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  1. #1
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    Default A good Zinsco???

    After an inspector called out a Zinsco panel for replacement, a licensed electrician evaluated it and called it "perfect." He even put it in writing. Homeowner said that there are Zinsco's that are good and this is one of them. I am dubious.... DSCN3066.jpgDSCN3067.jpg

    I was under the impression that all Zinsco with multi-colored breakers were suspect and then when Sylvania bought Zinsco even thoses were flawed. Does anyone know if there are acceptable Zinsco's???

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    Last edited by Rick Bunzel; 08-26-2017 at 03:37 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    To my knowledge there are no "Good" Zinsco panels/breakers or Sylvania ones that used Zinsco breakers. I suppose some were slightly better than others. As far as I know they do not make a UL listed replacement breaker for them any more.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Bunzel View Post
    After an inspector called out a Zinsco panel for replacement, a licensed electrician evaluated it and called it "perfect." He even put it in writing. Homeowner said that there are Zinsco's that are good and this is one of them. I am dubious....
    I was under the impression that all Zinsco with multi-colored breakers were suspect and then when Sylvania bought Zinsco even thoses were flawed. Does anyone know if there are acceptable Zinsco's???
    Suspect, not necessarily dangerous.
    You notified them of your concern. You did your job.

    If nothing else, it's old technology.

    I can't see everything in your pic, but I see a backfed breaker that doesn't appear to be secured.
    Is this service equipment?

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  4. #4
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    Gunnar,

    The black wire at the top left side of panel?? I agree with you that some unprotected circuit is coming off the bus.

    //Rick

    Rick Bunzel
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Bunzel View Post
    Gunnar,

    The black wire at the top left side of panel?? I agree with you that some unprotected circuit is coming off the bus.

    //Rick
    Ummm... there's a lot of black wires.

    Probably not. I was referring to the topmost 240 volt breaker. I assumed that is the main disconnect. It looks like a 100 amp breaker and the neutrals/equipment grounds are connected together at the bottom of the panel. If the panel is not service equipment, then the neutrals/equipment grounds are incorrect. Is it service equipment?

    If it is the main disconnect, then it looks to be backfed (fed from the conductors to the buss bar rather than from the buss bar to the conductors). Backfed breakers should be secured to the panel (I don't know when that became a requirement).

    Are you are referring to the smaller gauge wire that heads from the top/left toward the main lug at the top of the panel? If that is connected to the main lug, then I cannot imagine an electrical contractor "certifying" this panel.

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  6. #6
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Bunzel View Post
    After an inspector called out a Zinsco panel for replacement, a licensed electrician evaluated it and called it "perfect." He even put it in writing.
    I take things differently at times, such as an electrician calling an FPE panel "perfect" means to me that it is a "perfect" FPE panel, and we all know that FPE panels have issues, so a "perfect" FPE panels would "perfectly represent all of the issues of FPE panels".

    Likewise, we all know that Zinsco panels are issues, thus a perfect Zinsco panel would perfectly represent all the Zinsco panel issues.

    Now, if the electrician were to document that "all" appropriate tests were done on the breakers, the buss bars, and all other aspects of the panel, and that all those tests passed, then, sure, go ahead and put forth the meaning that the panel 'has no issues as it was fully tested and passed all tests'.

    Otherwise, that piece of paper from the electrician is not worth anything, unless that electrician also provided a letter from his insurance company stating that the insurance company will fully cover any and all losses and incidents arising from or related to that Zinsco panel ... and then it is not the electricians letter which means anything, it is the insurance company's letter which means something.

    Thus my response to my client would be to have the seller provide a letter from the electrician's insurance company covering all losses and incidents arising from or related to that Zinsco panel.

    I suspect that seller will never get such a letter, because I suspect that the electrician could never get such a letter from his insurance company, at least not without some additional giant premium being paid for that insurance coverage.

    Otherwise ... that letter is not even worth what toilet paper is ... that letter is too stiff for wiping ...

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    Some electricians are idiots, even the licensed ones.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  8. #8
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    As much as I hate Zinsco/Sylvania panels, the plug-in panels are problematic, the bolt-on panelboards are not really a problem, other then paying outrageous prices for used breakers when needing one for replacement or adding a circuit, $140.00 for a 20A 2-pole breaker that was much older then the circa 1976 panel it went into.


    The Zinsco residential panels were just a really bad design.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    Zinsco are still used even after a Home Inspector's " visual inspection report" the condition in their written report. Some building and safety city inspectors "grandfather them in" after an State Licensed Electrician rewire the branch wiring and leave the Zinsco Service Panel in place.

