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Sent in by  La Guerriere:





This applies to a normal single phase domestic system only



The contract with EDF is for a set maximum current typically 9 or 12 kW on single phase. This is set at the disjoncteur de branchement and can be varied by applying to your local EDF office. The levels are quite low, this why you don’t see electric showers in France.


Supply (of current)

Apparent (en)

Surface mounted (also en sallie)


Wall light fitting

Barette de terre

A connection point in the earthing circuit that can be disconnected to allow the testing of the earth resistance (required by CONSUEL on a new installation)

Barre (ou Peigne) de Pontage

Connecting bridge used in the tableau to connect modules.

Boite de derivation / distribution

Junction box, they come in all shapes and sizes. All connections must be accessible and not hidden in the plaster.

Boite d’appareillage

General box for building in sockets and switches, usually round (65mm). Two versions are available, one for use direct in masonry (fix with platre) and a different one with a clamping system for use with plasterboard.


Terminal, typically a small bus-bar in a tableau for phase neutral and earth


Push button, sometimes used for multiple way switching with a remote unit in the tableau.


Although French electricians generally use individual conductors, you can use cable (U 1000) black, three-core), but it must be buried directly into walls (encastre), must be in gaine. UK T+E cable even with new EU colours is not acceptable as the earth is not insulated.


Water heater aka cumulus. The big white tank in the loft. Must be on a separate circuit 2.5 mm2 and 20A disjoncteur.


Meter, which can be digital or analogue depending on age. The connection on the company side of the meter is to the EDF fuse (sealed), on the output side is the disjoncteur de branchement. If you are going over to heures creuses you will probably need a new meter.


Conductor, individual wires, see couleurs


Comité National pour la  Securité des Usagers de l’Electricité – inspection body for the inspection of new electrical installations – see www.consuel.com the site gives local contact addresses, cost of inspection, and form for application.


Colours (of conductors). On a new installation these should be blue for neutral, green/yellow for earth, and (mainly) red or black for phase. Other colours occur on the output side of switched and in two way circuits. On old installations, you may find anything depending on the mood of the installer.


Freezer, should be on a separate dedicated circuit which is handy so you can leave it on when you go away with everything else switched off.

Contrôle, Contrôler

Test, to test (verb)

Contrôle de Terre

Earth resistance test required by CONSUEL, should be less than 100 ohms. Needs special earth meter (hirable) and cannot be done using multimeter.


Electrical convector heaters are generally available but if fixed to the wall should be attached via a sortie de cable rather than plugged into a prise, and be on a separate circuit. Storage radiators are available for heures creuses but are more expensive than UK.


Lit: “crown”. Big roll of cable, 50 or 100 metres.


Dispositif Connexion Luminaire. Small plug-in fitting required for all lighting fixtures under new rules NF C 15-100, not really required for an existing system.


A module in the tableau which allows the offloading of non-priority circuits if the consumption gets too high. It will for example switch off a couple of heaters rather than cast you into outer darkness (usually when you are in the bath and the chauffe-eau kicks in)

Disjoncteur de branchement

The EDF circuit breaker which enables one to connect / disconnect all power. This breaker is set at the required abonnement by EDF. Connection from this is allowed, but the input side from the meter is sealed (scellée or plombée) by EDF.

Disjoncteur differential

Equivalent to RCBO i.e. combined earth leakage and overload protection. Expensive way of doing it, but may be desirable for the freezer.

Disjoncteur divisionairre

Circuit breaker, equivalent to UK MCB, but are two pole for both phase and neutral. Neutral is not connected on a  separate busbar


“chocolate block” connectors, available in many sizes.


Electricite de France, the French National Electricity company




Built-in, chased in wiring


Facia on switches and sockets


Watertight (as in socket, junction box etc)



Fiche DCL

Teeny plug for connecting light fitting to the DCL.


Individual conductor wires.

Fil Pilote

Control wire: an exotic French way of controlling convectors and other heating devices by an extra wire sending control signals back to a control module in the tableau.


Fuses, which come in different sizes depending on rating. You can still use fuse carriers in the tableau instead of disjoncteurs , but it’s not recommended.


