Home Selling in Georgetown>Question Details

Laurie Phill…, Real Estate Pro in Andover, MA

What should I be looking for in a home that still uses fuses? Does this mean there is knob tube wiring in the home also?

Asked by Laurie Phillips, Andover, MA Fri Oct 22, 2010

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Monir Mamoun’s answer
Fuses are modern -- or can be -- as in "fusebox." Now K&T is a very old technology popular in homes built from 1880-1930. K&T wiring is very obvious. You have exposed wires wrapped around porcelain knobs. This should be visually obvious if you take a look in the basement.

If you are looking for "issues" related to this, that's better left to an experienced inspector who has done historical homes before.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Oct 22, 2010
If this property is truly of interest to your buyer and they want to confirm the electric, the next statement should be "put it in the offer". I would then have them hire an inspector to go through the home. This will remove the liability off of you, save you time, get the process moving forward and help your clients get what they want.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Oct 24, 2010

You have received some good advice, but I would not leave it up to the homeowner to give you the amperage. They will most likely add up the number on the fuses themselves and this is not indicative of the actual amperage. Many times people will substitute say a 15 amp fuse with a 25 in order to stop blowing fuses. They will fit and they will work, but this is what causes fires. Fuses are meant to blow when the circuit is overloaded. Here in Milwaukee we lose many homes every year to electrical fires.

Don't mess with trying to determine this on your own. If the sellers refuse or cannot afford to pay, it would be well worth you paying the $75-100 service call for a qualified electrician to give you the answers you are seeking.

Best of luck.
Web Reference: http://www.lindacefalu.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Oct 24, 2010
The wiring you describe is fine for lending standards. The only thing you should be concerned about is the total amperage being delivered to the house, most fuse panels will have the main fuse at the top of the electrical panel and will be marked on the front or side with a number corresponding to the total amperage for the house, if you see "100" or more you're fine, "60" can work if the stove and laundry are serviced by gas as this free's up more amperage for everything else. Some fuse panel amperage can only be determined by "pulling out" the main fuse which will turn off the electricity to the house just like flipping off a circuit breaker, have the home owner do this if you need.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Oct 24, 2010
Thank you all for your advice. It's so nice to have this forum. I did look in the cellar and did not see the tell tale ceramic holders that you would see with K&T wiring. It was thisck metal coil wire and appeared to be "stapled" (for lack of a better word) to the basement ceiling boards. How many amps does each fuse carry?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 23, 2010
Knob and Tube wiring is actually considered very safe as long as it is not frayed or has bad connections. FHA WILL allow a home purchase as long as the wiring is in good shape.

Any home built before the 1940's, may have knob and tube. Sometimes, the wiring has been updated, up to the point where it enters a wall. Then it uses the older knob and tube up through the walls.

In other situations, the wiring may have been totally replaced. Since it is in the walls, no one may know whether it is new wiring or old wiring.

The knob and tube question is totally independent on whether or not the home has fuses or circuit breakers.

Knob and tube involves the wiring throughout the house and the "fuse box" controls how much electricity goes through each wire. Whether fuses or circuit breakers, a home inspector should verify that the electricity being supplied to each wire matches what it is rated for in the distribution panel (whether fuses or circuit breakers).

A fuse box is typically tagged as needing replacement because it can't supply the electricty that is needed for most of the needs of today's home owner. Most fuse boxes are 60 amps. Today's home buyers usually want/need 100-200 amps.

A qualified electrician should be consulted.


Joe Finnerty
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.
Lehigh Valley, PA
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 23, 2010
Hi Laurie,

Lenders in our area have not stopped lending for homes containing fuses, they will often have a problem with homes with lower amperage however. If the home has a 100 amp main or larger you probably won't have a problem. Knob and Tube is a different story, however if the wiring is certified as being in good condition from a licensed electrician many lenders will approve.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 23, 2010
A service change will run you a couple thousand. I would ask the at the seller complete this prior to putting the home on the market and for a buyer there may be insurance issues.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 23, 2010
Chances are the main service to the home is not updated, this is a problem in modern homes with air conditioning, appliances, and computers- most homes now have 100 amp service. The kitchen may not have enough circuits to run appliances at the same time. The wires may be old with insulation that is dried out and crumbling creating a fire hazard. Kitchens and bathrooms may not have GFI outlets where required. Knob & Tube wiring was used until about 1930, you would clearly see the wires in the basement or attic, although it would be difficult to find inside walls.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Oct 23, 2010
Not necessarily. Many homes still have fuses without knob and tube wiring, BUT, in my state I do not know of any insurance company that will insure a home without circuit breakers. Another thing to beware of is circuit breaker boxes with old wiring. An electrician's view would certainly be your best bet.
Web Reference: http://www.lindacefalu.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Oct 22, 2010
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