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The Truth About Electrical Fuse Boxes: Breakers Vs Fuse Boxes

Up until the 1950's and 1960's fuse boxes were installed, however most residential homes have since been updated with circuit breaker panels. Although most circuit breaker panels have replaced fuse boxes, fuse boxes still do exist, and it is important to understand how they function and ways they may cause issues. Your local home inspector should take a look at the condition of the fuse box along with the circuits and associated fuses. Although fuse boxes are all over the capital district, we have noticed a slightly more presence of fuse boxes in Colonie NY.

Fuses: The Metal Strip Melts when a Surge Occurs.

How Do Fuse Boxes Work?

Overall, fuses are pretty safe and have a simple design. The circular housing unit that is known as the fuse unit contains a piece of metal that is sized to carry a certain amount of electricity. When the electrical current surges the metal strip within the fuse melts and ultimately puts a complete stop to the flow of electricity. During a home inspection, the home inspector should advise the buyer if there is a fuse box present.

A circuit breaker performs the same job as a fuse. The circuit breaker will trip when there is an electrical surge. However, a circuit breaker may mechanically fail and when compared to a fuse, the fuse is more reliable than a circuit breaker. So, this led us to the question... Why were fuses phased out?

Why Did They Phase Out Circuit Breakers?

The reality is fuses were not bad. They were more reliable, less prone to malfunctioning. The homeowners and shotty contractors who altered the circuits or started using bigger fuses or jumping the fuses with pennies created safety issues. The bigger fuses allowed more electricity to flow through the circuit which led to wires overheating. Homeowners poorly alterations to the fuse box created a hike in insurance premiums if fuse boxes were present. This premium hike led to homeowners swapping out fuse boxes with circuit breakers.

This is a picture from a fuse box located in Colonie NY.

The owner installed a penny to "jump" the fuse.


The cost to replace a fuse box can range from $1500-$2800. Fuse boxes themselves are not inherently dangerous, however, the altered fuse boxes by DIY'ERS may have created a safety concern. Although the electrical system may appear to be fine, it is a good idea to hire a home inspector who can give you a heads up on the “type” of system you have. The home inspection report should identify panel types as circuit breakers or fuse boxes. After your home inspection is performed you should call your homeowners insurance to see if the presence of a fuse box will affect your policy.

Shield Guard Home Inspections is a NYS licensed home inspection company servicing: Albany, Colonie, Schenectady, Troy, Latham, Averill Park, Nassau, Berne, Rensselaer, Hudson, Delmar and beyond.


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