The corrugated plastic tubing through which wiring is threaded. Obligatory for individual conductors and for passage of cables in or through walls. It usually has a thin steel messenger wire for pulling through the conductors. There are limits on the amount of conductor you can thread into a given size of gaine. Typically 16mm takes a light circuit, 20mm diameter a power circuit.

Gaine prefilée

You can buy gaine ready filled with three cores of 1.5mm2 (lighting) or 2.5 mm2 (general power) cable, which saves a lot of bad language but costs extra.


Literally gutter, but is large size cable trunking

GTL or Gaine Technique de Logement

Under the new French rules, the meter, the tableau, and all telephone and television etc connections come in to a GTL. Not necessary for an existing system, it nevertheless forms a reasonable model for how to lay things out.


Claws or clamps on old-style surface mounted switches or sockets, no longer allowed.


Height. French light switches are generally positioned lower on the wall than in UK, about the same height as the door handle. There are rules about height of points from the floor but these are not a problem.

Heures creuses

Off peak electricity




Switch, see also va et vient

Interrupteur differential (ID)

Equivalent to RCD. Note that all circuits have to be protected by a 30mA ID not just the power circuits as in the UK (split load not acceptable). For general circuits Type A. For cooker and washing machine Type AC is required.

Liason equipotentielle

Obligatory separate earth line to bathroom etc, connected to all metal items, essentially the same as cross-bonding in the UK.

Lave linge

Washing machine – should be on a separate circuit from the general kitchen power points with 20A disjoncteur

Lave vessailles

Dishwasher– should be on a separate circuit from the general kitchen power points with 20A disjoncteur


Light fitting.


The working bits of a socket or switch, sometime sold separately to confuse the issue

Mise en Securité

Making it safe: of an existing installation.


Generic term for any bit of equipment in the tableau.


Single phase. Now generally used in domestic systems.


Cable trunking available in many shapes and sizes, and any colour you like as long as its white.


Lit. “shuttle” wires in a  two way light switch arrangement


Neutral (should always be blue in modern system)

Normes Francais

All material used in an installation should have an NF stamp somewhere on it.

Norme NF C 15 100

The rule book for electrical installations in France, which nobody actually buys because it is horribly expensive.


Sockets are required to have method of blanking the live holes until the earth pin is pushed in as per UK sockets. Also the bits of plastic that blank off  unused slots in the tableau.


Module in the tableau that allows a sudden current surge in a thunderstorm to run to earth rather than into the house system. Obligatory in parts (mainly South) of France where thunderstorms are more common


Phase, live

Piquet de Terre

Earth stake, usually galvanised steel, typically 2 metres, large hammer needed.


Socket. Sockets do not usually have a switch. Phase or live is conventionally right side facing the socket but not always the case.

Prise controllee

Switched socket, probably for a light.

Prise de confort

General purpose power sockets, usually 16A arranged radially, rings not allowed. A radial circuit can take up to 8 points on 2.5 mm2 wiring connected to a 20A disjoncteur divisionel.

Prise cuisiniere

32A dedicated socket or cable outlet for cooker. Recommended even if you have gas cooker. Needs 6mm2 wiring and a 32A DD at the Tableau.

Prise de Terre

Earth connection, note that French regs generally require a longer piquet de terre than UK, typically 2 metres.

Prise rasoir

Razor socket with isolation transformer.


French official body for the promotion of the use of electricity. They set down recommended minimum numbers of sockets etc. See www.promotelec.fr

Salle de Bains

Bathroom. The rules regarding zoning and location of equipment are very similar to that in the UK. There are minor differences in Zone 2 which extends up to the ceiling. You also need an external light switch, they don’t do pull cord switches. Because of the relatively low abonnement electric showers and instant water heaters are not used.

Saignee (en)

Chasing in walls. Because everything has to be in gaine, there are rules about the position and depth to which you can cut into walls to take your wiring, particularly thin partition walls. For the same reason chasing for cables in stone walls is very hard going.

Sallie (en)

Surface mounted, as in moulures


Heated towel rail, which may be controlled by a fil pilote.



