One of the main components of an electrical system is the distribution board. In both commercial and residential applications, the distribution board controls the quantity and quality of the power entering the building. When an electrical system is working as it should, the distribution board is often overlooked. When there are problems with the electricity, however, it’s the first place an electrician will look. Understanding the importance of the distribution board and what it does can provide insight into many of the electrical issues that occur.
Part of the electrical system installed in every commercial and residential building, a distribution board is an integral part of providing power to the facility. Much like the name implies, a distribution board distributes power to various circuits and ensures that the consumption points in the building receives the power it needs.
Power enters the house or building through one main power cable. This cable, often referred to as a feeding cable, transports power from the network’s supply lines to the distribution board. Within the distribution board, the main component is the circuit breaker. The circuit breaker divides the total amount of power entering the home. It then distributes it to the mini circuit breakers contained on the distribution board. The smaller circuit breakers are wired to the various outlets, switches, appliances, and other electrical components in the building.
The distribution board houses many parts which work together to sustain the electrical demands of the facility. These components can include a bus bar, switches, residual current detectors (RSD), bypass equipment, and fuses. The residual current detector helps to provide protection against ground fault shock and fire. Bypass equipment is composed of various parts that serve to protect the distribution board from short-circuiting and power overloading.
Industry standards for the layout of the distribution board vary from country to country. The size, number and type of breakers used will depend on the regulations of the country where the board is located.
In the United States, distribution boards are housed within a sheet metal enclosure. The circuit breakers are arranged in two columns and are accessed through a door in the front. No live wires are visible, protecting the operator from coming in contact with dangerous electrical current. To access wires, an electrician must remove the deadfront panel.
Breakers are numbered for easier identification within the distribution board. A universal numbering system is used, regardless of manufacturer. Circuit breakers are numbered left-to-right, from top to bottom.
Breakers are connected to the distribution board with either a plug-in connection or a bolt-on connection. Bolt-on breakers are typically used in commercial applications. They use a threaded screw to secure the breaker to the bus bar. Plug-in connections are most commonly used in residential applications and use a retaining clip.
Typically, distribution boards are normally located in out-of-the way locations within the building. These can include a closet, basement, garage, or attic. Regulations in the United States prohibit installation of the distribution board in a closet used for clothing or in areas where dangerous conditions may occur, such as a bathroom. Specialized regulations deal with installation of the distribution board in outdoor settings or other hazardous situations.
Large buildings may require multiple distribution boards to service specific areas of the facility. They can be designated for specific uses, such as lighting panels, emergency panels or to supply other distribution boards.
The parts within a distribution board may seem interchangeable. However, each manufacturer has specific devices that can be installed on their boards. Even though a part may “fit”, it may not be tested and rated for use within the board. Adding new parts or replacing parts with untested components can be dangerous. It can lead to power surges, fire, and other hazardous situations for the people inside the building, as well as to the power supply that feeds the board.
Are you experiencing power surges, breaker failure or other electrical problems? Have you had a reduction in efficiency related to increased power usage? To maximize your electrical system performance, and ensure you’re maintaining a high level of safety and efficiency, consult a licensed electrician.
The professionals at C & G Electric are licensed, insured, and bonded. We are experts at residential and commercial electrical installations and can help you ensure that your facility is safely and efficiently powered. Whether you need installation for new construction or simply want to increase the number of outlets available, C&G Electric will provide you with a free quote, and fast, reliable service. Call today to schedule an appointment with one of our technicians!