Electricity is one of those things isn’t it? We just wouldn’t be able to do without it but can’t see it, smell it or taste it. That’s what makes it so dangerous when you are trying to do things yourself that you should really have a qualified electrician do. So what does that mean? Do you have to get an electrician to change your lightbulbs now? Is that what we’re saying? Not at all, as you read on we will give you some tips to help you do some things that are quite easily done by just about anyone around the home, and point out some risks that you might not have thought about and how to avoid them.
Fuses, Circuit Breakers and RCD’s – These can be daunting and this ok to be cautious of going into a switchboard. After all, this is where the power in your home originates from. Let’s talk about each one separately.
Fuses – You won’t see many of these in new installations but if you are lucky enough (that’s me being a little sarcastic) to have re-wirable fuses still in your home then read on. If you have lost power then unfortunately unless you know which specific fuse it is, you will have to check each one. I recommend that before proceeding, you should turn the main switch off before you start removing fuse holders. This is because when you remove a fuse that is ok and is powering something, you will cause arcing to occur when removing or plugging back in. Depending on what is running will determine how big the arc will be. Also, when you have removed the fuse holder, you will have bare terminals in the fuse base, one side of which will still be live if you haven’t turned off the main switch. Now that you have removed the fuse holder and determined that this is the one that is blown, you will want to select the right fuse wire for the type of circuit. There should be either 16A or 8A fuse wire in your board. The 16A is used for general power circuits (your power points) and the 8A will be used for the lights. If you use the higher rated one for the light circuit for example, you will allow more current through the circuit than the cables can handle and you will have a dangerous situation on you hands. Also, you must only use one length of wire as the fuse, don’t be tempted to use multiple strands “just to be sure” this will do the same as using the wrong size fuse wire and cause a dangerous situation. If you are unsure of any of this, then call LS Power and we can help by perhaps giving you a price to replace your fuses with circuit breakers! It might be cheaper than you think.
Circuit Breakers – This is the easier of the two circuit protection devices to work with. They are simply a switch which breaks the circuit under an overload situation, that is when there is too much current being draw through the circuit due to overloading and fault conditions. When one of these trips you are quite able to re-set these yourself, it is as simple as going to the switchboard and locating the circuit breaker that is in the off position and re-setting to on. If the circuit breaker trips again, do not attempt to reset it but call LS Power to inspect and repair the fault. Remember, you might not be able to see the fault that is causing the circuit breaker to trip but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. As an example, if your hot water system circuit trips then this could mean that the element is damaged and by re-setting the circuit breaker, this could mean you are sending power down your taps through the water pipes which is an extremely dangerous situation!
RCD’s – These protection devices are different to circuit breakers. The circuit breaker is there to protect the cabling of your premises and the RCD is there to protect the people! You can come across two different types of RCD devices; the first is a stand alone RCD which will look bigger than the other circuit breakers and will have RCD written on it somewhere. The second type is an RCD/MCB combination which is the RCD and the circuit breaker in one. You can identify these as they look like a circuit breaker but with a small button on it somewhere which is the test button. Sometimes these devices can trip in what’s called a nuisance trip. This is when it trips when there’s no person in danger. This can occur because the circuit it is protecting might have a refrigerator, washing machine, dishwasher or clothes dryer on it; all of these appliances will have some earth leakage inherent and when they are all on at the same time, it can add up to enough earth leakage to trip an RCD. In this situation, we recommend un-plugging each appliance and then re-setting the RCD prior to plugging each appliance back in one at a time.
You might be asking yourself at this point “Why is LS Power telling us all this? Won’t this do them out of work?” well, this is because we believe in our motto Giving the Power Back to You! If there are things that we can teach you that you are safely and legally able to do then why should you have to pay for an electrician to come out? Having said this, there are some things you need to know before you run off and start working in your switchboard! All of these devices mentioned above, if they have tripped or blown are doing their job and acting exactly how they are supposed to. Therefore, if you have tried to reset or re-wire them and they are just blowing or tripping again, you should call a licensed electrician to come and inspect to find out what the fault is. One additional note before you try to reset these things is to have a look around to see if you can visually see why something has tripped. Look at all the power points or lights that are affected and see if you can see something that is not quite right. It might be something that’s plugged into the power point that’s causing the problem, ensure that everyone is aware that you are trying to reset the power and to stay away from everything that is plugged into the affected circuit, you don’t want to inadvertently re-introduce the fault to the circuit whilst someone is hold to the appliance that is faulty.
If you are at all unsure or not confident with anything written above, call LS Power to come and look at your problem. We won’t think you’re silly but rather we will commend you for not doing something you are not comfortable doing. After all, this is what we are trained and more than happy to do.