Consumer units are changing

Over the next year the electrical industry faces changes to the status-quo. It has already started with the introduction of BS 7671: 2008(2015) - Amendment 3 to the 17th Edition of the IET wiring regulations - on 1st January 2015 and will continue through to 2016.

It is important that installers and contractors understand what the amendment is and how it will affect them.

Why the change?

BEAMA, the independent expert knowledge base and forum for the electrotechnical industry for the UK and across Europe, has said that the primary root-cause of fires in consumer units is loose connections. Additionally, the London Fire Brigade has found that fires involving consumer units have increased to approximately five incidents each week.

It’s clear that a change needs to be made to protect consumers from potential harm.

The London Fire Brigade LFB has been working with Electrical Safety First, BEAMA and other industry organisations to make edits to Amendment 3 requirements that will directly improve personal safety and quell the risk of residential fires.

What it Means?

To address this issue Amendment 3 will provide a degree of enhanced fire risk protection, requiring switchgear assemblies – including consumer units - to have their enclosures made from a suitable non-combustible material, or be installed in a cabinet or enclosure comprised from a suitable non-combustible material, for example steel. This is all covered within Chapter 42 with the addition of Regulation 421.1.201.

Critten Electrical will be fitting the new consumer units, using metal enclosures, when they are available in February.

Enhanced fire safety is also referenced in the new Regulation 521.201, which outlines the requirements for wiring systems which are above escape routes, to be supported by fire-resistant fastenings and fixings. All cabling must be supported such that it cannot prematurely collapse when exposed to extreme heat. Once again there is a hint towards the use of metallic materials, although this is not prescribed.

Amendment 3 also puts more responsibility on the installer.

Chapter 41 examines the use of RCD protection on socket outlets. The regulation now requires RCD protection in accordance with regulation 415.1 for socket outlets up to 20A and for mobile equipment with a current rating not exceeding 32A for outdoor use, for all installations. However there is an exception, for socket outlets up to 20A, where the socket outlet is specifically labelled, or where a documented risk assessment determines that RCD protection is not necessary.

Chapter 61 makes a new reference to ‘Skilled person (electrically)’ which has the added condition of the person being competent in inspection, testing and certification work. It also notes that supplies up to 100 amps have a new, more detailed schedule of inspections.

Additionally, for installations greater than 100amps, a model list of items that require inspection during initial verification is provided in Appendix 6. This list, along with a documented risk assessment of any permitted exceptions to the list must be appended to the Electrical Installation Certificate and the declaration signed.

Dates to Know

Over the next year and into 2016 there will be key dates that both manufacturers and installers need to keep in mind to comply with the updated regulation.

Critten Electrical is Ready​