such as this Seven Hills electrician, because this should never be a DIY project. Experts will tell you whether you need to upgrade your switchboard and how to do it. They should also conduct an audit of the whole electrical system and be able to provide regular maintenance of the switchboard.
The most important reason for hiring a professional is safety. You need to be given a compliance certificate, which means that all the works have been done pursuant to government standards and regulations.
It’s easy to see how important having the right switchboard is, primarily because of eliminating a major safety risk. Also, you want to have all your appliances working properly, which is only possible if you have a switchboard that facilitates that.