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Old 12-21-2008, 11:11 AM   #1
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Older breaker box problem (pics enclosed)


I've been looking to find for this type of breaker online, has anyone seen one like this before? I've been searching, and came across posts (with no pictures) mentioning breakers that have bad habits catching on fire.

In short, this breaker blew while I was in the kitchen next to it, went down stairs and unplugged the heater and microwave, both of which being on the same breaker, and reset it. A minute later black smoke came from the back of this thing and I had to manually grab a towel and flip it back down.

I had found the beginning of the wire (from fuse box straight downstairs) and disconnected all associated wiring and capped both the ends. I even tested the wiring with a multimeter and found no short. When I tested the outlets, I found there is a short somewhere. However when I reset the breaker again, it quickly blew down again, and with an impressive arc.

Does anyone know if these type of breakers are known for going bad? I really want to upgrade soon, but honestly can not afford the expense right now. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Bob






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Old 12-21-2008, 11:42 AM   #2
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Older breaker box problem (pics enclosed)


http://ismypanelsafe.com/zinsco.aspx

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Old 12-21-2008, 11:54 AM   #3
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This is one of those situations where you don't want to be on the short side of taking the risk. It is an old, outdated panel and breakers that have had some significant problems. Certainly cost of replacement is a factor but since you are having problems, now is the time to move it up on the priority list. Cost of replacement panel certainly beats the cost of a replacement house or life.
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Old 12-21-2008, 12:29 PM   #4
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Older breaker box problem (pics enclosed)


Those are Zinsco breakers. As far as I know, they're not made anymore. They have a reputation of failing to trip during an overload or short-circuit.

Quite a few electricians will not work on any part of a building that has these breakers installed, mainly because of the liability of the building catching on fire.

Rob
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Old 12-21-2008, 12:56 PM   #5
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Older breaker box problem (pics enclosed)


I would replace that panel immediately! to "DIY" the job your talking only about 15-20 bucks for a 6 space Square D panel (QO or Homeline) and the breakers are usually about 10-12 dollars for the tandems and the double pole. So you're looking at roughly 65-80 dollars for the replacement panel and breakers; you might need a small handful of parts beyond that (thinking clamps for the cables coming into the panel).

If you feel up to the task of replacing this yourself then let us know, we can walk you throuhg it. I assume of course that this is a sub panel to an already existing panel upstream that you can shut this panel off from.
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Old 12-21-2008, 01:07 PM   #6
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http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q...ion%22&aq=f&oq=

You could also try a Google search of
"implied merchantability" zinsco
and/or
"implied warranty" zinsco
and/or
"v. zinsco"
and/or
"wrongful death" zinsco
The use of quotes is important in Google. Using Advanced Search may save you time.

Last edited by Yoyizit; 12-21-2008 at 01:11 PM.
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Old 12-21-2008, 01:21 PM   #7
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Older breaker box problem (pics enclosed)


I bought a Zinsco replacement breaker less than a year ago at Home Depot. It was made by Sylvania. If that type of panel was commonly installed in your area, and it likely was at the time, then start at your local home center. If they don't have one, the mom and pop hardware store almost surely will. They may cost more, but you can find some pretty neat things at a small hardware store.

Anyhow, as others have said, an old Zinsco panel with the original breakers can be a hazard, but not necessarily anymore than an old GE panel, or Square D or Cuttler Hammer. If you can't afford to replace it out right, or it turns out that you need to upgrade the entire service if you replace it. Alot of money and time can go into a job which may actually be better spent getting by in these strange economic times.

If you are willing to perform some minor electrical work, and can afford to replace the breakers with new safer models, then some careful clean-up and maintainence could make the panel like new, and you can buy that Wii for junior this Christmas.
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Old 12-21-2008, 01:38 PM   #8
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If you put an incand. lamp in series with the short, you can maybe pass enough current to trace the wiring to the short with one of those $35 studfinder/wire tracers.
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Old 12-21-2008, 01:51 PM   #9
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I see that there is some kind of panic that follows a Zinsco or FPE question, on this and many other forums. And every reply becomes a "replace it" blanket response. That isn't always the best solution, because not everyone with a problem can afford that. If you have to work it in a budget, then chances are, you play the waiting game. "I'll replace it when I get the money...". But the problem won't wait. Fact is, folks that have to Do-it-Themselves are trying to keep a jingle in the pocket.

