Fuse panels were replaced by circuit breakers for new home construction in the mid-1950s, which makes any fuse panel still in place at least 60 years old. Insurance companies that write homeowner’s insurance want to get a 4-point inspection report for homes that are more than 50 years old. Some require them for homes that are even younger. One of the four points is the electrical system, and the 4-point form asks whether the electrical panel has fuses or circuit breakers. If the inspector checks the box for fuses—even for a subpanel—you will be declined insurance until the panel is replaced.
There are two reasons why insurance companies will not accept a home with a fuse panel:
- The serviceable lifespan of a fuse panel is rated at about 50 years. The panel is outdated equipment and at the end of its serviceable life.
- The base into which the screw-in fuses are inserted will accept any amperage rating in many panels, making it possible to over-fuse wiring rated for 15-amps with a 30-amp fuse when a homeowner is frustrated with repeatedly blowing the fuse on a circuit. Overloaded wiring can get hot enough to start a fire. Insurance companies do not like that.
Screw-in type fuses—the round ones with a clear window in the center so you can tell when they are blown—are the only kind that are problematic. Cartridge-type fuses, that have a long cylinder shape, are still approved, and useful when a delayed trip is desired.
In some older homes that have had an electrical service upgrade, a new circuit breaker panel has been installed as the main panel, but the old fuse-type main panel remains in service as a subpanel. Also, because the original fuse panel may be located out-of-sight, like behind the refrigerator in the kitchen, you may not even know about its existence until the 4-point insurance inspection.
A home with a fuse panel still in use will likely also have other issues that may cause insurance problems: ungrounded wall receptacles and cloth-sheathed wiring. To learn more, go to our articles Is an ungrounded electric receptacle outlet dangerous? and What is "knob and tube" wiring? and What is rag wiring?
Also see our blog posts When did circuit breakers replace fuses in homes? and Why are old electrical components not always "grandfathered" as acceptable by home inspectors?
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Here’s links to a collection of our other blog posts about ELECTRIC PANELS:
• Why is there a 3-phase breaker in a single phase electric panel with only two bus bars?
• What causes copper wires to turn green or black in an electric panel?
• What is the maximum number of circuit breakers allowed in an electric panel?
• When should a corroded or damaged electric panel cabinet or disconnect box be replaced?
• Why is spray paint on the bus bars of an electric panel a safety defect?
• Why is it unsafe to bond neutral and ground wiring at subpanels?
• When was it first required that neutrals and grounds be separated (not bonded) on any panel past the main service panel?
• What are the code requirements for an old fuse panel/box?
• What is a split bus electric panel?
• How do I identify a combination AFCI (CAFCI) circuit breaker?
• What is three phase electric service?
• What is a reliable way to tell if the electrical service is 3 phase or single phase?
• Can a doorbell transformer be installed inside an electric panel?
• What does a circuit breaker with a yellow or white test button indicate?
• What is the maximum gap allowed between the front of a recessed electric panel box and the wall surface surrounding it?
• How far away should a sink be from an electric panel?
• What are the requirements for NM-cables entering an electric panel box?
• Can a washer or dryer be located in front of an electric panel?
• Why do some wires in an electric panel have tape wrapped around them near their connections?
• Why is a fuse box/panel an insurance problem for homebuyers?
• Why is bundled wiring in an electric panel a defect?
• What is the difference between GFCI and AFCI circuit breakers?
• When was the "maximum of six switches or breakers" first required for the main disconnect in a house electrical system?
• What is the voltage rating of a house electrical system?
• Why are old electrical components not always "grandfathered" as acceptable by home inspectors?
• What happens when you press the "TEST" button on a circuit breaker in an electric panel?
• What is a Dual Function Circuit Interrupter (DFCI)?
• What is the difference between a Combination Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (CAFCI) and an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) circuit breaker?
• What is the difference between "grounded" and "grounding" electrical conductors?
• What does it mean when a wire is "overstripped" at a circuit breaker?
• Why is there a GFCI breaker in the electric panel for the bathroom shower light and exhaust fan?
• Why is an old fuse panel dangerous?
• Why are Zinsco and Sylvania-Zinsco electric panels a problem?
• Who is the manufacturer of those "bad" electric panels?
• Can multiple neutral or ground wires be secured under the same terminal in an electric panel?
• What is a lock device on a circuit breaker for?
• Why is the circuit breaker stuck in the middle?
• What is the gooey stuff on some of the wire connections in the electric panel?
• What is a "missing twistout" at an electric panel?
• Can an electric panel be mounted sideways-horizontally?
• What is a double tap at a circuit breaker?
• What is the right electric wire size for a circuit breaker in an electric panel?
• What is the life expectancy of a circuit breaker?
• My circuit breaker won't reset. What's wrong?
• Why do some breakers in my electric panel have a "TEST" button on them?
• What is the right size electric panel for a house?
• The electric panel is marked "Trilliant" and it's all grey plastic. Is it alright?
Visit our ELECTRICAL and INSURANCE page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.