How to Replace Old Fuse Boxes with New Circuit Breakers
Replacing an old fuse box with a new circuit breaker panel is an important upgrade for homes built before the 1960s. While fuse boxes can provide solid electrical service for decades, upgrading to circuit breakers offers significant improvements in safety, convenience and capacity. This guide will walk you through the key steps for replacing a fuse box with circuit breakers.
Reasons to Upgrade from Fuses to Breakers
There are several good reasons to upgrade from an old fuse box to a modern circuit breaker panel:
- Circuit breakers are much safer than fuses. When overloaded, a breaker will simply trip to shut off power, whereas an old fuse can overheat and cause a fire.
- Breakers can be easily reset after tripping, while fuses must be physically replaced each time. This eliminates the risk of using the wrong size fuse as a replacement.
- Breaker panels isolate each circuit, reducing the risk of one overload taking out multiple areas of the home. With fuse boxes, it's easier for a problem on one circuit to affect others.
- Breakers are switched on and off right at the panel. To kill a fuse-protected circuit, you must unscrew and remove the fuse completely.
- When a breaker trips, it's very easy to identify and reset the affected circuit. Determining which fuse blew can be much more difficult.
- Breaker panels allow easier circuit labeling, avoiding confusion over what each fuse controls.
- Fuse boxes are often limited to 30 or 60 amps of total capacity. A new breaker panel can provide 100 amps or more to meet the needs of modern homes.
- With breakers, it's inexpensive and easy to add new circuits for additional outlets, appliances and equipment. Adding circuits requires changing fuse box bus bars with a fuse box.
Steps to Upgrade to a Breaker Panel
Upgrading your electrical service to circuit breakers involves careful planning and execution. Be sure to follow local electrical codes and permit requirements. The main steps are:
1. Choose a Panel Location
- The new breaker panel can often go right next to the old fuse box location.
- If relocating, choose a spot with easy access and room for expansion, like a garage wall or utility room.
2. Select a Panel Size
- For most homes, a 100 or 125 amp main breaker panel is sufficient. Newer, larger homes may require 200 amps or more.
- Make sure the new panel has enough spaces for all existing and planned circuits. At least 20 spaces is recommended.
3. Install the New Panel
- Turn off power at the main fuse or breaker feeding the fuse box. Verify it is off.
- Remove old fuse box. Disconnect all wires and remove from wall.
- Mount the new breaker panel securely to wall studs. Follow manufacturer's instructions.
- Connect the main power feed wires to the new panel. Consult an electrician if unsure.
4. Connect Circuits to New Breakers
- Match each fuse circuit to a new circuit breaker one-by-one.
- Securely connect wires to new breakers, following correct gauge and terminal specifications.
- Label each circuit clearly on the panel.
5. Inspect and Turn Power Back On
- Have an electrician inspect the new panel thoroughly before turning power back on.
- Check for solid connections, proper wire termination and grounding.
- Flip main breaker on and verify proper operation of all circuits.
Added Benefits of a Breaker Panel Upgrade
Beyond the core safety and capacity benefits, upgrading your fuse box offers other nice perks:
Improves your home's resale value. Breaker panels are expected in all modern homes.
Allows easy expansion if you add onto your home, like a garage or in-law suite.
Enables installation of surge protectors and other electrical accessories that aren't compatible with old fuse boxes.
Can support upgrade from 60 to 100 amp electrical service for larger homes.
Eliminates the occasional need to replace burned-out fuses. Breakers are maintenance-free.
So if your home still relies on an antiquated fuse box, replacing it with a modern circuit breaker panel should be high on your to-do list for essential electrical upgrades. The safety, convenience and flexibility benefits make it one of the smartest investments you can make in your home.