Announcement – it’s good to have your electric panel checked if you’re moving to a different house or when yours is 20 years old.

Warning – you may not know these 5 electrical panels are under government recalls and warnings. You may not even be aware of what type of electrical panel you have in your home. It’s in your interest to review in this article the 5 major brands and years they were mostly installed, then take a quick look at your house’s electrical panel. If you’re concerned your electric panel might need replacement or upgrade call us.

My Home Electrician specializes in helping you if your Electric panel needs replacement or upgrade. Faulty or worn out panels can be a safety risk to your family and fire hazard for your home and you may not even realize the risk.

The estimated lifespan of all new electric panels varies a lot. 

We recommend you do (or hire us to do) a safety check near the 20th birthday of your electrical panel. Unless there’s obvious signs of burning, arcing, or burnt odor. Then inspect and safety check immediately. 

Buying a new or existing home

Safety check also when buying a home. Many times remodels are done DIY or by unlicensed contractors. Subpar work can lead to a panel being damaged. And what could have been simply a breaker replacement can turn into a full panel replacement. 

With safety checks and breaker replacements as needed…I’ve seen panels 30 plus years old still going strong. 

One loose bolt or one improperly seated breaker can quickly lead to heating and permanent damage to the main panel bussing and wiring terminals. Many of these areas cannot be repaired as the panel is UL listed as a complete assembly. This would require a full panel replacement if period safety assessments aren’t completed. 

More about UL listed meaning here and here.

Key Takeaways

  • Identify the top 5 hazardous electric panels that have been subject to recalls: FPE, Zinsco, Challenger, Pushmatic Bulldog, and Schneider panel (because it’s a fire hazard).
  • Understand the safety risks associated with these panels, including the potential for fire hazards and electrical shock.
  • Learn how to check if your electric panel is on the recall list and the immediate steps to take for your safety.
  • Discover the importance of regular electrical safety inspections and compliance with the National Electric Code (NEC).
  • Find out the recommended actions for homeowners, including replacing outdated or recalled panels with safer, modern alternatives.

Stay Safe: Identifying and Acting on Hazardous Electric Panel Recalls

Electrical panels are the heart of your home’s electrical system, but when they malfunction, they can become a silent hazard. Over the years, several models of electric panels have been recalled due to safety issues. It’s crucial to identify and replace these panels to ensure the safety of your home and loved ones.

Quick Guide to Recognizing Dangerous Panels

Knowing how to spot a potentially dangerous electrical panel is the first step in safeguarding your home. Look for brands like Federal Pacific Electric (FPE), Zinsco, Challenger, and Pushmatic Bulldog. These panels may not trip during an overload or short circuit, posing a serious fire risk. Check your panel for any signs of rust, corrosion, or melting, which can indicate a compromised panel in need of immediate attention.

Immediate Actions to Mitigate Risks

If you discover that your electrical panel is one of the known hazardous models, it’s imperative to act swiftly. Contact a licensed electrician to inspect your panel and determine the best course of action. In many cases, a full replacement will be necessary for your safety. Until an electrician can assess your panel, avoid overloading circuits and be vigilant for any signs of electrical problems.

Top Hazardous Electric Panels in Homes

Identifying Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Panels

FPE Stab-Lok panels were widely installed in homes across the United States from the 1950s to the 1980s. These panels are notorious for failing to provide proper protection and have been linked to numerous electrical fires. If your home was built during this time frame, it’s wise to check for an FPE panel, which can usually be identified by the Stab-Lok label inside the panel door.

Consumer Product Safety Commission 

Spotting Zinsco (GTE-Sylvania) Panels

Zinsco panels, also sold under the GTE-Sylvania brand name, were popular in the mid-20th century. These panels are easily recognizable by their unique colored breakers and horizontal arrangement. However, they are known to have breakers that may not trip and can overheat, leading to a potential fire hazard. Replacement of these panels is generally recommended.

Recognizing Challenger (Eaton/Cutler Hammer) Panels

Challenger panels, which were also rebranded under Eaton/Cutler Hammer, may have issues with breakers that don’t trip or are difficult to reset. In 2014, a recall was issued for certain models due to shock hazards. Look for the Challenger name on the panel; if present, consult with an electrician about a replacement.

