If you are experiencing problems with your electricity tripping out or blowing a fuse you may have too many appliances running through a fuse box or consumer unit that is designed for less power consumption. The solution is to replace or upgrade your fuse box, or take the opportunity to have a consumer box installed.
Consumer boxes will give you more protection than a fuse box and you can use it with a smart metre to see exactly how much energy you are using. When you have this information you can begin to make changes to save you money on your energy bill.
In this guide, we’ll give you the average price for installing a consumer unit, what affects the cost of installing one, how you can save money, how you can find and hire an electrician to do the job and what questions you should ask when they come to give you quotes.
Finally, we’ll answer some of your frequently asked questions.
How Much Does It Cost to Install a Consumer Unit?
The table below gives you the average costs of installing a consumer unit. As you can see they are labour intensive to install.
|Consumer Unit||Estimated Supply Costs (Including VAT)||Labour Costs||Time Required||Total Estimated Cost|
|Mains Switch Consumer Unit||£20 to £230||£30 to £55||4 to 6 hours||£150 to £560|
|Dual RCD Consumer Unit||£60 to £230||£30 to £55||4 to 6 hours||£180 to £560|
|High Integrity Consumer Unit||£60 to £230||£30 to £55||4 to 6 hours||£180 to £560|
|Garage or Shower RCD Consumer Unit||£30 to £60||£30 to £55||2 to 3 hours||£90 to £225|
Labour costs are between £30 and £55 an hour, but if you live in London, or the South East you may well pay the charges at the top of the scale or more.
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What Does a Consumer Unit Contain?
A consumer unit contains one or more of the following components:
The main switch – the main switch is the control for the power coming into your home. You use the switch to turn the mains off if you have electrical work to do, and back on again when you have finished and want power restored.
RCD – a residual current device is a group of switches that protect you and your home. They will reduce the risk of electrocution if you cut into a live wire by accident. It also helps to prevent fires in the home. It works by immediately cutting off the electricity supply if it detects a fault.
MCB – miniature circuit breakers protect against power overloads or short-circuit problems. If you overload the circuit because you have too many appliances in that circuit or there is a wiring problem, the circuit breakers will cut off your electricity to reduce the risk of a fire starting.
SPD – a surge protection device is only installed if the electrician feels you need this extra cover.
RCBO – residual current operated circuit breaker. This consumer unit has a combination of an RCD and an MCB. It gives you protection from most electrical faults.
Timer – Most consumer units don’t contain timers, but if you want one they can be installed by an electrician. If you have a timer it means if you are on holiday you can set it to turn certain circuits on and off to make it look like you are at home. You could also set the timer to have the lights on when you get home from work during the winter months.
It’s also good to know some basic terms:
An overload – an overload occurs when there are too many appliances plugged into one particular circuit making a higher load than the MCB rating. When this happens the switch will trip cutting the electricity to the affected circuit.
An overcurrent – this means there is something wrong with the wiring. For example, a wire may get loose in a socket and touch another wire. This will cause the electricity to trip.
What Affects the Cost of a New Consumer Unit?
There are many factors would could impact the cost of a new consumer unit. We take a look at these factors below to give you an idea of what to take into account for your budget,
Type of Consumer Unit
There are four types of consumer units which are:
Mains switch consumer units – main switch consumer units don’t come with RCDs or MCBs. You can add them later if you choose. Commonly electricians use these units to populate them with RCBOs. This protects each circuit from overload individually. Individual protection prevents a circuit ‘trip.’
Dual RCD consumer unit – as the name suggests, this consumer unit has two RCDs and the main switch. These units are sometimes called fully loaded consumer units. The circuits installed are split into two, so half the circuits go through one RCD and the other half go through the other RCD.
High integrity consumer units – this consumer unit has one MCB per circuit which means it is similar to a dual RCD consumer unit. It has three banks of circuits with RCBOs and two banks of MCBs. They have total circuit separation and excellent protection.
RCD consumer unit – RCD consumer units are used in smaller areas like garages and showers. They don’t have a main switch because it isn’t necessary and they usually have 4 circuits or less.
Size of Your Home
The size of your home dictates how many circuits and amperage you need. Here are the prices on average, of the circuits and amp ratings:
- 6 circuits (£30 to £65 supply only excluding VAT)
- 10 circuits (£35 to £170 supply only excluding VAT)
- 12 circuits (£60 to £180 supply only excluding VAT)
- 40A (less common): £30 to £50 supply only including VAT
- 60A (less common): £40 to £50 supply only including VAT
- 63A (more common): £30 to £110 supply only including VAT
- 80A (more common) £60 to £200 supply only including VAT
- 100A (most popular): £30 to £230 supply only including VAT
Condition of Your Old Fuse Box or Consumer Unit
If your old fuse box or consumer unit is in poor condition it may have to be replaced. This will cost more than to have an element of it repaired.
