Fuse panel to circuit breaker panel

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Posted by: from Mississauga
3/3/2016 at 8:32:48 AM

I am currently renovating my basement however I still have the old 100Amp fuse panel. I do not have any problems currently and have no plans for additional heavy power demand other than a new electric fireplace.

Should I upgrade to a circuit breaker panel now or can this be postponed whenever required? Would the additional cost be worth it right now?

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Cathy from Proline Electric in St Albert
Date/Time3/3/2016 at 9:50:42 AM

Your best bet would be for one of our guys to come out and take a look at it for you there are alot of different concerns that can come up when upgrading your service. give our office a shout and we can book a quote for you.


Dan Hauk

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Date/Time3/3/2016 at 10:13:36 AM


Thank you for posting your question at Trusted Pros. You've asked a great question, by the way.

The old fuse panels have done quite well in the past and homeowners have generally had little problems with them especially when the panels have remained untouched.

My typical answer whenever anyone questions whether to change to a breaker panel or not is yes, by all means do it. Here's why.

1. Convenience. A breaker trips you simply flip the handle. Nothing to turn, remove and then replace. Your fingers stay out of the panel core which means you stay safe.

2. Future possibilities. With a new breaker panel you have room for future circuits (not only you, the current homeowner but the future homeowner).

3. An investment with real pay off. Home buyers considering your house in the future will be turned off by a fuse panel. They may deduct the cost of a panel replacement from the asking price thereby passing along the cost of replacement to you anyway. A new panel removes this obstacle to a quick close.

4. Finally, safety. Breakers are electronic and therefore more sensitive than fuses. They trip instantly thereby keeping you, your loved ones and your property safe. For many, this is the only reason that matters.

Again, great question. I hope I have helped you in deciding what to do.

Henry Kirsch

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Date/Time3/3/2016 at 10:35:05 AM

This is a rather tough-one. They never had 100 amp fuse panels, here, in Alberta. They were smaller than that, 30 amp being the most common. The fuse problem is simplified be the 'newer' rules for home insurance. You must have in your home a 100 amp panel with a 100 amp main circuit breaker. If you have electric heating, or larger homes, in other provinces, this main breaker requirement may have to be larger.

The second item to consider is that, during any electrical Reno, you have to feed the circuits with arch-fault breakers (new since November). So, at least a sub-panel with arch-fault breakers is required.

Now, I believe the insurance companies are just making up rules to get the older houses electrically, inspected and repaired. During a panel upgrade the electrical through-out your home, has to be inspected for code violations and safety issues. Then inspected again by, 'The authority having juristiction'. Ha Ha! When the basement walls and ceiling are opened with your Reno, it is the most excellent time to upgrade all your utilities including your electrical and plumping.

Unfortunately, for you, this panel upgrade is a relatively expensive venture, (adventure). If you have a fuse box in your house, it is at least 1/2 a century old. Cars and back yard Sheds don't last that long. Some money has to be spent on 'up keep'. Electricity is one of two common trades that are life threatening, if it is wrong, or abused. Natural gas is the other dangerous trade. So, safety is a concern in this case.

Thank you,

Scotty's Electric Service,

Edmonton, Canada

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Date/Time3/3/2016 at 11:29:31 AM

If your 100 amp fuse panel is untouched and still only has the proper fusing still then I would leave it be.

Saying that I would get someone to shoot your panel with an IR camera to see if there any Hotspot.

Know if you add any new wiring or a bedroom you fall under the new 2015 code that comes into effect in May of this year.

There is no real safe answer here. You need to call a electrical contractor , discuss your renovation with him and take it one step at a time.


Wolf Electric

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Robert from Electrilight Ltd. in Oakville
Date/Time3/3/2016 at 5:00:54 PM


Panel upgrades for any home are a good investment. Most of these panels were installed 40-100 years ago and they were adequate for the electrical requirements of those eras. Today we have many more appliances and loads we must consider and of course safety.

Are all fuses the correct size for the corresponding wire sizes? Is there Knob and Tube wiring or ungrounded wiring? Have extra loads been installed on any of these existing feeds? Has anyone tampered with the panel trying to do their own repairs (scraping the inside of the fuse holders or causing other issues? Is there Aluminum wiring? Is the grounding system in good condition? Is the main switch, fuses, meter socket and cabling in good and safe condition?

With any new receptacles that may come in the future, AFCI breakers are required by code for 90% of locations, meaning, if you want a few new receptacles installed anywhere, a sub panel with AFCI breakers and permit must be installed.

I tell customers, you can drive a 1940's car and look cool, but isn't it safer to buy a new car with seat belts, airbags and ABS brakes? No one will ever tell you you look cool with a 1940's electrical panel...

At the least, call a Licensed Electrician trained in residential and ask for an evaluation. Most of these panels can be upgraded for $1000-$1500 depending on what needs to be replaced.

If you have a 60 amp main fuse or breaker, absolutely, you'll need a whole new electrical entrance which could run you $2500.

It is the heart of your electrical system and overfusing wires can be a huge fire hazard waiting to happen.

With your new fireplace, you'll require a dedicated circuit for that purpose and an ESA inspection as well, do you have room for an new dedicated line?

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Date/Time3/3/2016 at 8:08:54 PM

I like it when the pros have differing opinions; it creates good debate and a more educated consumer.

I tend to agree with pretty much what everyone has stated. I believe that fuses (the actual fuse) are safer than a breaker. A breaker is a mechanical device where a fuse is an element that is designed to fail. If a breaker fails, it can be stuck in the closed position and won't trip.

The problem with these old panels is that people generally over tightened the fuses and deformed the buss. This created a gap between the buss and the fuse and causes arcing.

There is no doubt that a new breaker panel will give the perspective of more safe, and in some cases that is true. But if the panel is in good shape and the buss show no signs of deformation then I might not recommend a panel change.

As has been stated many time, get at least three licensed contractors in there to take a look. Likely most will tell you to change the panel (they want to make the sale). Ask them why you need to change the panel and be specific. Simply stating it is unsafe is not enough... why is it unsafe?



John Kuehnl-Cadwell

Master Electrician

Datawise Solutions Inc

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Date/Time3/3/2016 at 11:11:46 PM

You can install a sub panel or small pony panel. You can sometimes make room in the panel for what you need.

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Date/Time3/4/2016 at 6:50:11 AM

It's understandable to want to keep adding more and more costs to your renovation, they can get out of hand in a hurry. But truly the $1000 to $1500 additional charge could be cheaper now, depending how you finish around the panel. If you drywall right to the panel and don't leave adequate room for the change in the future your going to endure more costs than. With the additional fireplace and having that small 100A fuse panel, your probably pretty close to maxing out the load on your circuits. Adding new circuits for your basement reno now to take some of the load off your excising circuits probably would be a good idea now, It's certainly cheaper while your doing construction than after.

Take care and hope any of this helps.

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Melwyn in Mississauga
Date/Time3/9/2016 at 9:32:46 AM

Thank you all for the valuable information, this was indeed a good subject to discuss.

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