PushMatic, Sylvania – Zinsco, and Stab-Lok breaker panels are considered to be unsafe. We recommend a qualified electrician evaluate their condition. Over time fuse panels, circuit breakers, and circuit panels will deteriorate, wear out and become obsolete. We are not aware of any official time span. However, there are signs to look for.
Any service panel over 50 years old should be replaced, in our opinion. Houses built 50 or more years ago usually have 60 or 100 amp services, and the load put on these older components often exceeds their design capacity.
Many houses built before 1970 did not have central air conditioning, and microwaves weren’t even available, refrigerators were 18 cubic feet, and no one had more than one television set. Fast forward to today’s requirements, and we find 200 amp service is the most common, with larger homes requiring 300 or 400 amp services.
We recommend fuse panels be replaced because technology has passed them by.
Here are some of the breaker panel manufacturers that have had problems over the years and require the attention of a qualified electrician.
Pushmatic breakers were manufactured from the 1960s to the 1980s and were among the early manufacturers of circuit breakers.
- Pushmatic used a thermal break design (modern breakers use thermal and electromagnetic designs
- Pushmatic breakers may become hard to trip and reset as they age
- Pushmatic breakers also used an indicator that often broke, leaving the status of the breaker in doubt
For more information on Pushmatic
Federal Pacific Electric
Federal Pacific Electric, more commonly referred to as “FPE STAB-LOK” breakers, were manufactured from the 1960s to the 1980s and have since gone out of business.
- FPE breakers may become hard to trip and reset as they age
- FPE breakers may not disconnect when placed in the off position
- FPE breakers may not trip when an overcurrent situation occurs, leading to fires
- Early FPE panels were crowded and compact, leading to issues of overheating
Red tipped breakers that operate outboard of the panel box are indicators of a Stab-Lok panel.
For more information on Stab-Lok https://structuretech1.com/fpe-stab-lok-panels-are-hazardous/
GTE-Sylvania purchased the Zinsco brand and continued to manufacture it under the GTE-Sylvania brand until the mid-1980s.
- Zinsco/GTE-Sylvania breakers have experienced arcing and overheating
- Zinsco/GTE-Sylvania breakers may fail to trip due to over current conditions
- Zinsco/GTE-Sylvania breakers may fail to disconnect when placed in the off position
Zinsco/GE-Sylvania panels usually have multi-colored breakers. The best way to identify the panel is to look for a name either stamped or printed on the outside or inside of the hinged access door.
for additional information on Zinsco panels http://www.ismypanelsafe.com/zinsco.php
Pushmatic GE Sylvania or Zinsco and Pushmatic panels are obsolete
One common problem with all three brands of breakers and panels is using an aluminum bus for mounting the breakers in the panel itself. Changes to the alloys used have improved the performance of modern panels; however, these three were not upgraded and are considered dangerous, and a consensus is that replacement is the best option.
In all fairness, not all breaker panels manufactured by these companies were defective. If you suspect you have one of these panels, we recommend having them inspected by a qualified electrician familiar with the specific panels and their problems.
Pushmatic GE Sylvania or Zinsco and Stab-Lok replacement breakers
Replacement breakers are available online for all three panels; however, these are usually new/old stock or imported knock-offs. Before you invest any money in replacement breakers, we strongly recommend you consult with a qualified electrician about replacing the outdated and possibly dangerous panel.
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