The Different Types of Household Fuse Boxes and How They Work

by | Nov 2, 2018 | Energy Savings, Safety, Wiring

What’s the first thing you do when you have an electrical outage? You check your fuse box, right?

You wander into the dark abyss of your basement or garage, fumbling around with a flashlight until you arrive at the gray metal box. You open it, hoping the issue will be right in front of you: a blown fuse.

What if it’s not that easy? What if the fuse box itself is the root cause of your problems?

Now you have another set of problems on your hands.

How do you replace that? Should you even attempt it or just call an electrician? Are they one-size-fits-all or are there different kinds?

In this guide, we’re going to tell you what you need to know about household fuse boxes and how they protect your home.

Difference Between Household Fuse Boxes and Electrical Panels

The terms “fuse box” and “electrical panel” get used interchangeably but there are significant differences.

The most obvious is one uses fuses and the other uses breakers. Simple, right?

Both cut the flow of electricity when a circuit gets overloaded. But it’s how the cut the flow that’s the difference.

Most homes built after the 1960s and any building that’s had an electrical system upgrade use electrical panels. These are more convenient because instead of having to replace the cartridge, you simply flip the switch back in place.

There’s an internal mechanism that “trips” with an unsafe electric surge tries to flow. But, it’s not instant. This means the delay could damage your electronics.

The other downside is that the switch can flip due to vibration and movement, which can lead to major frustration.

On the other hand, fuses have a thin piece of metal that melts when there’s too much electricity flowing through it. Fuses cut the flow instantly. But, you also need to replace the entire fuse.

But, they’re cheap to replace and still available at most hardware stores. You have to make sure you’re getting a fuse with the proper voltage or current rating. If you don’t you can risk overheating the breaker itself.

Types of Fuse Boxes

If you decide not to upgrade your electrical system, thus upgrading to an electrical panel, you’ll need to know the different fuses. In essence, the fuses dictate which fuse box you need when you replace it.

Edison Panel

An Edison panel uses Edison fuses that screws in like a light bulb — hence, its name. These protect up to 30 amp circuits.

Type W

A Type W is general lighting fuse that’s basically obsolete. In other words, while builders moved away from fuse boxes altogether, Type W is almost impossible to find.

If you have a Type W fuse, contact a reputable electrician about your options.

Type S

A Type S fuse screws into a specific housing called a fuse rejector. These are time delay fuses, which allow a little fluctuation in the amperage before blowing.

If you don’t have the right size, it won’t screw in. Pretty straightforward.

Type T

Type T screw in like S fuses. They also have a time delay to give the system to fix itself before the fuse blows.

A Type T is for appliances that may draw a lot of electricity at the startup, but operate at a lower amperage. The base is much larger than a Type S fuse.

Cartridge Panels

These are cylindrical fuses that range from 15 amps all the way to 100. These panels get wired to the main electrical service and act as the power shutoff switch as well.

Because Edison fuses couldn’t handle the constant load of a stove and dryer, people used cartridge fuses instead.

Aluminum Wiring Panels

You may be thinking, “Aluminum? Hey! That’s not safe!” And you’re right.

But, they’re still out there. Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) was the leading manufacturer of these panels until the dangers of aluminum wiring got discovered. The company folded, but millions of American homes still had FPE fuse boxes.

If you have an older home and you’re not comfortable with having an FPE fuse box, it’s completely understandable. Look for a licensed, insured, and trusted electrician in your area.

Need More Help?

Not everyone is comfortable when it comes to electricity and with good reason. When it comes to household fuse boxes, it can be even more dangerous.

That’s why contacting an electrician is the safest and easier choice.

Whether you decide to upgrade to an electrical panel or just need help with your fuse box, we can help. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Contact us today.

Check out our blog for more troubleshooting tips.