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Fuse box in rented house? I'm sort of scared here?

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Fuse box in rented house? I'm sort of scared here?

Postby newgirlinoldhouse on Mon May 28, 2012 9:49 pm

Hi, I know there's people here who will be really, really honest and that's what I need.

I am set to move into an old house in West Virginia that on Google says it goes back to 1870 and I believe it. It's an old miner's house, I feel pretty sure of that. It's really small. My town has no inspections for rentals so I'm really on my own here. :cry:

My worries are the electricial system...it's a fuse box. I agreed to rent the house on good faith that the electrical system at least worked, but about a week ago, when I brought in a vaccuum cleaner, the living room outlets didn't work. When the landlord came with her handyman, that's when I got a big surprise: the house has fuses, not an electrial box. A huge shock,(no pun intended), since the house has a brand-new area in the bathroom for an electric dryer.

Well she replaced the blown fuse (a 20) and went on her way, and I went on mine thinking all was well.

I came in 3 days later and the same situation. blown fuse in same room. :| Mind you there was nothing pulling on that fuse: it just blew for no apparent reason.

This has me scared shitless, if I may say so. I am a woman and not very handy and will be moving into this old house by myself. I am not from this area originally and have no experience with old wiring.

I have sunk close to $1000 in deposit money for the house and utilities and ther purchase of a 18.2 refrigerator. My landlord assured me the wiring can take the pull. Can it? The fuse box has 4 fuses in it...I do not remember the numbers. the handyman tried to stick in a 30 the second time but ended up putting a 20 in when the 30 proved too large (thank god).

In your experience, what would happen when I put the refrigerator in long with a washer and electric dryer?

The fuse box also appears to have places for other fuses that are just empty, if that makes a defference. Nothing is marked as to what goes where like you would find in a breaker box.

I really, really, really need some advice, from an electrician would be even better, but anyone with experience with wiring would be a godsend...I have about 4 days before my 1st rent is due and don't want to be trapped in a dangerous and unusuable house. :|

I don't have a pic but I wish I had thought to take one...may have a pic tomorrow of the fuse box.

I'm really scared. Thank you.
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Re: Fuse box in rented house? I'm sort of scared here?

Postby triguy128 on Mon May 28, 2012 10:37 pm

As a general rule, older wiring usually shouldn't have more than a 15A fuse. Sounds like This old house had just a few circuits used only for lighting. The fridge needs it's own dedicated circuit. SO does a microwave, dishwaser, washing machine, as well as any countertop outlets that might have a toaster oven plugged in.

Sounds like at minimum, the house needs the fuse panel replaced with at least just a 100A service panel. Then have a new circuit pulled to each of the major appliances. That's not really all that expensive... not cheap either. Probably cost the owners around $1000. I'd suggest nicely that they upgrade. Tell them you're scared.

In the meantime, get good smoke detectors and place one on each floor as well as one in your bedroom. Cheap insurance... oh and don;t forget to carry renters insurance.
1925 Neo-Classical

Previous home - 1968 single story Ranch/Colonial, 1200sqft - 11 windows
Current home - 1925 2 story Beaux Arts Neo-classical overlooking the Mississippi River, 3200sqft - 48 Windows
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Re: Fuse box in rented house? I'm sort of scared here?

Postby newgirlinoldhouse on Mon May 28, 2012 11:42 pm

So I won't even be able to have a microwave?? Omg!!

The house came with nothing so I have to buy a fridge...how do I even know if the fridge has a dedicated circuit? :| Oh, myyyyyyyyyyy. there's only 4 fuses in the box. I wouldn't have rented the place had I known this. Yes, renter's insurance is great, but in the event of a fire I'd like to live to collect it....I lost everything in foreclosure a few years ago following a closed head injury that clost me my job...then I was in a homeless shelter. It's been a long road back...I am shellshocked here..


Thank you.
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Re: Fuse box in rented house? I'm sort of scared here?

Postby eclecticcottage on Tue May 29, 2012 11:27 am

Ok...don't panic. First off, let me just say that our Old House had fuses when we bought it, and we lived there several years before upgrading the electric to new romex and breakers. It never burned down. On top of that, the neighbors had pulled from it for a week or two while their house was rewired (before we bought it). You will need to run one appliance at a time. We never ran the dish washer and the microwave at the same time, or the microwave and washer at the same time for instance. We only had to replace the fuses a few times, mostly when we forgot and overloaded a circuit. But the fuses did their job and blew before anything happened.

