Reuben's Home Inspection Blog

head_left_image

What's Wrong With Fuse Panels?

Why are people scared of fuses?  Many people think that fuses are unsafe, but this couldn't be further from the truth.  A properly installed fuse is just as safe as a circuit breaker, but there are many reasons why fused homes can have problems, and I'll discuss a few of the most common problems.

 

To start, how can I say that a properly installed fuse is as safe as a circuit breaker?  A fuse will only handle the amount of amperage that it is rated for.  If a fuse is rated for 15 amps and more than 15 amps passes through the fuse, a thin strip of carefully calibrated metal will vaporize, which opens the circuit (in other words, kills the power).  A fuse will never allow more current to pass through than what it is rated for.  Circuit breakers are designed to trip when too much current passes through for too long a period of time.  Circuit breakers can be reset after they trip, which is a huge advantage over fuses, but they don't add any level of safety.

 

Today, circuit breakers are used in homes instead of fuses.  The main reason is that a circuit breaker can be re-used.  Once a fuse blows, it has to be replaced.  Old electric services will have fuses, and old electric services can have problems.  This is why people get scared of fuses.  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 in the home.  Compared to the minimum number of circuits required today, this is totally insufficient. 

 

In a new home, a kitchen will typically have one circuit for the dishwasher, one for the disposer, two for the countertop outlets, one for the lights, and another for the microwave and fridge.  This is a minimal installation, and many electricians will also put the fridge on its own circuit, and have another 240 volt circuit for an electric range.  This adds up to nine spaces in an electric panel.  The example I gave for an old 60 amp panel only has six spaces available for the entire house!

 

With today's demand for electricity, old services are usually inadequate.  To make up for this, occupants will often use fuses that are too large for the wires, which will keep fuses from blowing, but also creates a fire hazard.  The photo below shows a wire that is only rated for 15 amps connected to a 30 amp fuse.

 

Unsafe Fuses

 

Many times, people will add several wires on to one fuse, but each fuse is supposed to have one wire.  This is often referred to double tapping, or double lugging.  This is a very common defect for both fuse panels and breaker panels, but the repair is usually quite simple at a breaker panel; not so for an overloaded fuse panel. The diagram below illustrates this.

 

Double Tapping

 

 

A typical service upgrade from a fuse panel to a breaker panel will cost about $1500.00.  The price will continue to go up if new circuits are added to the home.  A good home inspection will identify immediate defects or hazards with a fused electric service, but will not determine whether the service is adequate for the new owners needs.  The bottom line is that there is nothing inherently wrong with fuses, but we do find problems with the wiring in most fused services.

 

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections - Email - Minneapolis Home Inspections

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections

        

Comment balloon 4 commentsReuben Saltzman • February 12 2009 06:25AM
What's Wrong With Fuse Panels?
share
Why are people scared of fuses? Many people think that fuses are unsafe, but this couldn't be further from the truth. A properly installed fuse is just as safe as a circuit breaker, but there are many reasons why fused homes can have problems, and… more
Carbon Monoxide Alarm Requirements For Minnesota
share
Carbon monoxide alarms have been required in new homes in Minnesota since January 2007, and have been required in existing single family homes since August 1st 2008. The alarms need to be installed within ten feet of every room lawfully used for… more
Break The Attic Access 'Seal'? Yes.
share
One of the biggest sources of contention I've had to deal with doing home inspections is whether or not a sealed attic access panel should be ‘broken' to access the attic; even more specifically, whether or not I should be allowed to break the seal… more
Inspections Vs. Appraisals
share
When I tell people what I do for a living, a common response I get is "So you're, like, an appraiser, right? " No. I'm not. While home inspectors and appraisers both ‘inspect' houses, and must be independent, objective, and impartial,… more
Home Inspections For New Construction
share
One of the most common myths related to new home construction is that new homes don't need private home inspections. I personally know several people that have purchased new homes and didn't have them inspected because they were ‘new'. When I hear… more
Why Do I Need A Vacuum Breaker?
share
This is one of the most common questions I get from homeowners that I do Truth-in-Housing Evaluations for. If you're selling your home in Minneapolis (or a number of other cities in the Twin Cities area), you will likely hear about this. A vacuum… more
Home Warranties
share
When performing home inspections, I frequently inspect homes that are advertised as having a home warranty, or I hear the buyers talking about purchasing a home warranty. I've heard mixed reviews about the home warranties, and recently read a post… more
Truth-in-Housing Basics
share
If you're planning on selling a home in the Minneapolis or Saint Paul area, there is a good chance you will need to have a home inspection done before you sell your house (possibly several). There are two types of home inspections, private and… more
Egress Window Quiz
share
One of the most common questions I get from clients that I do Truth in Housing inspections for is about egress windows - specifically, "What's wrong with my window size? " If you live in an older home, there's a good chance that none of… more
What's Wrong With Fuses?
share
Why are people scared of fuses? Many people think that fuses are unsafe, but this couldn't be further from the truth. A properly installed fuse is just as safe as a circuit breaker, but there are many reasons why fused homes can have problems, and… more