Zinsco panels--do you remove the covers from exterior panels?

I’ve changed my policy. I’ll tell you why later.

I’ve never had a problem removing Zinsco panel covers.

If in doubt…use the magnets like I use in the Video. But, I remove all panels…with care !

[FONT=Arial]Click “HI help” on the left side.[/FONT]

[FONT=Arial]Click “Specialized Advice” on the right.[/FONT]

[FONT=Arial]Click “Zinsco hazards”.[/FONT]

[FONT=Arial]This company is one of only a few sanctioned by the state of NC to provide continuing education to home inspectors licensed in NC (annual continuing education is required and the state dictates where you have to get the training). They provide some interesting information about Zinsco and they recommend NEVER opening covers to exterior Zinsco panels. The writer of this article is a PE with an impressive resume’ who, along with his wife, has conducted > 15,000 home inspections.[/FONT]

[FONT=Arial]He says this: "The metal cover extends up toward the main meter and can touch he main meter bus. There is no safety stop to protect you."
[FONT=Arial]Here’s his recommendation for reports:
[FONT=Arial]“The main electrical meter panel for this home was originally owned by the Power Company. The inspection panel cover of this panel cannot be safely removed during a home inspection because it was designed to be removed by the Power Company when the meter was off. This ZINSCO panel has known problems with corrosion, and limited availability of replacement parts. Several concerns were noted: (list concerns…such as loose breakers, leaning breakers, visible corrosion, missing door, improper or missing panel labels, no ground rod or plumbing bond, not secure to home or any other visual defect noted when panel was observed NEED ONE TO SEND FOR REPAIR…) This panel is in need of further evaluation and repair/replacement by a licensed electrician.”

I can understand his point. there is no need to go further with the inspection as you have enough information at that point to call for service. Every ZINSCO panel I come across. almost one a day in my area. gets the same boiler plate statement. remove&replace. so why slow down the inspection. I put this statement in every report that is older then 20 years or if I’m just finding a lot of loose connection on the home.
“Due to the age of the home and indication of loose connection, loose outlets of the home you should have a competent electrical contractor pull every outlet and switch, breaker and check all systems for loose connection. Breakers in the electrical panels can have condition behind the breaker at the contact point that can not be noted without removing the breaker and inspecting the back side”


No I do not remove the cover. I already know that I am going to recommend that they have it upgraded.

Good info to be aware of Joe. We don’t have many like this up here. Thanks.

(edited due to mis-quoted content)

I’ve seen a few Zinscos in my time, probably more than most other inspectors. There is only one panel design that has the problem he speaks of;

Don’t remove the covers if you feel it’s unsafe, but don’t rely on bad information.

Not sure what it is you think is ridiculous. Perhaps his statement in the parenthesis, which were examples. The “plumbing bond” is probably not the best wording.

I mis-quoted that Joe. It doesn’t appear that he’s relating this problem to the panel after all.

But I still stand on the premise that the information is inaccurate with regards to the panel cover. Out of the 15 (or so) different Zinsco models I’ve encountered, there is only one where this issue exists. There are other panel brands with this same “deficiency.”

The real hazard is presented when replacing the panel cover, rather than when removing the cover. I carry a roll of electrical tape for when I encounter this type of panel.

Everything in our industry is Case by Case. Nothing ( in my opinion ) is a blanket statement. I have no problem removing Zinsco covers and evaluating the situation and with proper training it should not be a problem.

I couldn’t agree more. . .

This is the reply I got from the owner of the website when I asked them a question about it.

“I am a little closed minded on this because the inspector that I can not poll died in 2007. He was a friend and a great inspector with 20 years experience, he died when the main bus exploded on the panel. I am only referring to the exterior panel once owned by the power company, shown in the photos, there are other Zinsco panel that I find in interior locations, they have defective bus bars, but can be inspected.”

Alright McGyver, what is the roll of electrical tape for.?

No Zinscos around here, but curious Jeff. :):wink:

You can tape over the top part of the inside part of the cover for safety reasons. No problem in doing that since leaving the cover off could be considered negligent.

Remember…the less we focus on the make of the panel and more on the hazards that are involved in all panels we will be safer. If someone installs a brand new Cutler Hammer panel incorrectly we can have a serious hazard and that panel is brand new.

Educate yourselves on all types of panels, be ready for any you encounter and know that your training will lead the way in all cases…so be ready and educated.

As Bruce stated;

You put a strip of tape on the top edge of the dead-front cover. The cover, when in place, is only about 1/4 inch from the lugs of the main bus bars. The tape will help protect you against incidental contact while replacing the cover.

Funny this topic came up…saw a culprit today.

Note the small nubbed/arc’d area, could have been a “bump” :). Unsure, most of the time the area where it arc’d should have looked worse. A little more burnt looking on the other side, pic didn’t come out right.

I too, employ the tape method (in hand as a matter of fact) on the Zinsco’s that don’t seem to have a stop, most of them do. I’m usually a little more concerned about replacing the cover than when I remove them.




Funny that no one has commented on this post (the dead man couldn’t be here to post it for himself):

I’m not sure what there is to comment about on that post Joe. 99.9% of the panels in CA are exterior mounted. I know of no such panel that was ever “owned” by the power company. I have seen, and have removed covers from the exact panel he has pictured. With all due respect I’m not sure the author has all of the true facts, but rather, his own version of the facts.

I know of several people who have died while traversing a ladder, and many more who have been seriously injured - our own David Valley is a good example and Dale Duffy had a close call. These accidents are unfortunate, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop accessing roof-tops from my ladder, it just means I need to use caution.

Each inspector should make their own determination of the risks involved with all aspects of our business, and shape their procedures accordingly.