Bad Electrical Panels

electrical panels need replacing

bad electrical panels

Bad electrical panels

These are more common than you would think.  This electrical panel is one of the worst I have seen:

  • the panel is barely hanging there on only 2 screws
  • the knockout covers are missing so there is no protection from electrocution
  • it is rusting out with a big hole in the top for water to get in.
  • the main lugs are corroding
  • the breakers are so old they may not even trip if the circuit is overloaded
  • there is no main disconnect switch to turn the power off to the house in an emergency

The most common bad electrical panels do not have all these problems but they may have one or two.

The most common bad electrical panels are actually identified by their brand: Federal Pacific, Sylvania and Zinsco, however, it is surprising how often distribution or sub panels are incorrectly wired.

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GFCI Outlets- What Are They and Do I Need Them?

Ground fault outlet

GFCI outlet

You will (hopefully) find GFCI outlets in the kitchen and bathrooms.  It stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter.  GFCIs are there to protect you from being electrocuted by interrupting the circuit when there is a difference in the currents in the hot and neutral wires.  The difference indicates that some of the current has found another path.  Instead of returning through the neutral wire, current is  either traveling through the ground wire or through you if you come in contact with the hot wire or you drop an appliance into water.  If you start to get electrocuted, the power should cut off within a few milliseconds, before you get injured .  They also help prevent electrical fires.

Many older homes do not have these installed or only in some areas.  To provide a greater level of safety, GFCI outlets are now installed in garages and all wet areas, such as near kitchen sinks, laundry tubs, swimming pools, and exterior walls.

Resetting.   Often one GFCI protects several outlets so if your outlet is not working, it may not be broken as some friends of mine thought.  Check the other bathrooms, garage or even the electrical panel,  to find the reset button.

As a  Circuit Breaker

Newer  houses usually have a GFCI circuit breaker in the electrical panel and it protects all the outlets on that circuit.

Are they required?  In south Florida, there is no law that says you must install them if you do not have them, however GFCIs are a wise safety precaution.

South Florida Home Inspector Warns of Bad Electrical Panels

If you buy a house with this type of bad electrical panel you might have trouble getting insurance!  Not only that, the panel could overheat and catch fire.

Federal Pacific Electrical panels have been known for a long time to be a potential problem but there are still many homes in south Florida that have these bad electrical panels.  Federal Pacific electrical panels been the subject of class action lawsuits because their circuit breakers have been known to fail to trip at a higher rate than standard panels. When a breaker doesn’t trip,  an electrical surge will likely cause the wires to melt and possibly cause a fire. Many Federal Pacific Electric panels and breakers can operate properly for years, but they can also malfunction unexpectedly.  Simply replacing the circuit breakers is not a sufficient.  You need to have the entire panel  replaced by a licensed electrician.

It doesn’t mean you can’t buy the house.  You could ask the seller to replace the panel, get a credit from the seller or just pay to have it  replaced yourself.

 

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This is the Service Panel on the outside of the house.  Notice that it clearly says “Federal Pacific”  on the panel description.

 

 

 

 

There is also a Distribution Panel inside the house – maybe in the garage, hallway, kitchen or utility room.  Watch out for the words “Stab-Lok”  which is a give-a-way that this is a Federal Pacific panel.

Bad electrical panel

Federal Pacific panel

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more on dangerous electrical panels in south Florida and Federal Pacific panels, watch this home inspector video.

Schedule your inspection today and get the Peace of Mind you deserve when buying your next home!