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We had some mini-splits installed and the electrician doing the work said I should really look into replacing the panel. It's not overloaded but he said since it's 30 years old it's probably a good idea since breakers might not work. Is this true? It seems like people never replace them. Could I just buy new breakers and replace them one by one?
 

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Speedy is also correct. No one should change a panel just because it's 30 years old. With that said, normal where and tear from a crappy 70's panel can be severe. I usually tell clients who have a 30 year old panel that is still in good shape to expect problems within 10 years and to budget for a repair.
 

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As several people have indicated, age alone is not a reason to replace a panel. Especially not for a panel from the last 35 years. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe a Q0 panel from 1980 is in any way less safe than a Q0 panel from today.

But post a picture of the panel here and the guys can tell you if they know it's a bad brand.

There *are* some upgrades you can do to bring a home closer to modern code, which may make certain things safer. GFI protection, for example, is probably the biggest safety innovation that has become commonplace in the last thirty-five years, and is worth adding at least to any bathroom circuits. Any MWBC's without handle-ties should have handle ties added to them (it's not a huge deal, but is very marginally safer because someone who doesn't know electric stuff may work on a circuit in the house one day and not realize he has to turn off two breakers). Any unlabelled circuits should be labelled.

I don't have enough knowledge to know whether Arc Fault breakers are meaningful safety improvements or whether they're just government over-regulation not worth retrofitting into a home.
 

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I don't have enough knowledge to know whether Arc Fault breakers are meaningful safety improvements or whether they're just government over-regulation not worth retrofitting into a home.
I don't think it matters. The code calls for them. If you want to be code complient, you provide them or other approved protection.
Even replacing receptacle triggers it.

2014 National Electric Code, 406.4(D)(4) which took effect January 1st, 2014.

(4) Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Protection. Where a receptacle outlet is supplied by a branch circuit that requires arc-fault ciruit interrupter protection as specified elsewhere in this Code, a replacement receptacle at this outlet shall be one of the following:

(1) A listed outlet branch circuit type arc-fault circuit interrupter receptacle.
(2) A receptacle protected by a listed outlet branch circuit type arc-fault circuit interrupter type receptacle.
(3) A receptacle protected by a listed combination type arc-fault circuit interrupter type circuit breaker.
This requirement becomes effective January 1, 2014.


Edit: I believe the same/similar text was in NEC 2011.
 

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I don't have enough knowledge to know whether Arc Fault breakers are meaningful safety improvements or whether they're just government over-regulation not worth retrofitting into a home.
By the way, the NFPA isn't a government body. Now many states simply adopt the latest NFPA/NEC as a complete document as a matter of practice but some states and jurisdictions amend it with local changes (including eliminating the requirement for AFCIs). The Massachusetts changes don't eliminate the requirement however. http://www.mass.gov/eopss/docs/dfs/osfm/cmr/527cmr12-00.pdf
 

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If it is an FPE stab lok I'd look to see if it's a recalled panel and have it swapped out for the safety reason. If there's no issues than no reason to change your panel unless you are going to get a heavy up (ex: going from 100amp to 200amp) if you needed the power.

You can have an electrician come out and look for hot spots on your bus bar and ensure your connections are tight. That wouldn't hurt but also not necessary
 

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We had some mini-splits installed and the electrician doing the work said I should really look into replacing the panel. It's not overloaded but he said since it's 30 years old it's probably a good idea since breakers might not work. Is this true? It seems like people never replace them. Could I just buy new breakers and replace them one by one?



:vs_cool:
 

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If it is an FPE stab lok I'd look to see if it's a recalled panel and have it swapped out for the safety reason.
Do you know of any FPE recalls?
 

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we're they not recalled? I thought they were but I could be wrong. I know they had a long investigation on them because of their high failure rate and inspectors are still making HO change them before selling there houses. At least in my area.
Home inspectors definitely hate them. I do too, but there have been no recalls and there is no legal recourse to replace them. It's all on your dime.
 
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There are some crazy stories about how they falsified UL tests using remote controls to simulate overcurrent protection. There's also some articles in the NEC that seem to point the finger at FPE such as wire bending space in panels and handle orientation. In my region homes with them are still insurable but noted as being unreliable. I have never told an HO they need to change a panel because of the brand or age but I'm a very low pressure salesman. I've worked with many who have.
 
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