Here's my experience with the Zinsco. I have replaced alot of electrical services in my journeys. I have repaired or replaced Zinsco in both residential and commercial. Not sure if I remember seeing them in large industrial... Fact is, when they failed, they failed due to a bad installation. I worked in a Zinsco panel less than a year ago: 200 A main breaker, lots of room, very clean original installation. No amateur monkey jobs. I added a circuit for a drill press and hunted down a new breaker. The guy that owned the place built it back in the late 60s and occupied it the whole time. He never had a problem.

On the other hand, I have seen Zinsco panels as a charred hulk. I have seen them like in the OP's pic. Mis-wired, alot of amatuer work. Breakers not seated properly, or jammed in cock-eyed. Or a 30 A breaker on a #14 and an over worked circuit. Or a missing cover. On every brand of circuit breaker panel, the cover panel provides some mechanical support to the breakers. Without it the breakers have a slight bit of additional freedom.

Point is, if the original installation is still mechanically sound, and the service entrance conductors are in good condition, then some new breakers, and elbow grease un-doing all the junk work that's been done, you might get 30 more years out of it.

Sorry for the rant.

Last edited by InPhase277; 12-21-2008 at 01:53 PM.
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Old 12-21-2008, 01:59 PM   #10
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Well, thanks for confirming this for me.

I called a couple electricians in the denver area quoting less than a $1K. I also have some "friends of friends" that I will be calling to look it over before I hire someone.

And this is the main breaker, if it were a sub panel I wouldn't mind doing it myself, but for something this big, I believe a professional is the way to go. I also believe the short is in the breaker itself now, as the wires connecting to it are showing it short on the meter.

Thanks for help.

Bob
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Old 12-21-2008, 04:57 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobz View Post
I called a couple electricians in the denver area quoting less than a $1K.
With a Dotplot you can figure the cluster in the middle is the true price of doing the job in your Zipcode in Dec, '08.

.....x......xx..x.........x......
|.....|.....|.....|....|....|
0...$1. ..$2...$3..$4...$5

With the two outlying bids, I'd wonder what job they are bidding on; probably not mine. . .
If all the prices come out the same, which is statistically extremely unlikely, I'd think "price-fixing". . .?
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Old 12-21-2008, 05:18 PM   #12
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Older breaker box problem (pics enclosed)


Quote:
Originally Posted by bobz View Post
Well, thanks for confirming this for me.

I called a couple electricians in the denver area quoting less than a $1K. I also have some "friends of friends" that I will be calling to look it over before I hire someone.

And this is the main breaker, if it were a sub panel I wouldn't mind doing it myself, but for something this big, I believe a professional is the way to go. I also believe the short is in the breaker itself now, as the wires connecting to it are showing it short on the meter.

Thanks for help.

Bob
If you hire someone, CALL REFERENCES!!! PREFERABLE 3 OF THEM.

If they do commercial and residential work, I would ask for a reference from a local small business they have worked for. If a respectable small business has good things to say about there work, your probably safe.

If you going to pay $1,000 or so, I don't think it is unreasonable to ask for a few references.

Also for this level of work, INSIST ON A PERMIT. If anyone wants to do this without a permit, don't walk, RUN away. It is illegal to change out a whole panel in most areas without a permit, even if they are licensed. If they say one is not required, call your city hall / county government, and speak to the inspections office, ask a government inspector if said work can be done without a permit.

I know that the majority of electricians out there are good professional, honest professionals. Lately, I have read of too many people that have been having bad experiences with "professionals" doing sub-par work. A quick reference check and insisting on a permit will virtually eliminate the hack jobs.

If you can afford to have the panel replaced, by all means, it is a great thing to do. Again if affordable, get a nice new Cutler Hammer CH or Square D QO panel.

Good Luck;
Jamie

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