If your home was built between 1960 and 1980 and is equipped with a Zinsco or GTE Zinsco-Sylvania circuit breaker panel, you run a significant risk of breaker malfunction and fire.
Throughout the 1970s, it was common to have a Zinsco panel installed in a new building. When Zinsco was sold to GTE Sylvania in 1973, the company continued to make panels that included Zinsco somewhere in the name. Zinsco breaker production was halted in the mid-70s.
The Zinsco circuit breaker will carry the overload for a long time without tripping. This causes the connection to heat up and start arcing to the buss bar. The problem is primarily in the panels with aluminum buss bars, but also has been seen in the ones with copper buss. Moisture seems to accelerate the process.
Since the components were not meant to stand the test of time, Zinsco panels often fail to operate properly and may be at risk for both fire and electrical shock. While the panels may have worked fine for years, buildings have increased energy demands, which cause the panels to possibly overheat and portions of it to melt.
If a breaker melts to a panel’s bus bar and can no longer adequately trip in case of an overcurrent or short circuit, an extreme amount of power from the outside electrical supply surges into a panel and circuits. Once that happens, the power can’t be stopped or shut off manually. Electricity will burn until it runs out of fuel or the wires melt. This leads to a panel that could overheat and catch fire.
What should I do if I have a Zinsco panel?
Unfortunately, a damaged Zinsco panel is not obvious by sight. You should have it inspected by a licensed electrician in your community. A reputable electrician should be willing to provide you with a 100% free safety analysis.