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UK Is this meter and consumer unit location safe and upto spec? (kitchen cabinet, water pipes)

Discuss Is this meter and consumer unit location safe and upto spec? (kitchen cabinet, water pipes) in the UK Electrical Forum area at ElectriciansForums.net

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Hello,

I am renovating my kitchen and looking for advice on best placement of the meter and consumer unit. I am primarily concerned with:
  • Building regs
  • Electrical regs
  • Fire safety

It's just a simple dwelling, not HMO or anything. Currently, the meter and consumer unit is inside of a brick "pantry" section at the corner of the room which will be knocked down. I'd like to keep cost down of course, and have them stay at that position. With a little shifting it should fit into a cabinet, which is L shape to provide better access to the CU/meter if needed.

Please note placements not to scale, distance from water pipes should be plenty (> 400mm). Corner cabinet is 900mm in width along the wall (towards the hob). There is a service void behind and under the cabinets where the pipework would be. Could someone please advise on if this proposed layout and placement of CU/meter is safe and upto spec?

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To be honest, what you are suggesting is a nightmare to install, operate and service.

Get a local electrician round to discuss options.
Do not rely on the kitchen sales person as they will tell you anything to make the sale.
 
I have the same view as James, looks like it has the potential to be a complete nightmare. At the very least I would engage with your local distribution network operator and have them inspect the head in case it needs replacing already and discuss it with them also as the equipment you're talking about technically belongs to them and they may have a view on what's acceptable... whilst I've seen it a few times, I wouldn't want to be one of their engineers having to come and work on it in that sort of enclosed space.
 
It’s not ideal.

One of the regulations asks for ease of access, which being in a cupboard isn’t

However, I presume this has always been the location of the mains box, and it has always been in a cupboard?

It COULD be ok IF you don’t fill the cupboard and leave easy access..

Is the consumer unit likely to be changed in the future? How easy is that going to be once enclosed?

Are there cables running up the wall in that corner? That could determine whether you can screw up a wall unit above

You mentioned “ a little shifting”
If this means shifting the supply fuse…. You could be in for a massive headache.
 
To be honest, what you are suggesting is a nightmare to install, operate and service.

Get a local electrician round to discuss options.
Do not rely on the kitchen sales person as they will tell you anything to make the sale.

First and foremost thank you everyone for the replies - secondly, the consumer unit was upgraded and house rewired 2 years ago. Actually the local electrician that did that upgrade and install did it so that it could be knocked out and put under a cabinet. I am not sure what they envisioned but with it being a corner it's a bit tricky for access for sure. I have tried to mitigate that as much as possible with an L shape corner cabinet that opens for more access than a standard 600mm cabinet with door.

I have the same view as James, looks like it has the potential to be a complete nightmare. At the very least I would engage with your local distribution network operator and have them inspect the head in case it needs replacing already and discuss it with them also as the equipment you're talking about technically belongs to them and they may have a view on what's acceptable... whilst I've seen it a few times, I wouldn't want to be one of their engineers having to come and work on it in that sort of enclosed space.

Thanks for this, I have considered contacting them and/or the meter supply company too but first need to weigh up all my options before having them call round.

It’s not ideal.

One of the regulations asks for ease of access, which being in a cupboard isn’t

However, I presume this has always been the location of the mains box, and it has always been in a cupboard?

It COULD be ok IF you don’t fill the cupboard and leave easy access..

Is the consumer unit likely to be changed in the future? How easy is that going to be once enclosed?

Are there cables running up the wall in that corner? That could determine whether you can screw up a wall unit above

You mentioned “ a little shifting”
If this means shifting the supply fuse…. You could be in for a massive headache.

Access I agree might be a bit of a pain and I don't really like the idea of sacrificing a whole corner unit for meter and CUs either. This has indeed always been the location of the head, meter and consumer unit yes. Shouldn't need to make any modifications to it anytime soon, and if we needed to we could look into moving the cabinet out somehow. I wasn't planning to put anything in the cupboard besides maybe some pans away from the meter/CU.

There should be enough open space with the cabinet door open to access the meter and CU but that all depends on how big the person is really.

And for some more context, its on an exterior wall (interior facing) in this picture and currently. The kitchen is concrete flooring and would be very expensive and time consuming to move the head/meter nevermind the CU beyond more than a few inches around. I mentioned this in the post because when measuring to see if it would fit in cabinets and where, I realised it was mounted a little too high up so would need shifting down a little (<10cm - unmount and remount, I'd hope).