Sortie de cable

Cable outlet, as for cooker or for convector heaters

Tableau (de repartition)

Equivalent to consumer unit, and contains rows of disjoncteurs divisonnaires, each fed by an interrupteur differential. The structure (DIN rail) is very similar to the UK arrangement, but the units themselves are not interchangeable. Note there is no separate incoming switch as the EDF disjoncteur de branchement fulfils the same purpose.


Tres bas tension (very low voltage) as in 12v halogen systems.


For some strange reason, telephone points are recommended everywhere, and any French electrician will include for telephone points in each room whether you want one or not.


And television points as well.


Earth (green /yellow in modern system)


Three phase system, don’t touch unless you know exactly what you are doing


Ventilation Mechanique Centrale (Controllee). Centralised ventilation / extraction system, would normally be specified ina  new house, and very good for getting of condensation

Va et Vient

Two way switch


Screw, screw connection fixation a vis.


Patent cable connectors sometimes used instead of dominos


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  • 1 month later...


Great - three comments

I believe that both Lerey Merlin and Bricodeot sell 'WACOS' as 'Borne automatiques (racordement sana vis pour files rigides). The also make connecting with in a French box in either plasterboard or plaster a lot easier.

Cable Rigide = Cable but  Cable Flexiable = Flex

You tend to find the Hot Water cylinder in a cupboard in or next to the bathroom or kitchen in France. You can put them in a loft, we actually put ours in the cellar.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Thanks for this information on French electricty. It will make understanding the quotes a little easier.

We are considering having  electrical heating put into the skirting boards, as we already have this sytem in the UK.  Our French builder informs us that this illegal in France.  Are you able to confirm this please.



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  • 1 year later...

If you are thinking of

the stuff that the Americans call “baseboard heating”, I suspect it’s not

possible because there is a minimum height above floor level for anything

electrical  (15cms??) and this type of

heating – by its very nature – goes right down to the floor.

<<edit sept 07>>

Having said that, I now notice that there is a

flush floor mounting unit, containing both sockets and data outlets in

the Legrand catalogue... maybe the rules have changed? go figure !

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  • 6 months later...


Sorry do not understand you, why have I asked the wrong question? I think the English socket are a lot better than the French, a lot safer  in my opinun, I could do the change myself, where would I find out if they comply with French regs.



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I agree re french v UK sockets with regard to quality however when in Rome? Not so sure they are 'safer' any eveidence to suggest this apart from opinion?

Not sure if they do comply I suspect they do not.

As I have stated on previous post's what happens if you have an electrical fault causing damage/fire to your property and the unsurer's discover UK sockets????

Selling your house in the future you will have to replace with french sockets

French sockets use different size mounting screws so any surface mounted sockets would have the boxes removed from the wall and replaced withh UK ones.

Basically silly idea use french



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What John means is that it is far easier to change the plugs than the sockets.

Yes you can use UK sockets they may be safe in the UK but in France could be lethal if you don't know what you are doing.  French electrics and UK electrics are completely different, there are no ring mains, I don't understand the system so I don't touch it.  I have never seen a switched socket in France perhaps others have, but there are no fused plugs, the fuse protects the circuit not the appliance.  On a lot of appliances, apart from the earth it matters not which wire goes to which terminal on the plug, others will explain how that works, so if you use switched UK sockets how would you know which position is off?

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Oh boy!

I can't wait until Nick sees this question!

Simply put, UK sockets are designed for a totally different system.

Now having had much to do with Telcom/Datacom from the early 1980s, I thought and still do think that BT's silly telephone sockets are far inferior to the original Bell system. Indeed, the majority of current telecom and datacom products use the Bell system plugs and sockets; even BT's telephones!

However, in order to connect to the public telephone network, one is compelled to use BT type silly sockets and plugs: 'cos it's the regulations.

If you did press ahead and fit UK sockets and continue to use your appliances on UK plugs, then the following realities would apply:

1.    In the case of fire caused by electrical wiring/appliances then your underwriters would repudiate your claim:

2.    You wouldn't be able to sell your house, without re-installing French sockets, wall patrices and etc:

3.    If someone was killed from a mains shock, then you would be criminally liable and thrown in jail:

What is it you don't understand about "Don't Comply"?