If the electrician has noticed the current wiring in your home is in poor condition they may recommend that you have new wiring installed.
Installing a new consumer unit and rewiring an entire two-bedroomed terraced house will cost between £2,300 and £3,500.
If you want to know more about the cost of rewiring a house, have a look at the HouseholdQuotes guide on rewiring your home.
Add Sockets or Switches
Adding extra sockets and switches will make it easier for you and your family to find space to recharge electronic devices. In the kitchen, extra sockets and switches will always be useful, as we now use more appliances like coffee machines, food processors and bread makers.
An electrician will charge between £90 and £220 to install a socket and switch. The job should take between three to four hours.
An electricians hourly rate is between £30 and £55.
Have an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR)
An EICR report is carried out by a qualified electrician. They will give you an in-depth inspection of your electrical system.
They will then give you a report. This outlines whether you have defects or deterioration in your wiring.
The report will recommend what needs to be done to bring your wiring up to the required safety standard. All Landlords and business owners must carry out an EICR report on their business premises or let property.
The cost of an EICR will be between £120 and £350 depending on the size of your home. Rented properties and businesses should have an EICR report every five years.
A general householder can have the report carried out every 10 years.
Homeowners aren’t required by law to have a report. But they are a useful way to find out about the condition of your electrics, especially if you live in an older property.
How Can I Save Money on a Consumer Unit?
Compare your quotes and pick the one that suits you best. If you make sure your quotes all contain the same scope of work you will be easily able to compare each quote.
Use HouseholdQuotes to help you find the electrician you need. Fill in the online form. (It takes less than a minute).
Tell us what you need. We’ll then find local electricians to give you no-obligation quotes fast.
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How Do I Choose the Right Consumer Unit for My Home?
There are five main types of consumer unit. You can choose the type that best suits where the unit will be located.
The five types are:
Standard Metal Consumer Unit
This is the most commonly installed unit. It is surface mounted and has a hinged front lid which will close by itself if someone has left it open.
Duplex Consumer Unit
The circuits in the box are in two rows so it is normally narrower than a standard unit.
Flush Consumer Unit
These units are recessed into the wall and have a slim profile. Aesthetically they look better than other types of consumer unit.
Garage Consumer Unit
This consumer unit is a small box that contains less than four switches and is commonly installed in garages or sheds where you only need lighting and sockets for tools.
IP Rated Consumer Unit
These are boxes that are used in areas where there is water, so they are commonly used in pools and spas.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Consumer Unit Types
Mains Switch Unit:
Advantage: A cost-effective consumer box.
Disadvantage: If anything goes wrong while repairs are being carried out, the main switch will have to be turned off. This means you won’t have power anywhere in your home.
Dual RCD Unit
Advantage: If you have separate circuits for upstairs and downstairs, if there is a problem only one needs to be turned off. You’ll still have power in half of the house. Just make sure lighting for example is split, otherwise, you’ll end up without any lighting if you have put them all on one circuit and it has a problem.
Disadvantage: A fault in one room means that all the rooms on that circuit will be out of action.
High Integrity Unit
Advantage: Only one circuit is affected at a time if something goes wrong.
Disadvantage: This consumer unit is more expensive than any others.
How Does an Electrician Install a Consumer Unit?
An electrician will first ensure that the power supply has been cut off.
If they are replacing one consumer box with another each wire should be labelled so that the electrician knows the purpose of each wire.
The old consumer box will be removed. The new box is screwed into the wall.
They will check if any wiring needs to be extended.
If the wiring is coming from above, a hole will need to be cut out of the consumer box so the wiring can be fed into the box.
They will start to feed the live, neutral and earth wiring into the main switch.
If there are wires of different lengths the electrician may cut them back so that they are the same length.
After this, the electrician may straighten the wires which makes them easier to install.
They will then begin to install the circuit breakers and attach the appropriate wiring to each circuit. All the wiring should be labelled so anyone opening the unit knows which wire belongs to which circuit.
Once all the wires have been installed, the box can be labelled and the top of the consumer box screwed in.
The electrician will then test all the circuits and make sure there are no problems. If everything works then the job has been completed!
How Do I Find and Hire an Electrician?
First, ask family and friends if they know an electrician they can recommend. Next, ask work colleagues who may know of an electrician, or even have one in the family.
You can also check out the NICEIC website to find the name’s of members and obtain their contact details.
The easy way though is to use HouseholdQuotes. Simply fill in the online form.
