Your property’s electrical panel (often called a circuit breaker panel) is a critical safety feature that needs to be operating at peak condition at all times. A faulty electrical panel leaves your property at risk for fires resulting from circuit overload, short circuits, and power surges.
If your panel is faulty or failing, it will usually give you some hints, which we’ll cover below. Additionally, we will discuss some outdated, unsafe brands of panels that can also put your property at risk.
WARNING SIGNS OF A FAULTY ELECTRICAL PANEL
The Breakers Trip Frequently or Won’t Stay Reset
Each of your circuit breakers has a corresponding electrical circuit on your property. If a circuit breaker detects that its circuit is drawing too much power (circuit overload), the breaker is supposed to “trip” and cut off the power.
However, if a circuit breaker trips almost like clockwork whenever you use a particular appliance, the switch may be worn and failing. If you need to continually reset your breaker because it won’t stay put, that’s another red flag. Don’t wait to contact our electricians to examine the problem.
The Panel Gives Off a Burning Smell
This one is another major red flag. If you detect a burning odor around your electrical panel, the wires are likely overheating. Shut off the power IMMEDIATELY to prevent a fire or any other electrical issues. Next, call our electricians to inspect your panel: .
DANGEROUS ELECTRICAL PANELS
Some brands and types of panels have a track record of being unsafe and failing without warning. If any of the following panels are still in operation on your property, it’s a good idea to get a replacement as soon as possible.
Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Stab-Lok
Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok panels were never officially recalled, but they’ve been almost universally condemned by electricians and home inspectors alike. During tests conducted by electrical experts in the 1980s, 51% of the breakers failed to trip. One of these experts, an electrical engineer named Jesse Aronstein, co-wrote a paper with Richard Lowry to publish his findings from numerous fire reports. By Aronstein and Lowry’s estimate, FPE Stab-Lok panel failures are responsible for as many as 2,800 fires and 13 deaths every year.
You can usually tell if you own a Federal Pacific Stab-Lok panel by how it looks. In between the breakers, you’ll see the name Stab-Lok, and the breakers will have red tips.
Zinsco and Sylvania
Most Zinsco panels were installed in the 1970s, and the good news is that these are obsolete nowadays. When significant and dangerous design issues were discovered, people stopped buying these panels. Unfortunately, though, the Zinsco panels that were already purchased were installed anyway.
Sylvania panels have the same issues as Zinsco panels because they are almost the same product. Sylvania bought out Zinsco and made no significant changes to the design apart from replacing the logo.
Similar to FPE Stab-Lok panels, a Zinsco or Sylvania panel can work fine for years. However, higher energy demands can cause the panel to overheat and even make the breakers melt. If a breaker melts to the panel’s bus bar, then the breaker can no longer trip when needed. That means that if a massive surge of outside electrical power were to flow into your property’s panel and circuits, nothing would be there to cut the power. This could result in the wires melting and the panel overheating and, in turn, causing a fire.
If you own a Zinsco or Sylvania panel, it should have a label with the brand name, and its circuit breaker switches will be red, green, and blue.
Concerned About Your Property’s Electric Panel?
At Luminous Electric, our electricians are extensively trained to understand the complexities of panels and circuit breakers. When you hire our team, you can count on trustworthy and friendly technicians, honest, upfront pricing, and 3-year parts and labor warranties. Give us a call today at or contact us online.