I recently moved into a gorgeous Victorian style house built in 1890. I am concerned about the point of entry of the service drop to the fuse box.containing a much smaller neutral than i would have expected. Is is 60 amp service. There is also a sub panel with no problems that I can see. There are no other problems and everything functions fine. Is it normal to see a smaller wire providing neutral path on an old service drop? Thanks in advance.

  • 1
    Probably. The theory is service neutral only carries the imbalance or load of leg A minus load of leg B.
    – Tyson
    Apr 4, 2018 at 23:06
  • Can you figure out what size the hots and neutral are? Apr 5, 2018 at 0:05

1 Answer 1


It is common in really old homes to find a #10 (10 gauge or AWG) wire for a 60-amp neutral.

However, it's underrated for today's more power-hungry world. If I remember correctly (pros, correct me if I'm wrong), your house should have #6 wire for the two hot lines, #8 for the neutral, and #10 for the earth ground.

Are you at risk? A pro would be forced by code to tell you yes, but it really depends on what you're operating. There is no simple "rule of thumb" that will tell you if you're OK, thus the need for the pros (and the reason the code changed over the decades).

A simple test is to touch the insulated neutral when you have a high-average amount of power being consumed (dryer's running, stove's on, TVs & computers are operating, and the lights are on type of thing). If the wire is warm, you have risk. If it's not, you're OK (with the caveat that this is a simple test and can only be trusted to a degree).

Please be careful touching that wire. Don't get shocked. Your safety is more imporant than a simple test. If you can't easily touch the wire without risking shock, call an electrician!

  • 1
    Great answer. And what I was expecting. Thank you. On the positive side of things. I have no power hungry appliances as everything is gas fired and my needs are low as far as amps. Time to start saving for an upgrade! Apr 4, 2018 at 23:39
  • 2
    That's the negative side of things. A smaller neutral makes sense when loads are 240V or balanced (drawing from each leg equally). A bunch of small 120V loads are at greatest risk of stacking on one leg to exceed 30A differential, the point at which we start caring about a 10AWG wire. Apr 4, 2018 at 23:47

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