Tell us briefly what you need. We’ll then find electricians in your area to give you no-obligation quotes for your electrical installation project.
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Ensuring the Professional Is the Right Fit
Make a list of the questions you want to ask the electrician. Tick them off as you talk so that you don’t forget anything important.
Make sure each electrician include the same things in their quotes. This will make it easier for you to compare them.
Always get quotes in writing as this reduces the risk of any disagreements when the job is completed.
- Have you got a lot of experience putting in new consumer units or fuse boxes? If the job requires a great deal of skill you might prefer to hire someone with plenty of experience. If the job is straightforward then you could give a newer company a chance to show off their expertise.
- Are you a member of any trade associations? Trade associations will only grant membership to tradespeople with a good work record. They should also have a high standard of workmanship. An electrician might be a member of the Electrical Contractors’ Association or NICEIC.
- Have you got customer feedback and photographs of any work you’ve done in the past? The tradesperson may have a portfolio to show you, or they may direct you to their website. Websites often have case studies, photographs, and customer testimonials.
- Do you have insurance? Is your public liability insurance up to date? Public liability insurance is vital for all tradespeople as it protects them and you from any injury or damage claims should an accident occur during the installation of a new consumer box
- Do you charge a minimum call-out fee?
It’s important to be safe in your own home and keep others safe at work or in properties to let out. A new consumer unit will comply with current safety standards.
The unit will also protect you if an accident occurs which will lower your risk of getting hurt or being involved in a fire.
Installing a new consumer box isn’t a job you can do yourself. It is best left to a professional who has been trained to work with electricity.
When the work has been completed the electrician will give a certificate of completion to demonstrate the unit has been installed and tested.
You will also receive a certificate under Part P of the building regulations which you should keep.
If you want to find an electrician HouseholdQuotes can find you the electrician, you need for your consumer unit or fuse box installation. Fill in the form online.
We’ll then send local electricians to give you no-obligation quotes.
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The checklist below walks you through the best steps to take when it comes to hiring an electrician for this type of work:
- Check your local authority website, make a call, or visit their offices to find out if your project needs planning permission or if building regulations apply.
- Get quotes from a professional (you can use HouseholdQuotes to help you!)
- Compare quotes
- Choose the electrician you want for the job
- Choose what type of box you want
- Make arrangements for the electrician to do the work
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Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Difference Between a Consumer Unit and a Fuse Box?
If there is an electrical problem the fuse wire in the fuses heats up and melts. This cuts the circuit.
Fuse boxes don’t protect you from an electric shock, so care is needed when you are checking your electricity supply.
Consumer boxes are modern versions of fuse boxes. They can detect faults faster than old fuse boxes and will immediately turn the electricity circuit off if there is a problem.
Consumer units protect people from electric shocks too, so they are safer than the old style fuse boxes.
Another difference is that when a fuse is blown it must be replaced with a new one. A circuit breaker on the other hand will usually only need to be reset once the fault has been repaired.
How Do I Know I Need to Replace My Old Consumer Unit or Fuse Box?
If you find your electricity tripping, especially when you have two electrical appliances running at once, it might be time to think about upgrading to a consumer unit.
If you examine your fuse box and you notice signs of burning, or you smell burning then this is a sign that your old fuse box needs replacing.
Have a look at your consumer unit and check the following:
- Do any areas have scorch marks?
- Do all the wire covers look like they are in good condition?
- Is the consumer cover securely attached to the wall?
- Are there any cracks or pieces of a plastic cover missing?
How Often Should I Replace My Consumer Unit?
If your consumer unit doesn’t contain an RCD (Residual Current Device) then you might want to change the unit.
A residual current device reduces the risk of a person being fatally electrocuted from touching a live wire.
How Much Does It Cost to Rewire a House?
- Two bedroomed terrace – between £2,300 and £3,500
- Three bedroomed semi-detached house – between £3,000 and £4,500
- Four bedroomed detached house – between £3,700 and £5,500
If you want more information about house rewiring, take a look at our HouseholdQuotes guide which will give you plenty more information.
What Other Jobs Will an Electrician Do?
Install a ceiling fan: cost will be between £30 and £120 for installation which should take between one to two hours.
Exterior light installation: an electrician can install lighting outside your home either on your porch, around the garden or on your decking. The cost for installing a new PIR motion sensor light is between £60 to £165 and will take between two and three hours to install.
Doorbells: If you want a new video and audio doorbell your electrician can install one. The cost will be between £120 and £200 and will take two to three hours work.
Interior lighting: If you want energy-saving dimmer switches your electrician can install one for between £30 and £55. The job shouldn’t take any longer than an hour.