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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi just another question for any resident sparkies on how they view brands like SBS or Fusebox vs Hager or Wylex

We have had the Wylex board for 20 years and no problems, not needed anything for it or anything to replace.

If I went for a SBS or Fusebox would you have any concerns on support in 10 years time?

I have tried to find out about who runs these smaller companies and their background with limited success.

What's likely to go wrong in a CU?

What spares would you hold from a smaller brand as a backup?

Any thoughts on likely issues?

(Hager / Wylex have been in the game for a long time so should be less likely to be an issue but of course even big companies fail or change designs or stop selling spares...)
 

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Could always just buy spare RCBOs as insurance. They do fail very occasionally, but there are one or two companies that specialise in stocking older components, plus some electricians keep their own stocks of S/H parts, too. I have a big box of assorted S/H, but tested and working, MCBs, RCDs etc, kept as "may come in handy" parts, just in case I need to replace something that's older and no longer available.
 

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I have a MEM board installed in the early 2000s and despite them being a long established manufacturer, you can’t get Memera 2000 Series RCBOs anymore. I don’t think there are any guarantees of future availability.

I also have a Wylex board in the garage installed in 2015 that takes different MCBs from the Wylex one the electrician who was here a couple of months ago had on his van.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Just stick with your Wylex
Not really an option as it is a very old board and not in a metal case so really need to move to the latest edition of standards so i am then future proofed for another 20 years or so.

Thanks for the comments so far from others.
 

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I'd stick with something that uses conventional shape/size MCB/RCD/RCBOs as you will always be able to get these somewhere, and leave some space for additional ones to be added later.
Some will argue that you shouldn't use a different manufacturer's breakers, but as long as they are mechanically compatible it's fine - it's just a metal box with a DIN rail after all.
I've seen at least one major manufacturer's installation manual which makes no mention of using only their accessories.
 

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I'd stick with something that uses conventional shape/size MCB/RCD/RCBOs as you will always be able to get these somewhere, and leave some space for additional ones to be added later.
Some will argue that you shouldn't use a different manufacturer's breakers, but as long as they are mechanically compatible it's fine - it's just a metal box with a DIN rail after all.
I've seen at least one major manufacturer's installation manual which makes no mention of using only their accessories.

There are two problems, one a bit of a non-issue, the other potentially serious.

First one is often quoted, but really isn't an issue, IMHO, and that's type approval, and the fact that mix and matching devices in a board may somehow render that null and void. I don't think this is the case at all, it's simply a myth, as the CUs themselves aren't type approved with any given mix of devices inside at all, only the individual parts inside are, and then to common electrical standards, and overall external dimensions.

The big problem is terminal compatibility. Although the dimensions of DIN modules are defined, terminal heights aren't, and they are often different. Because they all use rising gate terminals now*, that pull the comb type bus bar upwards, it's often not obvious that if doing this with a mix of different makes bends the bus bar tabs. Sometimes this is subtle, sometimes it's not, it is often obvious only when removing a device, where the bus bar damage can be seen. I've seen this a few times, with marks showing that the bus bar tab was only just being gripped at the very tip, because of the misalignment.

One solution is to use devices from the same manufacturing group stable. There are several brand names that are really the same company, for example, regarding the Memera brand by MEM mentioned earlier, they just morphed into the parent company brand, Eaton, and Eaton and MEM parts are pretty much identical (as are Moeller), as they are all made by the same manufacturer (along with one or two other, like BILL, IIRC). As long as you can trace the other brands in the group you can usually find a compatible device, may have a different front and be a different colour, but there's a very good chance that it will have its terminals in exactly the same place.


*Most brands use comb type bus bars, but a few use ones that fit under the screws at the top, and these definitely do not mix and match well.
 

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I was digging around for some other stuff just now and came across my box of spare MCBs, so I clipped four different makes to a bit of spare rail to illustrate the terminal height problem mentioned above. From left to right these are Hager, BG, Europa and Wylex, and there is a height difference at the top of the gate (the contact area) between each of them, and none of these would be OK to use with the others in a "mix and match" arrangement:

Audio equipment Gas Electronic device Machine Font
 

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I'm not disagreeing that, if you overcome the physical fit issues, different manufacturers' devices will work, but 536.4.203 says:
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and
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Manufacturers don't have much motivation to make those declarations

One solution is to use devices from the same manufacturing group stable.
If only. There are at least 2 series of Wylex that are incompatible (certainly one way if not both) and MEM2 and MEM3 can't be interchanged.
 

