French Electrics - FAQ
This FAQ answers the common questions about the electrics of your French home.
Am I allowed to wire my own house?
Yes. Whilst you must be a registered electrician and fully insured to work on another persons house, this is not a requirement for people working on their own home.
Can I use UK Twin & Earth cable in France?
No. UK T&E cable does not meet French standards. Firstly all wiring must be double insulated so T&E would have to go into a conduit because of the earth wire. Secondly the thickness of the earth wire must be the same as the live and neutral wires and in T&E it is thinner.
Do I have to have a certificate of conformity?
If your house currently has no electricity connection and no meter, then it is likely (but not certain) that EDF will ask for L'attestation de conformité, which is a certificate issued by a body called Le Consuel, before they will turn on your supply and fit a meter. You'll get a temporary supply to carry out the works.
Technically, you are also supposed to need this certificate in renovation projects that replace all, or nearly all, the wiring in a house. In practice this is only needed if an electrician does this work, as no one will check up if you have done the work yourself.
The consuel for the Creuse is at Limoges:
Consuel, 151 rue de Saint Gence BP 40544, 87012 LIMOGES Cedex 1
Tel: 0 821 203 202 or 05 55 34 63 63
Fax: 05 82 74 11 63
How do I wire a French plug?
There are two types of plug; a two pin plug for unearthed equipment and a three pin plug for earthed equipment. You should only use a two pin plug if your cable only has two wires; one black (or brown or red) and one blue. If there is a third wire (yellow and green) then use a three pin plug.
Two Pin Plugs: Connect each of the two wires to a different pin. It doesn't matter which way round because the French system has no fuse in the plug.
Three Pin Plugs: The earth will be marked (and is always the female pin in the centre top). Wire the green and yellow wire here. Then connect the other two wires, one to each of the other (male) pins. Again it doesn't matter which way round.
If I wire my own house and there is a fire, will the insurance company pay?
If you have wired the house to the latest French standards and used the correct materials then no insurer can say you were negligent. That is, a DIY installation is not considered to be dangerous or risky in itself. If this is the case, then there should be no grounds to refuse payment.
If you however have incorrectly wired the house or used non standard equipment then unfortunately the insurance company is within its rights to refuse payment.
Is there a book on French electrics in English?
Yes, a basic overview of the use of electricity in French homes is now available. This covers each major topic, but does not cover any topic in depth and therefore, IMO, this should be used to compliment a more detailed source (for example L'installation électrique).
What is the French standard electrical code?
The standard for low voltage electrical installations in France is NF C 15-100. This was last updated in May 2013 (revision A4). You can buy a copy from Presselec for about 350€, but unless you are an electrician and want to work in France it won't be helpful. It is a book of rules. It says what must be done, rather than how to do it.
What is the voltage in France?
The normal voltage is mono-phase 230 volts AC 50 hertz. Tri-phase 400 volt AC 50 hertz is also available.
Why isn't there a fuse in a French plug - isn't this dangerous?
The French system uses bi-polar circuit breakers and a spur type network. This means that both the live and neutral are cut off together by the breaker. In addition because fewer sockets are allowed per breaker it isn't a big hassle to work out what equipment is faulty. Also, larger items (like cookers, freezers and dish-washers) each have to have their own circuit. Altogether, this IMO makes the modern French system safer than its English counterpart.
Will my electrical appliances from the UK work in France?
Yes. France has a very similar voltage to the UK and it is unlikely that you will have problems running any household appliances, DIY tools, computer and hi-fi equipment and alike.