The CU is relatively new, 2 years old, so I don't see a replacement in the near future. If it really needed replacing work could be done to shift the cabinets to allow more access. There are pipes running up in the actual corner, but from the CU position there are cables running up into the ceiling void and to the rest of the house. I was thinking that if this is an issue as proposed that the CU could go in the kitchen cabinet above - but this is still in a cabinet and arguably also not as accessible as it could be.

I am stumped as to where else this could go, the kitchen is tiny and doesn't have many layout options. It will cost far too much and be a massive headache to relocate to another room - or even on another wall in that room due to the concrete flooring and current supply position. Moving the CU up and above the meter so it'll fit in a top kitchen cabinet is the only solution I can think of to aid CU access, but it doesn't solve the potential problem of meter/head access as described in your replies. I have attached a photo of the current situation inside of the brick wall pantry. Note the gas meter and pipe there, but I am having them moved to the exterior.
pantrycurrent.png
 
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so from that photo, the right hand side brick wall is being removed, along with the shelving etc...?


It is not good idea to move the suppliers equipment... not even moving the board it is all fixed to....
Although the fuse head looks to be new... the incoming cable could be quite brittle... as doesn't like to be wiggled around... (BOOM!)
Actually.... i know its just the Earth.... but where is the lid of the Henley block to the left of the main fuse?

What is the height to the top of the board that the meter is fixed to? You might not need to move anything....

You can't get away from the fact that its going to end up in a cupboard.... that's just how it is... but for ongoing future access, i wouldn't pack the cupboard with pans etc....

Take it from a 30 years in the trade veteran that spent many an afternoon crammed into an altogether larger understairs cupboard working on boards.
 
so from that photo, the right hand side brick wall is being removed, along with the shelving etc...?


It is not good idea to move the suppliers equipment... not even moving the board it is all fixed to....
Although the fuse head looks to be new... the incoming cable could be quite brittle... as doesn't like to be wiggled around... (BOOM!)
Actually.... i know its just the Earth.... but where is the lid of the Henley block to the left of the main fuse?

What is the height to the top of the board that the meter is fixed to? You might not need to move anything....

You can't get away from the fact that its going to end up in a cupboard.... that's just how it is... but for ongoing future access, i wouldn't pack the cupboard with pans etc....

Take it from a 30 years in the trade veteran that spent many an afternoon crammed into an altogether larger understairs cupboard working on boards.

Yep the right hand wall (and one to left too) will be removed, opening up that corner to square the room off. I wasn't planning on moving any supplier equiptment myself or with a sparky, would definitely contact them if its needed just so that is clear.

I wasn't aware that the henley block had or needed a lid - is that something worth pointing out to the DNO/supplier?

The height to the top of the board is just enough clearance for general worktop height (sorry I don't have exact measurements as typing this) but from when I was checking the other day - it doesn't account for the carcass height. This could be mitigated to an extent but ideally I'm not chopping up the tops off of the carcass too. If useful I can get proper measurements and find the exact carcass height and MDF thickness and put them here.

As I say, the sparky that did this did it intention with the CU and meter going into a kitchen cabinet below. More seeking 2nd opinions and ensuring its all upto spec, my main concern is if I had to get someone else in for adding a new circuit in the future or something.

Is there any issue with fire safety having the meter/CU enclosed in an MDF carcass? I have read that it could be lined with 1/2hr rated plasterboard or some metal box but the box option makes access arguably trickier. I also am unsure on safety with being so close to water pipes, sink and appliances - I have read that the regs specify I think 150mm from pipes and ideally not directly under sinks. Worst case scenario I am concerned about is if there is a flood with mains water pressure, water gets to the CU/meter and it causes a fire or other problems.
 
As far as our regs are concerned, the consumer unit is already a metal box... there's no need for any extra fire rated materials.

If worried about pipe bursts... then a shield between water and electrics.... like box in the pipework? just so that if there is a burst, the spray of water is deflected away.

A serious enough flood, and the CU will have to be changed anyway... along with your brand new kitchen...


I'm still concerned about kitchen fitters blindly fixing into the wall to fix the wall units... Is there evidence on the wall of plaster repair, or an obvious cable route.
 
If that is an exterior wall it may be looking at the options of an external meter cupboard and getting the DNO equipment shifted into it
May also be worth looking into doing similar with the gas meter

Not an impossible job but I looked into this already, I'll be moving the gas into exterior no matter what but the electric one will be at some cost as there isnt room to mount side by side at current positions due to the nature of the exterior wall (air bricks/vents, pipework on other side etc). Would have to move gas supply and electric supply, even slightly. Won't be getting that cheap or for free either.