    Even in this case I call it out as "needing to be evaluated by a State Licensed Electrician" if a State Licensed electrician come on record and document the "Zinsco Electrical Panel" as "perfect" that is the end of the matter as to my responsibility to my client, the national electrical code have changed many times since the Zinsco electrical Panel was manufactured. My report is based on the condition of the property "on the day of the inspection".

    - - - Updated - - -

    Zinsco are still used even after a Home Inspector's " visual inspection report" the condition in their written report. Some building and safety city inspectors "grandfather them in" after an State Licensed Electrician rewire the branch wiring and leave the Zinsco Service Panel in place.

    Even in this case I call it out as "needing to be evaluated by a State Licensed Electrician" if a State Licensed electrician come on record and document the "Zinsco Electrical Panel" as "perfect" that is the end of the matter as to my responsibility to my client, the national electrical code have changed many times since the Zinsco electrical Panel was manufactured. My report is based on the condition of the property "on the day of the inspection".

    - - - Updated - - -

    Zinsco are still used even after a Home Inspector's " visual inspection report" the condition in their written report. Some building and safety city inspectors "grandfather them in" after an State Licensed Electrician rewire the branch wiring and leave the Zinsco Service Panel in place.

    Even in this case I call it out as "needing to be evaluated by a State Licensed Electrician" if a State Licensed electrician come on record and document the "Zinsco Electrical Panel" as "perfect" that is the end of the matter as to my responsibility to my client, the national electrical code have changed many times since the Zinsco electrical Panel was manufactured. My report is based on the condition of the property "on the day of the inspection".


  10. #10
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    I have had electrician state that they are fine, I have some Realtors her locally that say they have an electrician that will "Certify" them as okay. I still have the conversation with my client why they are not.

    The issue is there is no recall or industry warning other than we HI's and a few insurance companies state. Most electricians I know who worth their weight in salt agree that they should go bye -bye.

    I have plenty physical example of issues with Zinsco's in my possession (pitted bus bars, melted breakers etc)

    FYI- Some insurance companies will have an issue with them. I have a client that has an apartment complex that Zinsco's were installed. The insurance company is charging him 20K extra a year in insurance rate for having them present. He was a little peeved because the inspector that did that inspection did not mention anything about them.

    link to insurance doc-
    http://www.ncwhomeinspections.com/sy...ker-Panels.pdf

    Don Hester
    NCW Home Inspections, LLC
    Wa. St. Licensed H I #647, WSDA #80050, http://www.ncwhomeinspections.com

  11. #11
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    That's how FPE panels finally became such a no-no that agents basically had no choice but to acknowledge the issues ... the insurance companies began saying that they would not insure the houses ... and no insurance means no sale ... and agents don't like "no sale".

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  12. #12
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    It is unfortunate that the "Sale" becomes the driving factor versus the issue of these being poorly designed and cheap.

    It also hard to get the consumers/public to understand that some of these older panels may have reached a useful life and it is time to replace them.

    Don Hester
    NCW Home Inspections, LLC
    Wa. St. Licensed H I #647, WSDA #80050, http://www.ncwhomeinspections.com

  13. #13

    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    I've been calling out Zinscos for years as a safety concern and recommending replacement. Only had pushback once from an 'electrician', who said it was fine, but would not offer that up in writing.
    Here's one from a package unit disco last July.
    I include this link in my report. http://www.ismypanelsafe.com/zinsco.aspx

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  14. #14
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    I suspect that the only "good" Zinsco panel is one which is still in its original unopened box ...

    Yes-sirree ... it is "listed" and "ready for use" (just don't use it).

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  15. #15
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    Jerry, Like this one





    - - - Updated - - -

    Jerry, Like this one





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  16. #16
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Hester View Post
    Jerry, Like this one
    Don,

    Well ... I'll be doggone ... I never thought someone would have one ... wait a minute now - I said "unopened" ...

    But that's 'close enough' to round the bases and make the score.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  17. #17
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Don,

    Well ... I'll be doggone ... I never thought someone would have one ... wait a minute now - I said "unopened" ...

    But that's 'close enough' to round the bases and make the score.

    My client wanted me to look at this and get an opinion, I told him it looks great and that is should always remain in the box We actually had a good laugh about it.

    - - - Updated - - -

    It makes it better that it was a split bus

    Don Hester
    NCW Home Inspections, LLC
    Wa. St. Licensed H I #647, WSDA #80050, http://www.ncwhomeinspections.com

  18. #18
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Hester View Post
    My client wanted me to look at this and get an opinion, I told him it looks great and that is should always remain in the box We actually had a good laugh about it.

