By: Cline Agency Insurance Brokers
The circuit breaker panel is responsible for distributing and receiving electricality. It protects homes from potential dangers like power surges and other hazardous activity. With regular maintenance, electrical panels should be able to perform properly for a number of years. But some electrical panels are NOT up to standard and are considered unsafe.
If the association is older, and if the electrical panels are Zinsco or Federal Pacific Electrical “Stab-Lok” (FPE) , the properties may be exposed to a higher risk of electrical shock and fire. Zinsco and FPE panels were commonly installed in homes during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. But since then, some of their design flaws have become realized, causing some serious problems.
When Zinsco panels were first manufactured, copper was used as a main component until the U.S. faced a copper shortage. Zinsco then switched to aluminum, but often made of poor quality. This made them susceptible to oxidation (i.e. rusting), which can lead to burning and electrical fires. Both Zinsco and FPE panels were found to have improper assembly of components, and as we’re seeing increasing energy demands on homes, the panels can get overworked which could mean the overheating and melting of parts. Yikes!
Is it a Zinsco / FPE Panel?
Zinsco is most easily identified with the label “Zinsco” or “Magnetrip”. These panels typically show a vertical array of color-coded breaker handles down the center. FPE panels may have labels “Federal Pacific”, “FPE” or “Stab-Lok”. Typically, the breakers are painted red.
But wait, there’s more to the story…
We’re not saying that these electrical panels are guaranteed to fail. However, what do all these potential risks mean for the insurance companies?
You guessed it, they won’t provide coverage. The chances of failure and the likelihood for incidents is dangerously too high. Reports indicate that Zinsco panels have a failure to operate properly as much as 25% of the time.
There’s not a single preferred carrier who will offer coverage against this risk. And it will become increasingly more difficult to find any company who will. Carriers are continuing to crack down on this and will generally issue a warranty to bind coverage stating that the properties must not have these outdated electrical panels in place.
LOSS PREVENTION RECOMMENDATIONS
Keeping a Zinsco or FPE panel is simply not safe. Due to the adverse issues that they can cause, these panels should be replaced with UL-approved equipment. This should be the case regardless of how well or not the current panel “seems” to be functioning. Some steps to take:
- Investigate: For help determining if the electrical panel is indeed Zinsco or FPE, you should contact a licensed electrician for assistance! Electricians are the only ones who should investigate the breakers as the risk of serious injury to an electrical shock or fire is very real.
- Replace: Keep in mind that certain locales may require a permit for replacement. And you should definitely hire only a licensed professional electrician to carry out this considerably dangerous task.
- Document: When the panel(s) are replaced, be sure to document this for the insurance carrier.
Aluminum or Copper Wiring?
The biggest tell is that aluminum wiring appears silver, whereas copper wiring has an orange/brown color.