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How Fuses and Circuit Breakers Work

Ask This Old House electrician Scott Caron demonstrates how fuses and circuit breakers protect a home.

How long do circuit breakers last?

This Old House master electrician Heath Eastman says, “There is no expiration date for circuit breakers that everyone agrees on. Some manufacturers say 20 years, others say 30, and still others recommend replacement after 40 years. In fact, these devices can continue to function reliably long after they reach those ages; just replace them (or have them replaced by a licensed electrician) whenever they fail to reset after tripping.

If you want to be proactive, swap out any circuit breaker that trips repeatedly or that feels spongy when switched manually. (A breaker’s lever should snap into place when flipped.) That’s why the long-standing recommendation to manually trip and reset each breaker a couple of times a year is still worth following.”


All modern electrical wires, breaker box and fuses can be found at the local electrical supply house.

Expert assistance with this project was provided by Caron Electric.