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Thread: Conflicting information re: Zinsco panel

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member DavidV_NC's Avatar
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    Default Conflicting information re: Zinsco panel

    Hello,

    I'm purchasing a home (hopefully) which currently has a Zinsco panel. My home inspector flagged it and we asked the seller to install a new one. They got a licensed electrician's report saying it is not necessary to replace the panel because it is in good condition. (See image below.)

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    I've talked to two different county electrical inspectors and several electricians. They all agree that Zinsco panels should be replaced (which is clear from online research as well), but one of the inspectors and a couple electricians say it's not an urgent issue. The inspector said if it was his house, he'd keep an eye on it and replace it when a breaker blew rather than replacing the breaker, but not worry about it before then.

    I'm frustrated by the conflicting information and was hoping for some good advice here. Are the ones saying I should replace immediately just covering their backside or hoping I'll hire them, or is this genuinely a safety issue that needs to be addressed? (And if does need to be done now, any ideas about what to do about the electrician's report saying it's not an issue? The sellers are relying on that to say they won't fix it.)

    Thank you.

  2. #2
    Test, Don't Guess! cacher_chick's Avatar
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    As the potential buyer, you can request the panel upgrade, but in the end it will always be up to the seller to agree or disagree. If the existing panel is only 100 amp, and you are requesting an upgrade to 200 amp, you are asking for a lot.
    Some of the Zinsco panel were known to melt the busbar due to poor connections between the breaker and the busbar. Without physically removing the breakers and inspecting the buss, there is no way to know if the panel is becoming a problem.

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    DIY Junior Member DavidV_NC's Avatar
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    It's a 200 amp panel. I know it's up to the seller to agree or disagree, but it's up to me to buy or back out. I just don't want the seller to refuse to fix the panel based on bad information from this electrician, if that's what it is. Most of what I'm seeing says the panels need to be replaced, but if this particular electrician just didn't know what he was talking about the seller and I will have difficulty negotiating because we've got different information. I'm trying to figure out if what the seller's electrician was saying was reasonable or not.

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    DIY Senior Member bluebinky's Avatar
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    Since it is a "judgment call" just got factor it into the the offer just like the cost of getting rid of the stupid exterior paint color or whatever...

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    DIY Senior Member dj2's Avatar
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    1. From what the electrician wrote, it's pretty obvious that he wrote what the homeowner asked him to write. BUT...
    2. If the panel and breakers are in good condition, there is no need to replace them. The inspector is just trying to cover his ---. I have a rental property built in 1952 with Zinsco breakers: the panel looks good, the breakers work fine and there's no need to replace them at this point.
    3. These breakers are more expensive than others, but they are available at HD (made by Connecticut Electric) and on line.
    4. Submit a counter offer asking the seller to contribute 50% of the cost of panel replacement in escrow. Fair and square solution. I'll be surprised if the seller refuses.

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    Licensed Electrical Contractor Speedy Petey's Avatar
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    Regardless that Zinsco is relatively obsolete and a known issue, it is and was legal and safe when installed, so it is legal now.
    WHY is this the responsibility of the seller to replace??? If you do not like the panel the house comes with replace it after you move in.

  7. #7
    DIY Senior Member Homeownerinburb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidV_NC View Post
    It's a 200 amp panel. I know it's up to the seller to agree or disagree, but it's up to me to buy or back out. I just don't want the seller to refuse to fix the panel based on bad information from this electrician, if that's what it is. Most of what I'm seeing says the panels need to be replaced, but if this particular electrician just didn't know what he was talking about the seller and I will have difficulty negotiating because we've got different information. I'm trying to figure out if what the seller's electrician was saying was reasonable or not.
    I do a huge fraction of my work with a handful of real estate agents, god bless them.

    If one of them was selling and asked me to inspect, and I were to pull all the breakers out and find that the busses were intact and not pitted, and that the contacts on the breakers were not either, I would advise them to tell you to take a long walk off a short pier.

    If, however, one of them was your agent and asked me to look it over for you, I would weep and wail and predict the apocalypse if that panel were not ripped out and right now.

    Seriously, they are junk. And no gfi or afci breakers are available to fit them. Suck it up. You may need to find $2k from your own pocket to replace it.

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    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    For the past 10 or so years I have done many evaluations of electrical systems behind a Home Inspector for a relator. I usually charge three times what the HI charged for just an electrical evaluation.

    I see nothing different between Zinsco and FP than I do any other manufacture of the era. I will match a fault of modern day panels and breakers for every one that can be found in these devices.

    A true professional will evaluate what is in front of them regardless of the brand name. A want-a-be will take all the hype they find on the internet to keep from doing what they were hired to do. The sad part is a lot of the hype found on the internet is factious due to the lack of a law suit from a company that no longer exists to defend their self. The consumer product safety commission did research and found nothing wrong but the hype still abounds on the internet. Reminds me of a commercial I saw once where this cool chick found a French date on the internet.

    This is the very reason I talk down on the interlock kits sold for home generators. There are many document cases of breakers of all types being turned off but are still on and vice versa. I can’t help but wonder why OSHA mandated the hot-cold-hot check for electrical energy even with the disconnect (breaker) turned off and locked off. Could it be because one can’t see the internal parts of a breaker? It might be because some things are fed from two different directions.

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    DIY Senior Member Homeownerinburb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jwelectric View Post

    A true professional will evaluate what is in front of them regardless of the brand name. A want-a-be will take all the hype they find on the internet to keep from doing what they were hired to do.
    All that said, I have seen lots of Zinsco ready for condemnation based on the rotten condition of the buss bars due to the dodgy contact of the breaker to the bar. The next one that I am about to pull is going because it is a 60 amp six space unit as the main service.

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    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    ever find one that was in good shape? I have

    I have also seen newer panels that needed to be changed. I am talking about the ones that are bought everyday and installed. I have even seen breakers that were new that wouldn't trip. I have seen this in the past six months

  11. #11
    DIY Senior Member Homeownerinburb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jwelectric View Post
    ever find one that was in good shape? I have

    I have also seen newer panels that needed to be changed. I am talking about the ones that are bought everyday and installed. I have even seen breakers that were new that wouldn't trip. I have seen this in the past six months

    Oh, sure. I don't know if it is half of them. People tend to call when there is a problem, yes? I dare say there are countless Zinscos that are fine, and nobody is looking at them, because they are fine.

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Aside from this conversation, I have found very few "home inspectors" who are qualified to check EVERY TRADE and situation. Most of them try to find lots of "cosmetic" items and write them up to justify their charges, and just "happen to know a contractor", (maybe Mike Holmes), who can fix them.
    Last edited by hj; 01-06-2014 at 02:28 PM.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

  13. #13
    DIY Senior Member Homeownerinburb's Avatar
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    More than a few of them are small time contractors or handymen, in my experience, and end up getting a fair bit of work from their own flags.

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