Switchboard Upgrade - Your Free Advice Guide

Do I Need a Switchboard Upgrade?

When thinking about home improvements, an electrical switchboard upgrade might not be – understandably – the first thing on your mind. However, electrical systems are the backbone of our modern homes, powering every convenience and comfort we enjoy. And at the heart of this intricate network lies the humble switchboard – a critical component that often goes unnoticed until it starts causing problems. As our reliance on technology grows, the demands placed on our home’s electrical infrastructure have skyrocketed, leaving many older switchboards struggling to keep up and in need of a switchboard upgrade.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the signs that indicate you may need a switchboard upgrade, the benefits of modernising your electrical control centre, and the steps involved in ensuring your home’s power supply is safe, efficient, and future-proof. Whether you’re a homeowner concerned about the state of your ageing switchboard or simply curious about this often-overlooked aspect of home maintenance, this article will provide you with the insights and confidence to take action.

So, let’s dive in and uncover the secrets of switchboard upgrades – your pathway to a safer, more reliable electrical future.

Table of Contents

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What is a Switchboard?

At its core, a switchboard is the central hub that manages the flow of electricity throughout your home or business. It serves as the main distribution point, taking the power supplied from the street and directing it to the various circuits, outlets, and appliances that keep your property running.

Think of the switchboard as the command centre for your entire electrical system. It houses the essential safety devices, such as circuit breakers and residual current devices (RCDs), that protect your home from electrical faults, overloads, and potential fire hazards. These critical components work together to ensure a steady, reliable, and most importantly, safe supply of power to every corner of your property.

Older switchboards, however, may not be equipped to handle the ever-increasing demands of modern living. As technology advances and our reliance on electricity grows, the humble switchboard must adapt to meet these changing needs. This is where a switchboard upgrade comes into play, modernising your electrical control centre and safeguarding your home for years to come.

Signs You Need A Switchboard Upgrade

Recognising the signs that you need a switchboard upgrade is the first step in ensuring the safety and reliability of your home’s electrical system. Here are some telltale indicators that it’s time to consider a switchboard upgrade:


Tripped Circuit Breakers or Blown Fuses

If your circuit breakers are constantly tripping or your fuses are blowing more often than they should, it’s a clear sign that your switchboard is struggling to keep up with your home’s electrical demands. This could be due to an overloaded system, outdated components, or even faulty wiring.

Flickering or Dimming Lights

Flickering or dimming lights throughout your home can be a symptom of an overloaded or malfunctioning switchboard. This issue can be caused by a variety of factors, including loose connections, insufficient capacity, or even voltage fluctuations.


Discoloured or Hot Electrical Outlets

If you notice your electrical outlets are discoloured, warm to the touch, or emitting unusual sounds, it could indicate a problem with your switchboard. These signs suggest potential overheating or wiring issues that require immediate attention.

Outdated or Unsafe Components

Older switchboards may contain components that are no longer considered safe or up to current electrical standards. This includes ceramic fuses, which are now deemed a fire hazard, as well as asbestos-containing panels, which pose a serious health risk.


Difficulty Adding New Circuits or Appliances

As your home grows and your electrical needs evolve, your existing switchboard may struggle to accommodate new circuits, appliances, or upgrades so if you’re finding it challenging to add new power sources, it’s a clear sign that your switchboard is reaching the limits of its capacity.

Unexplained Electrical Shocks

Receiving mild electric shocks when touching appliances or electrical devices can be a worrying sign of an issue with your switchboard’s grounding or safety mechanisms and could indicate a problem with your switchboard’s residual current devices (RCDs) or other protective, safety features.


Old circuit breakers might be a sign you need a switchboard upgrade
An outdated switchboard

Switchboard Age

Switchboards, like any other electrical component, have a finite lifespan, so if your home’s switchboard is more than 15-30 years old, it may be time to consider a switchboard upgrade, even if you haven’t experienced any obvious issues and befre you experience any obvious issues. Older systems are more prone to degradation, wear and tear, and potential safety hazards.

Tripped circuit breakers can be a sign you need a switchboard upgrade

Benefits of a Switchboard Upgrade

Engaging an electrician and embarking on a switboard upgrade offers a wealth of benefits that including improve the safety, reliability, AND efficiency of your electrical system. Let’s run through some of the key advantages:

Enhanced Safety

One of the primary benefits of a switchboard upgrade is the enhanced safety it provides as modern switchboards come equipped with advanced safety features, such as circuit breakers and RCDs, that offer superior protection against electrical faults, overloads, and potential fire hazards. These devices can instantly disconnect power to faulty circuits thereby minimising the risk of electric shocks or electrical fires.

Improved Reliability

Older switchboards may struggle to keep up with the ever-increasing demands of our technology-driven homes. An upgraded switchboard, on the other hand, is designed to handle higher electrical loads with ease, ensuring a steady, reliable supply of power to your appliances, electronics, and other electrical devices.


Increased Capacity

As your home and its electrical needs grow, an outdated switchboard may become a bottleneck with limited ability to add new circuits or accommodate larger or more modern appliances. Undertaking a switchboard upgrade allows you to future-proof your electrical system, providing the capacity and flexibility to adapt to your changing requirements.