As far as our regs are concerned, the consumer unit is already a metal box... there's no need for any extra fire rated materials.

If worried about pipe bursts... then a shield between water and electrics.... like box in the pipework? just so that if there is a burst, the spray of water is deflected away.

A serious enough flood, and the CU will have to be changed anyway... along with your brand new kitchen...


I'm still concerned about kitchen fitters blindly fixing into the wall to fix the wall units... Is there evidence on the wall of plaster repair, or an obvious cable route.

Thanks for some clarification, my main conern is that I've heard water + meter/supply head = really bad. The CU I'm a bit less worried for as you say, its already in a modern metal box. Boxing in the pipework is what I intended to do also for that reason (and neatness of course), so good to know that should be sufficient to prevent some issues there.

The cable run does go up the wall but not inside a wall, I was going to speak to the sparky about that when they come to rewire the kitchen itself as I'd prefer a cleaner inside wall rather than more runners to get in the way. Might make more sense not to and just make sure the wires are spaced properly to not be a problem for the brackets, will keep an eye out for that for sure.

Will just have to hope no flood then! My main concern is fire/electrical safety if that happens due to being in a corner together, enclosed in MDF. It doesn't seem like the responses here are concerned with that and more accessibility which if I am reading the room right is good to hear. Going to keep in mind to make it easy to remove that cabinet or a section, aslong as the CU can be easily accessed by everyone.

One final question for sparkies - is a top kitchen cabinet easier/better to work from than a lower one, or just about the same? Trying to gauge if thats worth the cost of shifting the CU upwards above the meter instead of to the side. At the very least a top cabinet is easier to remove completely than under counter.
 
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One final question for sparkies - is a top kitchen cabinet easier/better to work from than a lower one, or just about the same? Trying to gauge if thats worth the cost of shifting the CU upwards above the meter instead of to the side. At the very least a top cabinet is easier to remove completely than under counter.
Yes, an above worktop cabinet is far easier to work from. With the consumer unit in the base unit, I'd likely decline any work on it nowadays, it gives me back trouble.
 
Not an impossible job but I looked into this already, I'll be moving the gas into exterior no matter what but the electric one will be at some cost as there isnt room to mount side by side at current positions due to the nature of the exterior wall (air bricks/vents, pipework on other side etc). Would have to move gas supply and electric supply, even slightly. Won't be getting that cheap or for free either.



Thanks for some clarification, my main conern is that I've heard water + meter/supply head = really bad. The CU I'm a bit less worried for as you say, its already in a modern metal box. Boxing in the pipework is what I intended to do also for that reason (and neatness of course), so good to know that should be sufficient to prevent some issues there.

The cable run does go up the wall but not inside a wall, I was going to speak to the sparky about that when they come to rewire the kitchen itself as I'd prefer a cleaner inside wall rather than more runners to get in the way. Might make more sense not to and just make sure the wires are spaced properly to not be a problem for the brackets, will keep an eye out for that for sure.

Will just have to hope no flood then! My main concern is fire/electrical safety if that happens due to being in a corner together, enclosed in MDF. It doesn't seem like the responses here are concerned with that and more accessibility which if I am reading the room right is good to hear. Going to keep in mind to make it easy to remove that cabinet or a section, aslong as the CU can be easily accessed by everyone.

One final question for sparkies - is a top kitchen cabinet easier/better to work from than a lower one, or just about the same? Trying to gauge if thats worth the cost of shifting the CU upwards above the meter instead of to the side. At the very least a top cabinet is easier to remove completely than under counter.

Wall cupboard is much preferable as shallower too; contorting to work in that narrow access corner cupboard is (like observed) an utter ball ache. However it's still not ideal - it's above optimal height and also the proximity to the cooker is dubious. But still about a billion times better than below. Also I'd +1 on moving the electric meter outdoors.

I'd say stick it in the room above but you're going to tell me you've gone and put your bathroom there aren't you...

Here's a probably crazy idea - could the end wall be cut and an external hatch/door installed meaning the equipment could be accessed from both in the cupboard or outdoors?
 
Mounting the CU too high up is just as bad as too low when it comes to accessibility.

If you've got to get a stool, or a pair of steps just to reset a breaker... you're adding an unnecessary risk.


(You could be 6'5" and reach no problem, or 4' nothing.... i just dont know....)
 
