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Homeowners Beware of these 3 Unsafe Electrical Panels

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Do you own a home that was built before 1990? If so, you may not be aware of the outdated main electric panels/boxes that could be hiding in your home.

The scary thing about these outdated electrical panels is that they can be very unsafe. The major difference between these and your more modern electrical panels is that the old-fashioned ones don’t contain safety devices like fuses or circuit breakers that will trip and shut off the power when too much electricity flows through them. This fail-safe was added in new models to help prevent fires caused by overheating wires.

Now that we have your attention about the fact that your home may have old, outdated panels inside, here are 4 types of unsafe panels you should look out for:

Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Panels: From the 1950’s to the 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.

Residents during that time didn’t know that these panels are extremely unsafe because FPE electric panels’ circuit breakers fail to trip when there’s a short circuit or circuit overload. This problem has caused thousands of fires. 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.

Zinsco Panels: These panels were popular electrical panels and were installed in homes throughout the1970s. Nearly 50 years later the company is now out of business, but many homes are still equipped with these panels.

These panels are unsafe because the circuit breakers inside have been known to melt to the main ‘bus bar.’ Leading to a breaker that can’t ever trip, even when there’s a short or overloaded circuit. So if there ever is a short or other problem, the surge of power melts wires and starts a fire in your home.

Fuse Box: These are old 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 actually inherently unsafe. They work just like circuit breakers, but can’t be reset, and instead must be replaced. However, they are considered unsafe in homes today because they have been modified over time to try to keep up with today’s energy demands.

Here are a few ways that we as homeowners may create problems with fuse boxes that make them unsafe:

  • Placing too many things on a single circuit
  • Replacing a fuse with a bigger fuse
  • Replacing the fuse with something metal

What should you do if you have one of these panels?

If you have one of these 3 unsafe and outdated electrical panels, or any other outdated panels, your trusted inspectors at Details Home Inspections highly recommends replacing them. If you're not sure what type of electrical panel is in your home, contact us today at Details Home Inspections. We'd be happy to take a look and give you some recommendations.

If replacing the unsafe 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.


Contact us or visit our Facebook page with any questions about these panels. Safety is top priority with Details Home Inspections, your professional home inspector in Vancouver Washington.

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