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French Electrics - FAQ
by Dave • Tue 09 Jun 2009 22:46
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?

This depends.

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).
elec_book.jpg
Electricity in your French House. This book is reviewed here.

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.
User avatar
Dave
Administrator
1496
Aug 2004
Re: French Electrics - FAQ
by Dave • Tue 09 Dec 2014 13:10
Reviewed and updated some outdated information.
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Dave
Administrator
1496
Aug 2004
Re: French Electrics - FAQ
by RobertArthur • Wed 25 Dec 2019 13:35
It's the time of the season for updates, in French. A summary of the changes ( Amendement 5) in the French electrical code by Promotelec. They also have two pages about the regs for a three-phase tableau-électrique and a questions and answers page, foire aux questions.
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RobertArthur
321
Mar 2009
Re: French Electrics - FAQ
by charlie • Sun 29 Dec 2019 16:14
Thank you RA for this last post regarding three phase updates. Looking at the circuit you provided in the link, it is a very sensible and logical system. We have an existing arrangement, installed by a French electrician, that has a single, three phase DD. We only have one device (electric oven) that is wired for more than a single phase and that strangely uses only two phases. We stick to a three phase system because our house is situated in an isolated position a long way from our transformer up the lane.
Could you please tell me if new guidance or full regulation changes mean that our old system fails to meet general regulations. Do I need to reconfigure the whole tableau or can I just leave it in peace?
Thanks, Alistair
charlie
63
Dec 2004
Re: French Electrics - FAQ
by RobertArthur • Sun 29 Dec 2019 16:52
Alistair, don't you worry. Let's take the example of the diagnostic électrique. Yes, this check is obligatoire when you sell a house. Next? It's only there for information purposes. What you see is what you get, transparency etc. No obligation for the owner to hire an electrician to bring everything in line wih the electrical code of today, no obligation for the new owner to do it within x months or years. It's only signaling the state of affairs. An existing installation électrique has to comply with the regs during construction. Underlying principle here in France: regs are supposed to be not retro-active: two years ago you were driving 90 km, where there are now 80 km speed signs. You would be surprised to receive today a speeding ticket for your sins (?) in the past. New regs for new builds and total renovations, bringing down almost every wall inside your house. Result: too many houses with (very) unsafe wiring I'm afraid.

Back to electrics: life without any RCD can be dangerous.....So upgrading here and there should not be avoided, but nobody will knock on your door to inspect your wiring. So you can leave your tableau in peace. One concluding remark: one three-phase RCD en tête d'installation used to be the way to do it. One inconvenience: if there is an earth fault in one of the three phases, your house goes dark, this interrupteur différentiel of 30 mA switches off everything. That's why they made the split in the new Amendement 5 between "real" three-phase appliances (electric motors, three-phase electric boiler) and regular single-phase applications (lights, sockets, fridge etc.). If there is a fault current to earth somewhere only that section of the wiring has to live temporarely without it's daily meal of electrons. In several other EU countries the same approach of three-phase in the domestic environment.
User avatar
RobertArthur
321
Mar 2009
Re: French Electrics - FAQ
by charlie • Sun 29 Dec 2019 18:05
I hoped that was the case. It certainly applies in the UK as you know and in both cases I am in favour of increased safety and convenience. We leave our French house through the winter running central heating and the fridge continuously so it is vulnerable to any faults on all the circuits. I will consider how I could employ DDs to reduce the possibility of an earth fault on some other circuit switching out all the circuits. I already flip some mcbs which are more likely to present problems because of their locations such as the grenier and atelier.
Your comments about selling are helpful although we plan to keep our house in France until I can't cope with the usual chores of grass cutting, general maintenance and even the journey.
I appreciate your many posts covering what I think are very relevant topics.
Alistair
charlie
63
Dec 2004
Re: French Electrics - FAQ
by RobertArthur • Sun 29 Dec 2019 19:18
Alistair,

The use of single phase interrupteurs différentiel and disjoncteurs in a three-phase tableau électrique, a possible layout following the Amendement 5 update of the French electrical code. Three-phase RCDs and MCBs only to feed electric motors, a chauffe-eau électrique triphasé, woodworking machines or even better: a nice Myford lathe in your workshop.

Everybody a Happy New Year and all the best,

Robert
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RobertArthur
321
Mar 2009
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