If your home was built prior to the 1990s you may have some electrical issues that are ticking time bombs.

Do you own a home or looking to buy a house that was built before 1990? If so, it’s a good idea to know about outdated, dangerous electrical panels – and what they could mean if they are hiding in your home. Certain types of electrical panels are hard to insure because of the safety concerns many insurance companies have after experiencing a large number of claims related to electrical fires due to faulty electrical panels. In most cases, this is due to faulty manufacturing. The breakers inside these electrical panels are part of your home’s emergency system. The panel system may work as intended for many years as most breakers will never, ever need to trip. As long as you’re not overloading your system, you’re using good quality equipment and your wiring is in good condition, there’s usually no reason for a dangerous overload to occur. But should a problem arise, you need to be 100% confident that the breakers will do their job and shut off the current before you even know there’s an issue. With an outdated panel, you can’t count on that happening.

What to Know About Electrical Panels and Why It Matters.

The fact that your home has an old, outdated electrical panel inside may cause some fear, frustration, and some insurance headaches.  Here are 4 types of unsafe electrical panels that are possible in your home: 

 

Federal Pacific

Electric Panel

 Federal pacific also known as Stab-Lok panels were installed between the 1950s and 1980s, Federal Pacific Electric was one of the most popular manufacturers of electrical panels in the United States. For this reason, they were routinely installed in millions of homes. It has since been found that 25% of all electrical panels were defective and may not properly trip, causing a serious fire hazard. These panels have also been known to send power to the circuit, even when in the off position causing electrocution even when the circuit should be dead. It was discovered that FPE falsified safety tests, they were determined to be unsafe almost 40 years ago but nothing was done to address the issue, breakers were never recalled.

If your home inspector finds a Federal pacific also known as Stab-Lok electrical panel, it should be replaced immediately. However, not all are labeled as such and a further evaluation by a licensed electrician is advised. 

 

Zinsco

Electric Panel

 –These panels were popular electrical panels and were installed in homes until the mid-1970s. Nearly 50 years later the company is now out of business, but many homes are still equipped with these panels. Electricians and home inspectors have discovered that certain Zinsco electrical panels can often fail to operate properly and may leave homes and homeowners at risk of both fire and electrical shock. These electrical panels may work fine for years but are unsafe because when/if there ever is a short or overload the surge of power melts wires exposing homeowners to a higher fire risk. If the circuit breakers inside melt to the main ‘bus bar’ the breaker can’t ever trip, even when there’s a short or overloaded circuit. Especially as energy demands have increased, these panels are more and more likely to overheat and portions to melt. 

  *Sylvania – These panels were primarily used in the 1960s and 1970s, and they were rebranded Zinsco panels. The only real change was the Sylvania logo, which was added to the panel cover. They have the same electrical issues as the original Zinsco electrical panels.

If your home inspector finds a Zinsco or GTE-Sylvania electrical panel, it should be replaced immediately. However, not all are labeled as Zinsco panels, it is the breaker style that is considered dangerous and an inspection by a licensed electrician is advised. 

 

Pushmatic

Electric Panel


Pushmatc electrical panels were manufactured from the 1950s through 1980 and are around 40 years old and have outdated safety measures. While the Pushmatic panel itself is not as great a fire hazard as the electrical panels mentioned above they are now considered obsolete and potentially unsafe. What makes this brand distinctive from other circuit breaker panels is that it is the only electrical panel that doesn’t have switches that flip left and right, rather, these use rectangular buttons to be pushed to activate and deactivate circuits. These pushbuttons use a greased mechanism and after years of inactivity, they may become locked up and unable to trip. As the electrical panel ages, the springs will also corrode, rust inside, and become brittle. The older pushbuttons don’t always trip when they should, and they become difficult to reset. 

 

Any electric component that’s close to 50 years old should be replaced. Homeowners insurance and Electric industry experts consider this the safest practice, regardless of the brand or style of the equipment. If your home inspector finds a Pushmatic electrical panel, it should be replaced immediately.

 

Fuse Box:

Electric Panel

 These are old pre-1960s electrical panels that use fuses instead of circuit breakers to protect your wires from becoming overloaded. In the event that the circuit draws too much electricity, the fuse will burn out and need to be replaced.

Fuses are not as reliable as circuit breakers, but the main problem fuses have today is they need to be larger to handle the higher voltage demands of homes. Houses today have many more powered items in them. For a fuse box to handle this without constantly blowing fuses, they need to be modified with bigger and bigger fuses.

While fuse boxes are not actually inherently unsafe on their own, modifications made to them by contractors or homeowners can make them potentially dangerous. They have been modified over time to try to keep up with today’s energy demands. Most often the problems can be due to replacing fuses with a penny or metal object or replacing the blown fuse with a larger amp. This is where a fuse box starts to present a fire hazard. The circuit is only rated for a specific amount of amps, so putting a larger amp fuse onto a smaller amp-rated circuit is potentially dangerous.

If replacing the unsafe electrical panel is not an option, you should have an electrician inspect the panel regularly to make sure that there are not any signs of problems that could cause fires or electrical issues in your home.

We want to safely enjoy the comforts of television, computers, refrigerators, etc, we must maintain a properly functioning electrical panel. Electricity keeps our homes running and the electrical panel must operate properly for electricity to flow safely throughout the home. 

 

Get Your Home Checked For These Outdated, Dangerous Panels!

If you think you have one of these panels in your home, you should replace it right away. It’s simply not worth the risk. Not sure if your panel is dangerous? Contact a home inspector or electrician, and you can ensure that you take action if your panel is dangerous and non-insurable. 

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