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Question DetailsAsked on 3/23/2016

older home and older circuit box, ..fuses trip frequently, currently, 2 circuits out completely no tripped fuses.

Home built in 1979, fuse box may have been updated in 1994.

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2 Answers

Voted Best Answer

Not good - I would immediately turn off the breakers on the two circuits that don't work, not knowing what sort of flaw you have going on there.

I would get an electrician in to do an overall assessment of your electrical system - wiring, outlets, breaker box (you have circuit breakers if they "trip", fuses if they "burn out" and have to be replaced). Could be a general electrical system age issue, specific flaws in materials or installation, or you might have one of several brands of breaker boxes that have known faults in the box and/or breakers - including some that have been causing house fires.

I would NOT put this off - electrician can trace and label circuits, remove switch and outlet and breaker box cover plates and inspect and test the wiring, check kitchen and bathrooms and garage and outside outlets are all GFCI or AFCI protected, check load capacity and balance across the feeds, and tell you if your wiring is deteriorating (not likely if 1979 but especially if they used aluminum wiring in your house, which is unlikely in 1979 but possible, especially in northern tier states or in midwest east of the Mississippi where its use ran on past the roughy 1972 phaseout.)

Cost about $300-600 depending on how thorough a job he does - without any repairs. May well be able to fix those two circuits for about $50-150 each while there (depending on whether faulty breaker is the problem), if normal type faults.

One thing for certain - if you keep tripping breakers, most likely you are overloading your circuits, which is a very bad thing - either your wiring or your usages need to be corrected, or both. Tripped breaker should be assumed to indicate an overload issue - and unless caused by a known one-time problem that has been fixed (shorted cord or appliance, known overload from a portable heater or hair dryer or such, or too many kitchen appliances running at one time) the cause should be tracked down BEFORE resetting the breaker. Breakers should not trip with any frequency at all - in my house, except for one fried kitchen appliance, one squirrel with bad (and fatal) eating habits, and one dead 100-200A short in a power tool motor (all known one-time issues), my houses have NEVER had a breaker trip in about 50 years - and that is as it should be.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD


Thank you, LCD for your wonderful answer. One of the circuits, which went out yesterday, suddenly came back on this morning. I'm not sure it this means a loose wire, or an issue with the power company. Because of your answer, I will be getting some estimates on fixing our very irritating electrical issues. Thanks again!

Answered 4 years ago by Guest_9631361


As I said before - ANY circuit that cuts out without knowing why I would trip the breaker to OFF until fixed - otherwise you are inviting an electrical arc fire. Temperature at an arcing wire runs into the several thousand degrees - so can quickly ignite construction materials within a few inches to a foot between the heat and the sparking of molten metal.

Unless roughly half the circuits in your house are going out, not a power company issue. If one side of your 220/240 feed was having problems at the power company lines or transformer (or in the house for that matter), you would be losing ALL the circuits coming off one of the two bus bars in the breaker box anytime that side went out or lost contact. Generally, depending on make/model, would all the circuits coming off the breakers along one side of the breaker box, or alternating breakers (top to bottom) on both sides depending on box design. It would also mean that your clothes dryer (if electric) might not run or not heat at all or only possibly heat half-power (so dry real slowly) depending on make/model. About half of the burners/elements on an electric full-size range would not work and double-element burners would only heat one element, oven might not work at all or only on either oven or broil element, and electric water heater or furnace would not work at all or would heat at half-power.

I would DEFINITELY put a priority on getting someone out to look at it and use no high-load items till then if possible to avoid - especially high-power microwave, countertop rotiserrie or broiler, electric clothes dryer, electric furnace or heaters, oven (especially not oven and broiler element both one at same time), and avoid using many surface elements on stove at one time. From your description there is a good chance you have a really dangerous issue going on, because the only simple cause of this I can think of is one of the main feed wires coming into the box or at main breaker/disocnnect or meter base intaermittently making and breaking contact in the connection fitting. I have seen this a LOT over the years, and have personally put out several fires or smoking breaker boxes at neighbors' houses when they called me in a panic about smoke in their garage or utility room and got me to come put it out before the fire department could respond. BTW - if you EVER have an electrical arcing, smoke, or fire situation - CALL the fire department FIRST, get family out of the house, then take whatever other actions you intend (like turning off the main breaker) - wait to call the fire department and it might be too late.

This type of connector arcing is real common with aluminum main feed wiring (the normal) which "compression creeps" or deforms under the mounting bracket or screw, so tends to loosen up over time and should be rechecked for tightness every 3-5 or so years, at every aluminum wire screw or clamp type connection. Not a big thing to do on modern installations where aluminum wiring is commonly only used for the primary feed wires so only a half dozen or so places to check - can be quite a problem with aluminum wiring throughout the house circuits, which is why changing to copper (at least at connections) is commonly done in aluminum wired houses (generally pre-1975 or so).

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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