All you need to know about switchboard upgrades
We know, we know… it isn’t a great, super interesting conversation starter nor is it something you really talk about on a regular basis. But, considering how important a fully functioning switchboard is to your home, you would think we would talk about it more. A switchboard ensures your TV turns on when push your remote ‘on’ button to watch the news or when you flick on your bedroom light switch after a long day at work. It also ensures that there is power going to your air conditioner, washing machine, heater and your bedside lamp, as well as your phone charger and toaster when you are after some peanut butter toast for breakfast.
In order for your switchboard to be able to work at an optimal level, however, it needs to be able to handle the electrical load that you are placing on it each and every day. Homes that were built 10, 20, 30 or more years ago did not have the technical advancements as we do now, meaning the switchboards used didn’t need to handle huge workloads. In a technical age however of countless phone chargers, smart devices and electrical appliances, you need to ensure your switchboard is designed to handle the electrical load that you are placing on it.
You may be wondering how you know if your switchboard needs an upgrade or not, and that is a very relevant question. So, to get the full picture let’s start at the beginning…
What is a switchboard?
A switchboard is a centralised board in your home which helps direct the electrical current around your house. The main purpose of a switchboard is to redirect electricity from the main supply to a particular area of your house to be used, such as when you turn on a light switch or your dishwasher. In essence, it is the central control hub for your home to ensure the flow of electricity goes where it is needed.
Why would I need a switchboard upgrade?
The big one is safety – an old switchboard can be unsafe and, in some cases, quite dangerous as continuous electrical overflows can cause various issues around your home. That is why it is super important to regularly review whether you require a switchboard upgrade and, if you are not sure or your switchboard is acting a little strangely, call your local electrician and they can come out and take a look. They will advise whether it is time for an upgrade or not and if it isn’t a necessity quite yet, they can advise you as to time frames to ensure your household remains safe. A few other reasons why you should seriously consider a switchboard upgrade include:
- The newer-style switchboards have inbuilt safety switches, which means both a lower fire risk and shock risk
- There is less of a chance that your circuit breaker will constantly trip, as newer-style switchboards are more appropriately designed to cope with contemporary electrical workloads
- There is less of a chance that your switchboard will overload, as newer-style switchboards are more appropriately designed to cope with contemporary electrical workloads
- If you are considering solar power, a lot of options require an upgraded switchboard to appropriately function
- A lot of older switchboards are not regulation or legislation-compliant
- There is less of a chance that your fuses will blow due to overloading, as newer-style switchboards are more appropriately designed to cope with contemporary electrical workloads
- A lot of the new smart meters require newer-style switchboards to work appropriately
As your switchboard is the centralised control hub for your home, it is crucial to ensure it is working at its optimal level for the best results. If there are any issues this can result in lots of problems around your entire house, so a switchboard upgrade can ensure you avoid most issues!
How do I know my switchboard is due for an upgrade?
So, after all this talking about getting a switchboard upgrade, how do you even know if you actually need one? There are a few warning signs that can start to pop up to show you that a switchboard upgrade should be on your to-do list (and fast), however, if you are unsure you should always speak to your local electrician :
- How old is your home? If your home is getting older, or you don’t know when your switchboard was installed, it is definitely time to have it inspected by an electrician
- The age of your homes wiring : The colour of your wiring can indicate its age and whether an upgrade of your switchboard is needed – if your wiring is grey or black than an upgrade is likely, however if it is white then it may mean you have a little time until an upgrade is needed (but still get an electrician to check)
- Short-circuiting appliances : if your switchboard is constantly overloaded, you will likely find that your appliances are likely tripping on a regular basis
- Constant blowing of fuses : a switchboard upgrade may be needed if fuses in your home are regularly blowing
- Flickering lights : if the lights are flickering in your home this can mean one of two things – either the light bulb is loose or there may be some loose wiring in your switchboard causing possible damage
- Hot powerpoints : if you are finding that the powerpoints in your home are hot to touch or are a funny colour, this can be an indication of an overloaded switchboard that needs upgrading
- Overcrowded wiring : if you look in your switchboard and the wiring looks crowded, it is best to have an electrician to come out and inspect it as soon as possible
- Rewireable fuses : if your switchboard does not have circuit breaks and, instead, has rewireable fuses then you need to have it upgraded as soon as possible. It has been found that the copper fuse wires (which are found in rewireable fuses) are a big safety hazard
- Sparks : if you are finding that your powerpoints spark when inserting a plug, this can indicate a switchboard upgrade is needed
- Noises : your power isn’t supposed to make a sound, therefore if you hear sizzling or buzzing noises it is really important that you get an electrician out immediately to check things out
- Shock : finally, if you are receiving a mild electric shock when you put a plug into a powerpoint, this is a sign that you may need a switchboard upgrade
Remember, this list isn’t exhaustive therefore you should have a chat with your local electrician if you have any concerns at all. It is better to discuss them with a professional and find out they are not concerning, instead of getting an electrician out after it is too late and some damage has occurred.
Who is qualified to complete a switchboard upgrade?
A switchboard upgrade is not a DIY home project! It is a job that requires a qualified and licensed electrician to complete, as it can be very dangerous to both you and those around you if not completed properly. Also, an electrician has all the correct equipment and knowledge to finish the job correctly the first time, which saves you both time and money in the short and long term.
Is a switchboard upgrade expensive?
This is a common question with a not-so-simple answer. The cost of a switchboard upgrade can greatly vary depending on a lot of factors, including :
- What size your switchboard is and what size you would like to upgrade to
- The current capacity of your switchboard, and the capacity you want your upgraded switchboard to have
- How much cabling will be required to complete the upgrade
- Whether your home requires any rewiring to accommodate the new switchboard’s energy capacity
- Any labour costs that may be associated with the upgrade
These are the major points that can contribute to the cost of an upgrade, however there may be other factors to consider due to the way your home is structured (it may also be that your home is perfectly wired for an upgrade already, and a lot of the above costs will be void). It is therefore best to contact your local electrician and speak to them about the fact you wish to upgrade your switchboard, and they can provide you a detailed quote which factors in your individual circumstances.
Remember however that people tend to put off the costs of a switchboard upgrade until it is well overdue, due to the fact they believe it is too expensive. Instead of looking at an upgrade as an expense, instead look at it like an investment – an investment into the safety of you, your family and your home. If your switchboard is continually overloading, it can cause a variety of dangerous situations and result in anything from flickering lights to house fires, so a switchboard upgrade is better to happen sooner rather than later. Also, while you have an electrician at your home you can ask them to check the overall health of the wiring of your home – they may find something that can be dealt with before it becomes a problem later on.
Your local and reliable switchboard specialists
If you still have some niggling questions regarding switchboard upgrades, or you think it may be time for an electrician to come and complete one, get in contact with Captain Cook Electrical on 0481 134 679 or complete an online enquiry form today. We can help with all your switchboard repairs, upgrades, servicing and maintenance, so give us a call now!