A few of the blogs I have written in the past mention how important it is to fit an RCD in your home. Although I've explained the importance of having one, I have never really explained what an RCD does and how it protects you and your home.
An RCD stands for Residual Current Device. It is an important safety device that automatically trips and cuts off the power if there is a problem. This might sound pretty boring and be a nuisance, and you might be wondering what the point of having one is.
An RCD is incredibly fast. It detects a problem before you even realise there is one and cuts the power in less than a split second. For example, if you were cutting your hedge with an electric hedge trimmer and you accidentally cut through the cable, the RCD would activate and save your life. If you popped out for a while and left your dishwasher running and it developed a fault, the RCD could save your home from burning down from a fire.
The South Wales Fire Service attend many call outs which are due to electrical faults. In 2017/18 39% of all calls were due to electrical faults, this included electrical supply, wiring and appliances such as toasters, washing machines and kettles.
Many homeowners in Cwmbran and Abergavenny ask me what the point of an RCD is, especially when fuses and circuit breakers also cut the power if a problem develops. The fact is an RCD is far more sensitive and will detect earth faults which circuit breakers or fuses do not in the event of a problem. A Fuse or circuit breaker is not guaranteed to react fast enough and it might be too late.
A 30mA RCD device has been fitted to almost all consumer units in new or rewired houses since July 2008. If you have one fitted that is great, if you haven't it is highly recommended that you do in order to have maximum safety in your home.
If you have an RCD or even two, it is important that you test them often. They are 97% effective, but in the same way as you test your smoke detectors weekly it is worth getting into the habit of testing your RCD every 3 months. Simply press the test button on the device and the power should cut off. If it does not, then you will need to seek advice from a qualified, registered electrician.
There are also two other types of RCD devices that are found within homes. These are RCD Sockets and portable RCD's. These should be tested before each time they are used. RCD sockets replace standard sockets and provide RCD protection for anyone using electrical equipment plugged into those sockets. A Portable RCD is plugged into a standard 3 pin socket and this then provides RCD protection to the user who plugs whatever electrical equipment into the socket. The great thing about these is that they can be moved around and used for riskier jobs such as mowing the lawn or trimming a hedge.
Remember though, RCD sockets and portable RCDs only provide protection to the person using the equipment plugged into them, it does not protect the whole household. However, I always say some RCD protection is better than nothing at all. I always recommend to my customers around Cwmbran and Abergavenny that if they do not have the budget to install proper RCD protection in their home to at least buy a few portable RCD's to use, particularly in the garden.
An RCD is there to prevent serious injury or deaths so please use them whenever possible.