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Is it time to replace your old electrical panel?

Replace Your Old Electrical Panel

The Most Common Old Electrical Panels

Fehn Electric specializes in troubleshooting and repairing old residential electrical systems throughout Salinas and Monterey County and we have seen numerous electrical panels fail due to old age.  Electrical panel failure can lead to electrical arcing between the circuit breaker and buss bar or through a circuit breaker failing to trip during an overload condition.  Both of these situations can cause heat build-up and ultimately fire.  For homes built between 1950 and 1980, there are 3 brands of electrical panels that were widely installed into area homes.  They include Federal Pacific Electric (FPE), ITE Pushmatic and Zinsco.

How Old Electrical Panels Fail

  •  Federal Pacific (FPE) electrical panels have been the subject of numerous investigations and lawsuits due to the faulty design of their “Stab-lock” circuit breakers.  During a circuit overload or short circuit condition, Stab-lock circuit breakers often fail to trip, causing the flow of electricity to continue unimpeded.  This results in a rapid build-up of heat and ultimately fire.
  • ITE Pushmatic electrical panels and circuit breakers do not have any proven design flaws that can cause a fire or shock hazard, but they are obsolete.  Replacement circuit breakers are hard to find and when you can, they are expensive.  The design of these old electrical panels also makes it impossible to add new circuits and loads to the already limited spaces in the panel.
  • Zinsco electrical panels are considered obsolete due to design flaws in how the circuit breakers lock onto the aluminum bus bar.  Over time, the connection from the circuit breaker becomes loose, causing arcing and heat build-up on the buss bar.  Circuit breaker failure and potential fire hazard becomes the result of this arcing and heat build-up.

If your home has any of these three electrical panels running your electrical systems, seriously consider upgrading to a new panel such as Square D by Schneider Electric.  Not only will you sleep better at night knowing your new electrical panel is keeping you safe, but you will have the option of safely increasing the size of your home’s electrical system by adding new circuits.

One last thought regarding the cost of upgrading your home’s electrical panel… It’s cheaper to install a new electrical panel than recovering from an electrical fire.