Is my Fuse Panel safe?

Commander fuse panels are no longer CSA certified.  No longer CSA certified means that it would not be acceptable to install this panel in a home today. It does not mean that it must be removed from your home if you have one. There are certified replacement breakers that are allowed to be installed in these panels but they are so cost prohibitive that it is much better to replace them.

These panels were manufactured from the mid 60’s to the early 80’s under the Commander, Sylvania and CEB brand names.  CEB brand electrical fuse panels are fire hazards and should be looked at by a qualified electrician.  Also note that certain insurance companies may refuse coverage if your home is equipped with one of these panels.

Fuse Panel

The biggest problem with fuse panels is the relentless use of fuses that are too big.  If a fuse keeps blowing, you need to pay attention. It is a red flag that there is a real problem. Either there is something faulty on the line and that fuse is protecting you from it, or there is too heavy of a load for the wiring and the fuse is letting you know you are past your electrical limit for that wire. If the load on that wire is too much the fuse is supposed to blow and shut off the power to that wire. If it does not blow, (because someone has screwed in an oversized fuse) the wire overheats and puts the home at risk of a fire.

Fuse Panel

Fuses controlling LIGHTS AND PLUGS are never to have a fuse bigger than 15 amps. BASEBOARD HEATING CIRCUITS AND HOT WATER TANKS typically use 20 amp fuses. AIR CONDITIONING UNITS AND DRYERS typically use 30 amp fuses. ELECTRIC STOVES use 40 amp fuses. (available in cartridge style only)

Burned electrical fuse panel

The panel got hot enough to change the colour of the metal screws and melt the incoming wiring.  This panel is the last generation manufactured under the Commander name. It has different engineering than its ancestors, but it also has a bad history, mostly due to the alloy used in the distribution bars that the breakers are connected to. In the mid 90’s this company was bought out by Cutler-Hammer and sold under their name. These panels deteriorate with time (20 years) and so, similar to an aneurysm in a blood vessel, it isn’t a matter of if it will go, but when will it go. Here is a picture of one of these panels that is in dire need of replacement. The picture is worth a thousand words about the safety issues of this panel.

Fuse Panel