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Electrical Panel Dangers

Updated: May 28, 2020

A while back I inspected "ye olde" family home with all sorts of historical finds. The biggest problem though was clearly the electrical panel. The embossed label read: "Magnetrip."

I knew it was suspect. These panels are old and fire hazards with most electricians recommending immediate replacement. With some searching I managed to find Zinsco circuit breakers too. Magnetrip was manufactured by Zinsco. So while the dangers of old Zinscos are easy to find information about, the name Magnetrip can easily be overlooked by home owners and even inspectors.

If you see these in a home make sure to get to get them evaluated by an electrician - who will more than likely recommend their replacement for safety. Some research shows these old panels fail to trip, and prevent fires, up to 30% of the time.* No surprise, the other items I found around the panel included a flashlights, extra breakers, and tools. Gee, I wonder just how routine it was to mess with this panel then? Always keep an eye out for indications of common maintenance issues when looking any home.

A story from fellow inspectors JJ and Suzanne about a homeowner with a Zinsco panel they inspected:

"We got a call 35 days after that inspection, the recommended repairs didn't get addressed immediately. She had an electrical fire in an outlet. Fortunately, she was forewarned and was alert to the potential hazard. She immediately recognized a dangerous situation and called the fire department. Luckily she was home and awake at the time of the fire and the damage was limited to the outlet or this could have been very serious." *


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