All About Electrical Safety

Is your Electric Panel Up-to-Snuff?

As homeowners, we tend to forget about certain things until they fail. Whether it is proper maintenance of a drain system, forgetting to replace your air filter, or not having your electrical system checked regularly – these can have a significant impact on the comfort that you experience in your home. As electrical systems age, their performance degrades. Wiring doesn’t cool as well, circuit breakers do not provide the proper protection, and bus-bars wear out from heat, dirt, and arcing. Waiting to have these repairs made or even checked can put you and your home at risk.

The History of Electrical Panels

Today’s homes are much different than older homes – especially when you consider the electrical systems. Prior to 1950, homes that had electricity came equipped with a 30-Amp Fused Panel. These panels had two plug-type fuses to protect the circuits from damage – and the panel was turned on and off by a knife-blade switch. Back then, the electrical distribution system(s) were knob-and-tube wiring. By today’s standards, all of that is a recipe for disaster.

Homes built between 1950 and 1965

Homes that were built between 1950 and 1965 often came equipped with a 60-Amp Fuse Panel. Much like it’s predecessor, the 30-Amp Panel, the 60-Amp configuration came with two additional circuits, and upgraded the home’s electrical capacity for use with larger appliances. While some older homes have a larger, 100-Amp fuse box, they are rare.

Homes built after 1960

Circuit breakers became quite popular in the 1960s. They solved the biggest challenge in electrical distribution – the fuse. While fuses worked well to protect the devices, in the event that you overloaded the circuit, you could potentially be waiting for a new fuse. In the 1960s, homes were being equipped with resettable circuit-breakers. These breakers would become one of the most cost-effective methods of distributing electricity to homes and businesses. At this time, panel sizes increased from 60-Amp to 100, 125, 150 and 200-Amp Capacities.

Today’s Electrical Distribution Systems

There are many differences or evolutions in electrical systems. However, today’s electrical systems are some of the most complex systems in a home. New electrical panels are safer, more reliable, and allow for future expansion of your home’s electrical system – something that you may have been considering. There’s monitoring devices that help you understand your electrical usage – wireless, resettable circuit breakers – there’s even wireless charging for personal computers and phones. If you use sensitive electronic devices in your home – you should truly consider making sure that your electrical system is up-to-par.

Do I need a new panel?

Let’s not jump to conclusions. In many cases, some of the challenges that you may be experiencing can be as simple as a faulty breaker, a failing outlet or switch, or a poor connection to the outlet or switch itself. These can be easily corrected by a certified electrician. However, there are times, where replacement of the panel is warranted and recommended.

Zinsco Panels

Zinsco was seemingly one of the most prominent 2nd-Generation electrical panel producers. These panels are quite common in California. One of the issues today with Zinsco panels is that the bus-bars were easily overloaded – especially in the center. While aluminum bus bars were new and innovative at the time (because of copper prices) – they later determined that they were dangerous to use because they could be easily overloaded.

If you have a Zinsco panel installed in your home, we highly recommend replacing this panel.

Federal Pacific Panels

Federal Pacific Panels were installed in homes from the Mid-1950s to the 1980s. If your home was built during that time, there’s a good possibility that you have either a Zinsco or Federal Pacific Panel. Not only are these boxes outdated, there have been significant design flaws and manufacturing defects that have been discovered and are unique to the product.

If you have a Federal Pacific panel installed in your home, we highly recommend replacing this panel.

Modern Day Panels

From the 1980s to present day, there have not been significant design changes in electrical panels. The Square-D Homeline Product is one of the most common in our area and has stood the test of time as well. These panels do fail, but it is likely due to neglect and breaker failure. There have been many changes with regard to breaker-types, functional features such as AFCI and GFCI Breakers have all become more common in the marketplace. While each manufacturer is a bit different, many of the panels have similar framework to make things more interchangeable.

The Answer to Your Question

You do not necessarily need to replace your electrical panel. While there may be some very good benefits to doing so – having an older panel is not a significant danger if it is properly maintained and not overloaded.

Electrical Safety Inspections

Electrical Safety Inspections can offer great insight into the current condition of your home’s electrical system. Our team of Heroes will review the wiring in your electrical panel, ensure that the connections are proper and tight, and that all of the circuit breakers are properly installed, and completely operable. Beyond the electrical panel, there are many other safety-related items that should be inspected regularly to ensure that they provide adequate circuit protection.

Our Electrical Safety Inspection includes more than 120-Items that are checked to ensure that your home is and remains as safe as possible. Here are a few key-items that are checked…

Main Electrical Panel

- Are breakers UL/ULc listed for panel?

- Are breakers correctly sized?

- Is wiring gauged/sized properly?

- Is panel protected by main breaker?

- Is main breaker sized correctly?

- Are GFI Breakers working correctly?

- Are AFI Breakers working correctly?

- Is Anti-Oxidizer on aluminum conductors?

- Is grounding and bonding correct?

- Is there a surge arrestor installed?

- Is surge arrestor installed correctly?

- Are all wire connections tight?

- Is bus-bar okay?

- Is the breaker temp within correct specifications?

Service Entrance

- Is there a main disconnect?

- Is the eyebolt okay?

- Is the weatherhead okay?

- Are the service entrance conductors properly sized?

- Is the service mast okay?

- 0Is the meter base okay?

- Are the service entrance conductors/feeders installed correctly?

- Is the grounding system correct?

- Is there anti-oxidant on all aluminum wires?

- Is there burning or corrosion?

- Are the main power company’s connections okay?

Secondary Electrical Panel (Sub-Panel)

- Are breakers UL/ULc listed for panel?

- Are breakers correctly sized?

- Is wiring gauged/sized correctly/

- Is panel protected by a main breaker?

- Is main breaker sized correctly?

- Are GFI/AFI Breakers working properly?

- Is anti-oxidant on all aluminum conductors?

- Is grounding and bonding correct?

- Is there a surge arrestor installed?

- Is surge arrestor installed correctly?

- Are all wire connections tight?

- Is bus-bar okay?

- Is the breaker temperature within correct specifications?

If you’re interested in an electrical safety inspection, we include a complimentary inspection in your Hero Rewards Membership. If you do not have an active Hero Rewards Membership, mention this article and receive $50 off of the Regular Inspection Price of $149.

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