Main panel...recommendation ?

Older panel…100 amp. Should I recommend consulting an electrician
for an upgrade.

No defects observed on branch circuits on the inside of House.


This is about Federal Pecific

Why recommend an upgrade? Was it too small for the home?

From what I’ve heard, Bulldog panels are pretty reliable…

Depends on the size of the home you inspected. 100 AMPS is plenty for a small to medium size home. Now if there is absolutlely no room to upgrade (panel is full) I make note of that and show the client. Other wise I don’t worry about it.

Heres something else you can do…

If you want to get an idea of whether a 100 amp service is enough for your home, then the NEC has a process you can use to calculate your load requirements. It’s a bit tricky, but here is a broad brush on the subject:

  1. Multiply the living space (no garage, no unfinished basement) by 3.
  2. Add 1500 (to cover the required laundry circuits)
  3. Multiply the result by 35%.
  4. Add 3000 (to cover the required kitchen small appliance circuits)
  5. Add a minimum of 8000 (to cover the electric range)
  6. Add the ratings (in watts or in VA) of any fixed electrical items (including water heater, dishwasher, disposal, trash compactor, etc. Do not include receptacles used by lamps, microwave ovens or other items, as they are included in item #1).
  7. Add the larger of your air conditioner and your home heating system.
  8. Divide the result by 240.
  9. If your answer is close to, or over 100, then it may be a good idea to call a professional electrician for advice and perhaps an upgrade.
  10. If your answer is below 90, then there is no question of needing a larger panel.

Greg Bell, a Florida home inspector offers the following additional details, (edited and supplemented by DJF)

Bulldog panels use a unique, proprietary type of circuit breaker called a “Pushmatic.” Bulldog panels with Pushmatic breakers indicate an older system that is no longer manufactured, making replacement parts difficult or expensive to find. There appear to be two major problems with Pushmatic Breakers:

  1. Bulldog circuit breakers use a solely-thermal breaker design (they have no internal magnetic trip mechanism) - what this means to consumers is that the circuit breaker lacks one of the mechanisms used by newer equipment to increase the probability that the breaker will trip OFF when it should to protect the building from a fire - it may be therefore less inherently safe and reliable than other designs
  2. **Bulldog circuit breakers **are “grease fed” - if the circuit breaker is not not used (exercised) and serviced regularly they become stiff and difficult to operate or reset. (Mr. Greg doesn’t conclude that this means they also don’t trip, but that is plausible question) . Greg adds and we agree that no official study has been conducted documenting unusually high failure to trip rates and opinions of electrical professionals vary on the need to replace or upgrade thee panels.

The inspector concludes with an advice paragraph suggesting that the home inspector call for an electrician to shut down the panel power, inspect and check the contacts for rust and corrosion, and proper bus-bar contact.
Our OPINION is that this is unreliable advice since it begs the question of whether or not the INTERNAL parts of the breaker are unreliable and it may fail to trip in response to overcurrent.

Field Failure Reports on Pushmatic or Bulldog Circuit Breakers

Contact Us to Provide Pushmatic or Bulldog Electrical Equipment Field Failures & Observations

We are grateful to readers, owners, home inspectors who report their experience with Bulldog Push-Matic electrical equipment. Contact Us (by email only, please) with any field observations of apparent failures, overheating, damage, product photos. We continue to collect and report Bulldog Pushmatic equipment data, and we credit contributors here.
Report ITE Pushmatic or Bulldog Electrical Panel Failures to the US CPSC

In addition to informing us of an ITE Pushmatic or Bulldog electrical panel or breaker event so that we can add this incident report to the data base we maintain, we encourage readers to report such events also to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission - it’s easy: you can use a simple form at the CPSC’s website: or you can send the CPSC email on incidents to:

And we would appreciate hearing from professionals, home inspectors, electricians, engineers, regarding their opinion on what is sound, professional, unbiased advice that protects consumers without making unsupportable claims in this matter.

