For the past year we have had to install new consumer units that have been manufactured in a non-combustible enclosure rather than the older plastic casing. If you have recently had yours replaced you may have noticed they are made with a metal casing or have been enclosed in a metal cabinet.
If you have not, but have heard about this you may be wondering why they have changed the rules regarding the materials used to produce these units and what does that mean for me?
Intent of the New Regulations
Common sense would tell us it is a fire safety precaution, and it is. The plastic cased consumer units can melt should a fire start from within the unit and dripping molten plastic can set fire to all those things we tend to pile in the cupboard, or under the stairs, spreading the fire fast.
Investigators have found these fires can start from poor installation and/or lack of maintenance to the units. Electrical supply can generate some serious heat if it develops a fault and if the cupboard or area surrounding the consumer unit is covered with household items, coats, storage boxes, appliances etc, these could cause the heat to rise quickly and a fire break out. East Sussex Fire & Rescue service attends approximately 40 fires a year involving consumer units. This change to regulations will not stop the fires, but will stop them spreading so fast by containing the fire within the metal casing.
I have a plastic consumer unit!
Now, what does this mean if you have only had yours replaced a couple of years ago? If you are a landlord, you will know that you are required to have an EICR (Electrical Installation Condition Report, formerly periodic inspection) every 5 years and this may be a concern as you would assume this would come up as a failure due to the new regulations.
Worry not, it will be picked up, but it has been advised that this would be marked as a ‘C3’ which means ‘Improvement recommended’ if it is located under a wooden staircase or directly within a sole route of escape, it would not fail your property as unsafe.
Domestic homeowners are recommended to have their property tested every 10 years, and again it would come down to a C3 code, unless it is deemed unsafe or the regulations change again.
You can improve the safety of your plastic consumer unit by:
If you have any questions regarding your consumer unit, please do not hesitate to give us a call, we are more than happy to offer our expertise and advice.
Tel: 01323 766765