Now, the Cottage has breakers-which were wired behind a "hidden" panel into the old electric, effectively changing from fuses to breakers but not effecting an upgrade which really didn't do anything positive. Actually, most of the place was on one circuit-all the living room, bedroom, kitchen overhead light and fridge...oh, and the outside plugs too. Breakers don't really mean much, it's just a newer technology than fuses.

I would speak to her about what is tripping that fuse though.
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-@ 700 sq ft, heated with a wood stove, on the shore of Lake Ontario
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Re: Fuse box in rented house? I'm sort of scared here?

Postby jharkin on Tue May 29, 2012 11:53 am

Cottage is right - no need to panic (yet). Fuses and old wiring are not inherently dangerous when well maintained. The dangers come when we try to make it do more than it was designed for 60+ years ago. When that box was put in most houses had a 60amp service with 4 (15amp) circuits in the house. Folks back then didn't have nearly as many electrical devices as we do today and the biggest load might have been a toaster.

What does worry me:
- The fact that the fuse blew when NOTHING was turned on. That is a major red flag - probably a short somewhere. Definitely demand the landlord hire a licensed electrician to find and fix it.
- The "handyman" :( trying to stuff a 20amp or 30amp fuse into a socket that as triguy pointed out is probably meant for a 15. This is called over-fusing, its a band-aid to hide the real problem and can result in a house fire.

Assuming they fix the problem, you can live with this situation, you just will have to be careful not to use a lot of appliances at once like cottage mentioned. Our last apartment was in a 1920s house that had the entire kitchen on one circuit. We were fine so long as you never used the toaster and microwave at the same time. Modern code calls for dedicated lines/breakers for all kitchen appliances and outlets but in actuality they don't all use enough current to max out a 15 amp line. Toasters and microwaves do; but a fridge is usually under 5amps and shouldn't be an issue.

Having the house rewired for a 100amp breaker panel wouldn't hurt of course but it has the potential to snowball into a huge expensive project the landlord wont want to do. If its really a 4 fuse box its probably a 60amp line from the street, so in addition to a new box they are looking at a new meter and new wires up to the pole. Where I live that kind of work alone (with no rewiring) is closer to $2000, and in some jurisdictions a job like that can trigger a requirement to have the entire house updated to modern code which can mean extensive rewiring to add all the required individual circuits in kitchen and bath, GFCI and AFCI outlets, probably replacing a lot of 2 prong ungrounded outlets with 3 prong grounded outlets (including all the wiring in the walls).
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Re: Fuse box in rented house? I'm sort of scared here?

Postby Lynners on Tue May 29, 2012 12:38 pm

newgirlinoldhouse wrote:So I won't even be able to have a microwave?? Omg!!


This made me giggle a little bit - we've lived without a microwave for a year and a half and don't miss it. ;)

But on a more serious note - when we bought our house it had a fuse box rather than a breaker panel (thankfully it was 100 Amps, though). We upgraded around a year later, and we are slowly updating the wiring room by room to get things on their own dedicated circuits, etc. As others have said, you learn to use one appliance at a time. To not vacuum when the window air conditioner is running. To not turn on the kettle when you're using the toaster oven, to not use a certain appliance in a certain outlet, etc, etc, etc.

But, it is strange that a fuse blew when nothing was plugged in...
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Minesing, Ontario, Canada
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Re: Fuse box in rented house? I'm sort of scared here?

Postby triguy128 on Tue May 29, 2012 1:27 pm

Antoehr solution woudl be to add a 60Amp breaker panel off hte incomming service, then make the existing fuse box a sub panel with it's own sub feeder. Then run new circuits for the refrigerator, microwave, toaster and entertainment center (modern TV's, surrounds sound and DVR can use over 1000Watts combined).

My house when I moved in had a 100Amp service with a fused disconnect going ot a new 100Amp service panel that had a sub panel going to the original upstairs fuse box. I think it previosuly had a second fuse box for the bsement wiring in hte basement. The wire to street was 200Amp so it's only needed a new meter base and larger panel that I did this winter. I then removed the sub panel that was still fused and added a couple more dedicated circuits. My now "modernized" 2 story 3200sqft home requires 34 circuits.

