Zinsco panels

Found a Zinsco panel in a “condo” yesterday… actually was built as an a rental apartment, then turned “Condo” in 2006 - originally built in 1973.
Breakers are all loose, pushed down, but no heat buildup, no hot spots, and no other signs of problem yet! I showed the client and recommended immediate eval by an electrician.
I recommended the whole box be replaced.
Not only that, but the cover was held on by various sharp screws.

Bravo Andy!

WOW! I rarely get a Bravo! Thanks.

Google is wonderfull!!
I actaully had a home that had a Zinsco Panel. I bought it in the 80’s in Texas and was told I could not buy breakers. Not the case. You can almost always by - remakes. There are even breakers available for the old Montgomery Ward panels.
But here’s what I found out::::



**Moderator Post (s) for this thread:
**>**Yes…FPE No-trip](http://www.bobvila.com/wwwboard/messages/235856.html) by **doug seibert on 08/16/2004
>**ALWAYS ask the advice of a licensed electrician !](http://www.bobvila.com/wwwboard/messages/235858.html) by **doug seibert on 08/17/2004
>**Zinsco replacement breaker](http://www.bobvila.com/wwwboard/messages/272773.html) by **doug seibert on 06/07/2006
• I’m an electrical [FONT=Arial]contractor[/FONT]](http://www.bobvila.com/wwwboard/messages/zinsco_electrical_panels_42845.html#) in Seattle and have been in the contracting business since 1973. Started wiring houses in 1953. So I have a little bit of expereince with a variety of electrical equipment.
• Regarding the Zinsco electrical panels, I offer the following comments:
• Originally made in Puerto Rico and installed in the 60’s and 70’s thoughout the USA market. Lots of these are in both single family homes and multi family apartments and condos.
• Zinsco sold their manufacturing plants to Sylvania who then marketed them under the Sylvania brand until finally closing down.
• MAJOR PROBLEMS: We have found the breakers do not trip under normal over-load conditions. We have pumped up to 60 Amps into a 15 Amp breaker before it will trip. [FONT=Arial]FIRE HAZARD[/FONT]](http://www.bobvila.com/wwwboard/messages/zinsco_electrical_panels_42845.html#)!
We have found the buss bars are made of aluminum material and corrode quite easily. I have equated it to perhaps different levels of quality in the aluminum they used.
When these buss bars corrode they can present a real hazard and we have experienced the panels going in a “Melt Down” condition. MAJOR HAZARD!!
• CONCLUSIONS: Replace any Zinsco or Sylvania brand panels. They are a hazard.
Consider using the Cutler [FONT=Arial]Hammer[/FONT]](http://www.bobvila.com/wwwboard/messages/zinsco_electrical_panels_42845.html#) brand “CH” style. These are a little more expensive, but have all COPPER buss bars and offer a “Lifetime Guarantee” (free replacement of BRANCH circuit breakers)
Good Luck!!

Well done! Zinsco is the kiss of death.

I’ll counter that!

Your full of crap!

I just did one of these an hour ago.

If you tested it and it is OK, it’s OK.

Hi’s are not required to test for this stuff. If you did and it is OK your recommendation is just a bunch of crap.

Advise the client of what you know and let it be.

I see these panels and pay close attention to them. If they are working fine at the time of inspection, they are fine as far as I am concerned.

There has been no recall on these things.

Can’t you find something significant to work on?

Interesting, I have inspected many Zinsco panels and have found several with scorched bus bars.

want pictures David?


I’ve replaced breakers on those many moons ago. Like Gerry said, many are scorched, brittle and falling apart and at the same time they look OK on the surface…

I say bad kitty.

Yes, well done.

Here are mine…

Is this an issue?

I have inspected many of these and have a VERY low % of bad ones (I guess they already got rid of the bad ones).

I pull these apart. (I know that is not required).
I evaluate them ( not required).
I can see what they are doing…

I see no damn reason to call in an electrician when they can’t scratch the surface of the evaluation I do.

I see no reason to recommend replacement.
I DO see the need to “advise” that client that they should pay attention to anything that may indicate there is an electrical issue that could be associated with these panels.

If they are such a huge problem, why aren’t the recalled on the spot?


Yes, it happens.

But until it does, are we required to pull out the crystal ball and report on something that does not exist?

If the “powers that be” can’t recall these things and “get them off the street” NOW, why am I expected to do anything about their existence?

I can come up with a half-dozen legal reasons why we should leave these things alone. Just because they fail sometimes, is not a reason to place the burden of hiring an ill equipped electrician for something that has no reasonable suspicion of a problem.

