The Information You Need about Electrical Panels in California

Service Panel Packages and Replacements

We will install one new service panel, which includes a new meter base and main circuit breaker; we will install all new circuit breakers for existing circuits.

We will identify and label each circuit. All work will be done according to the National Electrical Code guidelines. Our price includes electrical permit for this installation. We offer 1, 3, and 5 year, as well as lifetime, warranties.

When replacing an electrical service panel there are several factors to determine for the job to be done to National Electrical Code guidelines and for this installation to pass inspection. The grounding and bonding may need to be upgraded to pass inspection, and the electrical service panel may need to be relocated to meet the power company and electrical load requirements. The electrical service conductors and riser pipe may need to be upgraded to meet the electrical requirement of the new electrical service panel installation. Your electrician should be able to determine most of the requirements. The power company and building department should be able to answer most questions.

Here at Safe-Way Electric, your electrician will call into your power company and request a meter unlock and a meter spot. We work very well with power company planners and city officials. In most cases our electricians will temporary disconnect the power lines from the electrical service panel in order to perform his work if allowed by the power company, once his work is complete he will provide a temporary connection re-hook up power wires at the weather head if allowed by power company. It is our goal to get your power restored safely and quickly as possible. Once the service panel has passed the electrical inspection it is the responsibility of the building inspector to notify the power company to restore lock ring and finale electrical connections at the weather head, we in courage the customer to follow through and see to it that finale connections and lock ring has been done. In some cases stucco repair and patchwork will be necessary to obtain a finale inspection sign off, in most cases we have someone we can refer to you if we are unable to do it ourselves.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does this job require an electrical permit? Yes.

Will we do this work without an electrical permit? NO

Why? It is the law.

Optionally, the home owner may pull the permit to save money, however it’s in the best interest to have the electrical contractor to pull the permit in his company name in the event that something goes wrong; this will provide the homeowner with more resources to recover damages.

The contractor must have a current active C-10 License to perform electrical work.

If your electrical contracting company has employees servicing your home or business, they must be state certified electricians; it’s the law and there are no exceptions.

Breaker Panels

A breaker panel, also known as a load center, service panel, breaker box, or electrical panel, is a steel box that holds multiple circuit breakers wired to circuits that distribute power throughout your home. Circuit breakers turn the power to your home on and off to protect your wiring from damage by “tripping” when an electrical short or overcurrent occurs. You may consider replacing your electrical panel or adding a sub-panel if your need for additional circuit breakers exceeds the capacity of your current breaker panel or if you want to upgrade from fuses to circuit breakers. It’s important to note that a new breaker panel will not provide more power to your home. If your home needs more power overall, call our team of state certified, top quality electrical service specialists to upgrade the power, a process that will include a new breaker panel as well as other accessories such as new cables and a new electrical meter.

Standards generally recognize that the life expectancy of electric panels is about 25 years. With older panels, contact points become corroded, possibly causing arcing, brownouts, and, at worst, fires, personal injury, and property damage.

Common Misconceptions

There are some common misconceptions homeowners have about older electric panels. We will provide you will some of these below, along with information about four brands of older panels that may cause a lot of problems.

  • “It’s always been there and hasn’t caused any problems.”
  • “My circuit breakers never trip, so my panel must be just fine.”

Electric panels in and of themselves typically do not “cause any problems.” It is the electric components or appliances that typically cause problems, e.g., a short in an appliance, an electric outlet, or a light switch. Electric panels and circuit breakers are designed to prevent personal injury and property damage in the event of a short (or other problem) by shutting down the electric current to the faulty appliances or electrical components. The fact that there “have not been any problems” simply means that the electric wiring, switches, and outlets—and the appliances using the wiring, switches, and outlets—have not had any problems.

The four brands of electric panels that are inherently problematic or uniquely proprietary:

  • Zinsco & Sylvania—Zinsco and Sylvania panels from the late 1970s and early 1980s when Sylvania bought out Zinsco have an inconsistent history of various problems associated with them. Typically, the panels are outdated and even dangerous by today’s standards. Zinsco and Sylvania panels are no longer manufactured, and while some replacement parts might be available, they might be difficult to find and expensive to buy. Zinsco circuit breakers may fail to trip in response to an overcurrent or a short circuit. A circuit breaker that may not trip does not afford the protection that is intended and required, creating a fire hazard. Simply replacing the circuit breakers might not be a reliable repair. There appears to be no official recall on these panels, mainly because the companies that made these panels are out of business.
  • Federal Pacific Electric—Along with other variations of this brand name, electric panels made by Federal Pacific Electric can be very dangerous. The most problematic type of panel made by Federal Pacific Electric is the “Stab-Lock” panel. Federal Pacific Electric circuit breakers may fail to trip in response to an overcurrent or a short circuit. A circuit breaker that may not trip does not afford the protection that is intended and required, creating a fire hazard. Simply replacing the circuit breakers might not be a reliable repair. There appears to be no official recall on these panels, mainly because the company that made these panels is out of business. For more information about Federal Pacific electric panels, visit these web sites.
  • Bulldog—Equipment and replacement parts for Bulldog panels are difficult to find because they are so unique and proprietary. When they are found, they are also expensive. Bulldog panels use a unique, proprietary type of circuit breaker called a “Pushmatic.” Bulldog panels with Pushmatic breakers indicate an older system that is no longer manufactured, making replacement parts difficult or expensive to find. There appear to be two major problems with Pushmatic breakers: 1) they are thermal breakers with no magnetic trip, and 2) they are grease-fed breakers, meaning that if they’re not used and serviced regularly (they rarely are), they become stiff and difficult to operate or reset. It is both the age and the proprietary nature of the Pushmatic breakers that beg for a licensed electrician to shut down electricity to the property, remove the circuit breakers, and check the contact points for rust, corrosion, and proper contact with the buss bar.

For more information on what electrical panel is safe for your home, contact the team of state certified electrical service specialists at Safe-Way Electric & Solar Co. We would be more than happy to provide you with the vital information and help you deserve!

Facts & Tips

While you might be able to find replacement parts for all four companies, they’ll probably be expensive. The companies that made those brands are now out of business for various reasons, including billions of dollars of lawsuits against them for property damage, personal injury, and death. Additionally, those companies have not been in business for many years, so the electric panels generally can be assumed to be old and outdated, as well as inherently problematic. When I find those specific brands, I simply recommend that you have a licensed electrician inspect them before close of escrow.