Can an Electric Fuse Box Installed Outside?
LESLIE: Heidi in North Carolina is on the line with an electrical problem. How can we help you today?
HEIDI: Well, I have kind of a two-part question. I have an older home. It’s about 68 years old. We paid an electrician to come in when we converted over to a heat pump from an old furnace to up our service. And we have an old fuse box that are the screw-in type fuses. And when he put the system in – the new electrical box – he was supposed to convert everything over into the new electrical box and he left the little electrical box – the little fuse box – in my kitchen.
And unfortunately, he put the new electrical box on the outside of my house. That would be OK, except I’m a single woman and I don’t – safety reasons, I don’t think it’s really smart considering I have a full-size basement it could have easily been put in.
HEIDI: So do I need to – I mean I would never call this guy again, for lots of reasons. But do I need to pay somebody else to come in and convert that last part of my home into this other fuse box? These little fuses are hard to find and when they blow …
TOM: So, it’s definitely an active panel, right? The fuse panel?
HEIDI: Oh, it’s active. Yes, sir.
TOM: OK. So that’s called a sub-panel and that’s going to be a sub-panel from the main panel. You said the main panel is now in the basement or the main panel is outside?
HEIDI: It’s outside. We have a full basement and why he put it outside, I have no clue. But he put the main panel …
TOM: Yeah, that makes no sense. Because the only time you usually see full panels outside is maybe a condominium situation and then they’re in utility closets. So I can’t imagine why that was done that way. It doesn’t make sense. It sounds to me like you do need a better electrician to come in and take care of this.
If it makes you feel any better, the fact that you have a fuse box does not mean that it’s unsafe. Fuses are actually quite safe if it’s the right-size fuse matched against the wire that’s hooked up to that circuit.
And so, to know if that’s the case, somebody has to open the panel and say, “OK, this is Number 14 wire, so it’s a 15-amp fuse. And this is Number 12 wire, so it’s a 20-amp fuse,” and so on and physically write that above the fuse on the panel so you know what size to put in there. Because it’s too easy, with a fuse box, to put in a 20-amp fuse on a wire that’s only rated for 15 amps. Then, of course, that’s potentially unsafe.
So, it does sound like you need another electrician. It’s obviously not a do-it-yourself project. And unless there’s some compelling code reason in your part of the country to put that outside, I don’t understand why they would have done that. And you could consider rerunning it back to the inside and unfortunately, that’s kind of where we’re at. It’s not an easy fix; it’s one that’s going to require the investment of a good electrician.
HEIDI: Alright. Well, thank you very much.