Zinsco Arc Fault Breaker


Old 08-25-05, 05:24 PM
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Location: Seattle
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Zinsco Arc Fault Breaker

Anyone know where you can get a Zinsco style arc fault breaker. I am in the process of rewiring bedroom circuits to provide a ground and want to meet the current local code requirement for bedrooms.


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Old 08-26-05, 06:43 AM
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The problem is Zinsco went out of business many years ago and was at the time bought out by Sylvania and then GE and well anyway the Zinsco line was shut down many years ago.

Now about 2 years ago I guess Thomas & Bett bought the rights to Zinsco and started making replacement breakers for their panels but to the best of my knowledge the reason they did this was because their were no compatiable breakers to the Zinsco line...much like FPE and based on many peoples option the Zinsco of over 30-50 years ago fall in the same category as FPE and Electricians will know what I am talking about on that issue.

Anyway the problem is you may have to simply do a SUB-Panel from your Zinsco and feed a current brand panel that makes a AFCI breaker to solve your problem but just in case I am wrong....here is a locator for Thomas & Betts to check with a distributor in your area as they may have more info on this.


Good luck on your search....but if it were me the sub-panel would be my move and to be real honest with you ( and of course I am an electrician so it is cost effective for me ) I would upgrade the panel to a newer model and a well established brand.
Old 08-26-05, 07:01 AM
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It is my understanding that some local code official will not allow any expansion or modification of a Zinsco panel. The idea is that they are so bad that it makes no sense to make a bad situation worse. The smart thing is to get rid of the Zinsco panel completely; but in an effort to be fair and balanced to consumers, it is still allowed to manufacuture and install "replacement" parts to keep your system going "as-is".
Old 08-26-05, 07:34 AM
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Their has been some issues with the Zinsco panels since the buss seems to be something that corrodes fairly easy and also a situation where the main lugs are in a position that when you open the panel if you let it fall "IN" towards the main breakers it could cause a hazzard. However, to date I do not believe I have seen a recall or public hazzard notice on these but am aware of electricians personal experiences.

I know of one that put 60A on a 15A breaker and then and only then did it trip....did nothing prior to 60A...so that is obviously a concern but again any breaker can go bad.

The issue for this DavidJ is what are his options. Most certainly you can leave the panel if you wish and their are now breakers available from Thomas & Betts to allow you to feed a sub-panel next to the main panel if room permits which will have a ARC Fault style on the market as well I guess their is the option of a service change....

The latter being quite a bit more costly than simply adding a sub panel next to the main panel if room permits.....I guess my suggestion would be have a electrician evaluate the current panel, check the connections and the buss bars and so on and if it looks sound I would suggest the sub-panel approach.

I am saying I would replace it but again not everyone will have that option and not ALL zinsco breakers or panels are having issues....just like their are still plenty of FPE panels out their....are they bad..yes....are their many still working...yes.....so you really have to look at your budget.

594tough does bring up a great point as well......give you local AHJ a call and ask them as I am sure if their is ONE in your area ( your house ) that their are many more around.....he/she may have comments on it.
Old 08-26-05, 07:43 AM
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Location: Seattle
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Thanks for the information.
I believe the Sylvania panel (with Zinsco breskers) was installed around 1975 just before I bought the house. Minor electrical work was done with the install to provide grounded outlets to the kitchen and provide dryer and hot water circuits.

I have heard that the Zinsco panels were 'sub-par' but I have never had a breaker failure or other problem with the service panel for the 25 years I've been in the house.

Since the installer used the orginal service panel as a junction box to extend the circuits from the old to the new panel there is a bit of a mess. I need a bit more room for new circuits so I plan on upgrading the panel at some point .

Is the Zinsco panel inherently unsafe? If so, I should probabaly replace it sooner rather than later.

Old 08-26-05, 08:12 AM
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You asked
Is the Zinsco panel inherently unsafe? If so, I should probabaly replace it sooner rather than later.
Ok......hmmmm.....not sure how to answer that...as an Electrician or as a Moderator...lol......

Some would say replace and justify the cost and some would say maintain and justify the cost. My goal is to try and not give a personal opinion to the question but I find it hard for me to be unbias.

