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I have both a breaker box and a fuse box. The breaker box is fine. The fuse box, not so much. Its only purpose is to power the dryer. I had an electrician come out a few years ago to see if the fuse box could be updated to a breaker box and they wanted to replace all the wires quoting code etc. For cost reasons I didn't do it.

Here is the fuse box in question:

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At the time I was going through a 30 amp fuse once a week. Only on the left socket. When the fuse would go out, the dryer would still run, only it wouldn't heat. I found that if I only use timed drying, the fuse doesn't blow. It was the auto mode that was killing the fuses. So I stopped using auto dry.

Fast forward to a few days ago. Dryer reported a 95% blockage. It wasn't blocked, I took the dryer apart and check both the thermal fuse and heating elements. Continuity checked out. Vent was maybe 3% blocked, cleaned it. Checked the fuse box, and there I saw the red wires were scorched with corroded copper. Never a good sign. The fuse, done for. I pulled the fuse and the ceramic disk in the fuse slot crumbled. I checked continuity and it has an irregular pulse i.e. not constant. So the box is and probably always was dead, just not dead enough to fail obvious inspection.

I found a fuse box on Amazon.

But I'm not sure if I should make the attempt or not. It looks like a 1:1 replacement. However I've never done something on this level; swapping outlets and replacing light fixtures being the closest to electrical work, and I'm reading that there are some times laws and permeants that I might need. I'm also not sure how to punch the metal circles out. The red wire is scorched, so I'll need to clean it. I'm reading that I can remove the corrosion with baking soda.

I live in Cincinnati. I would like to hire a electrician, but the last one aggressively pushed for a rewire and I'd rather not have my walls torn out and not have electricity for a week. A simple replacement is in order, but I'm worried any electrician won't do it because of what the first one said about codes etc. and I'll get hit with a visitation fee with no work.

So my big question is, how difficult would this replacement be?

Should I eat the enormous cost of an electrician? (I'd rather not)

Edit:

Additional Pictures

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Note: This is in a somewhat enclosed space, hence the angle of the over view shot. I'm down sizing these pictures to 20% of the original. If you need higher res shots, I can add them.

Adding more images:

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Adding AC insides for comment question:

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Edit: Finished, thanks for the help!

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  • 3
    The replacement job is simple, as long as the power is off. Problem is what else is wrong.
    – crip659
    Jun 29 at 16:21
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    You could replace that fuse box with breaker box your self, but we do not know what Electrician saw. Did he specify what kind of work needs to be done. Is he possibly replacing the whole breaker box unit and WHY. That would justify high cost.
    – Ruskes
    Jun 29 at 16:49
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    Pricing is off topic here, but rewiring the entire house shouldn't be required for a panel replacement. This is of course contingent on local codes and the local AHJ. In my neck of the woods, a simple panel replacement would be about $2,000 - $2,500. At any rate, just swapping out the recalcitrant dryer switch and correcting the 2 wires under one screw with proper lugs would go a long ways to making things right. Jun 29 at 17:10
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    How difficult is it to replace a fused disconnect? - novice level. A whole panel is expert level. You don't even know how to bang a knock out with a hammer and a flat head, so you're neither. You don't need an electrician, you need a handyman, whom I'd rather be doing this than you. Say you want this fused disconnect to be a non-fused disconnect. That's like $100 in parts and 2 hours. No electrician is going to blow their whole day for that.
    – Mazura
    Jun 30 at 4:03
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    I don't like to see #12 on a 30a CB, but it is permissible. What is not ok is the #12 (double tapped) being protected by a 100a CB. That 30a CB only protects the cord for the dryer.
    – Mazura
    Jun 30 at 4:30

3 Answers 3

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Well, I can see a few reasons why an electrician would say "I'm not touching it unless we make it a full-replacement job." Fully replacing that panel with one that's big enough to cover all the bases in the right way would be preferable, but there are smaller steps you can take that will correct the biggest problems while controlling the cost.

