A look inside a British home electrical panel.

A look inside a British home electrical panel.

Note that in this video the panel is new and has no external circuits connected yet. When wired in and active there is a lot of exposed live metalwork that poses a shock risk. Changing a consumer unit is not a simple DIY task due to the presence of a high current supply that poses a shock and burn hazard if touched or bridged.

In the UK we have a really simple electrical system. Just a three phase system with 240V between each phase and neutral and 415V between any two phases. (230V/400V under European tolerance standards.)
A typical home will get a single phase and neutral with the three phases spread amongst homes in a street, while a factory or commercial premises will usually get all three phases.
The higher voltage means lower current and the single phase means that our consumer units (home electrical distribution boards) are very compact and simple inside.
Traditionally they contained an isolator with a busbar that went along a horizontal row of breakers, but these days the breakers are often grouped in sections, each protected by its own main RCD/GFI. This allows the RCD/GFI to protect all the wiring in the circuit and also ensures that if a leakage fault does cause an RCD/GFI to trip, it only turns off a small number of circuits in the house. In some instances every single circuit may have its own RCBO (Residual Current Breaker with Over-current) which protects each circuit against overcurrent and fault leakage.
The use of a DIN rail for mounting the breakers means that the panel can accommodate other modules if desired. Commonly things like time switches and power supplies. Alternatively a consumer unit can be used purely as a handy housing for a row of DIN modules with the added advantage of integral power busbars.
A typical British home gets a 60A utility fuse these days, although for larger homes or applications like vehicle charging that can be upgraded to a higher value if the incoming cable is suitably rated.
Typical circuits in a consumer unit are:-
Lighting. A radial circuit protected by a 6A circuit breaker. Usually wired with 1mm or 1.5mm CSA cable. The circuit usually bounces from room to room passing through a ceiling rose connector that makes it a very versatile system for lighting.
Radial power. Often a 16A breaker feeding a special application like a heating boiler control system or immersion heater. Usually wired in 2.5mm CSA cable.
Radial circuits are also used for high current loads like cookers and showers with suitable cables and breakers.
Ring power circuit. An unusual approach to running lots of high current sockets with a loop of cable that starts and finishes at a 32A breaker. Usually wired with 2.5mm CSA cable. People make entire careers out of inventing new and pointless ways to test ring circuits. Sometimes called a ring main as the first circuits were based on power distribution ring mains that are used in the electrical utility industry. Now called ring final circuits, a new name invented by the department of paperwork.

Other components to follow in future videos.

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50 Replies to “A look inside a British home electrical panel.”

  1. 9:42 — "These circuit breakers that draw 1 watt cost £1 a year to run."

    Holy… best heuristic for electricity costs that I’ve come across. Sure enough, £1 per watt year ≈ 11.42 pence per kWh, and tariffs are currently around 10 to 15 pence per kWh. Why on earth was I not told this in school?!

  2. I wired my consumer unit in my garage. (note.: the electricity meter is before the unit) I have a B20 instead of the isolator switch, an rcd after that and at the output of the rcd in parallel a c16 for the outlets a b6 for the lights.
    Do you think it’s good that way?

  3. Worth a mention is that for those with 3 phase, or access to more than one phase in a building… 400 volt = certain death, whereas 240 volt = big suprise, occasional death

  4. I working to put a separate consumer unit in upstairs for my sciences stuff but I working with my cusion to do it as it won’t interfere with main one

  5. looks nice here in South Africa we use a similar system but the busbar bridges and live connections are all made on the top of the board and the out going wires to the plugs ,lights ect all are on the bottom

  6. I remember the first time I saw my Grandfathers Knob and Tube wiring. I was like 10 or 11 crawling around in the attic. Had no clue what I was looking at. Years later as an Electrician I’d just chuckle when I thought about how his house was wired. Of course it burnt to the ground. Wonder why <.<

  7. We have them similer ones in our house. Ours is slightly different. Different ours as mutli pretected earthing. And it’s begin all tested we have rcd and a yellow one that can trip with rcd

  8. Ohhh … configured right to left.. and switching the Neutral?

    A quick look at that an I saw a 2phase supply.

    Really, to start at the household beginning would look at the Incoming Mains and Service fuses… all high kA and not to be messed with by your DIY wanna be ‘electrician’.

  9. It look very much like we have in France (colors excepted, and for ours it is most often not possible to access cables without unscrewing a panel).

  10. A wonderful description in the tone of reading a Haynes manual for a consumer unit. The BS7671 wizards are not gonna like you calling it ‘Live’ instead of ‘Line’ but hey..your soothing voice will trick them.

  11. You think this is dangerous, you should see my 60 year old Texas box. In a house made entirely of untreated wood. It’s a miracle it’s still here.

  12. In the USA on a new home we have GFCIs that we keep for inspection and then we replace them with regular breakers when the inspector leaves

  13. These videos have been quite helpful for a fellow in the translation industry who has precious few contacts in the UK electrical field. Thank you, Clive!