Energy Efficiency

Newer switchboard components, such as circuit breakers, are often more energy-efficient than their older counterparts and by upgrading your switchboard, you may be able to reduce energy waste and potentially lower your electricity bills over time.

Compliance with Current Standards

Electrical safety standards and regulations are regularly updated to ensure homeowners can rely on being provided with the highest levels of protection the industry provides. Having undertaken the switchboard upgrade process, your switchboard will comply with the latest Australian wiring rules and guidelines, providing you with the peace of mind that your electrical system meets the most stringent safety requirements.

Improved Aesthetics

While functionality is, of course, the primary concern, it shouldn’t be overlooked that a switchboard upgrade can also enhance the visual appeal of your home’s electrical infrastructure. Modern switchboard enclosures are designed with a sleek, streamlined appearance, blending more  seamlessly with your home’s decor.

Too few outlets leads to overloaded sockets

Increased Property Value

A well-maintained, up-to-date electrical system, including a modern switchboard, can be a valuable asset when it comes to selling your home. Prospective buyers will appreciate the peace of mind that comes with a safe, reliable, and future-proof electrical systems while removing an impediment to the seller realising the full potential of their property at sale.

Switchboard upgrades can increase property values
Switchboard upgrades can increase property values

What Is The Switchboard Upgrade Process?

Upgrading your home’s switchboard is a multi-step process that requires the expertise of a licensed and qualified electrician. Now let’s take a closer look at the key stages involved:

Inspection and Assessment

The first step in the switchboard upgrade process is a thorough inspection and assessment of your existing electrical system. Your electrician will carefully examine the condition of your switchboard, identify any potential safety issues or compliance concerns, and determine the most appropriate switchboard upgrade solution for your home, before consulting with you.

Switchboard Removal and Disposal

Once the assessment is complete, the next step is to safely remove the old switchboard. This may also involve the careful handling and disposal of any hazardous materials – such as asbestos-containing panels – in accordance with local regulations.

Installation of the New Switchboard

With the old switchboard removed, your electrician has a clear path to then install the new, upgraded switchboard. This process typically includes:

  • Mounting the new switchboard enclosure
  • Connecting the mains power supply
  • Wiring the new circuit breakers and safety devices
  • Labelling the circuits for easy identification

Upgrades and Modifications

Depending on the age and condition of your home’s electrical system, your electrician may also recommend additional upgrades or modifications to ensure optimal safety and performance. This could include:


  • Upgrading the consumer mains (the connection between the street and your home)
  • Replacing outdated or damaged wiring
  • Adding new circuits or power outlets to accommodate your growing electrical needs

Testing and Commissioning

Once the new switchboard is installed, your electrician will thoroughly test all the components to ensure they are functioning correctly. This includes verifying the operation of the circuit breakers, RCDs, and any other safety features.

Final Inspection and Certification

The final step in the switchboard upgrade process is a comprehensive inspection and certification by your electrician. This ensures that the new switchboard meets all relevant Australian wiring standards and local regulations, providing you with the peace of mind that your home’s electrical system is safe and compliant.


Throughout the entire upgrade process, your licensed electrician will work closely with you to ensure your daily life has as minimal disruption as possible and to provide clear explanations of the work being carried out. Their expertise and attention to detail will be crucial in delivering a seamless and successful switchboard upgrade.

Choosing the Right Switchboard Upgrade for Your Home

When it comes to selecting a new switchboard for your home, there are several factors to consider to ensure you choose the most suitable option. Your licensed electrician will be your guide through this process, but it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of the key considerations.


Switchboard Capacity and Circuit Breakers

One of the primary factors to consider is the overall capacity of the new switchboard as well as the number and type of circuit breakers it can accommodate. This will vary depending on:

  • the number of electrical devices and appliances you have
  • your future growth and expansion plans

Your electrician will assess your current and anticipated electrical needs to determine the appropriate switchboard size and circuit breaker configuration. This ensures that your new switchboard can handle the demands of your home, both now and in the years to come.

Safety Features

Safety should be a top priority when choosing a new switchboard. Look for features such as:

  • Residual Current Devices (RCDs) to protect against electric shocks and fire hazards
  • Circuit breakers that can quickly disconnect power in the event of an overload or short circuit
  • Compliance with the latest Australian wiring standards (AS/NZS 3000:2018)

These safety features are crucial in safeguarding your home and family from potential electrical dangers.

Switchboard Material and Enclosure

Switchboards can be constructed from a variety of materials and each has its own set of advantages. The more common options include:

  • Air-insulated switchboards: Typically the most cost-effective option, but may have limited protection against environmental factors.
  • Cast resin switchboards: Offer superior protection against fire and moisture, making them a popular choice for many homes.
  • Metal-enclosed switchboards: Provide the highest level of protection against electrical and mechanical damage, but are generally more expensive. latest Australian wiring standards (AS/NZS 3000:2018)

The switchboard enclosure is also an important consideration, as it needs to be weatherproof and suitable for the location in which it will be installed.

