What are the important factors when deciding on a switchboard upgrade?

Switchboards (or distribution boards) are a crucial part of the safe distribution of electricity in your home. Their main job is to safely disconnect the power when there is a fault. Every decade they become more sophisticated, capable of reacting to more types of faults to keep you safe. A switchboard from the 1970s or older is now very old technology and would really benefit from an upgrade. From an economic point of view, it is probably the single best value upgrade you could do to your electrical installation.

What’s wrong with my existing 1960s switchboard, its still working ok with no apparent problems?

Switchboards of this era were installed with the best practices at the time but are let down by a number of issues:

  1. Porcelain fuses no longer perform to the requirements of AS/NZS3000 in terms of short circuit protection – basically their ability to safely and quickly disconnect the power when there is a fault
  2. Porcelain fuses and older plug-in circuit breakers have exposed live terminals
  3. Fuses & circuit breakers on these boards are easily swapped around creating another hazard
  4. Most switchboards prior to 1980 have poor fire performance and even some from before 2000

When is it best to consider replacement rather than upgrade existing?

When undertaking major building or electrical additions or alterations, but also quite possibly when some smaller work is being done as well. If you have an original pre-80s switchboard, when new wiring is added to your home you will most likely have to add modern safety circuit breakers (RCDs) to your switchboard.  All modern switchboard components install to a “DIN Rail” system - to install these devices onto your existing board will be time consuming. Not so bad if you’re only adding a power point but if there is more than a few hours work + materials you may be better to consider a replacement board, it will make all future work much faster and easier to connect and upgrade the protection for all existing circuits