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Replacing Switchboard - What to ask for

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  1. #1
    Senior Member jackiew's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    eastern suburbs, melbourne

    Default Replacing Switchboard - What to ask for

    I'm getting solar hot water ( electric boosted as no gas to the block ) installed soon and apparently will need a new power point installed. As I have the old fuse wire type switchboard I'm told I will need to have it replaced with a modern switchboard.

    The house is single storey weatherboard 1920s - the wiring looks fairly new apart from the switchboard. House is 3 bed, with one big living room. at some point in the future I will be renovating and adding a family room to the kitchen and probably a study too - rearranging the floorplan may mean a small 2nd storey extension rather than losing garden. My garage and workshop is at the bottom of the garden - I currently don't have table saw etc but oneday. The cooker is electric.

    I had a written quote ( the guy came to the house first) where the quote goes into quite a bit of detail - 17 pole switchboard including 2 x main switches, 7 x circuit breakers, 2x safety switches, spare space for the future. for $500.

    I had another verbal quote of $700 over the phone - for a 14 position switchboard - the guy didn't really ask many questions at all and wasn't interested in being emailed photos or plans to help him with his quote.

    I should have had a third quote but the guy showed up was here ages and then disappeared off of the face of the earth.

    Obviously I'm happier with the lower more detailed quote I'd just like to be sure that the size of the switchboard quoted and what is going into it sounds reasonable. What I don't want is 3 or 4 years down the track to be told that the switchboard is undersized ( or to pay for a switchboard that is way oversized ).

    Is there anything which is missing from the quote that I should be wary of? The safety switches seem like a good idea.

    Any opinions on the sizing and equipment would be most useful. Thanks, Jackie
    no-one said on their death bed I wish I spent more time in the office!

  2. #2
    Golden Member nev25's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Latrobe Valley Victoria

    Default PM sent

    Get more quotes
    The first one ($500) isn't going to up to the new standards
    In other words not legal

    You will need one Safety switch per circuit

    Also stipulate you need a certificate of electrical safety
    Make sure it a prescribed not NON prescribed
    In other words it has to be inspected.

    Theres usually a bit more to changing a switchboard in an old house
    The earth system has to be brought up to standards
    Sometimes the mains has to be replaced
    Sometimes the meter panel has to be replaced
    And it goes on

    So for an accurate quote the sparkie would need to see in person

  3. #3
    2K Club Member seriph1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Kilmore, near Melbourne, Australia


    hi - not sure if you're planning a kitchen renovation, but these days there can be a lot more load from appliances, so make sure to get additional capacity if you are.

    For example, people often opt for double ovens (or two singles) - sometimes an inbuilt coffee maker, indoor BBQ or steam oven too .... Induction is also (rightly) becoming very popular and while people will tell you it is far more efficient than regular electric cooktops and much faster, the load it uses while turned on can be considerably higher.

    You may need none of these appliances in the home right away, but adding the capacity now makes real sense and will save you money in the long run, so I suggest working with your electrician on this (after working it out with your partner if you have one, of course) would be the way to go.

    When we do our own kitchen (period-kitchen designer here) it will have all the above appliances and more, so we will be needing a hefty upgrade to our fuse box - more likely an additional box altogether actually.

    BTW are you getting the solar rebate?
    Kilmore (Melbourne-ish)

    ....catchy phrase here

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


    You will need one Safety switch per circuit
    Nev, have the regs changed again? I believe it's 2 power+ 1 light per rcd. Assuming either the garage or the oven has its own circuit at present, the circuit layout in that quote sounds fine.

    Jackview, $500 is reasonable for a switchboard changeover. The 17 pole switchboard should leave you with 4 spare poles - ample room for the future as you've described it.

  5. #5
    Old Chippy - 4K Club Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2007


    but Nev'll put us right if we have it wrong. The proposal you have is similar to one I had done in the last two months and it passed OK.

  6. #6
    Senior Member jackiew's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    eastern suburbs, melbourne


    thanks for the information guys

    So the detailed quote seems roughly on the right lines. Thanks for the reminder about the certificate.

    I'll also try and get another quote.

    For anyone who wants to learn more what goes onto a switchboard and about safety switches I did some more searching around and found this quite readable article.

    it dates from 2002 so no guarantees the rules haven't changed since then but it cleared up some of my misunderstandings about the differences between ciruit breakers and safety switches.

    Hopefully it won't be too long before I can get the new switchboard and then have the solar hot water installed. I won't get the victorian rebate but I will get the fedreral one. I'm agonising about keeping the RECS - money being money it would be good to pay less for the system. but selling my RECS kind of defeats the object of going solar. We use very little hot water ( well under 50 litres a day per person mains water and some of that is cold ) so the pay back period on the system is going to be LONG enough as it is
    no-one said on their death bed I wish I spent more time in the office!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Eastern burbs



    Large Switch boards and RCDs are cheap compared to the labour part. Get him to put one RCD per circuit and have a switch board that is double the size of what you need.
    It might cost a couple hundred more tops but will be cheaper than having to do it all again when you add more appliances or stuff in 5 years time.
    I had our whole meter box, supply line and switch board changed for $1400, a chunk of that was for the truck to change the line, new meter and inspector.
    I supplied the cabinet and RCD's cause I could get them cheaper than him, but it should give you an idea.

    Now the lights don't dip when I turn on the table saw or other toys, and when an RCD pops only that part of the house is off, I love it !


  8. #8
    Community Moderator
    Join Date
    Dec 2008


    Spend a bit more money and do the whole lot up mains, metering and switchboard.

    These boards have more room and are easy to work on


    Whoever designed these board should be stood up against a wall and shot a dawn as you are extremely limited in space and you end up with too much pressure on the terminations when you use 16 sq mm cable.


  9. #9
    house trasher jatt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008


    My sparky replaced a neighbors chipboard backing on the meter panel beneith the fuses with a non combustible alternative. The meters were remounted onto this replacement material. The inspector was called in and the installation was passed.

    According to the inspector and my sparky the backing cannot be made from a combustible material these days. Being an older house yours may have a timber backing.

    The material that was used came from a spare hinged panel from a eleccy wholesaler who ordered the wrong size. Simply cut it down and fitted up. It was a brown material. Looks like Bakelite, but I'm told its not.
    When I die, bury me in the hardware store

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