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Is it time to Upgrade your Outdated Electrical Panel?

When it comes time to inspect your home’s Electrical Panel, there are 5 main things I will look at to determine whether it’s time for you to upgrade:

  1. Is the panel the right size for your home’s electrical needs?

    A lot of people don’t even realize that the panels installed in homes built in the 60’s or earlier are only equipped to handle an electrical pull that’s now needed in our kitchen alone.

    A panel that’s too small to handle your homes electrical service, can be very dangerous - most homes require a 200 Amp main electrical service at the least!

    The appliances we now use require increasingly more power and your electrical panel must be able to keep up.

  2. Is the panel made by FPE (Federal Pacific Electric)?

    From the 50’s to the 80’s, FPE was one of the most common manufacturers of electrical panels in North America. Millions were installed, yet as the years went by, electricians and home inspectors found that FPE failed to provide proper protection to homeowners and their families.

    A class action lawsuit was filed and found that these panels failed to trip at a much higher rate than standard panels.

    The design flaw, manufacturing defects, and faulty wiring pose serious danger and there’s no question that FPE panels need to be replaced.

    FPE is not a risk that I would take with my home or family.

  3. Is the panel a fuse-box panel?

    Fuse boxes were the precursor to the panel box. In the instances of overcurrent or short circuit, a fuse would pop and need to be replaced. This is where trouble usually started. Often people would try shortcuts or work-arounds not realizing the very real danger.

    For example, commonly people would replace a 15 amp fuse with a 20 or 30 amp fuse creating a massive fire hazard – the wires couldn’t handle that much heat!

    With pricey, upgraded appliances in a classic older home, I would advise your family it’s better to stay safe than sorry and upgrade to at least a standard panel box.

  4. Is the panel a split-bus panel?

    Split bus panels do not have a main breaker. Instead, they have a similar breaker feeding the bottom half of the panel. Due to the overload of the demand placed on them, these smaller breakers have been known to melt or burn.

    These panels should always be looked at individually often there are instances where lighting and receptacle circuits are installed on the top portion of the panel where they are not allowed.

    I or one of my qualified electricians would need to look at this panel and let you know if this type of a panel is a problem for your situation.

  5. Is the panel made by Zinsco?

    Like the FPE panels (mentioned above), Zinsco panels are highly susceptible to malfunction.

    Experts report that Zinsco panels have two major issues that pose a danger:

    • First, Zinsco panels are not up to today’s codes.
      Zinsco halted production of their panels in the mid 1970’s. Today, they would not be allowed to be sold, because they no longer pass safety inspections.

    • Secondly, Zinsco panels are full of major design flaws.
      Certain components of Zinsco panels contain aluminum; the connection between the breakers and the bus bars are not solid; the bus bars easily corrode; and breakers may appear to be off, yet the panel is still conducting power internally.

 
Again, while this type of breaker may have worked up to a point, I would consider it a “ticking time bomb” of sorts and recommend an upgrade for your family’s safety.

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About John's Electric

Linn Park Fountain, Birmingham, AL

John's Electric Inc. is a family owned and operated electrical contractor business that proudly provides electrician services in Birmingham, AL and the surrounding areas such as Hoover, Homewood, Chelsea, Vestavia Hills, Pelham, Alabaster, Trussville, and Mountain Brook. John's Electric provides residential and commercial electrical solutions at competitive rates. We have been in this line of work for 30 years, giving us not only experience but expertise as well. You can depend on us. We are a state licensed electrician (#03875) for your protection.

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What others say about John's Electric Service

John's Electric did a very thorough,quick and thrifty job! I would absolutely recommend them for your electrical work! Bravo!

VJ Sazera
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Aubrey and Jeremy were awesome! I have an old house with old wiring and needed to install a new Range and above Range Microwave. They worked very hard to run new wiring to the breaker box in the basement, installed new plugs, and installed the appliances with great care.

Steven T.
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I had a strange electrical issue in my home, and I was expecting it to be an expensive repair. Aubrey came out very quickly, ran some tests, and knew exactly what it was. He repaired it for a fraction of the cost of what I was expecting. I will absolutely call John's Electric any time I need a professional electrician. I highly recommend this company.

Peter Waldron
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What a pleasure it was dealing with Aubrey of John's electric! We had a breaker that would not reset. Aubrey arrived at our house at exactly the time he said he would. He had the problem diagnosed in under a minute and had us back to normal with all of our garage outlets in under 5 minutes. I know that all service calls can't go that quickly, but he sure found the problem right away and got it fixed immediately. I would strongly recommend this company.

Drew Simpson
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