Have you been left in the dark? Has your consumer unit / RCD tripped? This could be happening for several reasons but usually there’s a quick an easy fix. Through a process of elimination, you can work out what’s causing the problem and reset the trip switch yourself.

At NH Electrical we don’t want you to be left in the dark! By using the simple steps below you’ll never be stuck searching for candles when the lights go out again. Our quick guide will equip you with the knowledge you need to fix your consumer unit in no time at all.

Please do bear in mind though that while it is perfectly safe to touch your consumer unit, faulty electrics are very dangerous. If you are not confident in your ability to carry out electrical tasks, always seek the help of a fully qualified electrician.

How does a fuse work?

Before we talk you through what to do if your consumer unit trips out, let’s quickly go over the purpose of a fuse.

Fuses are important components, used in electrical circuits as a safety measure to protect you and your home. If there is a fault in the electrics or excessive current flow, the fuse will heat up and melt which will break the circuit. This ensures that both you and those living in your home remain safe.

Although some older properties will still have the old traditional consumer units with fuse wire (If you do still have the old consumer unit you should look to replacing it), today you’re more likely to have a modern consumer unit installed. This will contain trip switches or circuit breakers. The main advantage of having a modern consumer unit is that you will not have to replace the fuse wire, every time it blows. If your consumer unit trips, it’s a matter of flicking a fuse switch to reset it, which is far more easier than the traditional method.

Locating the consumer unit in your house

It’s important that you know where your consumer unit is located within your house, as you never know when you may need to turn the electricity off in an emergency. It should be found in an easily accessible place so that you can locate it, even if the lights go out.

Your consumer unit will contain three types of components:

  • The main switch – Turns off the electricity supply to your home. Useful to remember in an emergency.
  • Fuse switches (or circuit breakers) – Switches that trip to protect the appliances in your home, if there’s a fault in the circuit. They provide more accurate protection than traditional wire fuses.
  • RCDs (Residual Current Devices) – Switches that will trip and turn off the electricity if the circuit they manage is considered dangerous. They are designed to prevent electrical fires and electrocution.

Dealing with a tripped fuse switch

If your lights have gone out or your appliances have stopped working all of a sudden it is likely that you have tripped a fuse switch. To begin to resolve the problem, you’ll need to first locate the main consumer unit in your home and check to see if all of the trip switches are on.

If you are not sure whether ‘on’ means consumer unit switches up or down? See if the majority are up or down and you’ll have your answer. It’s most likely to be the up position for ‘on’ and the down position if they’ve tripped.

If any switches are down then flicked them back into the up position to turn them back on. If it isn’t an electric trip switch that has moved, it’s probably one of your RCD switches. Make sure they’re turned on too. Once this is done, everything should be back on and in working order.

To recap:

  • Find your consumer unit and lift the front cover
  • Check if all of the trip switches are on
  • Switch on any switches that have tripped
  • Check that the RCD switches are switched on too

Why won’t the trip switch reset?

There is a possibility that your fuse switch may continue to trip even after you have reset it. If this happens it is likely to be a problem with one of your appliances or sockets. To find out if it is this try the following

  • Unplug all of your appliances and try resetting the fuse switch.
  • Once reset, plug your appliances back in one at a time and switch them back on.
  • If the switch trips again, you’ll know it’s the last appliance that you plugged in and switched on.
  • Turn off and unplug the appliance, before resetting the switch.
  • Do not attempt to plug the appliance back in – it’s likely there’s a fault with its wiring that will need replacing.

You don’t necessarily need to throw the appliance away – the issue could be easy to fix. However, faulty appliances can be dangerous, so it’s best to get in contact with an qualified electrician.

Why has the main fuse tripped again?

Although there’s usually a simple explanation of why your circuit breakers or RCDs are tripping, if it’s the main switch, it can be a little more complex. It could mean there’s a problem with the consumer unit itself. If this is the case, you’ll need assistance from a fully qualified electrician. We do not recommend trying to fix the consumer unit yourself.

Why has my consumer unit tripped?

If you’re lucky, your electric consumer unit will have labels under each switch telling you which circuit they control e.g. lights or sockets. This makes it much easier to identify where the problem is located and will save you having to turn off every light and unplug every device in your home to work out what is causing the tripping.

As a rule of thumb, it is likely to be the last appliance or light fixture you used that is causing the trip. Trip switches are very sensitive for your safety so as soon as there’s an issue, they’ll kick into action and cut the power.

If your box isn’t labelled or you are struggling to narrow down the problem, the only solution is to unplug every device in your home, reset the switch and plug them back in one at a time. It’s time-consuming but should find the root of your problem.

Overloading circuits

If all of your appliances are in working order then they are unlikely to affect your trip switch. This means it could be down to you overloading your circuits. This means there is too many electrical appliances using this switch at one time. If you’re boiling your kettle, charging your phone, using your toaster, watching TV and running your dishwasher all on one circuit, you could be overloading it, resulting in your electricity not working the way it should. Your consumer unit wont allow you to overload a circuit by using too many appliances in one socket as its dangerous and therefore will trip.

Rather get an expert to do it?

If you are not confident in doing this yourself or would just simply prefer an expert to carry out the fault finding and making the electrics safe again then please contact us and one of our fully qualified electricians is on hand to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.