Now, if any of you inspectors in Middle Tennessee and southwest Kentucky want to defer these things, give me a call. At least I will “evaluate” these things.

More than I can say for any electrician.

I guess I just “live life on the edge”.
I still drive a Toyota!

Zinsco breakers.jpg

Zinsco breakers.jpg

Zinsco breakers.jpg

I’m with you on this. . .

I’m not sure I agree with you there Jeff, while I understand Davids take on it (and am more than capable of doing the same)

Shutting off the main, I’ll never do if the home is being lived in.
Removing the breakers to check them may actually contribute to the problem.
I’m not licensed as an electrical contractor in FL and feel that dismantling any panel is crossing that line.

BTW: I don’t recommend any further evaluation either, I suggest replacement.



I never recommend “repair” rather “replacement”.

Breaker removal (for inspection) is not needed unless there is a hot one.

Electrical arcing is several thousand degrees (at the source), all failing components generate heat when failing.

Any thermal evaluation is sufficient as a reason to recommend replacement.
I just don’t go along with replacing it because of it’s name tag.

It’s just not our job or responsibility.

If someone elects to go beyond SOP and “evaluate” these things is one thing.
But to recommend repair without substance is clearly outside the scope of HI.

Just because the system’s design is prone to failure is not reason to damn all panels in existence. I find hundreds of bad breakers because of the same buss connection problems as Zinsco, and they are not Zinsco. Just because I find a bunch of Cuttler-Hammer breakers getting cooked, is not cause to recommend replacement on every Home Inspection.

The long of the story, is that it is not the Home Inspectors Job.
There are some of us out there that can do evaluation on these panels and unless there is reason to call one of us in, there is not reason for the HI to feel responsible.

As I said, I have a “half-dozen” reasons not to mess with this (I exaggerated)…

  1. Limitations, Exceptions & Exclusions
    3.1. Limitations:

I. An inspection is not technically exhaustive.
II. An inspection will not identify concealed or latent defects.
VIII. An inspection does not determine the life expectancy of the property or any components or systems therein.

3.2. Exclusions:

I. The inspectors are not required to determine:

B. the condition of any component or system that is not readily accessible.
C. the service life expectancy of any component or system.
D. the size, capacity, BTU, performance, or efficiency of any component or system.
E. the cause or reason of any condition.
F. the cause for the need of repair or replacement of any system or component.
G. future conditions.
T. any manufacturer’s recalls or conformance with manufacturer installation, or any information included for consumer protection purposes.

II. The inspectors are not required to operate:

F. any electrical disconnect or over current protection devices.

III. The inspectors are not required to:

B. dismantle, open, or uncover any system or component.
C. enter or access any area which may, in the opinion of the inspector, be unsafe.
F. do anything which, in the inspector’s opinion, is likely to be unsafe or dangerous to the inspector or others, or damage property, such as, but not limited to: walking on roof surfaces, climbing ladders, entering attic spaces, or negotiating with pets.
K. offer or perform any engineering services.
L. offer or perform any trade or professional service other than home inspection.
Q. inspect on any system or component which is not included in these standards.

That’s where we would differ, I just inspeced an FPE today, guess what, I recommend replacement. last week I inspected a home with PB plumbing, guess what.

No I don’t have a Crystal ball but my lawyer tells me I don’t need one


I have to say that Zinsco panels have alot of problems.In this area there are lots of them. Our job is to let the client know and explain the possible problems. It is a dis-service to not tell the client about a possible problem just because you checked it and believe it to be good. There are known hazards and just becuase there not there today does not mean that they won’t be there tommorow. If you say it is good or say nothing and the house burns down. I would imagine the lawers will be calling you and alot of headaches might start.
Just my 2cents.

I don’t take anything apart, nor do I shut down power or remove breakers, but I don’t recommend replacement simply by virtue of its brand.

Heck, if I did that, there would be no reason to ever remove a dead-front cover. Then I wouldn’t all those wonderful pictures to share :wink:

Mark, I don’t see where anyone said to say nothing about it. Do the same with any OLD panel…

Also no one said anything about a “warranty”.

You have an IR camera and are allegedly “certified”, you can’t tell a good from a bad breaker “At the time of the inspection”?

Lawyer? Give them my post above.
18 Reasons you don’t have to needlessly report a panel as requiring replacement without cause.

I feel it my responsibility to pass on concerns for any of these - FPE or Zinsco panels, and PB pipe as well - when I see these, I do my usual thorough inspection, and if I still find nothing, I report that to my client. Basically, I tell them I see no issues, BUT this brand has a history of issues and even though it’s been in the house for 30 years, it may still develop problems. It’s up to the client if they want to replace it or not. Some do, and some leave it…