Guide written by:
John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton
Differentials and circuit breakers are by far the most valuable of guardian angels. Nevertheless, an electrical panel can also accommodate many other types of modules, be it older generation traditions like fuses, or newer, economical tools such as contactors and latching relay switches. There's nothing like a small inventory check to get a clearer view!
- Latching relay
- Fuse and circuit breaker
- Lightning arrester
- Remote switch
Switches and surges: How to manage
Your contract's rate depends entirely on your meter's power. If you use more power than the maximum power for which your meter has been calibrated, the switch will trip. There are two ways to solve this issue:
- Increase the meter's power and subsequently your contract's rate;
- Install a contactor which will gradually cut off the lower priority circuits.
The contactor compares the power consumption with the maximum power threshold and switches off the power to the lower priority units if necessary. These appliances are generally electric radiators or water heaters, heavy energy consumers that can be dispensed of for a short period of time. Once the power consumption decreases, the power supply will be restored to the circuits.
You can set priorities for which circuits to be cut, privileging the water heater over the radiators, for example. This is the ideal solution for an all-electric second home, where it would be unreasonable to pay a hig-rate contract for only few very cold days out of the year.
Fuses and circuit breakers: everything you need to know
Fuses protect the circuit's phase and will melt if they are crossed by too much current. As for divisional circuit breakers, they are equipped with different voltage limits for different uses. Nevertheless, not all networks can fonction with just fuses. You might require a divisional circuit breaker to connect a CMV for example.
Fuses are placed in circuit breaker, who's role is to cut the phase when in the open position, providing additional safety when the corresponding electrical circuit is used.
For each voltage limit, fuses have special dimensions in order to avoid confusing them, which would be very dangerous. A 20A fuse on a line conceived for 10A protection would be disastrous. It's 20A cap would allow for a current of 15 A to pass, far enough to heat the wires and cause a fire.
In the past, it was sometimes challenging to figure out if a fuse had blown. Today, most circuit breakers have indicators. One of the fuse's side is equipped with an indicator which falls out if the fuse melts. It is an ingenious feature, which avoids having to test the fuese one by one with a multimeter!
What is a ground distributor?
The ground distributor is a terminal block to which must be connected:
- Each circuit's conductors, that way they are connected to ground, in macthing sections to the phase and neutral of the circuit;
- The dwelling's equipotentential bond's conductors, which ground all the metal conduits entering the house;
- The bathroom's equipotentential bond's conductors, which ground any and all metal;
- The wire connected to the dwelling's grounding, with a section that matches the phase's cross-section and the incoming neutral from the electric meter. You should plan for one socket per conductor and add a 20% margin for any possible future needs.
How can I take advantage of my day-night contract?
With a day-night contract, electricity consumed at night costs less. In return, electricity fees are increased during the day. You can add a specially conceived day-night contactor to your electrical panel. It has three distinct modes of operation:
- In automatic mode, the contactor cuts the circuit off at night, following a signal received by the electricity supplier. Devices are then powered with cheap electricity;
- In forced operation mode, the circuit is constantky powered, even during the day. This is crucial if your water heater is filled with cold water when you are planning to shower, urgently wash your clothes or warm up a chilly house! It will however costs you sensibly more.
- Shutdown mode cuts of any and all electricity consumption, giving you a radical opportunity to engage in saving some energy!
Better protected with a surge arrester
Lightning can have serious consequences for your installation. It can create charges composed of several hundreds of thousands of volts to which conventional protectors are simply not equipped to deal with.
In areas regularly affected by lightning, the applicable standard therefore requires the installation of a surge arrester. Roughly speaking, that includes every departments south of a line drawn from Bordeaux to the south of Paris.
A modular surge arrester is placed at the head of the row. A light indicates whether it is operational or if its protective cartridge needs to be changed. The surge arrester must be grounded and located closest to both the meter and the ground connection for maximum efficiency.
When is a remote switch required?
In an electrical installation, a light bulb can be controlled from two switches referred to asrockers.Anything further than this configuration will require a remote switch.
This element is installed in the electrical panel.
It is connected to both the switches controlling an lighting and to the light itself. When it receives the pulse from one of the switches, it changes its position, turning the light on or off.
In addition to the unipolar, bipolar or three-phase versions, it is possible to find timed switches, which kill the lights after a certain amount of time. This is ideal for a place of collective passage or if you often forget to turn them off. With silent models, they can be discreet even simply placed on a painting in the living room or near the bedroom.
How do I control a lamp from my electrical panel?
It may seem like a great new idea, but the manufacturers already thought of it! Both switch modules or pushbuttons are available for controlling the direct lighting with a rocker or remote-control switch. This can be practical in different ways, for example in a control room, to centrally access certain light points.
How to connect a generator?
In order to be able to add a new flow electricity produced from an alternative means, it will be time to dust the inverters off. They have two modes of operation:
- In normal operation, they use the network as a source of energy;
- In the event of a power cut, they send a wake-up signal to the emergency power supply and consequently use them to power whatever circuits are connected.
Be wary, implementing a generator is acomplex endeavour! You must ensure that the generator is protected, that excess electricity will not revert to the power grid (which is formally prohibited and extremely dangerous) and that the power flowing through the circuits does not exceed the generator's capacity.
All out tips!
In addition to circuit breakers and differentials, there are still other modular controls that oer increased safety, comfort and cost savings, all thewhile automating certain tasks.
This article being far from being exhaustive, there are many more models in existence, offering extensive possibilities.
Always consult the manufacturer’s documentation for valuable installation and usage advice.
Whether in the middle of renovations or sick of blowing fuses or simply looking for an upgrade, follow the links below for related accessories, advice from our editors and more helpful guides:
Guide written by:
John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton, 70 guides
Since I was a child, I was always interested in manual and technical works. Always fascinated by woodworking, I took advantage of my first flat as a playground. On the cards: electricity (of course, safety first!) and some partition walls; but also decorating with the help of the missus, made-to-measure furniture and little tricks to optimise the space, all the while remaining as original as possible. When the little one arrived, I started building bits and pieces for him! Lacking space, I have not got a permanent workshop and certain tools I dream about but are not part of my collection. Not to worry, I already know a lot about DIY and I have a high-tech profile that I hope will guide you in your decisions!