The primary problems I see are these:

  • fuse box needs to go
  • two conductors in each of the bus lugs, which also are shimmed with a flat head screw because the lugs aren't even designed to hold the size of conductors that are in them..
  • main panel is full

So here's a meet-in-the-middle solution. Remove the dryer fuse box and hang a new breaker panel there. Choose one with plenty of spaces: we'll be using four spaces to accommodate the two-pole breakers needed for the dryer and the air conditioner. A 12-space panel should be the bare minimum; 16-20 spaces would be better. It doesn't matter whether the new panel has a main breaker or not, but if it does, choose one that's at least 100 A.

Mount the new panel with a few conduit nipples connecting between the existing and the new panel boxes. A single 1-1/2" will make installation of the subpanel feeder conductors easy; if you can also arrange an extra 1" near the bottom of the existing panel it may come in handy later.

Remove the dryer and air conditioner conductors from the bus lugs at the top of the main panel. Install new conductors there to feed the new subpanel. The bus lugs in the main panel are protected by the reverse-fed 100A breaker at top left so choose conductors that are rated for that. A couple feet of aluminum 1/0 gauge will do nicely.

Install breakers into the new subpanel for the air conditioner and dryer. The connection over to the air conditioner can be made in several ways: you can leave the existing A/C breaker as-is and feed it from a 30A branch breaker in the new subpanel, or you can remove the existing A/C breaker (and possibly re-use it as a branch breaker in the new subpanel). If the orange A/C cable is long enough to reach into the main panel then you can extend its conductors there and route them into the new subpanel; otherwise you can use the existing QO load center box as a junction box or install a basic "handy box" or "4-square box" junction in its place.

The cable and conductors for the dryer may likewise be too short to reach into the new subpanel. They might also be damaged by heat from the loose connection. Like the air conditioner cable, you could route the dryer cable into a junction box where it can be spliced to new conductors to go the rest of the distance into the new subpanel.

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  • I wouldn't have had an issue if the electrician wanted to just replace the box with a bigger one. They wanted to rewire the entire house. As for the second breaker box, I was thinking about replacing the dryer fuse box with a box like the AC box for now. I plan to have the house rewired in the future (3-4y) but need a dryer now. The house has other issues that are more pressing right now (leaking roof, eroding hill.) I asked a question on @George Anderson's answer, if my fuse box has two 30 amp fuses, do I only need one 30amp circuit breaker like the AC box has?
    – Kayot
    Jun 29 at 19:25
  • A 30A double-breaker, like the AC box, is equivalent to a pair of 30A fuses. Each fuse or single breaker protects one hot line. A 240V circuit has 2 hot lines. Jun 29 at 19:33
  • Making sure I'm not about to do something cosmically stupid. Does that mean I can use a 30A double-breaker like the one in the AC box for the entire dryer box which I'm assuming is a 240V circuit? I'm about to go get the components, so I want to make sure.
    – Kayot
    Jun 29 at 19:49
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    @Kayot Yes, a 30A two-pole breaker like the one for the AC would work as a direct replacement for the existing fuse box.
    – Greg Hill
    Jun 29 at 20:15
  • @GregHill Good answer, but I have a couple of suggestions. First of all, I'd go copper bc the distances are so short that cost wouldn't be much of a factor and copper is easier to work with (more flexible, no NOALOX goop needed). Next, because these are taps, according to article 240.21(B) of the NEC, the wires need to be sized to accommodate the anticipated loads, but do not need to be sized according to upstream over-current protection. Specifically, they need to have at least 10% of the ampacity of the upstream breaker, be fully contained in conduit and less than 10' in length. ... Jun 29 at 22:12
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OK, here's what I see going on: The main power is supplied via the breaker on the upper left in the breaker panel. That's a little unusual as normally there would be a main breaker on the top lugs. This almost looks like a retrofitted (or re-purposed) sub-panel.

