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The 4 Most Important Things You Need to Know About Your Fuse Box

A fuse box plays a crucially important role in all household electrical systems, yet most people don’t know much about it.

It may come as a surprise – perhaps the correct word is shock – to learn that many householders don’t know much about the central pillar of their home’s electrical system. Your fuse box, which includes your switchboard, is the hub of your electrical system. It pumps power to all of your lights, switches, fans and other appliances.

It’s important to note that any electrical work, particularly an upgrade, should be carried out by a fully qualified and licensed electrician. Given how integral your fuse box is to your home’s safety and the way it functions, it might be time to look at four important things you need to know about your fuse box.

The Switchboard and Fuse Box Are Not the Same

Almost everything electrical in a household goes through the switchboard. The switchboard divides electrical power into 240-volt circuits and distributes them to household electrical appliances.

The fuse box is also an electrical distribution board, like the switchboard. The difference is that while the switchboard distributes electrical power around the house, the fuse box protects circuits from overloading.

That’s why fuse boxes are sometimes referred to as “circuit breakers”. It’s vital that fuse boxes are kept up to date and in good working order so that they can do their job of protecting your electrical system.

While on the subject, your meter is something different again. It connects your property to the mains power lines in the street and records how much electricity you’re using from the grid. This is how your power bills are calculated.

What Are the Main Parts of a Fuse Box?

There are three main components that make up a fuse box. They are:

  • Main switch: If you flick this switch off, you will cut your home’s entire electricity supply. If your power supply has been tripped, you will use this switch to turn it back on.
  • Circuit breakers: These protect the fuses from overloading. If excess electricity is being distributed to your appliances, the circuit breakers will shut off supply with a spring-loaded switch.
  • Switchboard: As previously stated, this distributes power to all of your powerpoints and appliances. Using this, you can turn off the power supply to certain areas of the home, if you choose.

You Might Need a Fuse Box Upgrade

If you’re in a home which is older than 25 years, you’ll probably need to have your fuse box upgraded. An older fuse box will have experienced a lot of use, so it can potentially become an electrical fire hazard.

An upgraded fuse box will include safety switches known as residual current devices (RCDs). These devices will immediately cut off electrical supply when a fault is detected.

Circuit breakers protect your outlets and appliances from overload, while RCDs protect people from shock and electrocution. Essentially, RCDs are very sensitive to changes in the current and do save lives.

Some of the signs that you need to upgrade your fuse box are:

  • Appliances repeatedly tripping the system
  • Overheated cabling
  • Outdated circuit breakers
  • Lights flickering on a regular basis
  • A burning smell near your fuse box
  • Sparks around an electrical appliance

Old-fashioned ceramic fuses, also known as SERF (semi-enclosed rewirable fuses), should always be replaced. These fuses often short circuit and are a potential electrical hazard.

The Time and Cost of Replacing a Fuse Box

Every scenario is different so it’s difficult to know exactly how long a fuse box upgrade will take. It depends on the size of the home, the age of the current fuse box and the age of the home’s wiring.

For a standard upgrade to a fuse box that is 10 to 20 years old, the job can take four hours or less. In a house that is more than 25 years old, the job might include cabling and rewiring and can take up to eight hours or even longer in older homes.

In homes that are more than 40 years old that have never been upgraded, you will definitely need to get the entire home rewired. Some of these homes still use aluminium wiring, which is regarded as a fire hazard. Copper wiring is considered the safest wiring for homes.

The scope of the job and how long it takes will also determine the cost, but expect to pay $500-$1800 to replace an old fuse box with a modern one. If your entire home needs rewiring, the cost is likely to be in the $2000-$4000 range.

In Conclusion

Your fuse box is the electrical power hub of your home. Considering its importance, it might be time to get to know more about it. If you’re unsure about the condition and age of your fuse box, get a qualified electrician in for some advice.


Published: 2022-11-10

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