All new homes today have an electrical panel full of circuit breakers, but many years ago we used fuses.  I don’t see fuses very often in the homes I inspect, but when I do the question arises: are fuses safe?

Fuses can work with today’s most modern and up-to-date wiring, and in some ways they’re safer than circuit breakers because nothing has to actually move for them to work – they’re kind of fool proof.  We still use fuses in many applications – our cars use fuses, and the branch circuits of many fire alarm systems are required to be protected by fuses.

But there are downsides to using fuses in our homes.  There’s the inconvenience of needing to keep fuses on hand, maybe several different sizes (15 amps and 20 amps).  There’s the hassle of changing them if needed.  There’s the ease of replacing a blown fuse with one of a higher amperage rating (a very dangerous thing to do).  There’s the ability to completely bypass them by sticking a penny in the fuse socket (an even more dangerous thing to do).  All of these things have made fuses very rare.  I probably see only two or three electrical panels each year that use fuses and not circuit breakers.

Circuit breakers are very convenient.  They’re easy to reset after one trips off, and it’s very hard (though not impossible) for a layman to replace one with a higher amperage rating.  And today we have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protection and Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) protection built into some of our circuit breakers, so there’s really no going back.

The real problem with seeing an electrical panel with fuses is that it’s a sign that very little electrical updating has been done to the house.  So there might be old wiring, with old and deteriorated insulation.  There might be very old knob-and-tube wiring.  There might be very old two-prong receptacle outlets that aren’t grounded.

So if you’re looking at a house and you see fuses instead of breakers in the electrical panel, be aware that the old electrical system needs to be a point of emphasis for your home inspector and you should expect to find more old electrical components.

Inspection Overview
Why Get a Home Inspection?

Recent Posts

Don’t let your pipes freeze

I’ve heard the question many times: How low should I set my thermostat if I leave town in the winter, to save money but prevent my pipes from freezing? 65 °F?  60 °F?  50?  I

Wood shrinkage

Let’s talk about wood shrinkage. Your hardwood floors are the place where you’re mostly likely to see the problems associated with wood shrinkage, but old panel doors can also experience problems.  In floors, as the

Window condensation

Condensation on windows is a problem that I see a lot in the winter, and I see the damage from window condensation year round.  Here’s some information about the issue. Condensation will occur on a

Attic condensation

Water is your home’s number one enemy.  I’ve said that before, I’m saying it now, and I’ll say it again. Water in your attic can cause problems including mold growth, deterioration of the roof’s plywood

Request Inspection

More Posts You May Find Interesting

Don’t let your pipes freeze

February 7th, 2024|Comments Off on Don’t let your pipes freeze

I’ve heard the question many times: How low should I set my thermostat if I leave town in the winter, to save money but prevent my pipes from freezing? 65 °F?  60 °F?  50?  I

Wood shrinkage

January 16th, 2024|Comments Off on Wood shrinkage

Let’s talk about wood shrinkage. Your hardwood floors are the place where you’re mostly likely to see the problems associated with wood shrinkage, but old panel doors can also experience problems.  In floors, as the

Window condensation

January 10th, 2024|Comments Off on Window condensation

Condensation on windows is a problem that I see a lot in the winter, and I see the damage from window condensation year round.  Here’s some information about the issue. Condensation will occur on a

Attic condensation

January 8th, 2024|Comments Off on Attic condensation

Water is your home’s number one enemy.  I’ve said that before, I’m saying it now, and I’ll say it again. Water in your attic can cause problems including mold growth, deterioration of the roof’s plywood

Priorities

December 22nd, 2023|Comments Off on Priorities

Here’s a short quiz on energy efficiency priorities. Suppose you have two cars, and both get driven about the same number of miles.  One car is kind of old and only gets 20 miles per

Garage Fire Separation

December 18th, 2023|Comments Off on Garage Fire Separation

Separating the house from the garage against the spread of fire is an important part of home safety.  Here are some of the rules that the current version of the International Residential Code (2021) requires.