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The Ultimate Guide to Understanding the Fuse Box in Your Home

Posted on: July 31, 2020

Electricity enters your home from the utility provider through a small box on the wall called a fuse box. It goes by many other names as well, including service panel, junction box, and breaker panel. This is the central switchboard for your home’s entire electrical system, supplying power to light fixtures, outlets, and appliances throughout the house. Use this guide to help you gain a better understanding of your fuse box.

Types of Fuse Boxes

Technically, a fuse box contains fuses, and a breaker panel contains circuit breakers. Still, many homeowners refer to their service panel as a “fuse box,” even if there are breakers inside. However, there is a distinct difference that is important to understand.

Fuse boxes use disposable fuses to safeguard the circuit from overloading and shorting out. To shut off power to a particular circuit, you must physically remove the fuse. It’s also possible for fuses to blow, requiring you to replace them before the power will work on that circuit again.

Breaker panels are more robust and versatile. You can isolate a circuit by flipping a switch—no need to remove or install fuses. Plus, if the panel detects an overload or short, it automatically trips the circuit. You can reset this easily without the hassle of replacing a blown fuse.

Most homes have a single fuse box in an out-of-the-way location, such as the garage, laundry room, or basement. It’s also worth mentioning that some older homes have subpanels serving different floors or sections of the house.

Parts of the Fuse Box

Three things lie behind the doors of your electric service panel: the main switch, residual current devices, and fuses or circuit breakers.

  • Main switch: This allows you to turn off the power to your entire house.
  • Residual current devices (RCDs): These are switches that trip a circuit when dangerous conditions are present, instantly disconnecting the electricity in the process.
  • Fuses: Fuse boxes have a row of fuses lined up side by side. To tell if a fuse is blown, you must look through the small glass window covering each fuse for signs of melted metal or scorch marks. To change a fuse, carefully unscrew it and swap it out with an exact replacement.
  • Circuit breakers: Breaker panels have a column of circuit breakers with switches labeled “ON/OFF.” When a breaker trips, it flips halfway to the “off” side, no longer lining up with the rest. Simply flip it all the way off, and then back to the “on” position to restore power.

Types of Fuses

If you have a fuse box, it’s important to use the right type of fuses to prevent damaging your equipment or risking a house fire. Three styles are in use today:

  • Type-T (Edison base) fuses are the standard for most 120-/125-volt household circuits.
  • Type-S (rejection base) fuses consist of the fuse itself and an adapter to allow the threading to fit in an Edison-type socket.
  • Cartridge fuses typically serve as the main fuse that controls power to the entire fuse box. They are also used for 240-volt appliance circuits.

Schedule Fuse Box Services Today

If you live in an older home, you may be interested in replacing your fuse box with a safer, more reliable breaker panel. Even if you already have a breaker panel, it may not be designed to handle the electrical demands of a 21st-century lifestyle. If the circuit breakers keep tripping, consider replacing your breaker panel today.

Kolb Electric is here to help! Our licensed, fully trained electricians can update your fuse box or breaker panel to reduce fire hazards and ensure dependable electricity for every fixture, outlet, and appliance.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our electrician in Maryland, DC, or Northern Virginia.

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