Having made the decision to replace your old fuse board, it is important to ensure that this important job is completed by a competent electrician.
Think of your fuse board as the main hub of your home – its the 'thinking centre' to all electrical aspects in your home. If the job is carried out incorrectly, your home will be in a dangerous condition and your family is then at risk from electrical harm.
Firstly, I will outline the main reasons why you may need or want to upgrade your old fuse board to a new 18th Edition Consumer Unit:
You are having some other electrical work carried out and need to comply with the regulations. Your old fuse board is overloaded and starting to cause problems for the remainder of the installation. Your wiring installation is in poor condition but you cannot afford a rewire, changing to a 18th Edition Consumer Unit will offer some protection.
Whatever the reason upgrading an old consumer unit to one incorporating residual current devices (RCDs / RCBO’s), is a job that many people will now have to consider at some point.
The above points may have been raised by another tradesperson in your home such as a builder if you are having a large building project undertaken.
Please DO NOT be tempted into hiring anyone who IS NOT a qualified electrician to carry out electrical work in your home, even if they offer to carry out the work for a fraction of the price because 'they know all about electrics'
It’s not just the price that counts, a Qualified electrician will be fully qualified up to the current 18th edition (January 2019), part P compliant and fully insured to do the job AND have a lengthy guarantee on the job for years to come.
If the person fitting the consumer unit is not qualified, Part P compliant, and is not insured, it really is better to walk away. These people are not interested in your safety or future well being, they are only interested in your cash!
Yet over the years I have come across the same objections about price when quoting for a replacement consumer unit /fuse board. They normally go as follows...
“I can buy one myself for £80 in a well known DIY Shop, My mate that works for %%%%%% can do it for £xxx, I’ve had a quote from my builder and he reckons he can do it for £xxx,
Mick down the pub said if I get the board he’ll fit it for £50”
Please don't believe anyone who says you don't need a certificate or dis-regards the importance of certification. Not only is an electrical certificate your peace of mind that your home is safe, it is also an important document that is needed should you wish to sell or let your home in the future.
It is not simply a piece of paper signed by the electrician, it is a legal document and the electrician needs to carry out several tests on the installation before they can issue a certificate.
The Electrician who carries out the installation should also issue the certificate. BEWARE some 'electricians' employ someone else to issue the certificate. This practice is NOT APPROVED and means your electrician is not Part P compliant.
So having obtained a quote from a genuine electrician, you might be wondering how they arrive at the cost.
So what is the Cost?
When you ask an Electrician to quote for a Fuse Board/New Consumer Unit, there are a number of things he will take into consideration, therefore costs will vary. You should be aware of these:
The materials involved
You can now go to a high street hardware/DIY shop and buy new Consumer Units for a reasonable amount of money, they come preloaded with 2 x RCD’s and MCBs, which may or may not be the right rating for your circuits, As of January 2019, The regulations have been changed and Due to Earth leakage problems caused by a lot of the modern gadgets we now have in our homes, These units No Longer Meet the requirements and should NOT be installed in most Domestic properties.
You will have to add to that the cost of Meter Tails and Surge Protection Device (SPD) Which also now must be fitted in nearly all installations, the fact that if anything goes wrong with the unit you will need to pay to have it removed and a new one refitted.
On the other hand your electrician will have accounted for all necessary items required and if he supplies the board it will be of good quality and if anything goes wrong with the unit he will have to replace it at no cost to you. You only Pay Once.
Checking earthing and bonding arrangements
Before the consumer unit is changed, the electrician will have checked the distributor’s equipment at the origin of the installation (where your meter is) along with the earthing and bonding arrangements. This is to ensure that they are properly connected, safe and that they comply with the regulations. If they do not, then work may have to be postponed until the distributor rectifies any issues highlighted.
The time involved for installation
This will depend on the size of the property, number of circuits and location of the old fuse board. Stripping out the old, marking up cables ensuring they are in good condition and long enough then installing the New Consumer Unit.
The time involved in Testing
All of the circuits in the property will have to be tested, there is a series of predefined tests that must be applied to each of the circuits, and the results of this testing form a big part of the certification you will receive.
This is perhaps the most important part of changing a Fuse Board, however it is often the part that is not carried out correctly or at all by those who charge below market value for installing a new Consumer Unit. Often they will Fudge the test and fake the certificate, because they haven’t allowed time in their cost to do it correctly or they just are not capable of testing to the correct standard.
Allowance for Fault Finding
A good electrician will have built in an allowance for some Fault Finding because experience tells us that there are often minor issues that need to be resolved, if this has been built into the cost then often the electrician will not bother you with the detail, But will just rectify simple faults as found. Major faults would be notified to you and be discussed as a separate Job.
Again someone who is quoting below market value will not have factored in time for fault finding and you run two serious risks here. The first is that you are likely to be presented with an “Extras” bill at the end which could be substantially higher than your original quote or secondly the “electrician” will bodge the job in order to make it work so he can get paid his original fee, the result is you are left with a potentially dangerous installation.
Certification and Registration
Electricians have to comply with strict regulations, a change of consumer unit is a serious undertaking and must meet all of the relevant Standards and Regulations, in order to comply with these Electricians will issue Certification for both the Electrical Installation and for Compliance with Part “P” of the Building Regulations. Apart from the fact that doing this properly takes time, it also requires the electrician to be registered with an awarding body and all the associated costs that go with that, such as ongoing training, insurance, membership fees.
And finally we get to Profit, which is after all why any Electrician is in Business. A good electrician who runs a good business will have built in a profit margin into his quote for the job, this is how he stays in business and can provide a good service to his clients, he will be happy to take payment in any legal manner.
Your cheap quote electrician, will not have factored in profit, because in his mind it is pretty much all profit, he will supply a cheap quality consumer unit, fudge the test results, hide any faults that show up and then tell you he prefers to be paid in cash.
He is likely not registered, not insured and possibly not even qualified. If anything goes wrong and it will, you have absolutely no comeback.
When you take all of the above into consideration, you will appreciate that there is a big difference between what you can buy a Consumer Unit for off-the-shelf in a well known DIY Chain, and the cost of a fully installed fully certified and fully guaranteed Unit.
You should ask yourself when you get a cheap quote “How can he do it so Cheap”?... “what is not getting done...”
Most reputable electricians would agree that anything below £500 is too cheap and something is being missed and anything above £750 for a standard domestic board is too high (unless there are mitigating circumstances).
Everyone knows that most homeowners are watching the pennies at the moment, don’t let CHEAP prices sway your decision look into what you are getting for your money.