Aesthetic Considerations

While functionality is the primary concern, the appearance of your new switchboard may also be a factor, especially if it will be located in a prominent area of your home. Many modern switchboard designs offer a sleek, streamlined look that can complement your home’s decor.

By working closely with your licensed electrician and considering these key factors, you can select the perfect switchboard to meet the unique needs of your home and provide a safe, reliable, and future-proof electrical system.

Switchboard Upgrades

Preparing for a Switchboard Upgrade

Before your electrician arrives to begin the switchboard upgrade process, there are a few steps you can take to ensure a smooth and efficient installation:


Clear the Area

Ensure the area around the existing switchboard is clear and accessible. Remove any items or furniture or plant material that may obstruct the electrician’s work or the pathway to the switchboard.

Identify the Main Power Supply

Locate the main power supply to your home, typically the meter box or the point where the electricity enters your property. This information will be helpful for your electrician during the upgrade process.

Gather Relevant Documentation

If you have any existing documentation or information about your home’s electrical system, such as previous inspection reports or the original switchboard installation details, be sure to have this on hand to provide to your electrician.

Discuss Your Needs and Concerns

Take the time to discuss your specific needs and any concerns you may have with your electrician. This will help them tailor the switchboard upgrade to best suit your home and provide you with the peace of mind you deserve.

Prepare for Temporary Disruptions

Be aware that the switchboard upgrade process will result in temporary disruptions to your home’s power supply and plan accordingly by ensuring you have alternative lighting sources, devices are fully charged and charging options such as portable batteries and powerbanks are fully charged and  available during the work.

Secure Pets and Children

For safety reasons, it’s important to keep pets and children away from the work area during the switchboard upgrade. It may make for a more relaxed process for the homeowner if they make arrangements to have children and pets moved to a different part of the house, away from works, while the electrician is on-site.

You can help ensure a smooth and efficient switchboard upgrade experience by taking these preparatory steps, minimising any disruptions and allowing your licensed electrician to focus on delivering a high-quality, safe, and reliable electrical system for your home.

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Before We Turn Out The Lights...

Setting out on the process of a switchboard upgrade may not be the most exciting home improvement project, but it is a crucial one for ensuring the safety, reliability, and future-proofing of your electrical system. By being informed and able to recognise the signs that you need a switchboard upgrade and understanding the benefits of modernising your control centre, you’ll soon be working with a licensed electrician to navigate the upgrade process and taking and important, proactive step, towards safeguarding your home and family.

Remember, your switchboard is the heart of your home’s electrical infrastructure, and keeping it up-to-date is not only a matter of compliance but also a sound investment in your property’s long-term value and your peace of mind. So, don’t wait until a crisis strikes – take the time to assess your switchboard’s condition and make the necessary upgrades to enjoy the peace of mind that comes with a safe, efficient, and future-ready electrical system.


The duration of a switchboard upgrade can vary depending on the complexity of the project and the condition of your existing electrical system. Generally, a straightforward switchboard replacement can be completed in 4-8 hours. However, if additional upgrades or modifications are required, such as consumer mains upgrades or extensive wiring work, the project may take longer, potentially spanning 1-2 days.

In Australia, a switchboard upgrade is only legally required in certain circumstances, such as:

  • When making modifications or additions to your existing electrical system, such as installing new circuits or appliances.
  • If you receive an electrical defect notice from your local energy provider.
  • When building a new home or undertaking major renovations

Even if your switchboard is not legally required to be upgraded, it’s still a good idea to consider modernizing it to ensure the safety and reliability of your home’s electrical system.

The cost of a switchboard upgrade can vary significantly depending on several factors, including:

  • The size and complexity of your existing switchboard.
  • The type of new switchboard being installed (air-insulated, cast resin, or metal-enclosed).
  • Any additional electrical work required, such as consumer mains upgrades or wiring replacements.
  • Your location and the rates charged by your licensed electrician

As a general guide, the cost of a residential switchboard upgrade in Australia can range from $1,500 to $5,000 or more. It’s important to obtain a detailed quote from a qualified electrician to get an accurate estimate for your specific needs.

No, it is not recommended to attempt a switchboard upgrade as a DIY project. Switchboard work should only be carried out by a licensed and qualified electrician. Tampering with your home’s electrical system can be extremely dangerous and may even be illegal in some areas.

Your licensed electrician has the necessary training, experience, and tools to safely and correctly upgrade your switchboard, ensuring it meets all relevant Australian wiring standards and safety regulations. Attempting to do this work yourself can put you and your family at risk of electric shocks, fires, or other serious electrical hazards.

There is no definitive timeline for when a switchboard should be upgraded, as it largely depends on the age and condition of your existing system, as well as your home’s evolving electrical needs. As a general rule of thumb, if your switchboard is more than 15-30 years old, it’s a good idea to have it inspected by a licensed electrician to determine if an upgrade is necessary.

Additionally, if you’ve made significant changes to your home’s electrical system, such as adding new appliances, solar panels, or an electric vehicle charging station, it’s a good idea to have your switchboard evaluated to ensure it can handle the increased electrical load.

By staying proactive and having your switchboard inspected regularly, you can identify potential issues early and address them before they become more serious problems.