How old is your home? 30, 40, or 50 years old? If so, chances are the main electric panel in your house contains fuses instead of circuit breakers. Sure, the electric panel may be functional and safe, but this electrical system is not up to standards. Because of this, many insurance companies are refusing to write a homeowner’s policy unless the electric panel is upgraded to circuit breakers. According to these companies, fused electrical systems just aren’t safe, and with the recent recall of the Federal Pacific Electrical (FPE) panels, it’s no surprise.
FPE panels have been recalled because they have reportedly caused electrical fires in many older homes. One reason insurance companies may not support these older panels is because homeowners are able to tamper with them, unlike circuit breakers, which can lead to trouble. Let’s say you’re drying your hair, listening to your stereo, and making toast simultaneously. With the hair dryer, stereo, and toaster on turned on at once, the fuse can burn out. You may get tired of replacing the fuse twice a week, so you decide to replace the 20-amp fuse with a 30-amp fuse. This higher capacity fuse is far less likely to respond when there’s a problem. Instead, it lets the wires get hot when an overload occurs. Sooner or later, this will lead to a fire.
In another example, you may decide to, instead of replacing the 20-amp fuse, just putting a penny behind the burned-out fuse. This is incredibly hazardous – so don’t do it! If there is an overload, you are almost guaranteed a house fire.
Circuit breakers can’t be tampered with like fuses. When breakers trip, all you need to do is switch them back on. If they trip repeatedly, you’ll need the help of an electrician.