So....with that said.........as you stated you have had it for 25 years and no problems which is good and could be bad if the breakers are faulty and just wont trip...but again......you have had no issues to speak of and many who have Zinsco as well have had no issues.

The problem with Zinsco as I see it they have a HUGE tendency over the years to develope gaps in the part where the breaker attaches to the live buss which can cause arcing and heat build up.....something we dont want.

Now it would be wrong for me to say...YES...REPLACE IT......since the code does not require it and no legal actions have been taken against Zinsco ( hard to do since they went belly up years ago ) but Federal Pacific has lied about UL standards and thus lawsuits came...I do not know of any for Zinsco.....

With all that said.......here is what I would suggest......

1.) If possible I would replace all the old Zinsco breakers with the new ones manufactured by Thomas & Betts as they are tested in todays standards.

2.) Have a electrician review the overall shape of the panel as it pertains to the main lugs ( which are weak in the Zinsco panels ) and see the shape of the main buss.....

3.) At some point you are planning a upgrade anyway...it is my opinion ( Mine Only Maybe ) that you replace the Zinsco panel with another brand like Square D, Cutler Hammer and the like.

Disclaimer: No I do not work for Square D or Cutler Hammer...however I install them on a daily basis and trust them...

In the end only YOU can make that call.......I as a electrician do not like Zinsco panels......when I come accross them but when I do they seem to still be working......but I would if not too costly replace the breakers with newer productions at the minimum.....
Old 08-26-05, 08:14 AM
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Originally Posted by DavidJ
Is the Zinsco panel inherently unsafe?
If you have had no problems with the panel, and you do not see or smell burning or arcing on the buss bars, I do not think your Zinsco panel present an imminent danger. It is probably less safe than a new panel much in the same way that a car from 1975 is less safe than a modern car with ABS, airbags and crumple zones, etc.

Keep it in your plan to replace this panel.
Old 08-27-05, 11:28 AM
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My house was built in 1958 and, when I bought it two years ago, it had a Zinsco panel in it. My home inspector said he wouldn't spend a night in a house with a Zinsco panel. So it was the first major project I had done.

Also fitting into the "why" of I did it was that the furnace was also original to the house. It wasn't on its own circuit and needed to be. But the panel was full and no way to get one more circuit out of it.

Also, should you ever sell your house, I suspect your buyers will run into what I did.

Old 08-27-05, 12:39 PM
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OK......I know I am a MOD but I will only say this once and I mean no offense to the " Home Inspectors " out their or anyone actually...MODS are have opinions too I guess.... Home Inspectors are NOT electricians and are not certified as such. When it comes to Electrical Items in a home and panels leave it to the PRO's.....Contact an Electrician for a home electrical review when in doubt.

Disclaimer: On the boards I play a MOD...in real life...A Certified Electrician !

No serously dude, I would ask the Home Inspector to site some research showing it is the life threatening deal that one would not spend another night in a house with a Zinsco panel.

No disrespect to Cutler Hammer and Square D "QO Series" I have seen both of them have breaker issues as well and I have seen Square D go through a ARC FAULT recall and other things. I have lived through the FPE issues and have replaced a many of them and Zinsco has some issues...but every manufactuer had some issues.

Would I replace it....Yes, someday as I would suggest everyone with a 30-50 year old panel consider it....standards and safety compliance always changes over time but again everything deserves it own evaluation.

Do i like Zinsco panels...NOPE about as much as I dont care for Federal Pacific...( nasty words for a electrician to say Federal Pacific ).......never have but I also know that many can't afford a whole service change just because someone on a forum says it is possibly unsafe....heck electricity kills in ANY panel.

My suggestions in my prevous post stands.....if you plan on updating the panel at some point I suggest it...if you want to make it as safe as possible now I would consider replacement of breakers with newer ones made by a company called Thomas & Betts...( P.S. No i do not work for them....and have nothing to gain by them ) as the biggest concern I see in the Zinsco panel is weakening connections to the hot buss causing arcing and heat build up......but that can happen to ANY panel...I saved a house from burning down because I found a melting Cutler Hammer Breaker......in a routine service call for something totally different...it can happen.

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