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  1. #1
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    Default Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    I understand that at some point in time Sylvania purchased Zinsco and marketed the Zinsco equipment under the Sylvania brand name. Would this then make ALL Sylvania branded equipment suspect as a "known defective product". i.e. failure of breakers to trip under overloads, burnouts of breakers, and bus bars". If not, are there particular time periods when the Sylvania brand suspect?

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    Tom,

    The best answer I can give you is this: The problem with the Zinsco panels were the two 'L' shaped bus bars with the breakers fitting over both of the bus bars, so, regardless of the name on the panel, ... if you see those 'L' shaped bus bars and the breakers fitting over them - that is a problematic panel and I would recommend replacing them.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    There were 2 lines branded as GTE Sylvania, 1- was the reviled Zinsco design, the 2nd was/is what was a 1" wide breaker sim. to the ITE, Westinghouse, & GE breakers & later was branded asChallenger Electrical Equipment Corp. (If my memory serves me correctly it was Zinsco/American Switch who also supplied Monkey Wards brand panels).


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    Quote Originally Posted by Rollie Meyers View Post
    There were 2 lines branded as GTE Sylvania, 1- was the reviled Zinsco design, the 2nd was/is what was a 1" wide breaker sim. to the ITE, Westinghouse, & GE breakers & later was branded asChallenger Electrical Equipment Corp. (If my memory serves me correctly it was Zinsco/American Switch who also supplied Monkey Wards brand panels).
    Rollie,

    As I recall, there were two Sylvania branded panels, one Sylvania/Zinsco or Zinsco/Sylvania (I forgot which) and the other GTE Sylvania.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom McDonnell View Post
    I understand that at some point in time Sylvania purchased Zinsco and marketed the Zinsco equipment under the Sylvania brand name. Would this then make ALL Sylvania branded equipment suspect as a "known defective product". i.e. failure of breakers to trip under overloads, burnouts of breakers, and bus bars". If not, are there particular time periods when the Sylvania brand suspect?
    Look for this.... Well, you can't see the burn marks if a breaker is in place.

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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Rollie,

    As I recall, there were two Sylvania branded panels, one Sylvania/Zinsco or Zinsco/Sylvania (I forgot which) and the other GTE Sylvania.
    GTE had owned Sylvania since the 1950's they bought Zinsco about 1973, branding changed 1975-1976 to "GTE Sylvania"


    There was 2 lines of breakers at some point.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    The most recent Zinsco panel I've seen was in a 1972 house. That one was very surprising.... otherwise, the latest I'd seen was in the early 1960s.

    I once saw a Fed Pacific panel in a 1987 house... that was another record for me.


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Fellman View Post
    The most recent Zinsco panel I've seen was in a 1972 house. That one was very surprising.... otherwise, the latest I'd seen was in the early 1960s.

    I once saw a Fed Pacific panel in a 1987 house... that was another record for me.
    My 1975-1978 house in South Florida had a Zinsco panel. As did every house in that development.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    ben j.

    Are you saying that at one time you used to install Zinco electrical panel?

    Following up with; and one of the home you did, burn down?


    Sorry, if I read your post incorrectly.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    Quote Originally Posted by ben jacks View Post
    Zinsco made a decent panel in those days and when properly installed by professionals are not a problem.
    Every Zinsco panel I've seen was installed by "professionals" and every one has the same problem, caused by their design, which to me and in my opinion (along with many other people) makes them NOT "a decent panel" at any point in time.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  11. #11
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    Default Re: Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    Quote Originally Posted by ben jacks View Post
    JP,

    I respect your opinion on what you see. The question I have is how many have you seen of the over 750,000 Zinsco's out there? Tell me how many SD's you have seen and the same equation arises. In a not so perfect world, things grow old and things deteriorate under imperfect installations and conditions. JMO rbj
    Ben,

    Let's change the equation around slightly:

    How many of the Zinsco panels have I seen had the same major defect problem versus how many of the Square D panels I have seen which had a similar defect problem versus how many GE panels I have seen which had a similar defect problem.