On a side note. My 87 year old wiring doens't bother me. The quality and craftsmenship was excellent and its all in good junction boxes, emt metal conduit and soldered connections (way better than wire nuts IMO). It's the crap added on between 1945-2011 when I moved in that worries me.


On last note. IF you "overfuse" keep in mind that SOMETHING WILL BECOME THE FUSE. IF the fuse is large enough, it's no longer the "weakest link" and the wire itself becomes the fuse... hopefully it's in a junction box, not inside a wall fuses are are sealed for a reason, big arc flash and molten copper when it fails. It will continue ot brun until the current is high enohg ot blow the oversized fuse, or until the wire is missing and hte circuit is now open.
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Previous home - 1968 single story Ranch/Colonial, 1200sqft - 11 windows
Current home - 1925 2 story Beaux Arts Neo-classical overlooking the Mississippi River, 3200sqft - 48 Windows
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Re: Fuse box in rented house? I'm sort of scared here?

Postby Don M on Tue May 29, 2012 3:28 pm

All excellent advice; the biggest concern is what caused the fuse to blow when there was nothing drawing curent? Keep us posted on what your landlord says.
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Re: Fuse box in rented house? I'm sort of scared here?

Postby Texas_Ranger on Wed May 30, 2012 8:56 am

The fuses themselves aren't the problem here, they only indicate how old the wiring is. Period. About the only downside of fuses is that you need to have spares ready when one blows. And it's easier to replace them with oversized ones than replacing a breaker with an oversized one, as you handyman tried to prove. Thankfully you seem to have S type fuses that prevent this exact thing.

The major issues here:
- the small number of fuses. A 15A circuit is good for 1850 Watts, which isn't much. A modern hairdryer can get close to that. So don't expect to run more than one large item per fuse at a time. You can have a microwave, but don't expect to be able to use it at the same time as the vac without blowing a fuse.

- the fuse blowing for no apparent reason. In my opinion THAT requires immediate(!) action, and by immediate I mean TODAY. Unless you missed something that was plugged in (fridge, window air conditioner,...) something is smoldering right now! It's not a short (then the fuse would pop in a flash as it's screwed in) but a so-called high-resistance fault. High resitsance simply means lots of heat and heat is what causes fires!
The bad thing with electricity : it almost always works.

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Re: Fuse box in rented house? I'm sort of scared here?

Postby duem10 on Sun Jul 02, 2017 3:44 am

newgirlinoldhouse wrote:Hi, I know there's people here who will be really, really honest and that's what I need.

I am set to move into an old house in West Virginia that on Google says it goes back to 1870 and I believe it. It's an old miner's house, I feel pretty sure of that. It's really small. My town has no inspections for rentals so I'm really on my own here. :cry:

My worries are the electricial system...it's a fuse box. I agreed to rent the house on good faith that the electrical system at least worked, but about a week ago, when I brought in a vaccuum cleaner, the living room outlets didn't work. When the landlord came with her handyman, that's when I got a big surprise: the house has fuses, not an electrial box. A huge shock,(no pun intended), since the house has a brand-new area in the bathroom for an electric dryer.

Well she replaced the blown fuse (a 20) and went on her way, and I went on mine thinking all was well.

I came in 3 days later and the same situation. blown fuse in same room. :| Mind you there was nothing pulling on that fuse: it just blew for no apparent reason.

This has me scared shitless, if I may say so. I am a woman and not very handy and will be moving into this old house by myself. I am not from this area originally and have no experience with old wiring.

I have sunk close to $1000 in deposit money for the DSS accepted property house and utilities and ther purchase of a 18.2 refrigerator. My landlord assured me the wiring can take the pull. Can it? The fuse box has 4 fuses in it...I do not remember the numbers. the handyman tried to stick in a 30 the second time but ended up putting a 20 in when the 30 proved too large (thank god).

In your experience, what would happen when I put the refrigerator in long with a washer and electric dryer?

The fuse box also appears to have places for other fuses that are just empty, if that makes a defference. Nothing is marked as to what goes where like you would find in a breaker box.

I really, really, really need some advice, from an electrician would be even better, but anyone with experience with wiring would be a godsend...I have about 4 days before my 1st rent is due and don't want to be trapped in a dangerous and unusuable house. :|

I don't have a pic but I wish I had thought to take one...may have a pic tomorrow of the fuse box.

I'm really scared. Thank you.


Hello
You should inspect the whole house before renting it.
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