If your house was built before 1990, it can be at higher risk for electrical fire.
According to the Electrical Safety Foundation, over 50,000 homes were affected by electric fires in 2017 in the US, and 8,200 of them were due to electrical malfunction.
Many of those houses were constructed during 1960-1970. So if you owe a nice vintage house that was built around the Summer of Love time – we hate to be the bearer of bad news but there is a chance that your home can be extremely dangerous for you and your family.
Why? Simple answer – an outdated electrical panel and worn out wires silently hiding inside the house and being constantly overloaded with an increased amount of energy consumed. One day, an old circuit breaker box may not trigger, which can set your house on fire in an instant. Below are 4 hazardous electrical panel boxes that might still be installed in your nest.
Federal Pacific Electric Panels
Federal Pacific used to be the most popular electrical panel manufacturer in the United States between 1950-1980s.
These panels were installed in millions of households across the country. However, FPE panels proved to be extremely fire hazardous as their circuit breakers failed to trip in response to circuit overload or short circuit. As a result, this has led to thousands of fires over the past decades.
You have a Federal Pacific panel if “Federal Pacific Electric” is written on the cover of your breaker box. Another sign is the name “Stab-Lok” inside the panel – that’s the brand name for its circuit breakers.
These electrical panels were among America’s favorites between 1960-1970s. Today, Zinsco panels are labeled as extremely fire hazardous due to significant age and poor aluminum quality used for manufacturing.
Not only do they have significant design flaws but also may not meet updated safety codes. As claimed by one expert, 25% of all Zinsco circuit breakers fail to trip due to short circuit or an overcurrent.
You have a Zinsco panel if there’s a Zinsco label on the panel. Also, you may notice Sylvania or GTE-Sylvania name, which is re-branded Zinsco. Note: Not all Sylvania products are unsafe but only a licensed electrician can determine whether or not it needs a replacement.
Split-Bus Electrical Panels
Typically installed back in 1960- early 1970s, a split-bus panel comes with non-connected, two separate buses, on the upper and lower side of a panel.
Thing is, split-bus panels don’t have a single main disconnect breaker, which does not allow you to shut off all the power at once. Actually, there can be up to six “mains”, and in case of emergency, you will have to shut off each of them. Given the fact they haven’t been installed since the 70s, all split-bus panels remaining in older houses are past due their age and may not function safely.
You have a split-bus panel if you open the front cover of an electrical box and see the breakers divided into two groups. Can’t spot a single disconnect breaker? Chances are high that you got a split-bus. Make sure to call a certified electrician who can verify that and ensure your home’s safety.
A fuse only handles the amperage amount it was designed for. In other words, if a fuse is rated for 15 amps it will never allow a higher amount of current to pass.
Once a fuse burns, it cannot be reset and needs a replacement. Generally, fuses are not unsafe; however, older fuse boxes can be quite problematic as they were designed for much less electricity demand compared to what we consume today.
You have a fuse box if you have fuses instead of switches. Easy!
Not sure if your home is at risk? It’s worth it to have a licensed electrician assess your electrical panel and wire condition, especially if your house was built before 1990.
The defense from a fire is the best offense, and in this case, that’s fire safety. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with a licensed electrician.