  14. Ring main circuits are about as British as the pound sterling, the mile and the pint, you will never surrender and give it up!! 😉

  15. I love this series, i’m just beginning to get my head around the likes of ring circuits and fused spurs…..it’s such a different electrical distribution design than in the US. you and Thomas Nagy are amperage ambassadors. keep teaching us.

  16. Very interesting to see a UK breaker box. Quite different from our American boxes. Our systems have built in bus bars…one on each phase and the breakers alternate buses to balance loads. That also makes it easy to get two or three phases for appliances or heavy duty motors for tools. I would love to see a comparison between American, UK and EU breakers and boxes.

  17. concise and informative video, thanks, incredible that the tails gland requires drilled rather than providing a correct sized KO!
    my theory on the increase of consumer unit fires is the increase to a min of 25mm in tails. some of the old plastic boards were made to be asthetically pleasing, slimline , not enough room for the tails be shaped and enter the DP switch terminals without being over bent and stressing the terminal connections

  18. Did the intended series of videos happen or it was shelved? Looked for the series but no show in your vid list……

  19. I’ve been watching a few videos on consumer units recently as I want to install a 32a socket in my garage, I’ll probably still get an electrician to sort it out but it’s interesting to learn. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Damn, they don’t label breakers there either ! They should have to label them everywhere as part of the code and supply a wiring diagram for the building kept next to the fuse box and a copy with the house title. The same for plumbing too.

  21. I was always envious of the 220V household plugs in England, especially when looking at power consumption and speed of typical UK kettles when making tea. However I didn’t realize you don’t get a second hot wire fed into each home, out of phase by 180 deg. So, in North America, if you need 240 V for dryer or heater, etc you feed it with two hot wires that are out of phase…. Even so, it would be nice to have 240 V plugs to boil water for tea, ha ha.

  22. Interesting to look at British panel. You guys are using type B, while many other countries are still using type C for home. I’m curious, since when UK started to use type B for MCB?

  23. I like the DIN rail system. Here in the USA the only time you’ll see it is in industrial applications usually on a PLC or MCC backplane.

  24. I like this.
    And I’m a bit jealous because I have only one breaker for the entire flat 😭

    Don’t know who built this and did the electrics but I would kick his arse into oblivion 🤦‍♂️

  25. I’d love a brief talk on the ‘Part P’ fiasco Clive. I’d really like to hear your opinion on domestic electricians here in the UK. I have to admit to doing all my own electrical instalations after a couple of horrible experiences involving the aforementioned ‘professionals’. One being a house rewire were after finding at least two earth wires cut short and not connected into 13 amp sockets. On further investigation I found at least 10 loose connections inside sockets, junction boxes and the consumer unit itself. As I’m led to believe that loose connections now account for more house fires than the traditional chip pan I was seriously unimpressed.
    Another shocking (pardon the pun)incident of an incompetent domestic electrician I came across was at a theatre I was called out to to investigate why the house dimmer units kept tripping out. The idiot who had been acting as the technical manager had daisy chained together 6 6kw dimmer units together sub stage. I can’t remember now what cable he’d used but it was so underrated that the links had melted into a congealed mess across the outputs. It was a miracle there hadn’t been a fire and the guy clearly had no idea how to work out or distribute the load. As an odd aside he was only sacked when the council run theatre uncovered the embarrassing extent of his other more financial frauds. I was asked by the new technical manager to come in while the venue was dark to help to completely rewire the grid. A really fun job which I thoroughly enjoyed.

  26. Thanks good to know also compared to the United States 🇺🇸 this one seems to run a bit different and still works the same too etc. 😎🤩👍 I enjoyed watching your video.

  27. Да, это вам не развод на бабки от быдло-электрика васьки московского (как он сам любит выражаться про других электриков)…

  28. Dam good video Clive I’m an old spark I am 64 so I have seen some hair raising things that people do with electrics FOLKS if you have problems with your electrical system if you’re in any doubt call a professional in ELECTRICITY CAN KILL YOU TAKE NOTICE

  29. I wish you explained what the TLAs (three letter acronyms) mean. I am interested but have never heard of these things.

  30. In my grandmother’s house, the main fuse (mcb) beneath the meter is type B 16A. Even better, the sockets are fused with type B 6A

  31. I can wire a plug do light switches light switches. And extension sockets. And plug sockets. I learning from my cusion about busbars I know about. Transformer step up and down I learning din rails

  32. As soon as I saw the breaker I got flashbacks to the landline beeping for some reason and being annoyed about unsaved files.

  33. I see a lot of videos of "Sparks" on YouTube showing UK electrician work, but I don’t ever see any US electricians showing their work. I think if your a electrician in the US you could get a good audience especially if your in a larger city showing industrial work or just residential work. I have a good understanding of US electrical but some of the UK concepts are strange like rings and all the testing they do. The US we just slap it in and it works more or less it seems.

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