HomeTechnologyThe Main Components of Consumer Units

The Main Components of Consumer Units

Most of us have become used to common amenities that we don’t think about how they actually work. Sure, you get electrical power to your home but do you have any idea how that works?

Knowing about consumer units that power your home is a good place to start. These units power just about everything in your home. You won’t have to interact with them often but knowing the different components of a consumer unit can prove to be invaluable.

What is a Consumer Unit?

Consumer units are called different things depending on where you live but all that you need to know is that they control electricity throughout your house. The various components allow you to switch power on and off in different areas or the home as a whole.

These units also come with safety measures to not only keep you safe but keep major shorts at bay. A serious electrical short can not only do damage to anything plugged into those outlets but can even lead to fire in some cases.

Different Consumer Unit Types

If you look back at consumer units from 30, 40, or 50 years ago, they look a lot different from the units of today. All of the new electrical units you find will have some kind of metal casing to keep connections from overheating and starting a fire. If a fire does start, it should be contained within the unit or an associated metal cabinet that stores all of the components of the unit.

You can have a plastic unit but they are far less common and definitely not as safe. Any plastic unit would be susceptible to high heat created by fire, reducing the effectiveness of the unit as a whole. If you have an older home, check the location of the unit and make sure that it is not near areas like wooden stairs. That’s a significant fire risk and it can wind up blocking an exit, making it more difficult to get out in the event of a fire.

What Components are There in a Consumer Unit

There are four main components that you will find in the average consumer unit, though some can differ depending on your home and what it needs. The four components are the main switch, the RCDs, the circuit breakers, and the bus bar, so let’s break down all of them.

Main switch. The main switch is basically the on-off switch for the house as a whole. You can turn everything on or off with the main switch, including the circuit breakers and RCDs.

RCD. Short for Residual Current Devices, these are crucial safety measures that turn the power off whenever a fault is detected. These go hand-in-hand with the circuit breakers (more below) and keep you from touching something live that could literally electrocute you. RCDs are required in just about any new or rewired home these days.

Circuit breakers. Just about any homeowner is familiar with the breakers. Each breaker controls a circuit or set of outlets in your home. If there is a surge, the breakers trip and cut the power off to that circuit. Flipping the switch back restores the power in most cases, though you might need an electrician if there is a more serious issue.

Bus bar. Unless you’re electrically inclined, there’s a pretty good chance that you won’t ever see the bus bar on your unit. The bus bar is a long strip, typically made of copper, that locks all of the other components into place. They have “teeth” for each of the components to sit safely in place.

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