Upgrading or replacing a home’s outdated electrical switchboard with newer electrical equipment is a major electrical project that requires careful planning and should only be done by qualified electricians. But if considering a switchboard upgrade, it helps to understand the ideal location in the home to install a new upgraded switchboard for optimal safety, convenience and performance.
An outdated switchboard and electrical equipment can present serious hazards, so upgrading to a modern switchboard improves safety and reliability. This blog provides a detailed overview of the key factors to consider when determining the best place to install a new electrical switchboard to replace outdated equipment.
What is an Electrical Switchboard?
First, what exactly is an electrical switchboard? It is also known as a consumer unit, fuse box, or circuit breaker panel. The switchboard acts as the central control hub and distribution point for the electrical system in a home. It receives the mains power supply from outside the home and routes electricity to all the individual circuits in the house through a series of switches, fuses, circuit breakers, and safety switches.
The switchboard regulates and controls the electrical current flowing from the main power supply to the various electrical circuits and equipment throughout the home. Key components found inside a typical residential switchboard include:
- Main Switch or Isolator – This large safety switch can shut off all electrical current to the switchboard in an emergency or for maintenance.
- Circuit Breakers – These safety devices interrupt the electrical current if there is an overload or short circuit in a particular home circuit. The trip to break the circuit.
- Fuses – Fuses provide overload and short-circuit protection. However, modern switchboards now use circuit breakers instead of old-fashioned fuses.
- Safety Switches – Individual safety switches allow you to easily isolate high-power circuits like air conditioners, water heaters, and pool pumps for servicing without cutting power to other circuits.
- Busbars – These heavy conducting bars distribute electrical current efficiently throughout the various circuits in the switchboard.
- Meters – Monitor and control the amount of power usage. Smart meters communicate remotely with the power company.
The switchboard uses this array of components to control safely and route electricity to where it is needed throughout the home’s electrical system.
Why Switchboard Location Matters
The location of the electrical switchboard within a home is an important consideration, as it impacts safety, convenience, and performance. When homeowners need a switchboard upgrade, the placement of a new unit optimises these critical factors.
Safety is a primary concern. The switchboard must be readily accessible in an emergency to isolate the electrical current and power supply manually. Yet, it should also be installed out of reach of children to prevent dangerous tampering and electrocution risks. Keeping it far from potential water contact is vital, too.
Convenience is also key. Situating the switchboard near where the mains power supply enters the home makes for a shorter electrical circuit run. Allowing adequate workspace access nearby enables electricians to service the switchboard safely.
Finally, performance and efficiency are affected. Minimising voltage drop by positioning the switchboard near high power loads like hot water heaters, air conditioners, and pool pumps avoids excessively long circuit runs to these appliances. This optimises the electrical circuit overall.
Choosing switchboard placement addresses all these safety, convenience, and performance factors when a home’s electrical system needs an upgrade.
Where Should You Locate a New Switchboard?
The optimal location for a new switchboard depends on your home’s specific layout and the entry point of the main power supply. But here are some general guidelines on the best placement:
Near the power company meter/supply entry point
This minimises the length of the consumer mains run from the street connection to the switchboard. Locate the new switchboard close to where the direct mains power supply enters your home.
In the garage or external laundry area
Situating it here allows for convenient access without intruding on living areas inside the house. It also keeps the switchboard protected in a weatherproof location.
Away from wet areas
Avoid installing the switchboard anywhere that could expose it to moisture, like laundry overflows, leaky pipes, etc. Water and electricity risks dangerous shorts and electrocution.
At a working height
Mount the switchboard so the bottom is 60-70cm off the ground. This provides electricians with easy, ergonomic access for future upgrades and maintenance.
Near major appliances
Minimise voltage drop by locating the switchboard close to high-power electrical loads like hot water systems, air conditioners, pool pumps, etc. This improves electrical efficiency.
Allow workspace clearance
Position the switchboard with ample clearance space so electricians can safely access the interior and rear during servicing. At least 60cm clearance is recommended.
For most homes, the optimal height, nearby appliances, and power entry accessibility make the garage ideal for the new switchboard location. But wherever you intend to position it, have your electrician approve the proposed location before installation begins.