  1. <LI class=LI_Spaced>US Military base experience with Bulldog Push-o-Matic higher amp circuit breakers overheating, 04/30/2009 - I work for a company who contracts with the Air Force. We service about 90 housing units all with pushmatic breakers. These houses were built in 1934 and the pushmatic breakers installed in the 50’s. We are just now seeing evidence of over heating damage on some of the larger breakers, mainly 40 amp and higher. We changed out the breakers and everything is fine but we have had some of the other housing units now showing signs of the same trouble. We are now trying to convince the Air Force to change out the breaker boxes. --MP <LI class=LI_Spaced>Fullerton, CA Bulldog Push-O-Matic Field Failure report from electrical engineer, 04/25/2009 - We had a Bulldog “failure” this morning, in our own house, at about 1:20 a.m., according to the stopped clocks. At this hour, the only circuit drawing significant current is the refrigerator. The air conditioner and heater were off. The kitchen oven and cooktop are gas. I … noticed all the lights, etc. in our house were out. Of course, first thoughts are a block power failure. The street lights were on. Next test, is to look at neighbor’s lighting. None seen. Now I went to the main panel, in the backyard, an old original design 100 amp Bulldog panel with a dual 100 amp main breaker under the meter. There were no locks on the two panel doors. Some Bulldog panels I service DO NOT have this “feeder” breaker-- the main buss from the meter feeds the branch breakers directly!

… the dual 100 amp breaker in our panel failed “open”, apparently without any significant load, I say failed, since none of the branch breakers were tripped, the trip currents being a max of 30A on any circuit – I cannot imagine, nor did I see any indication of the remnants of a short between the main breaker and the branch breakers. Of course, the possibility of a prank or attempted burglary (power shutoff disables a lot of telephones) is always there. I will monitor this breaker and give you any updates if they occur.

A neighbor with the same vintage panel as mine recently asked for help with a circuit blowing a 20 amp Bulldog (severely overloaded due to room addition and microwave oven installation), and I Amp-Clamp measured almost 30 amps before the breaker would open!! That was after a five minute wait. I do not have access to the trip curves of that breaker, that seemed very high to me! Admittedly, #12 can handle 30 amps, but the NEC code does not allow 30 amp breakers on #12 wire as a safety factor.

I am a former aerospace electrical engineer, former electronics engineering and electrical trades instructor, and recently “soft” retired electrical contractor/repairman operating Multimetrics Electric Services, Fullerton, Calif., License #C10-777049 for the last 10 years. I am acutely interested in electrical failures/anomolies, for the same reasons you are. Panel “Fix or Replace” decisions can be very costly, and also scar up property unnecessarily on occasion. Power upgrades are one thing, but to replace based upon statistical field experience can be tricky, since environment, original quality of installation, etc. can be factors. I do have a small inventory of replacement Bulldog breakers, but do not have the main 100 Amp breaker. It appears to have a slightly different installation “finger” than the branch circuit breakers for installation, two of the four screws going to the always hot main buss from the meter. It is extremely hazardous to install this without pulling the meter. It can be done,
with a screw holding insulated shaft screwdriver, but takes good steady nerves!

We recently returned from a three week trip, can you imagine what the freezer and refrigerator would look and smell like with an unintentional long term power failure?? I have been through that already once in my life (from a faulty plug/socket connection to a garage freezer!). – Edward (Ed) Cohn, Multimetrics Electric Services, Fullerton, Calif. 92838, <LI class=LI_Spaced>Bulldog Push Matic Reports concern for failures, suggests thermal scanning for hotspots. But no actual failure data is cited. We like thermal scanning for finding live electrical problems, but the absence of any problem indicator during a thermal scan of electrical equipment can be unreliable since a circuit may not be in use at time of scan. – <LI class=LI_Spaced>Bulldog Pushmatic Failure report: The other night I plugged in a 1500 watt electric heater, and after a few minutes, all the lights in my 1958 house went out. I unplugged the heater, and went outside to the breaker box. I pressed all the ‘Pushmatic’ breakers (probably shouldn’t have done that, but I wasn’t sure which one was the problem). After a few tries, everything was working again, including the socket I had plugged the heater into, but there a few lights here and there which wouldn’t go on, nor the furnace …

Next day, I could see the breakers better, and I noticed one of them wouldn’t go ‘on’. ‘Off’ always shows. It seems to press in ok, but it doesn’t pop out well, like maybe it’s sort of stuck, or maybe broken inside somehow. As far as I can tell, nothing is plugged into that circuit, or on. I’ve lived here for 25 years, and I can’t recall this happening before. My first thought was that I should just call an electrician and have a new circuit breaker panel put in.

