How To Look At A House

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Why is a fuse box/panel an insurance problem for homebuyers?

Monday, July 9, 2018

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:

  1. 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 The panel is outdated equipment and at the end of its serviceable life.
  2. 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.

    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?

    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.


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