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Is My Electrical Panel Safe?

What every homeowner should know.

May 18, 2014

Danny Caner

Electricians inspecting Federal Pacific Electric panel for saftey concernsEvery house with electricity has one; it’s called an Electrical Panel or Circuit Breaker Box. Some may know it better by the box in their basement or garage that needs to be reset when using a hair dryer and vacuum at the same time. Either way, every home and business relies on this panel to distribute the right amount of electricity to the right place. Electrical panels are the heart to a home electrical system. When a panel fails, anything that runs off electricity will not work until the panel is replaced.

There are two major brands of electrical panels that may have faulty design and potentially put you (the homeowner) at risk. These panels were made by Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) and certain GTE Sylvania-Zinsco panels. These electrical panels were most commonly installed from the 1950’s to the 1980’s in residential properties. Over the years public service announcements have been made regarding safety issues that these panels have, yet millions of people still have them installed in their homes. Design flaws are not the only thing to be aware of; any panel over 30 years old should be professional inspected by an electrician. They will determine whether it needs to be replaced, upgraded or if everything looks good. Having a properly functioning circuit breaker panel will protect you and your home from overcurrent, short circuits and potentially disastrous situations.

Unsafe Electrical Panel made by Federal Pacific CompanyThe most common manufacture of defective panels was Federal Pacific Electric Company (FPE). These panels were made in U.S.A from the 1950s to the 1980s. Millions of FPE panels were installed in homes across the country. As time went on electricians, inspectors and even home owners were finding that Federal Pacific Electric panels were failing at an alarming rate. Federal Pacific Electric Company (FPE) panels can operate without issue for years, but after any type of overload, they can become unstable, overheat and turn into a fire hazards or even explode!

Over the years people finally had enough, and a lawsuit was filed against Federal Pacific Electric Company. FPE was charged with violating the Consumer Fraud Act because Federal Pacific Company knowingly sold circuit breaker panels that did not meet UL standards. It was also proven that Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) panels failed to trip their breakers, especially when too much current was applied rendering them useless and even dangerous. In lieu of this, they still made no efforts to recall their faulty panels.

If a breaker fails to “trip” an uncontrolled amount of electricity will surge through the home’s main electrical panel and circuitry. If this happens it cannot stopped until the electricity “burns up” destroying everything in its path. Electricity will keep flowing until it has nowhere else to go. This could lead to permanent failure of the panel and other electrical devices from electrical surges and overheating. In extreme cases Federal Pacific Panels have been known to catch fire causing property damage and endangering occupants.

Unsafe Electrical Panel made by GTE-Sylvania ZinscoAnother potentially hazardous electrical panel was made by GTE Sylvania Zinsco. Sylvania Purchased Zinsco in the early 1970s and produced these panels into the early 1980s. Though most Sylvania Zinsco panels are obsolete, there are still a few lurking around in older homes. Caner Electrical has recently come across Zinsco Panels in Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach. At one time Zinsco panels were a popular choice for contractors for their attractive price. Just like the Federal Pacific Panels they suffered from the same design flaws and pose a real threat to homes and their occupants. If a GTE Sylvania Zinsco panel is found in your home or someone you may know, have it inspected as soon as possible and replaced if needed.

Electricity is an important part of our everyday life; we often take it for granted until we lose it even temporally from a storm or blackout. Old or outdated electrical panels can often randomly fail leaving you in the dark. An electrical panel should be inspected at least once every 10 years to make sure everything is operating as it should. Even though Caner Electrical provides its customers with quick emergency service; a panel change is a large job and can take all day.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the majority of homes built in the United States were constructed before 1970. These older homes were built decades before most modern electronic devices were even invented. It was common for older homes to have 60-amp or less electrical service, where never homes have at least 150 amps. Even though newer electronics are more energy efficient than those of the past, we have more of them. Almost every person over the age of 8 has at least one computer, smart phone, television and/or tablet.

The fact is, the older your home the more at risk it is to having an obsolete or outdated panel. Even some newer homes have underpowered electrical panels. These panels simply cannot safely handle the electrical demand of modern electronics. Panels made by Federal Pacific Company, Sylvania-Zinsco or outdated panels may look fine, but as energy demands increase these panels may overheat, become unstable or just plain dangerous. If you are uncertain about the electrical panel located in your home call Caner Electrical and we’ll give you an honest opinion and a free quote for replacement.

If you suspect that your panel was manufactured by Federal Pacific Electric or Sylvania-Zinsco, call a qualified electrician to do a thorough inspection. Only a qualified electrician with experience will be able to tell you if your electrical panel is safe or not. If you live in Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Boca Raton, or West Palm Beach then give Caner Electrical a call for a free panel inspection.

Electrical breaker switch that got trippedElectrical panels are such an important part of the home. They supply every light, fan and electrical device in your home with power. Panels also protect your electronics from power surges and other possible hazards. Modern electrical panels can typically operate and protect homes for 30 years or more, but regular inspections and maintenance by a licensed Florida State electrician are recommended. Contact Caner Electrical, a licensed electrical contractor in South Florida that is familiar with the potential hazards and dangers of Federal Pacific Electric, Sylvania-Zinsco, and outdated panels. With Caner Electrical’s free in-home safety analysis we’ll check your circuit breaker panel along with the rest of your home electrical system. Rest easy knowing you’re in good hands.

Call Caner Electrical Today! (561) 734-4881

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