Why are old fuse panels dangerous?
Many people think that fuses are not safe, however a properly installed fuse is just as safe as a circuit breaker, but there are a number of reasons as to why fused homes can have problems, some of those problems are
- A fuse will only handle the amount of amperage that it is rated for – if a fuse is only rated for 15 amps and more than 15 amps passes through the fuse, a thin strip of carefully calibrated metal will vaporize and open the circuit (in other words, it kills the power) A fuse will never allow more current to pass than what is rated for.
- Today, a circuit breaker are used in homes instead of fuses, reason being, a circuit breaker can be re-used, where else once a fuse blows, it has to be replaced.
- Old electric services will have fuses, and old electric services have problems. A typical 60 amp fuse box might have one 240 volt circuit for an air conditioner or electric range, plus four more fuses for the rest of the wiring inside a home.
A new home kitchen will typically use one circuit for the dishwasher, one for the disposer, two for the countertop outlets, one for lights, and another for microwave and fridge. This is a minimal installation, many electricians will also put the fridge on its own circuit, and have another 240 volt circuit for an electric range. Which adds up to 9 spaces in an electric panel. Where else an old 60 amp panel only has 6 spaces available for the entire house. With today’s demand for electricity, old services are inadequate. Occupants will often use fuses that are too large for wires, which keeps fuses from blowing but can also create fire hazards. At times several wires will be connected to a single fuse lug, but each fuse should have only one wire. This is referred to as double tapping, or double lugging which is a common defect for both fuse panels and breaker panels, and the repair is quite simple for a breaker panel, but not for an overloaded fuse panel. Once a fuse panel is overloaded it usually needs to be replaced. Because problems occur with fuse panels, most insurance companies will often charge a premium for homes with fused services, or they’ll refuse to insure the home. If you’re thinking of buying a home that has fused electrical services, you’ll do better with having the service upgraded. A typical service upgrade from a fuse panel to a breaker panel is usually around $1,500 - $2,000. The price will continue to up if new circuits are added to the home, or other wiring upgrades are performed.
There is nothing wrong with having fuses in your home, however most old fuse panels have enough problems to warrant replacement.