What is an RCD?

What is an RCD?

An RCD (Residual Current Device) is a safety device that switches electricity off immediately if there is a fault and it therefore provides protection against electric shock and potential death.  I always thought that an RCD was just some sort of safety plug that you used with your lawn mower and didn’t understand that there are a number of different types of RCD.  Also, I hadn’t realised just how important these devices are.

There are 3 main types of RCD:

Fixed RCDs are installed in your consumer unit (or fuse board) and this provides the best protection as it covers all sockets and appliances on the circuit connected through it.

Socket-outlet RCDs replace standard sockets and protect only a person in contact with equipment plugged into the socket.

Portable RCDs are plugged into any socket and then an appliance can be plugged into the portable RCD to provide protection.  This is the one I had come across as they are most commonly used for appliances used outdoors such as lawn mowers.

I read an article from the Electrical Safety Council recently and in it they provide some frightening statistics which highlight the need for RCDs.  Every week someone in the UK dies in their home through an electrical-related accident and thousands of people are injured every year.  In addition to this, 50% of fires in homes (around 21,000) are attributed to electrical faults.  Almost all electrocutions in the home and 20% of the fires above could be prevented if Fixed RCDs were installed at the fuse board.  Half of the homes in the UK don’t have this RCD protection installed.

If you’ve had a rewire recently or had a new fuse board installed the chances are that you’ll have built in RCD protection but if you’re not sure, ask your Part P approved electrician to take a look for you.  If you don’t currently have fixed RCD protection you may wish to consider upgrading to a new fuse board with built-in RCDs.  As a minimum, please use portable RCDs for any equipment used outside or near water e.g. lawn mowers, hedge cutters, etc.   Using RCD protection could save your life!