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Do I Need to Update My Fuse Box to a Circuit Panel?

Do you live in an older home?  Many older homes were designed with a fuse box instead of a circuit break panels.  Oftentimes, with older homes, we talk about making upgrades to bring them up to code or to make them more energy efficient.  Is this the case with your home’s fuse box as well?  Do you need to update it?  It depends.  Fuse boxes, though typically older, are not necessarily bad for your home.  In fact, they actually contain some advantages that modern circuit panels do not.

We might not realize there is much of a difference between a fuse and a circuit breaker because they do the same job.  Both of them prevent fires by monitoring if there is an electrical overload on the house and stopping the flow of electricity if it is too much.  How they do their job, however, is different.  Fuses, made of wire, do this by simply melting.  Circuit breakers, which are magnetic or have a bi-metal strip, flip a switch.  Fuses therefore can only be used one time.

The fuses in a fuse box are more sensitive to electrical overloads than circuit breakers.  This means they can do a better job of protecting your home from a fire.  Fuses are also very cheap to buy from the hardware store.

If fuses do the same job as circuit breaker, and can have some advantages, why should i consider upgrading my fuse box?

  1. Fuses are much less convenient.  When a fuse blows, that means it needs to be replaced.  So, you need to have a stock on hand, or be willing to run out to the store at a moment’s notice.  Whereas when there is an electrical overload on a circuit breaker, you simply need to flip back the switch.
  2. Fuses leave more room for DIY error. When replacing a melted fuse, you need to make sure to put the right size amp fuse in your fuse box.  Putting a larger size fuse in the box than what it is equipped for can lead to electrical fires.  Since circuit breakers do not need to be replaced, they do not have the same danger.
  3. A fuse box is not equipped for GFCIsGFCIs or Ground Fault Circuit Interruptors work to prevent electrocution, and they can only work with circuit breaker panels.

Whether you have a fuse box or a circuit breaker panel in your home, the most important thing is to make sure that the electrical wiring is up to date and equipped to handle your home’s electrical load.  Kendall Holmes of The Old House Web points out, “Well, for hundreds of different reasons, we use much more electricity than did our parents or grandparents.”  He goes on to explain that homes used to be wired with only 60 amps of electrical capacity, but now we need much more.  Modern homes often have a 150-200 amp capacity.  Not enough wiring can be a fire hazard.  If you have an older home, whether it has a circuit panel or a fuse box, it is a good idea to have your electrical wiring inspected to make sure it is safe.

To learn about FLAME’s residential electrical services, contact us!

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