Q. What’s the Problem with Fuse Panels?

Q. Hey Mark,

The home I am buying has a fuse panel. I was told this is bad and some insurance companies will not insure the home. Is this correct?

Rose R.

A. Hey Rose,

Having a fuse panel in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. Fuse panels are older, but older doesn’t necessarily mean defective. In fact, fuses have proved to be a reliable way of protecting circuitry because of their design. They have a small wire that will melt or break when the heat on the circuit is too much. It effectively interrupts the current flowing through the circuit, thus keeping the actual wire from overheating. Of course, this depends on the proper sized fuse being used for the circuit in question. Comparatively, there can be problems with the more modern breaker systems, as well. They can become faulty and not trip when they are supposed to, which would create a fire hazard. Therefore, either type of system has it’s own potential problems and imperfections.

Concerning your question, when these older panels were installed, they typically met all code requirements at that time. While there may be other compelling reasons to update your service (too small for the home, aluminum wires, knob and tube wiring, etc.). Updating the system just because it has fuses may not be necessary. Many homes have fuse panels and are insured. My personal insurance agent tells me his company is not concerned with fuses, but is concerned with some of the other electrical issues mentioned above. Different insurance companies have different requirements for fused panels and some may insure the home with higher premiums.

My recommendation would be to have the electrical system evaluated by a certified home inspector or by a reputable electrical contractor. It is important that the system be evaluated visually and in context of the home’s specific circumstances. I would also recommend contacting your insurance agent to see what their stance is on fuse panels.

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