If the photo above resembles your ‘fuseboard’, then we can state with confidence that it is time for an upgrade.
The fuseboard shown above is called a ‘Wylex rewireable fuseboard’. It protects you circuits using fusewire, which is supposed to melt, stopping the flow of electricity, in the event that your circuits are drawing more current (electricity) than they are rated to carry. There are two main issues with this fuseboard which we believe renders them dangerous:
First, there is no mechanism to prevent users from installing the wrong gauge (thickness) of fuse wire. Naturally, when a fuse blows, the priority is to get the fuse wire replaced as quickly as possible to restore electricity to the property, as opposed to making sure that it is replaced with the correct size of fuse wire. Even if the correct size of wire is used to repair a blown fuse, if the circuit continues to trip, the temptation is to replace it with a thicker gauge of fuse wire, to avoid this recurrent nuisance. This can have fatal consequences as it effectively leaves the circuit previously protected by that fuse, totally unprotected from over-currents.
Second, in our experience, rewireable fuses do not always blow when they ought to. This is because they are at least partially exposed to the air, the ambient temperature of which can cool the wire preventing it from melting when or as quickly as it should.
It is possible to purchase miniature circuit breakers which retrofit into Wylex rewireable fuseboards. They look like this:
While these devices are far more reliable than their rewireable predecessors and are colour coded to avoid inadvertent rating errors, the cost of retrofitting an entire fuseboard with these devices is not significantly lower than the cost of replacing an entire fuseboard, with a modern one which also has RCD protection, so this route to enhanced safety represents a false economy, in terms of value for money. To find out more about RCDs (residual current devices) and why every circuit in your home ought to be protected by one of these devices, click here.
In our opinion, if you have a Wylex rewireable fuseboard in your home then, at the very least, you should instruct an electrician to undertake a full electrical survey of your home. It is likely that the electrical cables in your walls and ceiling are as old as your consumer unit and, as you don’t have an RCD, your system has no way of detecting whether electricity is leaking out of your cables and down unintended paths. As part of the survey, your electrician will test for dangerous levels of leakage by disconnecting your power supply and sending 500 volts up your line conductor (the brown one, or red one in systems which predate 2004) to see if any of this electricity can be detected in places it should not be. This kind of test is known as an insulation resistance test or a ‘pressure test’, and is one of the most reliable ways of checking for unacceptable levels of thermal degradation in the electrical cables which are hidden in your walls and ceilings.
Click here to read an interesting article explaining why you ought to arrange a full electrical survey (EICR) every ten years (or five years for landlords).