Updated: Jul 2, 2020
Fuse boxes are old electrical panels that use fuses instead of circuit breakers to protect your wires from becoming overloaded. When a circuit draws too much electricity, the fuse burns out and must be replaced.
Why they’re unsafe: Fuses aren’t inherently unsafe. They work just like circuit breakers (except they can’t be reset and must be replaced.) However, most fuse boxes in homes today are unsafe because they’ve been modified to try to serve today’s energy demands.
Homeowners (and sometimes contractors) create problems in many fuse boxes that make them unsafe. Here are a few:
Placing too many things on a single circuit. Because fuse boxes typically have fewer circuits, homeowners often end up plugging in too many electrical appliances to a single outlet. That leads to fuses that blow a lot, which can lead homeowners to...
Replacing a fuse with a bigger fuse. If you replace a 15-amp fuse with a 20-amp fuse (or larger), your fuse may stop blowing. However, you’ll also create a massive fire hazard. The wires in that circuit are only rated for 15-amps, not 20!
Replacing the fuse with something metal. Some homeowners go a step further and insert a metal object (like a penny) where the blown fuse once was. Again, this eliminates blown fuses, but also completely removes the safety that fuses provide. Your wires could pull large amounts of electricity, overheat and start a fire.
How to tell if you have one: Chances are if you have a fuse box, you already know it. But if you’re not sure, find your main electrical panel and open it up. Instead of a bunch of switches (circuit breakers) you should see fuses.
What to do if you have one of these panels
If you have one of these unsafe and outdated electrical panels, we highly recommend replacing them. At the very least, you should have Colin or Paul inspect the panel to see if there are any signs of problems.