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If you’re at all concerned about electrical safety you’ve probably come across the term RCD. But what exactly do the initials stand for - and how do RCDs work?

The first thing to know is that RCDs save lives. An RCD (residual current device), is a special type of safety switch, which prevents electrical shocks. RCDs offer more protection than ordinary fuses and safety switches and they also protect against electrical fires.

If you have an RCD installed, it will constantly monitor the current flowing through your circuits and will automatically sense problems and switch off the power supply.

For example, if a faulty appliance overheats causing electric current to flow to earth, the RCD will detect this and prevent a fire.

If a person is exposed to live wires or objects, the RCD will notice the change in the circuit caused by the power touching the body and shut it off immediately, significantly reducing the risk of death or serious injury.

RCDs come in three types. The best level of protection comes from fixed RCDs installed in your consumer unit (or fuse box) and it will protect all the wiring and plug sockets in your circuit as well as any connected appliances. Other types you may come across are permanently fitted plug socket RCDs, and portable RCDs which plug in between an ordinary power outlet and an appliance.

You may already have a fixed RCD in your consumer unit. If there is a device next to the fuse board with a button marked “T” or “test” then you’ve found it. Although this means you are protected, regular testing is needed to ensure the RCD is working properly.

If pressing the test button doesn’t immediately switch off the electricity, you need immediate advice from a registered electrician. PWA Electrical Services can help – just give us a call.


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