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Is My Electric Panel Safe?

The Electrical Circuit Breaker Panel

The Heart of a Home’s Electric System

The home’s electrical system operates like a human being’s body. Circuits and wires carry electricity throughout the home like veins and arteries carry blood to organs and limbs. Just as blood keeps the body alive, electricity keeps televisions on, computers powered, and refrigerators running.

Blood cannot travel throughout a body unless its heart is pumping, and electricity cannot travel throughout a home unless the electrical panel is operating properly. The panel is the heart of an entire home’s electrical system. Without a properly functioning panel, nothing electrical in a home will work.

People’s hearts can develop problems due to age, diet, and genetic reasons. Panels also can develop problems. Today, there are two brands of panels that may have major manufacturing and/or design flaws that potentially put homeowners at risk—Federal Pacific Electric panels and certain Zinsco panels. There are also millions of people today who have panels that are more than 40 years old and may no longer protect their homes from overcurrents and short circuits.

 

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Federal Pacific Electric Panels

Potentially Could Fail to Provide Proper Safety and Protection for Homes

Federal Pacific Electric Company (FPE) was one of the most common manufacturers of circuit breaker panels in North America from the 1950s to the 1980s. Millions of their panels were installed in homes across the country. Yet, as the years passed, electricians and home inspectors often found Federal Pacific Electric panels failed to provide proper protection to homeowners and their families. Experts now say that FPE panels can appear to work fine for years, but after one overcurrent or short circuit, they can overheat and become fire hazards.

In a class action lawsuit, a New Jersey State Court ruled that the Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Company “violated the Consumer Fraud Act because FPE knowingly and purposefully distributed circuit breakers which were not tested to meet UL standards…” An expert who investigated the potential hazards of Federal Pacific Electric panels stated under UL 489 test conditions, that FPE panels fail to trip at a much higher rate than standard panels.

When a breaker fails to trip, an extreme amount of power from the outside electrical supply surges into a home’s panel and circuits. Once that happens, it cannot be stopped or shut off manually. Electricity will burn until it runs out of fuel or the wires melt. The panel could overheat and catch fire, causing serious harm to a home and its occupants. Many Federal Pacific Electric panels and breakers can operate properly for years. But if and when they do malfunction, a disaster could occur.

Zinsco Panels

May Leave Homes and Homeowners at Risk

Most Zinsco panels are obsolete today. However, at one time, they were extremely popular and installed in many regions throughout North America. As time has passed, electricians and home inspectors have discovered that certain Zinsco panels often can fail to operate properly and may leave homes and homeowners at risk to both fire and electrical shock. These panels can work fine for years, but as homes have increased energy demands, these panels may overheat and portions of it melt.

In this situation, if a breaker melts to the bus bar of the panel and can no longer adequately trip in case of an overcurrent or short circuit, an extreme amount of power from the outside electrical supply surges into a home’s panel and circuits. Once that happens, it cannot be stopped or shut off manually. Electricity will burn until it runs out of fuel or the wires melt. The panel could overheat and catch fire, causing serious harm to a home and its occupants.

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Outdated Electrical Panels

May Leave Homes Open to Troubles

Today’s society depends more than ever on electricity. Everything seems to be electronic. It’s extremely prevalent in homes now. Most people have at least one computer, several televisions, a stereo system, cell phones, clock radios, and the list continues. All of these devices require electricity to function.

More than half of the homes today were constructed before the 1970s, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That means more than half were built decades before many of these modern, electronic conveniences even were invented. Most of these older homes possessed no more than 60-amp electrical service. Today, homes should have at least 150 amps.

These facts point to a problem—older homes, unless their electrical system has been upgraded, are being overburdened. These outdated electric systems and panels cannot safely handle the demands of today’s society.

What Should a Homeowner Do?

OKC Electricians Can Help!

The circuit breaker panel is one of the most important parts of a home’s electrical system. It constantly distributes and receives electricity. The panel protects homes from power surges and other possible hazards. With regular maintenance by a licensed electrician, experts say that today’s electrical panels can function properly and protect homes for 30 years or more.

If you suspect that you may have a Federal Pacific Electric, Zinsco, or an outdated circuit breaker panel in your home, or in any event, you have not had your panel inspected recently, you owe it to yourself and your family to contact us today for a free inspection.

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