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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why are these changes being made?

Investigation into several household fires involving plastic consumer units, by the London Fire Brigade, concluded that a key cause of the fires was substandard cable connections made by the Electrician within the consumer unit.

These resulted in overheating, which subsequently ignited the plastic enclosure.

2. What constitutes a substandard cable connection?

There are many things that may contribute to a substandard connection. Some of these are inadequate tightening of conductors in the relevant terminals or clamping the insulation of the cable rather than the conductor with the terminal screw.

In the third amendment, it is now recommended that the schedule of inspections for new installation work and condition report for existing installations, requires confirmation that, at a consumer unit / distribution board, all conductor connections are correctly located in terminals and are tight and secure.

3. What is the consumer unit regulation 421.1.201?

Regulation 421.1.201 - Protection against therman effects - Consumer Units

Within domestic (household) premises, consumer units and similar switchgear assemblies shall comply with BS EN 61439 3 and shall:
(i). Have their enclosures manufactured from non-combustible material, or
(ii). Be enclosed in a cabinet or enclosure constructed of non-combustible material and complying with Regulation 132.12.
NOTE 1: Ferrous metal e.g. steel is deemed to be an example of a non-combustible material.
NOTE 2:* the implementation date for this regulation is the 1st January 2016. This does not preclude compliance with this regulation prior to this date.

4. What is the intent of the new regulation?

The intent of regulation 421.1.201 is considered to be, as far as is reasonably practicable, to contain any fire within the enclosure and to minimise flames from escaping, caused mainly as a result of poorly installed connections.

5. How has Hager been involved with the proposed changes?

Hager were closely involved in the development of these changes by providing expert industry liaison with interested bodies which included; BEAMA (British Electrotechnical and Allied Manufacturers Association), London Fire Brigade, Government and the Joint IET/BSI Technical Committee JPEL/64 which has the responsibility for the content of BS 7671 (17th Edition Wiring Regulations).

6. What is meant by ‘’non-combustible”?

There is no published definition for “non-combustible” that aligns with the intent of regulation 421.1.201. Ferrous metal, e.g. steel is deemed to be one example of a non-combustible material that meets the intent of the regulation.

7. What impact will this regulation have?

This means that eventually all new consumer units installed in UK homes, i.e. within domestic (household) premises must have their enclosures manufactured from a non-combustible material, or be enclosed in a cabinet or enclosure constructed from a non-combustible material. This will result in an increased use of metal enclosures.

8. What is meant by ‘within domestic (household) premises’?

It is understood that Regulation 421.1.201 applies to consumer units and similar switchgear assemblies to BS EN 61439-3 inside all domestic (household) premises including their integral/attached garages and outbuildings or those in close proximity.

9. When will Amendment 3 come into effect?

The third amendment to BS 7671:2008 came into effect on 1st July 2015. Installations designed after 30th June 2015 are to comply with BS 7671:2008 incorporating Amendment 3, 2015.

However, Regulation 421.1.201 does not come into effect until the 1st January 2016. This does not preclude compliance with this regulation prior to this date.

10. Does this mean all installed consumer units with plastic enclosures are a fire risk?

No, provided the consumer unit and its incorporated components conform to the relevant product standard(s), do not have latent defects and have been installed correctly and to the manufacturers guidelines.