Problems with your electricity supply

If your electricity isn’t working and you suspect it’s not a power cut, here’s some helpful information on what you should do.

Electricity meter safety

If there’s a hot substance like black tar leaking from your electricity meter and it has a strange smell, turn off your electricity at the meter and contact your local network operator. Go to the National Grid website or contact your electricity distribution company.

If your electricity meter is leaking a cold substance and there’s no smell, phone our enquiry line on 0800 073 3000 or 0330 100 3000*. They will pass your details on to your local network operator who will contact you.

Prepayment meters

If you have an electricity prepayment meter (where you top up your meter in advance) and have no supply, or if you are experiencing problems with your meter, call 0800 073 3000 or 0330 100 3000*.

*View opening times and call charge information

Checking your trip switch or Residual Current Device (RCD)

What is an RCD?

An RCD or trip switch, is a device to protect people and animals from being electrocuted, by automatically switching off the electricity if there is a fault.

It can also provide some protection against electrical fires. RCDs offer a level of personal protection that ordinary fuses and circuit-breakers can’t provide, many homes now have a fixed RCD installed on or near the main fuse box.

For added protection, for example, when using power tools outside, a portable RCD can be plugged into a standard socket which you can then plug your appliance into. It is important to remember that portable RCDs only provide protection for the equipment plugged into them.

What to do if my RCD switches to ‘off’

If the RCD or trip switch is in the ‘off’ position or the fuses have blown, it’s likely you have a faulty appliance or some problems with your wiring.

How to check your RCDs and fuses:

  • First find your RCD, also known as a trip switch or an Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker (ELCB). This should be on or near the fuse box.
  • If you are not sure where your fuse box is, it will be no further than 3 metres away from your electricity meter.
Fuse switchboard

Please note that not all properties have an RCD.

If your RCD/trip switch is turned off:

  • The safety feature may have been triggered without the switch physically moving, so turn it off and on again to reset it.
  • If the supply isn’t restored, push the ‘test’ button. If the switch trips, you’ve probably got a problem with your wiring or an appliance. This is because this button can only trip the switch if your local network operator’s supply is healthy. The trip will now be in the ‘off’ position.
  • If you have a separate fuse box and trip switch, turn the fuse box off and turn the trip switch back on. The trip should then stay on, however if the trip switches to the ‘off’ position again, then you have a fault with the fuse box or the trip switch itself.
  • It may be an appliance that is causing the trip to switch off. Try switching all your appliances off and turning them back on individually.
  • If you think you have a fault with your appliances, fuse box or wiring you’ll need a qualified electrician to help and shouldn’t try to repair it yourself.
  • If you’ve checked your fuses and trip switches, and your appliances and wiring are not faulty but you still have no power, you should report the power cut here.
  • If the RCD/trip switch is on and the ‘push to test’ button does not trip the switch, then there is no electricity coming into the property.

Are RCDs reliable?

Electrical Safety First have found that fixed RCDs are about 97% reliable.

This improves if they are tested regularly.

The tests are carried out with a special device which measures and displays the exact time taken for the circuit to be opened. If you have fixed RCD protection it will reduce the risk of electric shock to you and your family. It can also protect your home against the risk of fire caused by faulty wiring or appliances. It is highly recommended that you have one installed.

Remember although RCD protection reduces the risk of death or injury from electric shock, it does not reduce the need to be careful around electricity. Have your wiring checked at least once every 10 years to keep your home and family safe. If you find a fault with your wiring or an appliance, stop using it immediately and contact a registered electrician.

Testing

You should test all fixed and socket RCDs about every three months. Manufacturers recommend that portable RCDs are tested every time you use them. If you hold the test button in for a long time and the RCD does not turn the electricity supply off, then you should seek advice from a registered electrician.

Setting the standard

Since July 2008, virtually all circuits in new or rewired homes have been required to include an RCD under IET Wiring Regulations (the latest edition of BS 7671).