Why Should I Replace my Zinsco Breaker?

Electrician working on circuit breaker with the words, Who Made Your Electrical Panel

Here in the Foothills, many people love vintage homes, but if you’re living in one built before the mid-1980’s, you may unknowingly be at risk for fire, injury or even death. The key is to check your electrical panel.

From the 1930’s until the mid-80’s, U.S. homes were frequently constructed with circuit breakers manufactured by Zinsco or its successor company, Sylvania (or, earlier, the Frank Adam Electric Company and Zinsmeyer). These panels contain dangerous design flaws that have resulted in fires and fatalities.

Panels from the same era by the Federal Pacific Electric Company (FPE) also have exhibited safety failures. Most other older panels have not demonstrated such serious problems, but they still may be too outdated to be safe. Both Zinsco and FPE lost their UL certification decades ago.

The issues reported for these panels include overheating, arcing, aluminum components (which have a higher failure rate), failure to trip a circuit breaker in an overcurrent condition and continuing to conduct electricity when they appear to be shut off. None of these panels have ever been recalled.

If you have a Zinsco panel in your home, the only safe response is to replace it as soon as possible.

How do you know if your panel was made by Zinsco?

  • The manufacturer’s name should be displayed on a label. Since Sylvania bought out Zinsco in the 1980’s, many Sylvania panels can also be unsafe.
  • Zinsco panels have blue, red and green circuit breakers, and FPE circuit breakers are marked in orange. Of course, screw fuses are out of date.

 What do you do if you have a Zinsco panel?

Call a licensed electrician to replace it. Your circuit panel is meant to protect your home and family from dangerous power surges and fire hazard, and neither Zinsco nor FPE panels are reliably able to do that.

Your circuit breaker panel is like the central switchboard of your home’s electrical system – we couldn’t function without it. Modern panels are safe and efficient, but they can only be kept that way with regular maintenance by a licensed electrician – a step many homeowners neglect.

If you have an electrical panel known to be flawed, or if you have not had your more modern panel checked recently, call your electrician for an inspection. Your home’s safety may depend on it.

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