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If only. There are at least 2 series of Wylex that are incompatible (certainly one way if not both) and MEM2 and MEM3 can't be interchanged.
The flip side is that some manufacturers have explicitly stated that parts from different apparent brands, but that are really all made in the same factory, can be interchanged. For example, MEM morphed into Eaton that morphed into Eaton Moeller, with the only difference between some devices being the front face. Eaton put out a statement to the effect that some of their Eaton branded devices were identical to the MEM devices they had replaced, IIRC (it was a fair time ago now).

The challenge is knowing the complex intertwining of brand names for things that come out of the same factory, but with two or three different names on the front for the exact same device. Another example is Electrium, that are the manufacturers of Wylex, Crabtree, Volex, Siemens, and Appleby, with some parts being identical between their brands, some not.
 

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So sometimes you can get devices from the same brand that are not compatible with one another and some devices that are compatible with one another despite being marked with different brands. On that basis, it’s probably pure luck as to whether the OP will be able to repair/expand a new CU in future.

I did find a couple of specialist suppliers who carry devices for older CUs and in the end I found an unused MEM2000 RCBO on eBay so there will probably be options for all but the most obscure boards.
 

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I would guess that some electricians also keep stocks of older MCBs, RCDs etc. I have probably got around 50 of the things, various makes, as "may come in handy one day" stock, as you never know when you may come across a board that's got an obsolete and U/S device. The people I mainly do small jobs for now often can't afford a board change, so if they can't get some sort of fix they will perhaps just have to live with a dead circuit (seen that, one lady had been living with her downstairs ring not working for months, using an extension lead from upstairs to keep things going).

Sometimes it's a matter of using a bit of judgement and compromising on the basis as to whether it's safer to fit a device that is compatible, but carries a different label, rather than let someone carry on using something like an extension lead for power. This happens all the time, there are a lot of people that just don't have the money spare to get repairs done to bring things up to the latest standards, and the best you can do is try to ensure the installation is no less safe then it was originally.
 

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I agree. Despite what the regs say, what really is the problem? The devices don’t interact with one another, except maybe a whole house RCD but that and any downstream MCBs should be to the standards anyway. Devices will generate heat regardless of who made them so it really is down to physical fit on the busbar side.

From what I can see, it comes down to whether compatibility is demonstrable by the installer. Even where a supplier makes the declaration, what actual testing would they do to validate it?
 

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I agree. Despite what the regs say, what really is the problem? The devices don’t interact with one another, except maybe a whole house RCD but that and any downstream MCBs should be to the standards anyway. Devices will generate heat regardless of who made them so it really is down to physical fit on the busbar side.

From what I can see, it comes down to whether compatibility is demonstrable by the installer. Even where a supplier makes the declaration, what actual testing would they do to validate it?
There's no testing an installer can do to prove that something like an MCB is working OK, but as they are all manufactured to the same standard they should all provide the same level of protection, regardless of the make of the ones either side. The only issue I know of is the one illustrated earlier with that photo, that very often the bus bar terminals are at different heights, so care needs to be taken to find a replacement that has the top of the rising gate at the same height as the others in the box.

Easy enough to add a note on the EIC/minor electrical works chit saying that there is a limitation imposed by a client instruction, and that in the view of the installer the installation is no less safe than it was when first installed. There used to be an EICR category for exactly this, C4, which meant that the installation complied with the standards in force at the original installation date, but the powers that be at the IET removed it a few years ago, so now every old installation automatically gets several C3 observations (improvement recommended) even though it's no different to when it was first installed. This can be really daft, like the new house (being rented out) I did a few years ago, that had been empty from new, yet which I had to mark C3 as it had a plastic CU. The regs had changed just after the house had been built.
 

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There's no testing an installer can do to prove that something like an MCB is working OK
Agreed. The point I was making is that I’m not sure what structured testing the manufacturers would do to validate a declaration that even their own products are compatible with one another.
 

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Agreed. The point I was making is that I’m not sure what structured testing the manufacturers would do to validate a declaration that even their own products are compatible with one another.

I doubt there is any. My guess is that they just make a declaration, based on their own assessment. This is probably mainly mechanical and fire safety related I suspect, as I don't think there are any electrical testing standards for complete CU assemblies, and given that installers are free to arrange MCBs/RCBOs to suit the installation, it's hard to see how there could be any complete unit testing that provided any real assurance.
 
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