Want An All-Electric Solar Home? Get A Bigger Switchboard.

An excellent 50-pole switchboard upgrade. An absolute credit to Deionno Electrical & Solar

Despite modern electrical standards calling for spare space in switchboards, even brand-new places can struggle with switchboard space when adding solar, battery or EV charging equipment.

We’ve written previously about switchboard upgrades, but it’s worth reiterating here that modern living requires much more room, especially if you’ve got a 3-phase supply.

This is a changeover switch, used to swap your house from mains supply to a generator. Electrically speaking it’s technically a 4 pole switch, but it requires space for 8 poles in your switchboard.

 

Understanding Jargon; DIN Rails And Poles

If your house has ceramic fuses and switches mounted on a board, then it needs an upgrade. This may interest you : array.

Modern circuit breakers, switches, relays & meters all fit onto a standard mounting called a DIN rail which is built into a surface mount enclosure or the switchboard itself.

DIN rail is used to mount most switchboard components

Each 17mm wide unit is referred to as a “pole” so for example a 2-pole device which requires a live and neutral connection is 34mm wide:

A 2-pole device

A 12 pole switchboard can fit:

  • twelve single phase circuits
  • or four 3 phase circuits.

If you want add a solar panels across 3-phases , a 3 phase EV charger and a control circuit then you may need space for 12 additional poles in your switchboard.

Consumption meters may be hidden behind the panel, or may take up 5½ poles by themselves.

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Bigger Boards Are A Blessing

If you have to overhaul your main switchboard, it really doesn’t take much extra effort to future-proof the place with more room. On the same subject : array.

Lewis May from LAMM Solar and Electrical took things to another level on his own place. 96 poles of space to organise home automation.

 

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Full Boards Require Full Blown Overhaul

It can be easier to add a large external sub-board, perhaps in the garage or other end of the house. One of my best outcomes was getting a customer to think about longer term aims, then planning to suit. See the article : LG Solar takes one other step forward with a 390 W NeON H panel. A 36 pole sub board was placed right beside the hot water service, air conditioner and new solar inverter while only 7 poles were needed in the main meter position.

Starting with a single phase switchboard, 3 phase has already been added and the consumption meter (using pink data cable) is fitted illegally with exposed live parts on the front of the meter panel.

 

Progress made, with enclosure for extra metering and half a pole to spare at each end of the main DIN rail.

 

Packed like sardines. Meter isolator as main switch installed sideways. 2 utility meters, 3 consumer consumption meters and a sub board supply instead of an air conditioner.

 

36 pole switchboard with abundant space for air conditioning, solar, consumption meter & hot water control circuit. The EV charger will be added here.

 

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A Benign Looking Example

This two-phase domestic switchboard had been updated within the last ten years, but it was packed full.

Despite being updated this switchboard still needs attention. The time clock will be removed so two meters can go side by side, freeing up space for a meter isolator and more consumer circuits like the spa… and solar.

You never really know what you’ll find until the covers are off. In this instance, the electrician who quoted the solar should have tweaked something wasn’t quite right simply because there were two main switches. He was qualified to remove the escutcheon and pinpoint the problems but a non-electrician isn’t legally able to take this picture below.

This board was neat enough, but two main switches should be ganged together and should have a red toggle, and these days, there needs to be twelve safety switches, not just one.

Communication Is Key

Many solar businesses rely on quotes via satellite, which isn’t a bad thing but you can have a virtual visit by sending photos of your switchboard to whoever produces the quote. Even if you have a new and supposedly compliant house there can be surprises, but photos offer documentation which can prevent surprise charges on the day.

The best installers will have a qualified trade visit your place, measure up and document what’s needed. Choosing the $500 cheaper quote can really sting if install day discovers an additional $1500 expense.

If you consider the grief or conflict that potentially means the job is incomplete, it’s worth organising an inspection at the outset.

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