Pushmatic Bulldog panels are known for their push-button breakers, which can become difficult to operate over time and may fail to trip when needed. These panels do not accommodate GFCI or AFCI breakers, which are now required in certain areas of the home for increased safety. Considering these limitations, upgrading to a modern panel is advisable.

Example: A homeowner discovered their panel was a Zinsco model after experiencing flickering lights and minor power surges. Upon inspection by an electrician, it was recommended to replace the panel immediately to prevent any potential fire risks.

Schneider Panels

“For installed outdoor load centers, the manufacturing date codes are printed on the inside of the cover or door of the unit or on the box itself when the cover or door is open.

For installed indoor load centers, a qualified electrician can locate the interior date codes that are not visible to the home owner.

Circuit breaker boxes with covers that were manufactured between December 2019 and March 2022 are also included in this recall.”

Schneider Source: https://www.cpsc.gov/Recalls/2022/Schneider-ElectricTM-Recalls-1-4-Million-Electrical-Panels-Due-to-Thermal-Burn-and-Fire-Hazards

Government-Issued Safety Warnings

Government agencies like the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have issued warnings and recalls for certain electrical panels that pose safety risks. These warnings are often the result of identified defects that could lead to electrical fires, shocks, or electrocution. It’s essential for homeowners to heed these warnings and take immediate action to ensure their homes are not at risk.

History of Panel Recalls and Fire Hazards

The history of electrical panel recalls is a sobering reminder of the importance of product safety. Notably, FPE Stab-Lok panels were subject to a class-action lawsuit due to their failure to trip in the event of an overload. Similarly, Zinsco panels were found to have breakers that could melt, preventing them from tripping and creating a fire hazard. These historical recalls highlight the need for vigilance in monitoring electrical panel safety.

National Electric Code (NEC) Compliance Concerns

Compliance with the National Electric Code (NEC) is crucial for ensuring electrical safety in residential properties. The NEC sets the standard for safe electrical design, installation, and inspection to protect people and property from electrical hazards. Outdated panels often do not meet current NEC standards, which now include requirements for arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) and ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in residential electrical systems.

Recent Recall Alerts and Consumer Response

In recent years, recalls of electrical panels have continued to surface. Manufacturers like Eaton have issued recalls for certain models due to defects that could result in an electrical shock. It’s imperative for consumers to register their electrical panels with the manufacturer to receive recall alerts and to regularly check the CPSC website for updates on electrical panel safety notices.

How to Check for Recalls on Your Electric Panel

Checking for recalls on your electric panel is straightforward. First, locate the panel’s brand name, model, and serial number, usually found inside the door of the panel. Next, visit the CPSC website or the manufacturer’s website to search for any recall notices. Additionally, you can contact a professional electrician to perform an inspection and determine if your panel is subject to a recall.

Steps to Take if Your Panel Has Been Recalled

If you find that your electrical panel has been recalled, take the following steps immediately:

  • Contact the manufacturer to confirm the recall and understand the recommended remedy.
  • Schedule an appointment with a licensed electrician to assess the panel and discuss replacement options.
  • Do not attempt to fix or replace the panel yourself – this work should only be done by a qualified professional.
  • Keep a record of all communications and actions taken in response to the recall for future reference.

Preventive Measures for Homeowner Protection

Preventive measures are key to ensuring the electrical safety of your home. Regular inspections by licensed electricians can catch potential problems before they become serious. Additionally, homeowners should understand the age and condition of their electrical system and upgrade any components that do not meet current safety standards.

Partnering with Licensed Electricians

Working with licensed electricians is the best way to ensure your electrical system is safe and up to code. These professionals can provide expert evaluations of your electrical panel, suggest necessary upgrades, and perform safe installations. Always verify the electrician’s credentials and experience before hiring them for any electrical work in your home.

Electrical Safety Inspections: When and How Often?

Electrical safety inspections should be conducted at several key times: when purchasing a home, when a home is 40 years or older, when adding new appliances, and after major renovations. Beyond these situations, it’s a good practice to have an inspection every ten years for homes and every five years for rental properties or older homes.

Crucial Updates and Upgrades

Updating and upgrading your electrical panel is not only about safety but also about accommodating modern electrical loads. Today’s homes have a higher demand for power with the proliferation of electronic devices, and older panels may not be able to handle the increased load. Upgrading to a modern panel can prevent potential hazards and improve the efficiency and reliability of your home’s electrical system.

