Fuses were the most common choice in electrical boxes to safeguard electric circuits in older homes. With advancements of the electrical field, both in safety and efficiency, fuse boxes were phased out of most National Electrical Codes and replaced with circuit breakers. In many older homes that still use fuses, replacing them with breakers will update the electrical box up to code standards and in some cases make the home eligible for insurance.
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Things you need
- Circuit box
- Wire cutters
- Wire strippers
- Circuit breakers
- Power drill
- Volt meter
- Masking tape
Contact your local Electrician Association or Building Code Inspector's office to determine whether you will need a permit, an inspection or to hire a licensed electrician to perform the work.
Calculate the number of circuits in your home and their amperage. Refer to the electrical code for information on minimum required amperes for circuits containing appliances. Purchase a circuit box with more spaces than needed to support potential new circuits.
Disconnect power to the panel by locating the main disconnect, or service disconnect. It should be located above the main electrical box, and can be identified by the large lever or switch on one side. Contact the city to have power temporarily shut off. Power should be disconnected by the city to the home for a short period of time while repairs are done.
Locate the main electrical box where all the circuits in the home connect to. Using the screwdriver, remove the panel cover. Remove every fuse. Test every wire with the voltmeter to ensure there is no electricity currently running through the panel. Disconnect the main feeds, the largest two black wires fed through the top of the box. Disconnect all other from wire their respective terminals. Use the tape and pen to mark what circuit each wire supports. Pull the wires through the box connectors and out of the box. Use a wrench to remove the nuts if the box has a pipe connecting the main disconnect to the fuse panel. Use the flashlight or an independently powered light where visibility is poor.
Remove the screws in the back of the fuse box holding it from the wall using the power drill. Using the screwdriver, forcibly strike the knockout on the side that will line up with the wires from the main disconnect, then feed the wires through. Secure the pipe with the nut by tightening it with the wrench. Attach the panel to the wall with the power drill.
Feed the wires through box connectors and into the panel. Work with the heaviest wires, the main disconnects, first. Neatly dress the wires by running them through the box connectors, into the panels and up the inside walls before attaching to the panel. Mount the highest amp bearing and double pole breakers at the top of the panel first, and 15 amp breakers last using the screwdriver.
Bring the wires into the panel through the knockouts on the sides and bottom of the electrical box. Attach one circuit per breaker pole -- the point around which the wire will be inserted or tied. Connect the hot wire first, then the neutral wire and then the grounding wire. Double check the wire connections by tugging or wiggling them gently.
Remove the knockouts on the cover plate for each breaker used. Secure the cover plate to the box. Replace all fuses back into the main disconnect box and turn the switch back to the ON position.
Tips and warnings
- Use hand tools on electrical components as often as possible. Stripping a screw on a breaker or box can mean replacing the entire part. Only use a power drill on the screws attaching the panel to the wall.
- Electrocution is a serious risk and all steps to ensuring safety should be taken. Never leave any source of power to the circuits or breakers on when working with them. If you are unable to do the job or encounter problems beyond your skill level, call a licensed electrician.
- Safety glasses, dry leather or rubber gloves and other safety equipment should be worn while working to prevent potential injuries.
- Working without a permit or performing work below electrical code standards can prompt the utilities company to cut service as well as the city serving heavy fines. Make sure all work is done to at least the bare minimum of your region's code.
- Position your body to one side of the panel when doing repairs. Electricity surged through the chest can cause a heart attack.
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