    Here is the relationship: Zinsco - 100% of the ones I've seen had varying degrees of the same defect problem, from burned and arced bus bars to breakers which have welded themselves onto the bus bars to bus bars burned and arc completely in half ... versus Square D - 0% had a similar defect problem ... versus GE - 0% had a similar defect problem ... and neither Square D nor GE has had a significant defect remotely as serious as that of the Zinsco.

    In fact, the only panel which comes close to the defective stature of the Zinsco is the FPE, which actually exceeds the defective nature of the Zinsco by having worse problems.

    Then, combine the percentage of defective Zinsco panels I've seen with the percentage of defective Zinsco panels others here have seen - with the same defect - and you will understand the Zinsco panel has an inherent design problem.

    Just because you liked them and put them in does not mean they are any good. All that means is that *you* liked them. I respect your opinion on that as it is *your* opinion, that does not, however, make the Zinsco panels any better.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  12. #12
    gary gramling's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    Quote Originally Posted by ben jacks View Post
    JP,

    I respect your opinion on what you see. The question I have is how many have you seen of the over 750,000 Zinsco's out there? Tell me how many SD's you have seen and the same equation arises. In a not so perfect world, things grow old and things deteriorate under imperfect installations and conditions. JMO rbj

    I think that you may be talking about me.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    Zinsco/Sylvania is the most reviled name in electrical equipment,all they are good for is making money on service calls because of a cheap design used in trunk slammer built structures. the 2nd most reviled name is FPE, & Zinsco/Sylvania used FPE breakers in any thing over 225A & 240 volts but Federal Pacific Electric's bad reputation was made on their Stab-Lok breakers not the larger frame breakers.


    Zinsco was favored by lowballer contractors because they were the cheapest not because of quality, it is because that UL listed Zinsco, that I have little respect for UL, for liablity reasons look for the UL label, but that is it.
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  14. #14
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    Default Re: Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    The balancing is no different then the Cutler-Hammer/ Square D XO breakers other then the breakers were alternated back & forth to balance the legs, w/ Zinsco most "users" installed twin breakers so it had automatic balancing, other then not being "trip-free" the XO breakers has held up fairly well considering they have been obsolete for almost 50 years,not something that anyone can say about Zinsco....

    Zinsco's time was past long before it ever left the factory.
    The only thing about Zinsco that has surprised me is a installation where some Zinsco bolt-on breakers are switched 2X a day, 7-days a week, 365 days a year, & have held up since they were installed in 1968. For some useless triva, a 2-pole 20A Zinsco bolt-on breaker is about $140.00 USED, there are no new or aftermarket ones avail. .


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    I find reading the "defense" of Zinsco panels and breakers by supposedly knowledgeable people troubling.

    First and foremost, there is no such thing as a "balanced" residential panel. It isn't possible to anticipate what busses and breakers will be loaded and how much at a given time of day. Even ranges and dryers don't necessarily place the same load on both hot legs. Consequently, the design of a panel and breakers should be such that at any given time all the loads present can be handled by the breakers and buss on one hot leg.

    Once an electrician walks away from a panel they have no control over how general use circuits get used. You can't stop John Q from buying a "multi tap" device of some kind that allows plugging the coffee pot, waffle iron, electric skillet, blender, and whatever else into a single receptacle. This type of overload should do nothing but trip the breaker, not heat up the contact on the breaker to the point that it looses the ability to stay in contact with the buss and arcing begins.

    My experiences with the Zinsco panels is that circuits as balanced as can normally be expected in resi applications, like dryers and water heaters, have breaker/buss failures at least as often as single pole circuits. I've replaced several panels at an apartment complex where the only breaker in the panel is used as a service disconnect and it feeds another panel. The units have gas heat, water, and appliances. They've probably never seen a 50 AMP load, yet these 100 AMP rated busses and breakers are burned to a crisp around the buss/breaker connection. The installation of "tandem" or "double" breakers is also pegged as a cause for problems. Gotta tell you I don't see these types of issues in other panels where the non circuit limiting panels have way too many tandems installed. If installation of these breakers causes a problem then there is a design issue - which is the problem with the entire line of the stuff.

    I've also got to make the point that the average Joe couldn't afford to run even a 100 AMP panel at anywhere near capacity for extended periods of time. One of the few times might be when somebody elects to wash and dry laundry while Thanksgiving dinner is in the works.

