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Serving the Buffalo Area since 1995

Scherer Electric Blog

Unsafe Electrical Panels That Might Be in Your House


Any Orchard Park, NY electrician can tell you that the secret to having a safe and effective electrical system isn’t much of a secret: it starts with having an updated electrical panel. The panel is the switching station for a residential electrical system, the point where the incoming current divides into separate circuits. The panel protects the rest of the system from suffering damage with breakers that cut off voltage flow in case of overloads. A broken or outdated panel can lead to power outages around a home as well as electrical fires.

One of the important jobs we handle for our customers is installing new panels to replace outdated ones. If you live in a house built before 1990 and you still have the same electrical panel, calling us for an inspection to see if it’s time to upgrade the panel. In fact, you may have something worse than an outdated panel—you might have one that was never safe to begin with! Below are three of these potentially hazardous panels we recommend you have us replace.

Federal Pacific Electrical (FPE) Panels

This is the major faulty panel we find in local homes. They were installed in millions of houses from the 1950s through the 1980s. Unfortunately, these panels have breakers that often fail to trip when overloaded, which is a huge fire hazard because it allows excess voltage through the wires. They also have a history of causing high voltage shocks when worked on. Check the cover of your electrical panel to see if it has the Federal Pacific Electrical name on it. If it does, call us right away to have it replaced.

Zinsco Panels

Also known as GTE-Sylvania panels, these were common installations during the 1970s. The company went out of business long ago, but these panels are still around and causing trouble because their breakers have a tendency to melt, which makes them ineffective at stopping voltage overloads. Look for either Zinsco or GTE-Slyvania on your panel. (Not all GTE-Slyvania panels are unsafe, only the ones that are rebranded from Zinsco. When in doubt, call us to check.)

Fuse Boxes

The fuse box predates the breaker panel: rather than a breaker that trips to stop a voltage overload on a circuit, a fuse burns out to cut off electrical flow. Fuse boxes are no longer installed because they cannot handle modern electrical loads for homes unless extremely large fuses are put in place—and this is a fire hazard. If your house has a fuse box, it’s time to upgrade. (In fact, you’ll probably need multiple electrical upgrades around the home to meet current electrical loads.)  

In general, we strongly advise you have our electricians inspect your panel if it’s been in place since before you purchased the house. Even if the panel appears outwardly fine and from a respected manufacturer, the previous owner may have done DIY patchwork repairs (such as sticking a penny in a breaker) that can make it hazardous. We can find out if your panel is up-to-date, safe, and hasn’t had any dangerous amateur work done on it.

Scherer Electric is Western New York’s Favorite Electrician! Call us to see if you have a safe electrical system or if you need upgrades.

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