The central nervous system of your house is your electrical panel. It is where the electrical current from
the utility power grid connects with every electrical device in your home. This is the place where safety
needs to be your number one concern. If things are broken, damaged, or not up to code, then it could
result in serious injury and property damage. As electricians in the Greater Rochester New York area,
we’ve inspected thousands of panels, while answering questions for homeowners wherever we go. We
strive to educate our clients so that they can better understand their particular electrical panels, along
with the safety measures that are involved.
The purpose of this article is to help you spot panels that have been deemed unsafe, with reasons that
are backed up by many professional electricians. Some of the panels are deemed obsolete because they
were manufactured 60+ years ago and no longer meet safety requirements. These panels are very
difficult to maintain and expensive to find parts for. Others are deemed unsafe due to the history of
failure rate in that manufactured product. In the instance that your electrical panel is obsolete or has a
high track record of failure, we recommend replacement, or urge our clients to add an electrical service.
The four panels we are looking at are:
1. Edison Panels: The old fuse systems from 60+ years ago. One of the main problems, aside from
being outdated and difficult to find parts for, is how easy it is to bypass safety features. Bypasses
include putting in an oversized fuse or bypassing fuses altogether with a penny.
2. Federal Pacific Electric: Homes that were built between 1950 and 1990 commonly have a Federal
Pacific circuit breaker panel with Stab-Lok breakers. After mass reports of electrical fires starting from
Federal Pacific breaker panel boxes, there was an investigation performed throughout the 1980s that
showed one in four of the Stab-Lok breakers were defective and could not trip to prevent electrical
dangers. Federal Pacific panels containing the fire hazards will say Stab-Lok on the panel in between the
breakers. The breakers themselves will contain red tips as well. While the company is out of business,
the panels are incredibly dangerous and need to be changed immediately by a professional, residential
electrician. Give Nichols Electrical a call to replace this or other types of panel boxes.
3. Zinsco or Zinsco-Sylvania Home Electrical Panel: The Zinsco panel is a type of panel board that was
installed in the 1970s and was incredibly popular. This type of home electrical panel stopped being
installed when design issues, such as extreme fire and electrical shock were discovered, yet those that
were already purchased at the time of this discovery continued to be installed. You can easily identify
this panel because it is the only electrical service panel that has thin breakers instead of thicker, push, or
round ones. Another defining feature of this panel is the bright colors the breakers contain, including
pink, yellow, blue, green, and red.
4. Home Electrical Panel: Split bus electrical panels have a unique issue in that there is no main breaker.
This system has a smaller breaker that feeds the lighting and outlet circuits. These circuits have been
known to melt and burn because of the electrical demand placed on them. These panels would not be
UL and are not a safe option for today’s homes.
If you have any doubt about whether your home’s electrical panel is safe, we suggest you call a qualified
electrician to examine it. They can carefully look for known manufacturer faults, as well as any corrosion,
bad wiring/connections or anything that doesn’t meet current codes.
If you’d like more information on electrical panels that are unsafe please see the links below.