Choosing a new meter box can be a minefield of confusion. Though this humble item can help lift the look of your whole home, it can be hard to know where to put your meter box, who can install it and even whose responsibility it is to replace a meter box in the first place.
Then there’s the thorny issue of fire ratings for meter boxes which can raise a whole new set of questions around the safety requirements of a new overbox. And it’s hard to know if you need a fire-rated meter box if you don’t know what one is, how they work or how they’re fitted.
To help you decide whether you need an overbox with a fire rating or not, we’ve put together a simple FAQ covering the questions commonly asked on the subject. Read on to find out a little more background information so you can decide whether you should invest in a fire-rated box when replacing your meter box.
What is a fire-rated meter overbox?
Fire-rated overboxes are made of strong galvanised steel, which is non-combustible so it won’t catch fire under any circumstances (though it will weaken and degrade). They are also fitted with intumescent seals on the back, that create a tight seal between the wall and the sides of the meter box. This will stop flames or smoking from creeping outside of your meter box.
Here at Repair My Meter Box, our fire-rated meter box is able to withstand fire for 60 minutes or more.
We can confidently say this is true of our boxes as they have been fire tested using the method outlined in current European standards N1363-1 & EN1366-3. In line with this guidance, our box creates a stable barrier against fire for at least 60 minutes.
What is the difference between fire-rated and fireproof?
If an overbox (or any other item) is listed as ‘fire-rated’, it has been tested to meet the fire-rating standards. For example, the fire-rated meter boxes we supply here at Repair My Meter Box have been through a 60-minute fire test to ensure they meet the minimum requirements set out in British Standards EN1363-1 & EN1366-3.
Fireproof is a much vaguer label that can be applied to items that were built with fire resistance in mind but not actually tested.
If you are looking for a meter box that will withstand fire, you should look out for one designed to meet specific fire rating standards.
How does a fireproof overbox work?
A fire-rated meter overbox will offer protection in a couple of ways. The most obvious way is by containing the fire inside if your meter ignites. Depending on where your meter is located, it will stop it from spreading to anything that is close by. This is particularly important for internal meters, but will also protect vehicles and vegetation that may be near any external ones.
The fire-rated boxes that we supply also help contain fire and smoke thanks to their intumescent seals. These are on the back of the box to help keep the fire inside, and also around the door. The door seals prevent not only fire from escaping, but smoke too.
Are electrical meter boxes fire-rated?
No particular type of meter box is fire rated as standard, not even internal or external electricity meter boxes. It is not a legal requirement to install a fireproof meter box for every building, and this type of box is more expensive to build and buy so it is an optional extra in many cases.
So if you want a meter box that is able to withstand the heat and smoke of a fire for your own safety and that of anyone staying at your home, you need to look for a designated ‘fire-rated meter overbox’.
Will a metal meter box survive a fire?
Metal overboxes are much stronger and more durable than plastic, so they will hold up better to the intense heat of a fire but they will not necessarily survive it. The extreme temperatures can weaken the metal – how much will depend on how long the fire is contained inside as well as the age of the box.
Even meter boxes with a fire rating can only endure fire for a certain amount of time (for example, our fire-resistant overboxes will last at least 60 minutes). After this, it is only a matter of time before even fire-resistant overboxes fail.
What causes an electrical meter to catch fire?
The most common cause for electrical meters catching fire is faulty wiring. This is most often due to incorrect installation and is a large part of why you need to get a professional (or your energy supplier) to fit or move your energy meters.
External electricity meter boxes are also at risk of deliberate fires caused by vandalism and arson. This is not exactly common, particularly in residential meter boxes, but it is obviously harder to prevent.
One key prevention step though is to maintain and repair your meter box. If your meter box is strong, and in good condition with a fully working lock, you will stop potential vandals from being able to access it completely.
How do you fit a fire-rated meter box?
In general, the process to fit a fire-rated meter box to the wall is the same as any other (see our post on how to fit a meter overbox for a step-by-step guide). It can be fitted around an old or damaged meter box, so it’s a simple job and you don’t need to worry about removing anything or disturbing your meter.
The one thing to bear in mind with a fire-rated box is that they come with intumescent seals on the back that are a vital part of the box’s fire resistance, so take care not to damage these while installing the box.
If you want to take extra steps to keep your home safe, a fire-rated meter box can be a worthwhile investment. With a fire-rated meter box from Repair My Meter Box, you can trust you will get a minimum of 60 minutes of fire protection for your home, measured against strict building standards. Contact us today to find out more.