You might have heard—from a friend, a neighbor, or a real estate agent—that your old fuse box needs to be replaced ASAP. That might be true, but you have no reason to panic. Only a licensed electrician can tell you for sure if you should replace a fuse box with a modern circuit breaker panel.
The difference between a fuse box and a breaker panel is what happens when an electrical overload occurs. Fuses blow out and must be replaced, while breakers trip off and can be reset.
Let’s go Ahead and Answer Our Three Biggest Fuse Box FAQs
Does a fuse box need to be replaced? Not “just because,” but there are many reasons why you should upgrade to a circuit breaker.
Are fuse boxes dangerous? If it’s properly wired and in good condition, and each fuse is the correct size and amperage for the circuit it serves, a fuse box can function just fine.
Are fuse boxes illegal or out of code? You don’t need to switch from a fuse box to a breaker panel if you are not making any other electrical alterations. Fuse boxes are grandfathered in, so to speak. However, when you do make any repairs or changes, you’ll need more circuits and GFCI protection, and that necessitates a breaker panel.
Reason to Replace a Fuse Box
The main reason why fuse boxes should get replaced is that they are all now decades old. Wear and tear add up. If your home has fuses instead of breakers, it’s probably time for an electrical inspection.
Besides the likelihood that an old fuse box has damage, you should upgrade to a breaker box because:
- Fuses need to be replaced; circuit breakers can just be flipped back on.
- You can’t add GFCI or AFCI breakers to a fuse box. Electrical code requires these in many situations. You might not be violating the electrical code now, but if you make any alterations to your electrical system you do need to meet code!
- Human error is an issue with fuses. Homeowners accidentally use the wrong size or type of fuse when making the replacement.
- You need more circuits than your fuse box can provide. Today’s homes need a dedicated circuit for each major appliance and a circuit for each room. You should not wire multiple circuits to one fuse (“double tapping”). Get a breaker panel with more than enough slots for the number of circuits you need.
- You probably need more electrical service from the utility. A fuse box is almost definitely maxed out at 60 amps of maximum possible power. Homes today are built with 100 to 200 amps of service—partly because we use more devices these days, and partly because of the larger number of circuits.
Whenever it’s convenient for you, hire an electrician to upgrade your fuse box to a circuit breaker panel. The process involves shutting off power for several hours, so it can be done while you are at work or out running errands for the day.
We strongly recommend a breaker box replacement before you buy or sell a home. It’s a great opportunity to make electrical repairs, prepare for the future, and appease your home insurance provider.