It's a fairly common belief that fuse boxes are fire hazards and that any home with a fuse box should have it replaced. It's true that fuse boxes are an old technology, but many fuse boxes were designed to work just as well as modern circuit breakers.
Not all fuse boxes are unusable. Being able to tell if your home's fuse box is in workable condition can help you decide whether or not to keep your fuse box or replace it with a modern electrical panel.
Fuse Boxes or Electrical Panels?
Fuses are designed to withstand a certain amperage. If more power than is safe passes through the fuse, the fuse will break, cutting power to the circuit. When this happens, the fuse must be replaced to function once again. This prevents the electrical system from overloading.
Fuse boxes were a standard household feature in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Many of these fuse boxes only provided 30 amps of electrical service to the entire household.
Circuit breakers work much the same way as fuses. If too much electricity passes through the circuit for too long a period of time, the circuit will trip and the power will cut. The circuit will not work again until it is reset. Circuit breakers are a fixture in many modern homes. New construction homes are typically built with circuit breakers that handle 200 amps of electrical service.
The Problem with Fuse Boxes
Homes in the first half of the 20th century used a lot less power than modern households. Modern households have electric ranges, electric dryers, computers and multiple televisions. Therefore, the biggest problem with many fuse boxes is that they simply don't supply enough power to run a modern house.
This is less of an issue for some households than others. Households with only one person and households that are less dependent on technology are much less likely to experience a problem.
A Dangerous Solution
A 15 amp fuse and a 30 amp fuse are designed to fit the same slot in a fuse box. Homeowners in the past who wanted to upgrade their circuits from a 15 amp fuse to a 30 amp fuse would simply buy the larger fuse and put it into the 15 amp slot. This was an inexpensive but dangerous way to increase the electrical service in a home.
As a result of this old practice, many fuse boxes in use today are equipped with fuses that are not fit for their system. This can be a fire hazard for unknowing homeowners.
Signs Your Fuse Box Needs to Be Replaced
Typically it's not possible to tell if the fuses in your box are inappropriately large. However, there are many signs that your fuse box needs to be replaced. For example:
- Fuses blow frequently.
- Lights flicker or dim when large appliances come on.
- Sparks fly from out of the outlets when something is plugged in.
- Smoke can be smelled when the lights and other electrical appliances are turned on.
Get an Inspection
If you're not sure whether or not your home's fuse box is suitable for your home, have it inspected by a certified, qualified electrician. Your electrician can tell you whether or not your fuse box gets sufficient electrical service. Your electrician can also determine whether or not standard wear and tear on your fuse box has made your fuse box an electrical hazard.Alpha Omega Electric in Scotts Valley, CA, can help answer homeowner questions and give homeowners advice about their electrical system. If you're wondering whether or not your electrical system is safe for your house, call them today at 831-566-0612.