When you hear the word switchboard, most people would picture a classic telephone switchboard operator, where a polite and well-spoken woman would insert and switch around a pair of phone plugs in order to direct your phone call and connect you with your desired recipient. In fact, this is also the easiest way to imagine what an electric switchboard does and how it works.
Think of your electric switchboard as an automatic telephone operator, only, rather than safely and efficiently connecting calls, it connects electricity; a switchboard is used to direct an electrical current from the source to an intended destination/appliance throughout a property.
In this article, we’re going to focus on more residential electrical switchboards. For example, how long do they last? And where should they typically be located in the house?
Read on if you’d like to learn more about the way that your home operates from an electrician’s perspective.
What does an electric switchboard do?
OK, so what does an electric switchboard do, fundamentally? Now’s as good a time as any to get familiar with one of the most critical electrical units in your entire home.
The fact is, without a fuse box and electric switchboard, you would never be able to enjoy the many comforts of modern living. For example, cuddling up on the sofa and watching Netflix would be off the cards – as would be cooking without slicing a finger off in the dark!
However, in order to understand the switchboard, first let’s look at the fuse box (given how both operate so closely). Think of the fuse box as the heart of your home. It pumps electricity throughout your property just as your heart pumps blood through your veins.
If you’ve ever had a power outage or a trip, then you’ll already be familiar with the fuse box. Let’s take a deeper look…
The fuse box (aka meter box in Australia) is where the house’s main switch is located – including the circuit breakers and other critical wiring that distributes power throughout. These are securely enclosed in a case and are often locked, and attached to exterior walls in the garage.
A meter box is made up of three main components, each with its own function and purpose:
- Main switch: the main switch allows you to cut and turn on all electricity supply to your home.
- Circuit breakers: the circuit breakers protect the fuses from any excess electrical currents that are being distributed throughout. They operate on spring-loaded switches and will trip in the event of a power surge.
- Switchboard: the switchboard allows you to turn off the electricity supply to specific areas of your home.
A switchboard (or fuse board) is an essential unit for electricity distribution. This will typically have a safety switch that can protect a house in the event of overloading electricity. You can essentially use a switchboard to control all of your home’s appliances in one go (e.g., cut electricity to your dishwasher, washing machine, and tumble dryer in one flick).
How long do electrical switchboards last?
Switchboards typically have a very long lifespan and can last anywhere from 25 to 50 years. In fact, it’s not uncommon for homes to have switchboards that have already hit the 50-year mark and are still operating.
In order to keep them going for longer, of course, regular maintenance is required. It’s always worth having a qualified electrician visit and inspect your property to ensure the utmost performance and longevity for your fuse box and switchboard.
Where should a switchboard be placed in a house?
And where would you typically find a switchboard in a house? Sometimes, a switchboard is located inside the fuse box (as mentioned above), however, they’re also commonly located in different areas.
For example, in a freestanding house, townhouse, or duplex, a switchboard is often located in the front of the building or to the side of the premises. This makes it easier for meter readers and tradesmen to carry out their checks as necessary.
As for apartments, units, and flat, you can typically find the switchboard located inside a cupboard in the kitchen. That said, there may be a small box attached to a wall near the front door of the apartment.
In some cases, when a switchboard is not fitted in each unit, you’ll find them located in a central position between several units in the hallways, or in the basement.
It is definitely worth familiarising yourself with your property so that you know exactly where to look in an emergency. Whether you have just moved into your home or you have been there for some time, if you haven’t thought to locate your switchboard and fuse box, we recommend that you do so now.
Follow the instructions mentioned above and you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding them. That way, in the event that you have a power outage or surge that causes your fuse box or switchboard to trip, you can easily flip them back on and restore power to your property safely.
- A switchboard is either located in the fuse box or separate from it – both are essential electric units.
- The switchboard safely and effectively controls the electrical power supply flowing to various parts of your property.
- In most cases you will be able to control the power supply for individual rooms, thus allowing you to switch all of the appliances off in your kitchen in one go (to allow for maintenance work / changing a light bulb) without impacting the electrical power supply in the rest of your property.
- Electrical switchboards can last from 25 to 50 years depending on how well maintained it is / the unit’s construction quality (e.g., from a reputable distributor like SQD Group).
- In houses, switchboards are often located at the front of the property – or around the side of the building in a secured box.