You have 2 taps off the lugs on top (not code legal to have 2 wires under the same lug, BTW). On for your A/C and one for your Dryer. They are undersized for the overcurrent protection provided by the main breaker, but may be OK according to "tap" rules in the NEC. Fortunately you have a main breaker that can disconnect power to the taps so you won't have to pull the meter to drop power. Since the distance is so short, I'd just replace the wires between the Dryer switch and the main panel.

A question: What is the device on the upper right of the breaker panel? There doesn't seem to have anything connected to it.

If you want to do a direct replacement, that's up to you, but I'd go with a disconnect that includes a 30 amp breaker. There are lug assemblies that can make your A/C and Dryer connections code legal so you don't have to have 2 wires under one screw.

Lastly, one more minor point, the yellow Romex coming out of the top of the breaker panel is not protected, so it's not code compliant. ...just an FYI.

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  • 1
    I've added some pictures. Would I use something like -> '14 AWG to 1/0 AWG Dual Rated Mechanical Lug with 2 Conductors and 1 Hole Mount (2-Pack)' [Home Depot] for the top where there are two wires under the screws? I think the part where you mention the disconnect is for a Circuit Breaker. I don't have a slot for another Circuit Breaker. Is there something like the AC box I can use for the Dryer box? I included a picture of the AC box. The yellow wire goes over to some sort of junction box. I have a picture if you'd like, but I think at that point it's unrelated.
    – Kayot
    Jun 29 at 18:26
  • After looking at the wiring diagram, I think I can replace the fuse box with a circuit breaker like the AC box. It actually looks pretty easy. I'm am confused on one thing. I use two 30amp fuses right now, but the AC box has a single circuit breaker in it with a 30 on the handle. Does that one circuit breaker replace the need for two fuses?
    – Kayot
    Jun 29 at 19:07
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    Correct - that circuit breaker box has a double breaker, equivalent to two fuses. One key (and very good, from a safety aspect) difference is that a double-breaker shuts off all power even if only one of the two wires is over the rated current. In your situation, if the right fuse had blown instead of the left, the dryer would have appeared totally dead but would have still had a live wire going to it - with a double-breaker that can't happen. Jun 29 at 20:01
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What it looks like to me is the fuse box is attached with conduit that’s your grounding path. There is black and red for your 240v and white neutral this electrically would meet code using the 10’ tap rule.

The tap rule allows the circuit to be tapped (yours is 2 under a screw? If there is a plate it is ok I am not sure) this is not usually code compliant but may be if the panel listing allows it some do. There lugs that can convert a single to a double and that would then be a code compliant install.

I would want to convert the fuse box to a 30 amp panel like your AC and wire it the same (I do not see a neutral to case bonding jumper that is good) so to make sure it is up to code that case ground needs to go to a 4 wire receptacle and this grounding wire can be run separately to the new receptacle. This addition of the grounding conductor has been allowed since 2017 code adoption.

So now what is the hard part? The top may be live all the time to work on this all the breakers would need to be turned off. (Then they won’t arc when removing the wires but it is still hot (unless there is an outside disconnect then use that to turn off the power.

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  • Panel feed goes into top breaker. With that off, everything should be dead including the lugs. Which is much better than a Rule of 6. I suspect original was a fuse box with taps off to the two side boxes for dryer and AC and no main breaker at all. Many years ago main box and AC were each replaced with breakers but not the dryer. Jun 29 at 20:03
  • The AC was installed after house mortgage and before moving in about 4 years ago. I'm not sure if the AC box was there at that time, however the outside of the AC box seems newer than the main panel.
    – Kayot
    Jun 29 at 20:07
  • The AC is set up for 240 only not the same as the dryer needs 240/120 to meet modern code.
    – Ed Beal
    Jun 29 at 20:26
  • True, but neutral just passes through so pretty much the same. Jun 29 at 20:53
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    That's a difference in this instance. But if OP swapped the existing fuse box for a box identical to the AC box, it should work fine - double-breaker on the two hots (instead of the two fuses) and neutral passes through. Jun 29 at 22:27

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