What is a Switchboard

Your switchboard is your main electrical distributor that feeds your main switch and each individual safety switch or fuse.

Your energy providers electricity line starts in a huge power station that will produce electricity from either, a gas plant, hydro farm, solar farm or wind plant. From here, electricity will be sent to the first sub station then onto long lines to your transmission network. At the second sub station electricity is reduced considerably for power lines to transmit electricity to your switch board.

The electricity supply will first enter your energy meter which records the amount of electricity you use every quarterly. A service fuse will then provide protection to your switchboard, normally rated at 80 – 100amps. From the service fuse, a link is provided to your main switch, this switch will always be the first circuit breaker on your switchboard, looking at it from the left. Your main switch will then feed electricity to each individual RCD/RCBO or ceramic fuse if dealing with the old switchboards.

Let’s take a further look at the contents of a newly-updated switchboard

A newly switchboard upgrade should consist of the following:

Main Switch/Circuit Breaker. This safety switch has complete control over your entire switchboard, once on the off position, you should not have electricity in your home. It has two main functions, to protect the switchboard against overload, and short circuit protection. For homes most main switches are rated at 63amps and anything rated bigger or smaller could cause a dangerous situation. Always located as your first safety switch on the left hand side of your switchboard. If there is no main switch on your switchboard, your switchboard does not meet Australian electrical standards and could be potentially dangerous.

RCD/RCBO Residual Current Device/Residual Current Device Overload. The difference between the two, an RCD has one function only, to protect and detect the circuit of any earth leakage currents. In other words, protecting you against a fatal electric shock when coming into contact with exposed electric wires or copper piping. The RCBO on the other hand has two functions, it has you protected against earth leakage currents but also protects the circuit in the event of an overload fault on your switchboard. The overload fault will occur when you have to many appliances or devices running on the one safety switch, protecting your appliances from burn out and catching fire. RCD/RCBOs can be usually rated from 6 to 40 amps.

  • 6 – 10 amps – lighting
  • 16 – 20 amps – power sockets
  • 20 – 25 amps – oven
  • 32 – 40 amps – cook-top/stove

Since 2019 the Australian standards state that all newly installed switchboard upgrades must have RCD/RCBOs installed on all individual circuits.

MCB/Circuit Breakers. Any switchboards that needs MCBs or circuit breakers replaced, must be replaced with an RCBO/RCD. As previously stated the days of installing an MCB or circuit breaker are over as all new switchboard upgrades need an RCBO/RCD fitted to protect against electric shock and overload.

What your switchboard should NOT contain!

Ceramic Fuses. The dangers of ceramic fuses can be quite hazardous and some Sydney homes today still have these old fuses protecting their homes. These type of fuses only protect against short circuit and overload protection and do NOT protect against electric shock which can be quite fatal. They have a bi metal element which is basically a small piece of wire wrapped around two screws and will heat up and melt when the circuit draws to much current from appliances or devices on a overload fault. When short circuit occurs the piece of wire should break immediately and disconnect the circuit. Some fuse sizes will be different and the correct wire size must be used and installed by a licensed electrician. Using oversized wire on a circuit could become catastrophe causing damage to your electrical wiring and even starting a fire.

Over time as ceramic fuses age and become brittle, hot joints will form and loose connections will start appearing on the switchboard leading to power failure or even fire damage to your electrical circuits and home. Update your switchboard before its too late.

Plug-In Fuses. If you think plug-in fuses are the way to go, think again! The plug-in fuse is a silly step up invention from the ceramic fuse and yes its easy to switch it back on when a fault occurs. But like the ceramic fuse the plug-in fuse will only give you short circuit protection and overload protection which will provide limited protection to your home. Always safer to get a switchboard upgrade knowing you have RCDs /RCBOs installed that will protect you and your family from a fatal electric shock.

Asbestos Panels. Old switchboards installed before 1987 will have the hazardous asbestos boards commonly used for mounting switches and fuses on and will be normally housed and recessed into the side wall of your house. They have a strong tar smell when tampered with and are dark brown or black in colour. The boards will most probably be stamped with their brand names labeled on either the front or the back of the board, such names will be either, lebah, zelemite or ausbestos. We highly recommend that these panels be replaced when upgrading your switchboard, any tampering with the board will become a health risk as any fibers released into the air will increase the chances of inhalation.

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How can I tell I need a switchboard upgrade

There are some obvious signs to look out for within your old switchboard that will tell you if you need a switchboard upgrade.

As previously mentioned, Ceramic Fuses & Old Wiring need to be replaced immediately and obvious signs to look out for would be black smoulder or any sign of melting around the ceramic fuse and cabling entering the fuse holder. If the black smoulder marks are spotted in the home wiring, the wiring and switchboard must be upgraded straight away.

With new Appliances being more advanced and acquiring more wattage, your old switchboard is not equipped to deal with the new power consumption, and overtime appliances will trip on overload and possibly short circuit resulting in damaged cabling. Upgrading your switchboard will prevent your appliances from randomly tripping due to the safety switch being more superior in protecting your circuit and appliances.

Do your Lights Flicker or you have noticed the Lighting Socket is Black/Brown when you remove the old globe, a sign of bigger problems to come. The problem here is fluctuation in voltage, overtime your voltage is increased by your supply authority making is much harder for your old switchboard to handle the problem. Adding safety switches will deter this problem and make you and your home safe.

Does your Switchboard Have Room to add additional circuits, not having room to add safety switches in your enclosure presents danger as it means adding equipment or appliances to existing circuits. It makes sense to upgrade as it shuts out overloads and short circuits from occurring.

If Renovating your home, upgrading your switchboard has come at the perfect time, adding additional circuits is a must when adding extra room in the kitchen or any other living area of the house. With the extra room and safety switches makes it easier to deal with the extra demand in wattage.

Immediately Call a Electrician when you see signs of Sparks coming from your switchboard or any other electrical product in you home.

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Switchboard Upgrade Costs?

Many factors come into play when upgrading your switchboard. The type of dwelling you have – apartment or house, how many circuits are in your old switchboard, is your installation single phase or 3 phase supply, are the fuses mounted on the asbestos black panel and will your service meters or fuses need to be disconnected. All these factors will have a part to play in the cost of your switchboard upgrade.

A switchboard upgrade in a Sydney apartment will cost less than a house as it’s smaller and will require less power. The more circuits you have, the higher the cost will be, more circuits more RCBOs. How many service fuses do you have, 3 phase or 1 phase and you guessed it 3 phase will cost more. Removing the old asbestos panels will increase the cost as well as removing any metering or service fuses.

Our costs range from $800 to $1300 depending on the type of installation you have but for this cost, is it not worth reassuring your safety from electric shock and the possibility of losing your home as well as protecting your lungs from the airborne fibers of asbestos material.

All our switchboard upgrades will come complete with an electrical certificate of completion.

So stop wasting time on switchboards repairs

So you’re constantly calling the electrician to repair fuses, paying ridiculous money on evening call outs because your fuse has blown due to a fault on a circuit. We see this time and time again, being called out to service faults on a switchboard due to the right protection not being used on the old switchboard. So save yourself from wasting money on switchboard repairs and frittering away time on solving the issues within the circuitry. The repairs you do now will only lead to follow-up problems and repeated repairs in the future. So avoid accidents such as a fatal electric shock or property damage from an electrical fire.

Make your home safe today by calling Ken from km.electric about the switchboard upgrade Sydney people can trust.

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