Useful Inspection Information – Electric Meter Box

The household meter box houses a number of electrical components including the meter, main switch, fuses and circuit breakers including RCD’s, which control the flow of electricity to your home.
It is important to understand regulations that apply to electrical installations within the meter box and to accessing them.
Location of the meter – Western Power website includes the following information –
It is essential that Western Power can easily and safely access the meter. When considering such access, please take into account:

  • The meter must be accessible without the need to enter a neighbour’s property.
  • If the meter box or access way to the meter is locked, it must be with an approved Western Power    master key lock – available from licensed locksmiths and security suppliers.
  • The meter must be accessible without the need for service personnel to climb fences or locked gates.
  • Western Power will not enter an enclosed property with dog warning signs or where a dog is enclosed in the vicinity of the meter.
  • If the meter is locked inside a carport, basement, enclosed verandah or other enclosed area where service personnel can only access by customer appointment, the customer will need to have communications gear fitted to the meter at their cost
  • The meter has to be free from obstruction by trees and gardens.

Inside the meter Box:

  • Inside the meter box will be the meter, a device that measures and records the amount of electricity used. It is usually enclosed on an external wall of a house or building. It is important to know where the meter box is so Western Power can access it. There are four types of meters:
  • Electro-mechanical dial meters. • Electro-mechanical digital meters.
  • Electronic digital meters. • Electronic smart meters.
  • A Main Switch will have been installed for isolating all the power supply to the property.
  • Fuses and circuit breakers, these control the flow of electricity into the home. Some homes have an external main Meter Box housing the meter and mains fuse. Fitted internally will be a “Sub-board” this will have all the fuses/circuit breakers and RCD’s
  • Are RCD’s installed? How many should there be? RCD protection is required by law in all new homes built since 2000. At least 2 RCD’s are required and these are to give protection to all the Power & Lighting circuits.

Note: before anyone enters the roof space power must be turned off at the meterbox The Department of Commerce website includes the following information –
RCD laws
Since 2000 it has been compulsory for all new homes to have two RCD’s fitted to protect the power and lighting circuits as part of an electrical installation.
In the past 17 years, 29 people including eight children have been electrocuted in homes in Western Australia. Twenty-three of these deaths could have been prevented if Residual Current Devices (RCD’s) had been fitted to the power and lighting circuits.
To help reduce deaths from electrocution, the Western Australian Government implemented new RCD regulations in August 2009.
The new legislation applies to people selling their homes and to landlords. Every home sold or leased must be fitted with a minimum of two RCDs which must protect all power and lighting circuits.
When a new tenant takes up residency, landlords will need to install the devices before the lease agreement is signed. For homes that have a continuing tenancy, landlords had until 8 August 2011 to fit the RCDs. All tenanted homes should now be compliant by having RCD’s installed.
A person failing to fit RCDs in accordance with the regulations may incur the following penalty:

  1. In the case of an individual a fine of $15,000;
  2. In the case of a body corporate a fine of $100,000

Further information:
RCD identification.
It must be remembered that where there are two RCD’s fitted to the property the installation they may not meet regulation requirements. The installed RCD’s may be protecting other services within property, such as outbuildings, pool or spa equipment. The power and/or lighting circuits may not be fully protected.
It is often difficult to identify if RCD’s are installed as there are many different types now available, they are not uniform in size, test buttons are of different shape, sizes and colour. Some test buttons are small and can hardly be seen.
 Q: How many RCD switches required for the house?    
This depends on the number of circuit breakers / wired fuses there are to the switchboard / fuse box.  As no more than 3 circuit breakers / wired fuses are permitted per RCD it may be necessary to install multiple RCD switches to larger fuse boxes. In any instance a minimum of 2 RCD’s are required.
Q: I have 2 light fuses, can I put these on 1 RCD?     
N0. The Australian Wiring Regulations will not permit all light circuits to go on 1 RCD.  For example, where more than 1 light circuit exists these must be split up over different RCD’s. The reason for this is that if the RCD trips not all lights will be affected. These arrangements are intended to minimise the impact of the RCD tripping. (Having all lights trip off at night could be more than inconvenient).

Identifying Circuits.
It is the responsibility of the installing licensed electrician to clearly identify and mark all the RCD’s and the circuits they protect. Poorly identified circuits can cause confusion, maybe misleading and require confirmation from a licensed electrical contractor that the RCD protection complies with new RCD electrical codes.
Note: before anyone enters the roof space power must be turned off at the meterbox
A Housecalls Property Inspection will report on RCD compliance and meter box location.