Call a Licensed Electrician for Professional Switchboard Installation
It should go without saying that DIY switchboard installation is extremely dangerous and illegal. Licensed electricians with extensive training and qualifications should only work on switchboards. A professional electrician will thoroughly inspect your existing major electrical appliances and setup. They will then discuss relocation options if you’re upgrading the switchboard.
The electrician will carefully assess the proposed new location and recommend any adjustments to meet regulations. They safely terminate all new electrical cabling into the upgraded switchboard. A qualified electrician confirms the new switchboard’s circuit breaker capacity meets your home’s current and future needs. They ensure the switchboard is properly grounded and bonded to prevent electrical shock hazards.
Throughout the switchboard upgrade process, the professional electrician verifies the correct phasing and polarity in the installation. Finally, they provide all required electrical certificates of compliance upon completion of the specialised work.
Attempting DIY switchboard installations risks catastrophic fires, equipment damage, electrocution injuries and even death. For this complex job, always hire a fully licensed and qualified electrician.
Choosing the Right Switchboard for Your Home
In addition to location, selecting the right switchboard is also crucial for your home:
- Match the switchboard size to the number of circuits your home requires, plus 25-30% spare capacity for future expansion.
- Ensure the switchboard has a sufficient main switch rating and circuit breaker capacities to handle your home’s total power needs.
- Choose a sturdy metal enclosed switchboard for safety and durability. Or a modern, compact modular switchboard to save space.
- Opt for a switchboard with built-in safety switches for the pool, spa, AC, etc., if required.
- Select a smart switchboard for easy remote monitoring and control of power usage.
Discuss your home’s unique needs with your electrician to help you choose the ideal switchboard. They can provide informed recommendations on your situation’s best brand, size, type and features.
Choose the Perfect Location to Install Your New Switchboard
Upgrading from an old switchboard and ceramic fuses to a modern circuit breaker switchboard improves safety and allows you to power more appliances and solar power systems. But the most important decision is where to install the new electrical switchboard.
The ideal location is critical for safety, efficiency, and convenience. As your local electrician on the Gold Coast, we guide you through factors like placing the upgrade near the main power entry point, sufficient clearance, and proximity to major electrical loads. Our experts ensure your new switchboard is expertly positioned to optimise your home’s electrical systems.
Trust Your Electrical Experts to perform the full switchboard upgrade safely and legally. We handle all permitting, connections, inspections and certifications to give you peace of mind. Contact us today for a free quote on finding the perfect switchboard location and upgrading your outdated equipment. Get your home powered for the future with a modern switchboard in the optimal spot!
Switchboard Location FAQs
When do I need to upgrade my current switchboard?
Signs your current switchboard needs upgrading include circuit breakers frequently tripping, flickering lights, insufficient existing circuits and electrical wiring, electrical overload on circuits, and lack of a modern safety switch. An outdated fuse box switchboard also indicates an upgrade is needed.
How does a switchboard upgrade improve home electrical safety?
Upgrading to a modern switchboard adds a vital new safety switch, switches, and circuit breakers that prevent electrical fires, overloads, and shock hazards. Replacing an older fuse box switchboard with a new circuit breaker switchboard also boosts safety.
Should I add more circuits during a switchboard upgrade?
Yes, when upgrading your switchboard, electricians recommend adding 25-30% more circuits than your existing circuits. This provides capacity for future expansions of electrical wiring and appliances.
Where’s the best location to install my new upgraded switchboard?
The ideal locations are the garage or laundry room near major appliances, 60-70cm high, and close to the mains power supply entry point. This optimises accessibility, safety, and electrical efficiency.
Can I do a DIY switchboard upgrade myself?
No, licensed electricians must only do switchboard installations and upgrades, as the technical work involves legal requirements and serious safety hazards. Always hire a qualified professional.
How does a circuit breaker in a switchboard prevent an electrical fire?
Circuit breakers detect overloads and instantly disconnect power to overloaded circuits to prevent hazardous electrical fires, sparks and shocks. Upgrading to circuit breakers improves safety compared to outdated fuse box switchboards.