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I can understand the supplier fuse and meter being in a communal area of a block of flats but was there anything in the UK wiring regs in the 1970s that would explain why the consumer unit is also located in a communal area of the block of flats.

Purpose built block of flats - not converted from a large pre-existing building

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  • Are all the consumer units in this block of flats in the same, shared space? Or is there a consumer unit in each flat as well as a single consumer unit in the communal area? – ThreePhaseEel Jan 1 '20 at 12:28
  • At least on the same floor as me, each flat has their consumer unit in a communal area (a cupboard off-of the communal hallway) – SpacePhoenix Jan 1 '20 at 13:38
  • Sounds like they have it outside the flat to turn the power off incase of a fire. – Ed Beal Jan 1 '20 at 21:35
  • @EdBeal if that were the case I'd have expected them to just pull the main supplier fuse, which would also isolate the consumer unit in case that were the source of a fire – SpacePhoenix Jan 1 '20 at 23:01
  • You don’t always know which units are involved and if they dump the power to the complex that may take out a fire pump. This would be my guess, as I said I am on the other side of the pond. – Ed Beal Jan 2 '20 at 1:00
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There is/was nothing in the Wiring Regulations to require or prohibit such an arrangement.

It is/was not unusual to have electricity meters in communal cupboards, especially in larger blocks where a concierge could open them for the Electricity Board meter reader without the residents having to be disturbed.

Many 1970s flats had various types of electric heating, such as storage heaters, underfloor heating, panel heating, and water heating. Separate tariffs for ordinary use, water heating, and space heating, were common. This would need a 3-rate meter and a timeswicth or radio teleswitch to change the meter rate and turn on/off various circuits, and 3 main cables between the meter and supplier's timeswitch or teleswitch equipment in the cupboard to the consumer unit(s) inside the flat. Heavy main cables are expensive. To allow for the possibility of heating being changed from storage to panel heaters, etc, all the main cables would have to be sized to take the full load.

Also, meter 'tails' or submains longer than 3 metres are supposed to be fused near the meter, as the supplier's cutout cannot be relied upon to clear a fault quickly enough. That means a switchfuse next to the meter (more expense, and takes up space in the meter cupboard).

Therefore, putting the consumer unit(s) next to the meter in the cupboard, and running a few extra metres of circuit cables to the flats may have been considered the cheaper and more practical option at the time.

An example of a multi-rate consumer unit from the late 1960s is shown here

https://www.flameport.com/electric_museum/wylex_fuse_boxes/wylex_multi_rate_metal_fusebox.cs4

It will be noted the fuses are grouped into separate sections, each with their own main switch: lighting and power, heating, and water heating. This could have been supplied by 3 separate mains cables and a 3-rate meter.

Most of these multi-meter multi-rate tariffs and heating setups are now obsolete.

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  • Was storage heaters originally, I've got rid of them and replaced them with with convection heaters. AFAIK the heaters are on the normal tariff but each one is on its own MCB in the consumer unit (handy if ever any work is done on the sockets circuit as the fridge freezer could be temporarily plugged into one of the sockets used by the heaters (obviously not with both plugged in at the same time) – SpacePhoenix Jan 2 '20 at 19:23

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