Wall cupboard is much preferable as shallower too; contorting to work in that narrow access corner cupboard is (like observed) an utter ball ache. However it's still not ideal - it's above optimal height and also the proximity to the cooker is dubious. But still about a billion times better than below. Also I'd +1 on moving the electric meter outdoors.

Exterior meter was my first thought, but since that cant go above/below a gas meter I am out of luck there without considerable cost to reroute plumbing, gas and electric supplies. If it helps, the cooker is going to be all electric (hob included). Not too keen on that distance either but it should have enough clearance to not really be a problem. Ran it by the sparky we're using and they seem ok with that idea.

And yes, you are correct that the bathroom is directly above the kitchen! Specifically the bath section is right above where all services are in that corner, hence the water pipes.

As for the hatch idea, the issue again there is moving the gas meter will be just behind where the electricity meter is. Don't think there will be enough clearance but can check - that also sounds like a nightmare to implement.

Mounting the CU too high up is just as bad as too low when it comes to accessibility.

If you've got to get a stool, or a pair of steps just to reset a breaker... you're adding an unnecessary risk.


(You could be 6'5" and reach no problem, or 4' nothing.... i just dont know....)

I'd put it on the lower part of the cabinet, can also look at mounting low cabinets there but want to keep distance from the hot hob too as mentioned above. There appears to be no easy solution, every fix makes more potential problems. Just have to settle with whats cost effective and still safe I think.
 
Looking at the photo I’m slightly doubting the gas pipe location meets the BS6891 rule - 15cm away from CU as far as I recall.

If it were me I’d leave the service head where it is, stick a switched fuse in, run some armoured up to cupboard above and move CU as close to a part M compliant position as I could.
If it’s been rewired, and all the cables are coming down, I sense it wouldn’t be a major undertaking. It will all likely need carefuly exposing anyway to safely work on the new kitchen and to 1st fix the new kitchen so I’d seize the chance to makes things easier.

Consumer units in kitchen cupboards (and behind garage doors) are my pet hate but I’d far rather work in a wall cupboard than a base cupboard.
 
I thought I had posted earlier, but did not

If I were doing a rewire at your property I would have NOT replaced the consumer unit there.

I would have either
Ran an armour from the meter location to a new consumer unit location thus locating the unit to a sensible place

I did this in a house 6 years ago where the existing consumer unit was in a garage far away from any useful place. We ran a 25mm 3 core amour to a walk in kitchen cupboard in the middle of the house which had floor to ceiling access (wooden floors)
The meter was in the garage was only a 6 way 100A unit with 2 circuits, the 100A REC fuse was sufficient for the 25mm armour, we added a DP switch in the garage consumer unit (supply) to allow the armour to the rest of the house to be isolated.

OR
suggested you get the supply moved
 
I thought I had posted earlier, but did not

If I were doing a rewire at your property I would have NOT replaced the consumer unit there.

I would have either
Ran an armour from the meter location to a new consumer unit location thus locating the unit to a sensible place

I did this in a house 6 years ago where the existing consumer unit was in a garage far away from any useful place. We ran a 25mm 3 core amour to a walk in kitchen cupboard in the middle of the house which had floor to ceiling access (wooden floors)
The meter was in the garage was only a 6 way 100A unit with 2 circuits, the 100A REC fuse was sufficient for the 25mm armour, we added a DP switch in the garage consumer unit (supply) to allow the armour to the rest of the house to be isolated.

OR
suggested you get the supply moved
DNO might have an opinion on what their fuse is good for no? And if you back it up the zs can quickly become a nightmare...

Know what you mean about con unit location but often one has to cede to the customer.... Maybe above the meter rather than beside... (It's a drag convincing them right up by the ceiling "out the way" isn't the best place half the time.. I've had a couple that were in a cupboard high level but above the door height, so behind the bulkhead, necessitating the most unbelievable back twisting contortion to get to... You just know that was the idea of a madam inflicted on a "great value multi trade builderfitter" without the cojones to tell her to stop being so silly.)
 
And this, ladies and gentlemen, illustrates why we should have building regulations like the French where there is a requirement for clear and easy access around the electrical distribution board.
I'd go further and probably mandate some kind of minimum sized plant room which is fireproofed, with all utilities entering (if we carry on as we're going that will only be water and electricity, so no concerns about gas leaks) in there.
 
And this, ladies and gentlemen, illustrates why we should have building regulations like the French where there is a requirement for clear and easy access around the electrical distribution board.
IMO Better to do something about those ignoring regulations first! Current system is like having a speed limit but not enforcing anyone without a number plate then reducing the limit because of all the crashes the no-plate people are causing.
 

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