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This article is about different types of Consumer Unit (CU) and their features. For details on changing and upgrading consumer units see here
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- Cheap and cheerful with a good range of MCBs, single module RCBOs, RCDs etc.
- Plenty of space
- Custom split load arrangements possible by cutting the bus bar at a user selected position
- Plastic models are easy to cut and drill for cable entry and exits
- Beware the flimsy busbar cover
- Note recent design change has made MCB geometry subtly different from previous model. This makes interchangeability harder since the height of the protruding bit of the MCB/RCD is slightly different. The plastic models are however usually flimsy enough to make fitting with a little brute force possible!
- Wider than usual range of MCBs and RCBOs, including double pole.
- Snappable busbar with good quality slip on sleeve makes live working safer and allows custom split load configurations to be made
- MCBs and RCBOs comptable across the domestic plastic and industrial metal enclosures.
- Double pole (SPSN) and single pole devices may be mixed freely on a standard single phase busbar (insulated busbar way on the neutral side and flying lead for the neutral). Double pole devices are general double width.
- Expensive, but RCD "pods" are available for some of the MCBs allowing many custom RCBOs to be constructed.
- Probably the only manufacturer listing a true double pole busbar carrying both phase and neutral on a split comb arrangement, avoiding the need for "flying neutrals".
- Innovative enclosed and hidden busbar which allows devices to be clipped in without removing the busbar from all devices.
High quality (and price) accessories.
- Probably the widest range of accessories
- High quality manufacture
- Aesthetically pleasing CU design
- MK MCBs etc tend to fit a reasonably wide range of other CUs.
Wicks CUs and accessories are currently made by Clipsal
Three types of Wylex enclosure are commonly met: The classic rewireable fuse type, the NN type - early bus bar design using MCBs, and current DIN rail MCB designs.
Rewireable fuse boards
- Basic Wylex fuseboxes are very common in existing installs
- No RCD provision in the fusebox
- Fuses expose live pins if pulled with power on
- Overheating occasionally happens on high current circuit fuses (greater than 30A)
- Older designs have intumescent oak back boxes - this is not a safety issue.
- Can be upgraded with Plug in MCBs (3kA breaking capacity only)
Similar in concept to modern CUs however the bus bar design is different having U shaped notches cut into the top of it in place of the more common "fingers" of todays CUs. The notches enable a screw to pass through the busbar into the NN MCBs to make electrical contact.
- MCBs tend to have Fuse equivalent trip ratings (i.e. 5A, 15A, 30A).
- MCBs have the older type II trip response rather than the more modern type B, C, or D, and the breaking capacity is often only 3kA
- MCBs commonly thermal trip when loaded close to their marker rating.
- Finding spares for the CUs is now difficult. eBay will often source additional MCBs although high trip currents (anything over 30A are hard to find).
- It is possible to get a modern style MCB into one of these CUs - but only at the extreme left of the busbar, The busbar will need to be trimmed shorter su that it does not iminge on the new MCB. The lower metal flange on the base of its din rail needs to be bend down with a pair of pliers. This will enable the new MCB to hang on the rail. The feed to the MCB can now be hard wired using a bridge wire. Attache a loop terminal to one end and place it under one of the existing MCB screw connections on the basbar, and connect the other end to the base of the MCB in place of the modern busbar finger.
Many devices will work in other brands of CU, although often there is a slight misalignment of entry and exit terminals or protruding section of the device. If possible, try and stick to all one brand within the CU. It should also be noted that mixing devices from other manufacturers will be outside the manufacturer's type testing, so the assembly will have to be specially tested and certified to show compliance with British Standards, which is required by the Wiring Regulations.