    Absolutely the best place for it ... in that box.

    It makes it better that it was a split bus
    I'll make a slight correction to the above as I have seen "split bus" Zinsco panels before ... that panel is a "manufactured" split bus Zinsco panel ... I have seen 'split bus' Zinsco panels which 'became split bus' because the bus bars MELTED COMPLETELY IN TWO due to arcing from the breakers ... so someone added a breaker to the now-split-off-bus and jumpered from one breaker in the top section to a breaker they put on the 'now-bottom-section' ... and the agent couldn't comprehend why I was writing it up.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  19. #19
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    You could have had a pallet of Challenger branded FPE Stab Lok loadcenters at a local auction a few years ago, would have loved to see the buyers face when they found out how much breakers were going to cost.


  20. #20
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Luttrall View Post
    Some electricians are idiots, even the licensed ones.
    What makes you say that? Although, there are some that do make the rest of us look bad. But then, all trades have their questionable ones.
    As far as Zinsco panels go........Aluminum bus bars have to be the worst idea ever. As for the breakers...they tend to get gritty inside, which I think binds up the trip mechanism. And when they do trip, a lot of times they don't indicate it.
    If that electrician did a proper panel inspection, ie. Pulled ALL the breakers and checked the bus bars, pulled the meter and checked the stabs for arcing, did a V/D, and leakage test on the breakers, and exorcised them, checked all connections for proper torque, and it passed, then I could see him certifying it.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Luttrall View Post
    Some electricians are idiots, even the licensed ones.
    What makes you say that? Although, there are some that do make the rest of us look bad. But then, all trades have their questionable ones.
    As far as Zinsco panels go........Aluminum bus bars have to be the worst idea ever. As for the breakers...they tend to get gritty inside, which I think binds up the trip mechanism. And when they do trip, a lot of times they don't indicate it.
    If that electrician did a proper panel inspection, ie. Pulled ALL the breakers and checked the bus bars, pulled the meter and checked the stabs for arcing, did a V/D, and leakage test on the breakers, and exorcised them, checked all connections for proper torque, and it passed, then I could see him certifying it.


  21. #21
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    Quote Originally Posted by joe banana View Post
    ... and exorcised them ...
    I didn't realize that Zinsco breakers needed exorcisms ... FPE, sure, but Zinsco ...

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  22. #22
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    Quote Originally Posted by joe banana View Post
    Aluminum bus bars have to be the worst idea ever.
    BananaMan,

    Does this go for all aluminum buss bars?

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  23. #23
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    Default Re: A good Zinsco???

    You have to keep in mind that after the aluminum wire fiasco a "bit" of research was done on aluminum used in the electrical industry. Given that aluminum oxide is an insulator it stands to reason that a good deal of attention is given to the alloys used so as to prevent its formation. I haven't done any research to confirm, but it appears that older aluminum buss components were treated with something to form a surface coating to prevent oxidation - something that was easily scraped off and was adversely affected by heat, This, coupled with the fact the underlying metal was, or was darn close to, pure aluminum, led to problems if even a small scratch was present.

    With current production resi type panels aluminum alloy is the standard breaker buss with copper being optional and in some cases not available. The fact a buss is copper isn't always readily apparent as copper needs to be coated to prevent oxidation. Copper oxide is conductive but in the presence of moisture has a tendency to become a "drip" over time and may eventually complete an unwanted circuit in the confines of a breaker buss assembly and so it usually has a zinc or similar coating.

    Most of the problems I see with aluminum busses concern installation of older breakers from other manufacturers where the specs for the thickness of the buss and the spring tension of the breaker clip may not be compatible. And, while it takes longer, these same issues can damage a copper buss as well. And, I've see production from all the manufacturers where the breaker clip isn't centered in the slot and once it has been banged onto the buss with a rubber hammer, it's no longer a snug fit like it's supposed to be. And, time/material being what it is in resi construction, I don't expect many of these wind up back at the supply house or in the trash.

    Anyway, if you get the opportunity, take a hammer to a Zinsco breaker and check out the clip used for the buss contact. You can see that the clip is forced open wider to install the breaker that than it will be once the breaker is seated, and is pretty thin. The act of installing the breaker is often the beginning of a cycle that eventually destroys the buss and breaker. The design is very much different than the push in type panels used today and is made of different materials.

    My experience in the trade is that I've seen just as many "high end" panel failures as run of the mill types in resi service, no matter what buss type. MOST of the time the problems stem from installation issues but these panels are built to a price point.

    Just my experience with this stuff, but then again I've only been at it for 45+ years now in one facet or another of the trade.

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