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.
Experts report that Zinsco circuit breaker panels may have two major faults that could pose a danger:
1. Zinsco panels may not meet today’s updated safety codes.
Production of Zinsco panels halted in mid-1970s. Experts say that Zinsco panels produced during this time would not receive today’s UL listing. They would not be allowed to be sold to the general public because they no longer pass current safety codes. Safety standards that were once acceptable years ago are no longer considered safe.
2. Zinsco panels may have significant design flaws.
Experts report that the identified design flaws in Zinsco panels are not shared with other panels of similar age. Some of the problems include:
- Certain components of the panel contain aluminum.
- The connection between the breakers and the bus bar is often not solid.
- The bus bar appears to corrrode easily.
- Breakers may appear to be off, yet internally the panel is still conducting power.
Zinsco panels may seem to work properly for years. But experts warn that these panels may present numerous problems and even hazards if and when they fail. In fact, one expert warns that as many as 25% of all Zinsco circuit breakers could fail to trip in response to an overcurrent or short circuit and create a possible hazardous situation.
Problems with certain Zinsco panels cannot be seen by the naked eye. Even after the cover of Zinsco panels has been removed, everything can seem to be in fine working order. Upon exploring its components, electricians find that breakers cannot be removed from the bus bar. They’ve welded together, which indicates that the breakers have melted. In that condition, a breaker would be unable to trip and may be allowing an unsafe amount of electricity into the home! This could lead to a potential fire.
Please, do not attempt to remove breakers from your own panel to see if they’ve melted. Only licensed electricians should. Zinsco panels can be electrical shock risks; they can appear to be shut off but are still conducting electricity!