What is a Zinsco Electrical Panel?
During the early to mid 1970s, many homes across America were built with electrical service panels (breaker boxes) manufactured by Zinsco.
These electrical service panels are now deemed to be obsolete and/or defective. The reason for this determination is due to the manner in which the breaker switches attach to the bus bar inside the panel. The bus bar carries the electrical current which is supplied to the breaker switches and, in turn, the circuits they control. Over time the connection between the bus bar and the circuit breaker can loosen and cause arcing. Electrical arcing can cause electrical fires.
It is possible to replace the breakers in the panel, however, it is generally seen as more cost effective to just replace the whole distribution panel. Also, complete panel replacement is the best option to ensure continued safe operation of a home’s electrical system.
There are thousands and thousands of homes in Southern California that still have these Zinsco electrical panels controlling the distribution of electricity throughout the house. If you own a home with one of these panels, it is not necessarily urgent that you have it replaced; however, it is a good idea to have your panel inspected periodically by a licensed electrician.
If you are renovating a home, it is definitely a good idea to replace a Zinsco electrical panel with a modern distribution panel. Many home “flippers” decide not to touch the Zinsco panel, as they would rather leave the issue to the buyer to solve. Most home inspectors will alert buyers that the electrical panel is defective and should be replaced. For the flipper, it is an economic decision. They generally believe it will be less expensive to negotiate a global credit toward any and all repairs than it will be to replace the electrical panel.
Unfortunately, many buyers/homeowners who receive these repair credits in escrow do not use the money for the intended purpose of replacing the electrical panel. Once a buyer moves into a home and the electricity in the house is working, they tend to forget about the panel replacement. Therefore, the problem is perpetuated and doesn’t come up again until the house is sold.
If you’re buying a home, make sure your inspector checks out the electrical panel. If it’s a Zinsco, ask your Realtor to negotiate a replacement, or credit towards replacement.