    Gotta tell ya, In my opinion the fact any installed Zinsco equipment hasn't had a failure is luck of the draw. I installed several of these panels very early in my career and was so unimpressed with the way they were put together that I replaced them for the customers at no charge. So, I don't have any 40 year old installs to go back and inspect. All I have to go on is what I find when people start having problems, and that is seldom the result of a bad installation.


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    Bottom line is that as home inspectors we need to make our clients aware of the problematic residential FPE & Zinsco equipment, and that they should be replaced. IMHO, we should also let our clients know that they might have difficulty in obtaining homeowners insurance if the home has an FPE or Zinsco panel.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
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  17. #17
    Michael P. O'Handley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    Hi,

    It was the late 90's when I first heard about Zinsco panels. In an effort to track down information on them, I searched online for anyplace I could post an inquiry about electrical issues. Weeks later, I got an email from a fellow. I can't remember his name now and that email has long since been deleted. He informed me that he was a retired electrical engineer that was employed by Sylvania when Sylvania bought Zinsco and that he had been the guy assigned to troubleshoot the Zinsco design and try to determine whether their poor reputation was earned.

    According to that gentleman, the issue with the panels was never about the ability of the breakers to handle their assigned loads and trip when they were supposed to; it was about the looseness of the breaker clip attachment to the bars. He said that the opposing faces of the clips that snap to the bars was slightly too wide and that when they were snapped into the panel the breakers would often arc the tiniest amount at those loose connections and that, over time, this would worsen and the heat from the arcing would eventually melt the plastic breaker casings and cause them to literally melt to and bond to the bars. He said that back then they'd informed the electrical trade that electricians should tweak the breaker clips just slightly inward so that they would make a tighter connection, and that, if they did that, there wouldn't be a problem.

    What nobody ever seems to mention is the panel that GTE/Sylvania came out with in the early 80's when they finally gave up and stopped manufacturing the Zinsco panels; those GTE/Sylvania panels are pieces of s**t on a greater level than the Zinsco or FPE panels were. They used a thin little narrow stab that was supposed to meet a narrow clip on the back of the panel and they seem to be misaligned and half plugged in half of the time. The stabs are so thin that when you find them like that, there's almost nothing left.

    ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

    Mike O'Handley, LHI
    Your Inspector LLC.
    Kenmore, Washington
    Wa. Lic. Home Inspector #202


  18. #18
    Michael P. O'Handley's Avatar
    Michael P. O'Handley Guest

    Default Re: Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    It was very slow from election day last year right up to April and then it took off. Since then, it's been going gang busters.

    I have noticed a little slowdown since school opened but that seems to happen every year. We'll know in October, after folks' schedules are back to normal after the beginning of the school year, whether the year will end strongly or whether it'll slow down through the holidays.

    ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

    Mike O'Handley, LHI
    Your Inspector LLC.
    Kenmore, Washington
    Wa. Lic. Home Inspector #202


  19. #19
    Michael P. O'Handley's Avatar
    Michael P. O'Handley Guest

    Default Re: Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    Haven't done a YP ad in more than 10 years. I think there's a little free one-liner in there but that's it.

    When I first came here around 1996 there were about 150 companies just in the greater Seattle book.

    Probably should continue this offline - we're way off-topic and this will screw up search engine results for this topic. My email is hausdok@msn.com.

    ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

    Mike O'Handley, LHI
    Your Inspector LLC.
    Kenmore, Washington
    Wa. Lic. Home Inspector #202


  20. #20
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    Cool Re: Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    I just want to thanks all the guys that keep on posting.

    Good stuff.


  21. #21
    Michael P. O'Handley's Avatar
    Michael P. O'Handley Guest

    Default Re: Sylvania-Zinsco Panels

    Nope, all I recall is what I've related. I think I printed out that email and have it around here somewhere but finding it would be like finding one molecule in the universe. I wouldn't know where to start looking in all of the crap that I've got piled up in here.

    ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

    Mike O'Handley, LHI
    Your Inspector LLC.
    Kenmore, Washington
    Wa. Lic. Home Inspector #202


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