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Bought a house with a Fuse Box. Should I replace with a Circuit Breaker?

Discussion in 'Electronic Basics' started by Zack Schneeberger, Feb 18, 2005.

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  1. I just bought a house that is wired through a Fuse Box. The outlets in
    the entire house are the old-style 2 prong outlets. In order to run an
    appliance that requires a ground I have to get a 3 to 2 prong adapter
    and run the appliance unprotected.

    My question is, should I upgrade the fuse box and replace it with a
    circuit breaker. If I did so, would I need to replace every wire in my
    entire house or could I just run a ground wire up to every outlet and
    install a 3 prong outlet?

    Also, I worked for an electrican during a summer so I have a general
    understanding of wiring. Could I do this job myself?

  2. It is you (and other creatures in the same house) that
    is unprotected. Appliances will usually run just fine
    with their chassis at 120 VAC due to a fault.
    That is a question about local code. From a safety
    standpoint, your separate ground wire should work
    provided the diameter is larger (smaller AWG). If you
    are going to get into the walls, why not just install regular
    3-wire romex?
    Most jurisdictions have no problem with DIYers, as long
    as their work conforms to the applicable codes and the
    is done under a permit with required inspections.

    Just get yourself a decent, recent book showing how
    to wire to the NEC. Give the building department a
    call and ask if they have local exceptions to the NEC
    that you should worry about for a home wiring job.
    In all likelihood, they have not bothered to create
    a local modification of the NEC.
  3. Rodney Kelp

    Rodney Kelp Guest

    Fuses are reliable circuit protectors. All you need is a ground bus
    installed and run a green ground to all the recepticals and install 3 prong
    outlets and GFR's in the kitchen and bathroom. However an insurance moron
    will not understand electricty or electronics and will not accept fuses,
    therefore you will have to install new 100 amp boxes with circuit breakers
    to Please the morons. They also like new 3-wire romex throughout the house.
    How much do you want to spend and do you need insurance is the question.
    I know the medical profession is dropping insurance companies because the
    are becomeing ridiculoius on premiums. Soon the average citizen will realize
    that insurance is a rip-off too and drop them!
  4. Zack

    Zack Guest

    Good to hear I can just install a ground bus. How do you correctly
    install a ground bus? Can I just go pick up green ground wire from Home
    Deopt and start? How do they all the ground wires come together? And
    how do I properly ground them? With a copper rod in the ground?

    Also, my fuse box is full. I need to add a hot tub as well as some
    other appliances. What is the correct way to add a circuit breaker
    panel to a house that already has a fuse panel?

  5. Rich Grise

    Rich Grise Guest

    If your adapter hasn't been hacked, there's supposed to be either a green
    wire or a tab, that gets screwed down under the wall plate screw, that's
    _supposed to_ provide an earth ground. This will work if you have conduit
    or if your Romex has a drain wire that's grounded.
    If you have conduit, you can just install 3-prong outlets, and shouldn't
    have to do anything else - the frame of the outlet is ground, and grounds
    to the box, which is _supposed to be_ ground. Check for a proper ground
    rod near the entrance panel, or at least a ground wire clamped to a cold
    water pipe.

    As far as replacing the box, it's not necessary that I know of, although
    you might check with your local code authority. Nah, on second thought,
    if it wasn't to code, they wouldn't have been allowed to sell you the
    house. So I'd say it's really just a matter of taste.
    Yes, given the caveats about grounding. And one other thing - if you
    do put in breakers - get breakers that are the same rating as the fuse
    on each circuit. DO NOT put a 20A breaker on a circuit that now has
    a 15A fuse, for example. If you want to up the current, you might have
    to pull new wires.

    Good Luck!
  6. Rich Grise

    Rich Grise Guest

    Pull the main breaker. Mark each and every wire as to its circuit ID
    (Master BR, Bath, etc) and fuse rating (15A, 20A, whatever). Take the
    old box out and recycle it. Put the new box in, install the proper
    breakers, and reconnect the wires to where they're supposed to go.

    Do you know what kind of physical wiring you have? If it's conduit
    or 3-wire Romex, you might already have a ground. This is extremely
    easy to check. Go to the hardware store and get a 3-prong outlet
    and an outlet tester."outlet+tester"
    Open one of your outlet boxes, and just swap out the outlet. The
    frame of the new outlet grounds to the box. Plug in the tester,
    and it will tell you if you have a good ground.

