Zinsco Electrical Panels
An electrical panel plays a significant role in the safety of your home. The good news is that most electrical panels offer proper protection, but a few older brands have been deemed unsafe, and Zinsco Electrical panels are one of them.
The Zinsco brand is now defunct. However, their electrical panels were commonly installed in U.S. homes until it was discovered that they tended to malfunction and posed serious risks that could lead to house fires and electrical shock.
Read on to learn all you need to know about Zinsco panels and what to do if you currently have these panels in your home.
What is a Zinsco electrical panel?
Zinsco or Zinsco-Sylvania is the name of a previously popular brand of electrical panels installed in homes throughout the country up to the mid-1970s, until its design flaws were discovered.
When were Zinsco panels manufactured and installed?
Zinsco panels were prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s until production was halted in the mid-1970s. However, even after manufacturing had stopped, millions of homes and commercial properties in North America already had them installed.
Are Zinsco panels still in use today?
Despite the fact that Zinsco panels do pass current safety codes, unfortunately, they are still present in many homes today.
Zinsco panels may function adequately for years, but they are not equipped to handle modern electrical demands, and due to their known safety hazards, replacement is strongly recommended.
What are the potential issues with Zinsco panels?
One of the most concerning issues with a malfunctioning Zinsco panel is that you may not even notice there’s a problem. If you remove the electrical panel cover, it could look perfectly fine on the outside, but the issues could worsen on the inside, with breakers often melting onto the bus bars. When this happens, the breaker cannot trip, which can lead to electrical fire or shock.
These are the flaws with Zinsco panels:
- The panels have aluminum wiring, which can rust and affect the electrical conductor.
- The aluminum wiring can cause overheating and lead to issues with electrical flow.
- The bus bars can be damaged and easily destructible.
- The breaker’s internal tripping mechanism can jam. When this occurs, the breaker appears to be off despite still being on.
How can I identify a Zinsco panel in my home?
The obvious answer is to look at your electrical to see if it has a “Zinsco” label. If you see “GTE-Sylvania” or “Sylvania,” you may have a re-branded Zinsco panel, which should also be replaced. But keep in mind that not all Sylvania and GTE-Sylvania panels are hazardous, so you’ll need to have an electrician inspect the panel to determine if replacement is necessary.
Can a Zinsco panel be repaired, or must it be replaced entirely?
As Zinsco breakers have a high failure rate, most electricians and industry experts recommend immediate replacement. Even if your Zinsco panel and breakers are working fine at the moment, they can still fail at any time, so it’s not a risk worth taking.
Can I still find replacement parts for Zinsco panels?
Replacing old Zinsco breakers with used or refurbished Zinsco breakers will not remove the inherent danger, as these replacement parts will have the same safety and malfunction issues. Therefore, it’s best to avoid buying used Zinsco breakers.
While there are other breaker replacements that are compatible with Zinsco and safer than the original breakers, there will still be potential issues with the Zinco panel’s bus bars and the materials used in their manufacturing. So replacing the circuit breakers will not remove the risks from the panel itself. This is why an entire panel replacement is the best option.
Are there any safety precautions I should take if I have a Zinsco panel?
The short answer is no. It's not easy to spot a problem with your Zinsco panel. Even if it has been working correctly, it still has a high chance of failure. The best safety precaution is to replace it as soon as possible.
What are the potential fire hazards associated with Zinsco panels?
Zinsco panels have outdated aluminum wiring that expands under electrical current, causing the wire to overheat, which can lead to an electrical fire.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are more than 46,700 house fires per year from electrical failure and malfunctions.
Are there any legal or regulatory actions against Zinsco panels?
In 2002, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Zinsco regarding the danger posed by their electrical panels. The court ruled that due to the high rate of breaker failures, the company was aware of the problem and failed to take appropriate action, and that violated the Consumer Fraud Act.
Despite evidence that Zinsco panels are bad, there has not been a formal recall. But because of its potential safety hazards and unreliability, it is strongly recommended that homeowners replace their existing Zinsco panel with a safer and more reliable alternative.
Are Zinsco panels eligible for insurance coverage?
Having a Zinsco electrical panel can make it difficult to obtain insurance coverage due to its proven fire hazards. That’s why most companies will not insure a property if it has a Zinsco panel. Even if you find a company that does offer coverage, your insurance premium will likely be much higher.
Can I sell a house with a Zinsco panel?
Yes, you can sell a house with a Zinsco panel, but it’s presence will likely turn off potential buyers. If you are unaware that your home has a Zinsco panel, it will be discovered during the home inspection. If you don't replace it, the buyer will have to cover this cost and may try to negotiate a lower purchase price.
How can I find a qualified electrician to inspect or replace my Zinsco panel?
If you suspect you may have a Zinsco panel in your home, you can contact a licensed electrician in your area for an inspection and replacement. You can use a site like Angi to find local certified panel and breaker experts, compare quotes, and read reviews.
How much does it cost to replace a Zinsco panel?
The average cost of replacing a Zinsco service panel is between $1,600 to $4,000. Depending on the panel’s amperage (150A or 200A panels will cost more) and additional electrical upgrades may be necessary.
You can use this electrical panel cost calculator to obtain an estimated cost.
If your electrical panel is made by Zinsco, you may want to consider replacing it
The safety of the electrical system in your home is paramount. If your home is equipped with a Zinsco electrical panel, it's advisable to have a qualified electrician inspect it. Upgrading to a modern electrical panel can provide enhanced safety and peace of mind. Contact us for a free quote on upgrading your Houston area electrical panel here.