An electrical panel is the heart of your home’s electrical system. It receives incoming electricity and directs the flow of that electricity to distribute power throughout the circuits your home. It also provides a crucial service for your home’s electrical safety by monitoring the strength of electrical currents flowing through your circuits. If a current is too strong, it creates a fire hazard. Electrical panels are designed to detect overload currents and switch off the power to that circuit in order to prevent a fire.
There are two primary forms of electrical panel: fuse boxes and circuit breakers. While circuit breakers are more common in new and updated homes, we do still regularly encounter fuse boxes, especially in the older homes common in the Minneapolis area. Each have pros and cons.
A circuit breaker is an automatic switch that protects electrical circuits from overload or short circuiting by interrupting the flow of electricity to the circuit. A circuit breaker electrical panel is outfitted with numerous breakers that will “trip” if they detect a power surge, cutting off the flow of energy. A tripped circuit breaker can be reset with a flip of a switch.
- Can be easily reset by homeowner.
- Does not need replacing after being tripped.
- More compatible with modern electrical systems, including GCFI breakers.
- Not as sensitive as fuses, can be slow to react to power surges.
- Can be overly sensitive to sudden movement or vibration.
A fuse box prevents circuit overload using small fuses that screw into the electrical panel. If there’s a power surge or the electrical current in a circuit becomes too strong, the fuse will blow and cut off the power supply to that circuit, just like a circuit breaker. However, unlike a circuit breaker, you cannot simply flip a switch to turn the power back on. The fuse must be replaced each time the circuit is blown.
- More sensitive than circuit breakers, which can increase safety.
- Cheap—fuses are inexpensive to buy and replace.
- Sensitivity can lead to frequently blown fuses.
- More difficult to reset after a power surge.
- Fuse boxes are incompatible with GCFI breakers.
- It’s possible to use an oversized fuse with a single circuit, which can be a fire hazard.
If your fuses are the correct amperage and the box is properly installed and up to code, it will do a perfectly good job at keeping your home safe. However, fuse boxes are often not up to the task of handling the electric needs of modern lifestyles and appliances. Depending on the amperage of your fuse box, it may be time to upgrade your electrical service—and install a circuit breaker panel while you’re at it.
Electrical safety is critical, so contact one of Bonfe’s skilled electricians to schedule an evaluation of your electrical system if you’re unsure whether your circuit overload protection is up to code.