Wiring Regulations: How Has Circuit Protection Changed Over The Years?

Wiring Regulations: How Has Circuit Protection Changed Over The Years?

As electrical technologies evolve, one thing remains constant – the vital importance of circuit protection. Emma Segelov, Head of Marketing at MK Electric, looks at the past, present and future of circuit protection.

Whilst it may seem hard to believe, it is less than 150 years since the first public experimental supply of electricity was provided to the streets of Godalming in 1881. A year later, the 1st Edition of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE, later to become part of the IET) wiring regulations, was published.

So, as we approach the latest update to the wiring regulations, how much has changed, and what is next for domestic circuit protection?

As a manufacturer which prides itself on reflecting the changing needs of our customers whilst keeping safety quality and reliability at the centre of what we do, MK Electric kept a close eye on the changing landscape of domestic circuit protection.

Below, we take a look at the biggest shifts of recent years and what the 18th Edition is likely to bring.

17th Edition

The 17th Edition wiring regulations BS 7671 came into force on 30th June 2008, and from that date, became the required standard for all new installations. This set of regulations contained a number of updates pertaining to circuit protection, and most prominently, a call for more extensive provision of RCD (residual current device) for domestic and non-domestic dwellings.

A few years later, circuit protection would evolve again with the publication of BS 7671: 2008(2015) – Amendment 3 to the 17th Edition of the IET wiring regulations. Alongside the BEAMA working groups which were instrumental in developing Amendment 3; the London Fire Brigade, Electrical Safety First, and other industry organisations played a major role in lobbying for the edits to Amendment 3 which would reduce the risk of residential fires and consequently improve personal safety.

This collaborative work resulted in enhanced fire risk protection within Amendment 3, requiring switchgear assemblies – including consumer units – to have their enclosures made from a suitable non-combustible material, or be installed in a cabinet or enclosure comprised from a suitable non-combustible material, for example steel.  

In practice, this change meant a move from the plastic consumer units which had become commonplace for their cost-effectiveness and aesthetic appeal, to metal. MK Electric reacted to this change by releasing a full range of metal Sentry consumer units, thereby supporting contractors as they made the switch by offering compliant, high-quality units which contractors could trust to meet regulations and protect customers.

18th Edition

Whilst we’ll have to wait until the beginning of this month to find out the full picture, we do know that there will be a recommendation for the installation of arc fault detection devices (AFDDs). AFDDs are designed to mitigate the risk of fire in the AC final circuits of a fixed installation due to the effects of arc fault current – an important consideration given the number of fires linked to electrical distribution. Essentially, AFDDs are able to detect dangerous arc faults, which MCBs and RCDs cannot identify, further increasing the safety which domestic circuit protection can offer, and closing the gap on the risk of fires. This means they offer enhanced safety and defence against fire outbreak, and could likely reduce the above accidental fires.

Circuit protection has come a long way over the last century as manufacturers and contractors strive to create ever safer environments. Though the 18th Edition is the latest update to circuit protection regulations, there will doubtless be further improvements and innovations on the horizon, and it is important that contractors stay abreast of changes.

Following its rapid reaction to the changes of Amendment 3, MK Electric will continue to update its range to meet the latest regulations and the needs of contractors, offering flexibility, support and peace of mind to customers.

MK Electric is a leading UK electrical accessories manufacturer and part of the Honeywell family. For further information visit: www.mkelectric.co.uk

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