How to Deal With a Fuse Box and Power Panel


All of the appliances and electronics in our homes need electricity to work, so a steady, reliable flow of electricity is important. But, what happens if that flow stops? If the power in your home suddenly stops working, do you know how to get it running again? Here are some ideas on how to deal with your fuse box and power panel.

How to Understand Your Fuse Box/Power Panel

  • Learn where the power panel in your home is located. Power panels may be located outside your home in a garage or in the basement, mounted on the wall. Many apartments also have a power panel in them, usually in a cupboard or the kitchen.

  • Determine the type of panel you have. Older homes will likely have a fuse box containing fuses. These are either round with glass tops or shaped like small tubes with metal ends. Newer homes will commonly have a power panel that holds circuit breakers. These are toggle switches and look similar to a light switch.

  • Understand that circuit breakers and fuses are designed to do the same thing: interrupt the flow of electricity on a circuit if there is a sudden increase in demand, too much demand in total or a problem on the circuit. Wires get hot when they are carrying too much electricity, so interrupting the flow prevents potential fires.

  • Consider that most older homes (those built prior to the 1970s) will likely have fuse boxes while the majority of newer homes will have circuit breakers installed in the panel. Circuit breakers have the advantage in that they can be reset after they "pop" and interrupt the flow of electricity, while a fuse when it "blows" needs to be replaced.

How to Deal With Your Fuse Box

  • Understand that if the power suddenly goes off in a particular area of your home, you've likely blown a fuse.

  • Unplug some appliances on the circuit, then go to your fuse box and look inside. You can usually tell which fuse has "blown" by the cloudy appearance under the glass top, or you can see the thin metal strip under the glass is broken. You need to replace the fuse with a new one having exactly the same amperage (or electric current-carrying capability).

  • Turn off the main power supply at the fuse box (usually a lever arm or a large toggle switch) before unscrewing the blown fuse and replacing it. After you install the new fuse, turn the main power back on. If a fuse blows again, you have an electrical problem in your home and you need to get a professional to repair it. However, it's more likely that your circuit was simply overloaded and by unplugging the appliances on the circuit you've removed the overload.

How to Repair a Tripped Circuit Breaker

  • Repairing a tripped circuit breaker is easier than replacing a fuse. Simply look for the switch that is out of alignment with the others in the box and move it back into alignment.

Tips & Warnings

  • Fuses commonly blow and breakers trip when something is plugged into an already loaded circuit and the last appliance plugged in is what caused the overload. Don't plug everything back in at the same time and you shouldn't need to worry about fuses blowing.
  • Keep a flashlight with fresh batteries in your home where you can find it in the dark.
  • If your home has a fuse box, be sure to keep some spare fuses near the fuse box. You can get fuses at home and hardware stores
  • Wearing rubber-soled shoes when working in your fuse box will help protect you.
  • Never replace a blown fuse with one that has higher amperage (you could cause a fire).
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