When is it Time to Replace Your Electric Panel?

Consider replacing your electric panel if it is outdated, damaged, or if it’s one of the known hazardous models. Other signs that replacement may be necessary include frequent breaker trips, flickering lights, or the need to use multiple power strips due to insufficient outlets. Consult with a licensed electrician to determine the appropriate time to upgrade your panel.

Cost-effective Solutions for Electric Panel Replacements

While the cost of replacing an electrical panel can vary, homeowners should prioritize safety over cost savings. It usually costs between $2,000 and $4,000 to replace an electric panel, depending on the size and complexity of the installation. We offer transparent pricing and warranties for you for the work we do to ensure a cost-effective and safe solution.

When is it Time to Replace Your Electric Panel?

Replacing your electric panel is a matter of safety and functionality. If your panel is over 25 years old, it’s time to consider an upgrade. Other signs include rust on the panel, breakers that frequently trip or refuse to reset, and a lack of GFCI and AFCI breakers which are now standard for protection. If your panel is one of the hazardous models mentioned earlier, replacement should be a priority.

Cost-effective Solutions for Electric Panel Replacements

Cost should not deter you from replacing an unsafe or outdated electrical panel. The investment in a new panel ensures safety, compliance with current electrical codes, and can handle modern electrical demands. To find a cost-effective solution, get multiple quotes, check for local government incentives, and consider financing options if necessary. Remember, safety is priceless.

For example, a family in a 50-year-old house experienced frequent power outages and learned their FPE panel was the culprit. After replacing it with a modern, safe panel, not only did the outages cease, but they also felt a sense of relief knowing their home was safer.

Most importantly, when considering the replacement of your electric panel, consult with a licensed electrician who can provide a detailed assessment and quote. Do not attempt to replace or repair the panel yourself as this could result in injury or further damage to your home’s electrical system.

Upgrading your electrical panel is not just about adhering to safety standards; it also enhances the value of your home. A modern electrical system can be a strong selling point if you plan to put your house on the market.

FAQs

What are the signs of a failing electric panel?

Signs of a failing electric panel include frequent breaker trips, a burning smell coming from the panel, buzzing or hissing noises, warm or hot panel surfaces, and any visible signs of damage such as frayed wires or burn marks. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s time to call an electrician.

Why are certain electric panels considered hazardous?

Some electric panels are considered hazardous because of design flaws that may prevent breakers from tripping in an overload or short circuit situation, leading to an increased risk of fire or electrical shock. These design issues, coupled with the use of substandard materials or manufacturing processes, contribute to the panels’ unreliability and danger.

Furthermore, older panels may not meet current safety standards, which include protections like AFCI and GFCI breakers. Without these safety features, homes are more vulnerable to the dangers of electrical fires and electrocution.

Who is responsible for fixing a recalled electric panel?

Typically, the homeowner is responsible for fixing a recalled electric panel. However, if the panel is under warranty, the manufacturer may cover the cost of replacement. If you’re renting, the responsibility usually falls on the landlord or property manager. Always check with a licensed electrician to understand your options and ensure the work is done properly.

If you’ve recently purchased a home with a recalled panel, check if it was disclosed during the sale. In some cases, the previous owner may be held liable for repairs if the recall was not disclosed.

It’s also a good idea to check with your home insurance provider. While they typically don’t cover recalled panels, they may offer some support if the panel has caused damage to your home.

How long does an electric panel replacement take?

An electric panel replacement typically takes anywhere from 4 to 8 hours, depending on the complexity of the job. If additional wiring or circuitry work is required, it could extend the timeframe. It’s important to note that power will be shut off during the replacement, so plan accordingly.

What if my electric panel isn’t under recall but is outdated?

Even if your electric panel isn’t under recall, it’s still important to consider replacing an outdated panel. Older panels may not be equipped to handle the energy demands of modern appliances and devices, and they may not have the necessary safety features that are standard in newer models. They can lead to frequent circuit tripping, potential fire risks and hazards, and low power supply. Upgrading to a new panel can improve the safety, efficiency, and value of your home.

Therefore, while it may be an investment, updating an outdated electric panel is a proactive step towards ensuring your home meets current safety standards and can accommodate today’s electrical loads. Besides that, it provides peace of mind knowing your home is electrically sound.