Televisions, computers, cell phones, etc change faster than a teenage boy’s shoe size. You just barely get all the options figured out and a new, better, faster, smaller, bigger, smarter model comes around.
Is this also true with your electrical equipment? Unlike a cell phone with a two year replacement window, you can expect to get many years out of your breaker panel but some brands have had issues and some improvements have been made that you should know about.
Some old Square D and Federal Pioneer breaker panels (early ’50’s – mid 60’s)have no main shut off switches. In an emergency the only way to remove power from these electrical panels is to wait to have it disconnected by the local utility company. If you have a model made after the mid ’60’s you will see that they added this important feature.
Other older brands of breaker panels have had big reliability problems: Sylvania, Commander, CEB, Bryant, NovaLine, PowRmark, Bulldog, Push-o-matic , Blueline, and Westinghouse all have well known problems with overheating and breakers that won’t reset — or worse – won’t trip to protect you. These panels are serious trouble waiting to happen and should be replaced. They do not have a place in a well maintained home.
Surprisingly, there are quite a number of American breaker panels manufactured by Federal PACIFIC Electricfound in Ontario homes. These panels look like a Federal Pioneer panel (a popular Canadian brand) but were not approved for use in Canada. They are known fire hazards and the subject of numerous class action lawsuits in the US. They must be removed.
Even the best panels and breakers wear out over time and will begin to show signs of aging. As well, any rust on an electrical panel is bad news. If water or even condensation has entered the panel and caused rust, it will have penetrated the breakers and compromised their operation. A thorough inspection of the panel, including a infrared temperature scan and a internal inspection of the connection points of the breakers is needed to assess the overall health of a panel.
Make sure you have a reliable breaker panel and be aware that just like your roof, your furnace, and plumbing fixtures, your electrical panel too will come to the end of its useful lifespan one day and require replacement.