    Apply all of the standard safety disclaimers and stuff, of course.

    Good Luck!
  7. Guest

    What kind of wire runs from the box to your outlets? Knob and tube,
    asphalt cable, older BX ?? Where are you located?
  8. Tom Biasi

    Tom Biasi Guest

    Pulling the main breaker doesn't disconnect the supply from the street.
    The very nature of these questions indicates that the OP needs advice from a
    licensed electrician
  9. Kitchen Man

    Kitchen Man Guest

    That was my thought as well. If you're going to go through the trouble
    to pull wires, you might as well replace the old stuff. Replacing the
    old wire can make the job easier; the old stuff can be used in place of
    a "snake" to pull in the new wire as the old is pulled out. The big
    problem with that approach is having large enough diameter holes to
    accommodate the attachment point of the new wire to the old. You've got
    to make a good solid attachment, and don't overuse force if the cable
    pull gets stuck. I'd make it a two-man job, one pulling the old wire,
    one guiding the new.
  10. Kitchen Man

    Kitchen Man Guest

    That's another thought that occurred to me as I read the OP's followup.
    I've seen work by amateurs who thought they knew what they were doing
    get botched pretty badly. Especially prevalent are errors in wiring
    neutral, apparently under the assumption that since neutral is
    effectively zero volts, that adherence to isolating neutral lines by
    circuit can be ignored.
  11. Zack

    Zack Guest

    Al - could you go into more detail about "adherence to isolating
    neutral lines."

  12. Terry

    Terry Guest

    OP needs competent electrical advice, on site.
    For example has mentioned adding a hot tub to a house which has a completely
    utilized fuse panel. We have no idea of the capacity of the service to the
    house, it could be only 60 amp? Fuse panel could be at or above capacity
    OP says there are two prong outlets with no indication if there is any
    grounding present ................. sounds very dicey to me !
    Even if such an old wiring installation is allowed due to grandfathering
    regulations, making any significant changes and/or adding some heavy
    additional loads such as a hot tub/motor pumps etc. could a) Be electrically
    unsafe b) Be uninsurable c) Cause a fire!
    One poster said "Pull the main circuit breaker"! But OP says they have
    Another said "Check the conduit or Romex"! A house that old maybe is not
    wired with either; could even be knob and tube or old rubber covered?
    Very concerned some of that advice not appropriate and OP may do something
    dangerous in receipt of it.
    Others agree?
  13. Terry

    Terry Guest

    Respectfully suggest that you post your query on < > lots of
    helpful 'do it yourself' advice there.
    But some of what you suggest sounds dangerous!!!!!! And uninsurable?
  14. Zack

    Zack Guest

    I don't know how much/if any of the work I would do myself. I really
    want to sound knowlegable though when the electrican comes to quote the
    job. Otherwise I am going to get ripped off!.

    How do I tell the capicity of the service to the house? I assume that
    it is directly related to the guage of the wire comming to the house
    from the powerlines and from the power meter to the fuse box. Is this
  15. Beeper

    Beeper Guest

    I'm not a licensed electrician. I work in an industrial setting where I
    don't need to be. However, you are getting some good sound advice or should
    I say questions. Fuses in my mind are much better than breakers, however
    technology says you'll have breakers. Did you know a breaker is guarenteed
    for 1 trip? Just like fuses, but the breaker can be used again! None the
    less, if you are going to up your electrical load on an old system, it is in
    your best interest to have a qualified,licensed,insured and last but not
    least, respectable electrician inspect your house. Don't be afraid to tell
    them you want to upgrade and not go broke at the same time. Get an estimate
    from a couple and see what they say. One thing you have to remember.
    Electrical code and a good conscious prevents an honest electrician from
    doing some things that would save you money. Just my opinion for what it is
    worth.. Your main box should have a label of some sort telling you what
    amperage it is rated for. The size of the main fuse is another good
    indication if it hasn't been compromised. Yes the size of the wiring coming
    in is the main tell tale.
  16. Rich Grise

    Rich Grise Guest

    I just realized, if you can afford to put in a spa, you can afford to get
    it wired right. ;-)

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