Online investigation shows that some people think that’s a great idea, and others think it’s not necessary. There’s also the question of whether I should attempt to replace the breaker myself, and save a lot of money. I’m an engineer, and I was an electronics technician in the Army, so I’m not without skills.

Somebody said that working on the Pushmatic panel is very dangerous. That doesn’t sound good. You’re supposed to turn off the main breaker before you do anything, but the problem is, there is no breaker labeled ‘Main Breaker’, let alone having a sign saying ‘Turn Me Off First’. There are three large breakers at the top, labeled ‘Garage’ (40), ‘Back Room’ (30), and ‘Lower Main’ (50). Below the last one are several 15 and 20 amp breakers, including the problem child. My question is, if I turn off all the breakers on the panel, will it be safe to replace the one that won’t go on? It seems that there should be a switch outside of the circuit breaker box, so you could be sure the whole box is off, but I can’t see one. The meter is right above it. Help! – <LI class=LI_Spaced>Bulldog Pushmatic Junk-A-Matic Claim by Electrician: "I used to call them Junk-A-Matics. On my service truck, back in the 60’s and 70’s I carried 10 Push-a-Matic breakers in my truck to 1 of all the other brands because they failed that much faster. I don’t think you have a fire hazard but change it out if it were me - Jim –

  1. Bulldog Push-Matic Report of difficulty to operate: It was one of the only residential panels with bolt on breakers, which eliminates a common failure point. They only lasted in production until the early 80’s. They were hard for older folks to press in and out, and sometime if you didn’t press them hard enough, you might have thought the circuit was off, when it actually indicates ‘on’. In any event, they always tripped when they were supposed to. There is some urban myth to the contrary, but that was never the case.

Pushmatic was called several different brands as they were bought out over the years. Pushmatic, Bulldog, ITE/Pushmatic, Siemens/Pushmatic. I’m about 99% sure that Siemens still has them, because I still get Pushmatic breakers from my Siemens dealer.
You can replace that panel if you want to, but I see no overwhelming reason to do so. Add a sub panel of another more common brand if you feel you need to, using the last two spaces in your panel to feed that sub panel.
Yes, the Pushmatic breakers might be a little harder to source and a little bit more expensive than the typical Square D breaker, but most folks can deal with that. I wouldn’t hold it against you if you did want to replace that panel, but unless it’s suffered damage of some sort, there’s just no clear reason to do so. –

  • Report of No Trouble with Bulldog Pushmatic: I have a pushmatic panel in a commercial setting, I have been maintaining for 25 years (although panel is probably 50 years old). I totally agree with Marc…It is a good panel, but hard to read the on/off in the window. Put it another way, I have never had to take the cover off of this
    panel! It has always been a branch circuit load or fault problem if the cb tripped; such as lighting ballast melting, 3 refrigerators on one circuit, etc –

Yikes…thanks for the explanation, but it is a little technical.

Here’re pictures of my inspection of an electrical panel:

From the pictures you can see the wood screws being used for the dead panel, which is absolutely wrong and prohibited.
For cables enter into the panel box, no bushing being used for cable/wire protection. The bushing should be ground bushing.
The AFCI breaker was double taped

Those conductors look too small to require a bushing. Why do you think needs to be ground bushing vs a standard bushing?

An afci breaker has a tail for the neutral along with the circuit neutral. That is probably not a double tap.

I see the that conduit is without a bushing which would be required when using RMC or another raceway which contains conductors #4 and larger. It is possible that the bonding bushing is on the other end of the raceway and therefore not required in the panel.

I do see two sets of conductors on the AFCI breaker which is likely a “double tap” as you’ve stated.

Also the bare neutral and GEC are terminated on the same lug which isn’t listed for two conductors.