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[quote user="ColinE"]


Sorry do not understand you, why have I asked the wrong question? I think the English socket are a lot better than the French, a lot safer  in my opinun, I could do the change myself, where would I find out if they comply with French regs.



You ask if something is possible then say that you could do the change yourself - so why ask as you know the answer? hence my suggesting that you asked the wrong question

As regards French regs - it is irrelevant whether in your opinion English sockets are better, safer or prettier, they do not comply. Where to find out French regs ? You could start by reading the relevant section on this forum. Just remember - ignorance is no excuse for not knowing.



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In order to comply with the French regulations all electrical

components installed here must comply to the 'Normes Francaises' and have a little NF

symbol on it as proof.  Yes - I know that some stuff only has a CE

symbol, but  (trust me, I know from bitter experience) if there

was a Consuel inspector present he would fail an installation which

contains stuff without NF on it.

You will not - by definition - find a 13A socket, plug, or pattress with 'NF' stamped on it and here is the reason why.

Quite apart from the usual spur v ring argument, the English system

fuses only the live (both in the

distribution box and in the plug), and makes a common rail for the

neutral. Both of these principles are interdit in France.

You cannot mix and match bits of UK and bits of French electrical

systems anymore than you can drive on the right over here, oh, except

for roundabouts because you prefer going round in a clockwise direction.

French insurance companies are, however, quite like UK ones in that

they will grasp with both hands the slightest opportunity which

provides them with an excuse to wriggle out of paying a claim. You

would be handing them one on a plate.

You're in France. Go buy a box of French plugs and a decent pair of wire cutters!


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Just a quick thanks to La Guerriere and the Admin for putting this together a while back.

I printed it off some time ago knowing it would be useful to me when I started my renovations. I am no electrician and so am getting the 'experts' in. My French is pretty good but when it comes to technical terms I dont know them in English yet alone French. Ok I know applique, prise, chauff-eau etc but this came to my aid very nicely.

I now know what a VMC is and what a fil pilote does!

We could do with a few more of these glossarys to help us 'newbies'.

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[quote user="le rouge"]

Just a quick thanks to La Guerriere and the Admin for putting this together a while back.

I printed it off some time ago knowing it would be useful to me when

I started my renovations. I am no electrician and so am getting the

'experts' in. My French is pretty good but when it comes to technical

terms I dont know them in English yet alone French. Ok I know applique,

prise, chauff-eau etc but this came to my aid very nicely.

I now know what a VMC is and what a fil pilote does!

We could do with a few more of these glossarys to help us 'newbies'.


I'm sure Admin would agree that this should be a evolving post. Our policy - like Ford's - is one of continuous improvement ![:D][:P]

If you'd care to post any mistifying terms, I'm sure the massed brains of the posters will be able to provide the answer.


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  • 1 month later...
My understanding is that they do not comply with French regs and therefore in the case of a fire, the finger may be pointed to the english hardwire socket(s).

A better idea I think is to have several English extn leads dotted around the house and simply change the plug to a French one. That way when you leave or go home or out you can then simply remove the plug and there will be no backl;ash from an insurance company in the event of something going wrong

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  • 11 months later...

I have two barand new consumer units out in France and if I read correctly even although they a MCB RCD boards, they would be non compliant, is that correct? what about the breakers themselves are they interchangeable with French ones?

What are the rules on getting an extra supply in to a second building I quite fancy turning on of the Hangars into a garage workshop perhaps with an office above.

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The two boards would not comply with French regulations for various reasons so you cannot us them. The circuit breakers will be only single pole and therefore also non compliant as French ones need to be double pole and NF marked.

For your outbuilding, you can  run a seperate sub- main from your existing supply or get the EDF to quote you for a seperate supply box and meter.


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  • 2 months later...
  • 8 months later...
re English sockets. It is of course possible to do it but when you eventually sell you would have to change them all back. English sockets woulb not pass the current normes here in France. The french sockets work fine when installed correctly. Personally I would change all your existing plugs to French which cost about 1 euro for a French plug... short term. get a English four gang extension and put a French plug on that.
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