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Unsafe Electrical Panels

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Unsafe Electrical Panels

Protect Your Home by Checking for These Outdated & Unsafe Breaker Boxes

Your home’s electrical panel is the heart of its electrical system. Also known as a load center and, more commonly, as the breaker box, this critical component takes an electrical current from a utility company and distributes it throughout your house. From the electrical panel, the power supply to every part of a home can be turned on or off. Notably, electrical panels should not be confused with subpanels. A subpanel only controls the power in a portion of a home and is powered by energy from an electrical panel rather than the raw electrical current from the utility company.

Why Are Electrical Panels So Important?

Electrical panels do so much more for your home than distribute electricity through it; they also provide a crucial layer of protection. Every electrical panel is filled with circuit breakers. If the electrical current becomes too strong in your home, these breakers flip and cut the power to the area of a home receiving too much power.

There are two types of circuit breakers:

  • Single Pole: These breakers have a single switch and are the most common type of breakers found in a panel. Single pole breakers handle 120 volts and come in 15-amp or 20-amp variations.
  • Double Pole: These breakers look like two single pole breakers that are attached. They handle 240-volt currents and range from 15-125 amps. Double pole circuit breakers are used on large appliances such as air conditioners, stoves, water heaters, and other devices.

While many electrical panels last for years, some of them don’t stand up well to the test of time. Aging, design issues, and quality problems can make certain types of electrical panels unsafe and require replacement as soon as possible. Mister Sparky® of Augusta is ready to come to your home, inspect your panel, and replace it as needed.

What Are Common Types of Unsafe Electrical Panels?

If you own a home that was built before 1990, there’s a chance that you have one of four types of electrical panels that don't meet modern safety standards. Having an unsafe electrical panel is a gamble that no homeowner should take for the protection of their property and the wellbeing of their family.

Zinsco Panels

In the 1970s, Zinsco (also known as GTE-Sylvania) panels were installed in homes around the nation. While the company no longer exists, many homes still have its panels today. Production of Zinsco panels was stopped after critical design flaws were discovered with them.

An example of a Zinsco electrical panel that should be replaced.
An example of a Zinsco electrical panel that should be replaced.

At the root of their danger in an aluminum bus bar, a component that can overheat, melt, and cause breakers to fail to trip. Notably, this design flaw can make a breaker appear as though it is tripped while still being active. Panels branded as GTE-Sylvania might be rebranded versions of Zinsco panels and should be inspected by an electrician.

Federal Pacific (FPE) Panels

For about 30 years, FPE electrical panels were some of the most popular in the United States. However, they are known to have issues with their double and single pole breakers. Some circumstances can cause these breakers to not trip when they need to, allowing a dangerous amount of electricity to continue flowing to a section of a house.

An FPE electrical panel
An FPE electrical panel.

When breakers fail to trip when needed, a fire can start in overloaded electrical systems. These panels can work correctly for years before a short circuit causes them to overheat and potentially catch fire.

An overheated FPE electrical panel.

Split-Bus Electrical Panels

A bus is the part of an electrical panel that connects to the breaker and provides power to a home. When a breaker is not touching a panel’s bus, the power to its section is turned off. Modern electric panels have a single metal bus that’s connected to each individual circuit breaker.

An example of a split-bus panel.

An example of a split-bus electrical panel.

Decades ago, circuit breakers had a split bus that connected to two main breakers. This style hasn’t been used in so long that any split-bus circuit breakers still in use today should be replaced. While split-bus panels aren’t particularly unsafe, ones that are still in use have far outlived their lifespan and may not work as intended. Split-bus electrical panels are identifiable if a group of breakers are wired to a set of main breakers above them.

Fuse Boxes

Before electrical panels used breakers, they used fuses to shut off power to problematic electrical currents. They work by burning out once too much current has passed through them. To fix a burnt fuse, homeowners had to replace them. While they served their purpose effectively during their time, they aren’t safe for use in homes today because they weren’t designed with to meet the demands of modern electrical use.

A fuse panel
A fuse box with different types of fuses.

Fuse boxes have fewer circuits, making it easy to place too much strain on a single circuit. In some instances, a fuse might be replaced with a larger one to stop it from blowing as often. This practice is dangerous because it might provide wires with more current than they are designed to carry. Finally, fuses should never be replaced or bridged using metal. Doing so removes all safeguards provides by fuses and circuit breakers and makes an electrical panel incredibly prone to overheating and catching fire.

Mister Sparky® of Augusta Is Ready to Inspect for Unsafe Electrical Panels

If your home has any of the panels above, or are not sure if yours is safe, Mister Sparky® of Augusta is ready to help! Our team of highly trained electricians are ready to come to your home, inspect your system, and replace your old unsafe panel with a modern one today. Safety and quality are always our top priorities, and we’re ready to help you explore options that work with your needs and budget.

At Mister Sparky® of Augusta, we’re always on time, friendly, and back our work with a 100% satisfaction guarantee so you can trust that we’re always working to solve electrical problems the correct way. Call us today to find out why your neighbors already trust our Augusta electricians! We handle all types of electrical panel repair, installation, and maintenance.

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