Could My Electrical Panel Be A Fire Hazard?

Short answer, YES.  Most of us never think about our electrical system. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say.  We can effortlessly switch power on and off throughout our home or office, without even thinking about the system behind the scenes.  But when the time comes, unfortunately for some of us, the simplicity of a flickering light may be the start of endless minor issues that require outlet or switch change outs, bad light fixtures, etc. For when these small annoyances start to happen, we urge you to also consider if your electrical panel box or circuit breakers may be the problem and may require a critical update to prevent a fire hazard.

Your electrical panel routes the connections throughout your home to keep the lights on, electric devices working and running.  The panel contains circuit breakers which are the most important part of the electrical system. The breakers are protecting the house from the overloading of a circuit.

There are three brands of electrical panels that should be replaced due to recalls or fire hazards:

  • Federal Pacific Electric (FPE)
  • Challenger
  • Zinsco
Could My Electrical Panel Be A Fire Hazard?

These panels have breakers that have been found to overheat under normal circumstances and create a risk of fire. Since these panels were first installed a long while ago, think about it, the demand for electricity was minimal.  Now with today’s electronics and high-tech systems the demand has increased, loading the breakers without the homeowner thinking twice about it.

As insurance companies are aware of this problem, they are not writing new policies or renewing for structures with these panels. They will require panel replacement before securing coverage. Replacing your panel before it fails will save you financially, it might even lower your premium if you get it replaced.  You would need to call your insurance provider to make sure.  Do not have it fail when you are least prepared. 

You can check the brand of your panel yourself by looking inside the panel.

If you are unsure as to the age of your electric service and panel, please set up a service call with us.  We would be happy to help.  631.760.1997 or visit bigbearelectrical.com

Unfortunately, you will not be able to see if any overheating has started to occur as this happens from the back of the breakers. Therefore, replacement is critical, you don’t know how long the breakers may have been overheating.

Older panels from other manufacturers are not free from potential risks and should be inspected if they were installed a couple decades ago or longer. The components of the breakers that help them do their job effectively, breaking the electrical circuit when overloaded, can degrade over time, and cause them to malfunction. This can lead to overheating and a possible fire hazard. Scheduling a panel inspection with a licensed electrical contractor will safeguard your family or employees from any potential hazard.

Contact us today for a panel inspection or replacement.  631.760.1997 or visit bigbearelectrical.com

Inspecting Breaker Panels (source: HOME INSPECTORS: ELECTRICAL SYSTEMS OF OLDER HOMES)

Older breaker panels also are a concern. Mechanical and electrical components tend to deteriorate with age. Some people are under the dangerous assumption that breaker panels and their components have an unlimited life expectancy; the rule of thumb in the home inspection industry is generally 30 years for these devices. When inspecting a home that has an electrical system over 30 years old, common practice is to recommend consulting a licensed and qualified electrician to evaluate the breaker panel to ensure it is still working as designed. Who knows if any of the circuit breakers have ever NEEDED to trip and didn’t. Home inspectors don’t remove circuit breakers from the panel, and it is possible that arcing or burn marks may exist but are hidden behind the breakers. These characteristics can be tell-tail signs of dangerous conditions. A qualified electrician can determine if these issues are occurring or have in the past. If no issues are apparent, this can help put a buyer’s mind a little more at ease.

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