Upgrading a switchboard
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Upgrading a switchboard

What the process of a switchboard upgrade is like

Dominique Fletcher works in the marketing team for Schneider Electric, New Zealand. She recently went through a switchboard upgrade in her home, and has written about the experience to help other homeowners who might be considering one as well.

My husband and I bought our first home almost five years ago. At the time we purchased the NZ housing market was fierce. I remember the feeling when we finally managed to secure a house that we could afford was not only relief (because we could stop spending our weekends scouring neighbourhoods and attending open homes) but also excitement to make the place our own. 

With barely any furniture to our names, we rolled into our two-bedroom 1970’s brick and tile unit like it was a palace, parked up some camp chairs in the lounge, and toasted to our new massive mortgage and the banana coloured walls throughout. It wasn’t pretty, but it was ours.  

an old switchboard

The scare

It must have been a few weeks later that my parents came to visit from out of town to see our new place and celebrate with us. Bustling with excitement my mum comes in carrying fresh flowers and goodies she had baked, while my father with barely a hello takes himself off for a guided tour around the house and section, wanting to check out the place for himself. And we were lucky he did. 

After peering up into the roof space, he then toddled off to look in the garage. After a quick inspection, he pulled me into the garage, and peered up at the switchboard (which to me looked like a black box with some little rectangles on it), and started to educate me in his fatherly way about porcelain fuses and fuse wires, with the intention of ensuring I knew how to change them in case one blew. 

After removing one to show me how to do it, what he discovered was not only quite scary but also could have had the potential to be incredibly dangerous. 

The previous occupants of the house had not been using fuse wire (which is designed to burn and break the circuit in the event of an overload or short circuit) but rather had been using standard metal wire. This basically meant the circuit would never have “broken” or “tripped”. 

So, off to the local hardware store we went, one of the first purchases for our house (dad’s shout) was some new fuse wire. 

The discovery

Fast forward a few years, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak to a qualified electrician about electrical safety through my work at Schneider Electric. 

After talking to him for a few minutes about old electrical switchboards and home safety, it became very apparent that my own home’s switchboard did not contain RCDs (residual current devices) which help prevent fatal electric shocks and still had old fuses, which meant my home’s electrical protection wasn’t up to the latest NZ standards. 

We had been saving up for a kitchen renovation, but quickly decided that replacing the switchboard was more important to get done sooner rather than later. So after another quick chat with the electrician, who confirmed it wouldn’t make any difference to have the switchboard update done now or later when we came to do the kitchen. So we decided to lock it in.

PDL Switchboard

Our home no longer features camp chairs or banana yellow wallpaper, but there is a toddler running havoc around the place. When the calmness of the evening starts to settle in, there is a feeling of contentment and ease that wraps around. It’s the sense of knowing our home has been checked by a licensed electrician and has a modern protected switchboard with MCBs and RCDs to help keep our family safe. And that feeling is priceless. 

Note: This is not a ‘sponsored article’. Dominique and her husband paid for all the products and installation themselves. Dominique simply wanted to share her story in case it helps anyone else who is considering a switchboard upgrade, to better understand the process

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