Zinsco panel w/pitted bus bar: Fire hazard ?

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Old 01-17-19, 08:29 AM
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Zinsco panel w/pitted bus bar: Fire hazard ?

I live in a rented duplex with aluminum wiring (w/copper pigtails) + a Zinsco panel. I learned about this hazard when my lights started flickering. Landlord called her electrician (licensed). The landlord had the electrician type up the report below for my peace of mind, says everything is safe. Do I trust it?? I have small children in the house so I want to make sure everything is safe, and I learned through my research when the lights where flickering that aluminum wiring and Zinsco panels are unsafe.

If this actually doesn't sound safe - what could I do to get landlord to do something - and what could I do in the meantime to protect myself (I am thinking get a smoke/CO detector for the closet where the panel is at, turn off heater and other non-essential electronics at night - anything else??). The electrician told me my Zinsco panel specifically was safe but given the wiring and panel I should watch for symptoms of issues like lights flickering and have an electrician come asap if there are any.

I will be moving in 5 months so all I need is to have the peace of mind that this place is safe electrically for 5 months. I don't know much about electricity (other than that ZInsco panels and pitted bus bars and aluminum wiring are all BAD)

See below:

SERVICE CALL ON 01/07 TO CHECK POWER TO LIGHTS FLICKERING AND OTHER

MISCELLANEOUS ISSUES. FOUND LED NON-DIMMABLE LAMPS ON DIMMER.

FOUND PITTED AREA ON BUSS BAR OF PANEL AND RELOCATED CIRCUIT

BREAKER. PANEL IS IN CLOTHES CLOSET AT THIS TIME THERE IS NO MANDATE

TO RELOCATE. CITY OF DALLAS ALLOWS IT TO BE REPAIRED OR REPLACED IN

SAME LOCATIONS AS LONG AS IT IS NOT UPGRADED OR LARGE AMPS OR

BREAKER SPACE. REPLACED DIMMER WITH LED TYPE. REPLACED FOUR (4)

DUPLEX RECEPTACLES THAT WERE LOOSE OR DEFECTIVE.

4 DUPLEX RECEPTACLES 3.75 15.00T

2 DUPLEX RECEPTACLE COVERS 2.25 4.50T

1 600 WATT CL DIVA DIMMER 32.00 32.00T

10 RED B-CAPS 0.33 3.30T

2 LABOR HOURS 120.00 240.00

RETURNED ON 01/14 TO CHECK OUT FLICKERING OF LIGHTS, ARCH FLASH AND

POPPING NOISE. CHECKED RECEPTACLES FOR LOOSE CONNECTION, PANEL

AND METER BASE. FOUND NO PHYSICAL EVIDENCE OF OVER HEATING OR

LOOSE CONNECTIONS. CREATED LOAD IN SEVERAL ROOMS TO TRY AND

CREATE ISSUES, COULD NOT SEE ANY. IF IT SHOWS UP AGAIN, PLEASE MAKE

NOT OF LOCATION

 
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Old 01-17-19, 08:55 AM
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It's impossible to say "safe" versus "unsafe" as it will always be on a scale, but you are right to be concerned as Zinsco panels are certainly less safe than other brands of similar age.

The electrician's statement was really just rephrasing the local law saying that is was legal to keep the panel as-is, not really anything about the safety of it. He probably (at least I hope if he has some integrity) didn't see any major damage in the panel or he wouldn't have told the landlord it was OK to keep it. The LED bulbs and bad receptacles is a reasonable explanation of the flickering. I agree you should have the electrician back if you still have symptoms like flickering lights, popping noises or burning smells.

My recommendation would be to limit the use of high-wattage appliances (space heater, hair dryer, toaster) or use them on low setting if you have to; never leave those unattended. Keep a close eye on the panel for sparking/popping noises or burning smells; and focus on moving out as soon as you're able to. Adding a smoke detector near the panel is a good idea as is keeping any flammable items away from the panel.
 
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Old 01-17-19, 09:14 AM
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Originally Posted by ibpooks View Post
It's impossible to say "safe" versus "unsafe" as it will always be on a scale, but you are right to be concerned as Zinsco panels are certainly less safe than other brands of similar age.

The electrician's statement was really just rephrasing the local law saying that is was legal to keep the panel as-is, not really anything about the safety of it. He probably (at least I hope if he has some integrity) didn't see any major damage in the panel or he wouldn't have told the landlord it was OK to keep it. The LED bulbs and bad receptacles is a reasonable explanation of the flickering. I agree you should have the electrician back if you still have symptoms like flickering lights, popping noises or burning smells.

My recommendation would be to limit the use of high-wattage appliances (space heater, hair dryer, toaster) or use them on low setting if you have to; never leave those unattended. Keep a close eye on the panel for sparking/popping noises or burning smells; and focus on moving out as soon as you're able to. Adding a smoke detector near the panel is a good idea as is keeping any flammable items away from the panel.
Thank you SO much for your help. Is this dangerous enough to move out ASAP or 5 months (when lease is up) is good enough? We are moving accross the country in 5 months so the idea of moving for just 5 months seems miserable, but I will do it if the risks are high enough.

I am also considering getting an electrical inspection from a third party and using that to either force the landlord to change things or to break my lease.
 
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Old 01-17-19, 12:04 PM
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I can't make that call for you, but I can tell you what I would do. I personally wouldn't have it in my house. Moving might be an option, but replacing these panels might be an option too -- I'm assuming the same panel is also on the other side of the duplex.

Rental law varies a lot city by city so it's hard to say what legal recourse you have. Perhaps check with a local legal aid organization? Most bigger cities have groups like this that can mediate landlord-tenent disputes.
 
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Old 01-17-19, 02:37 PM
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I told my landlord I wanted an inspection by another electrician, and she agreed to replace the panel tomorrow. Anything I can ask her / the electrician to make sure that it is up to code? Don't trust her judgment because she still believes the Zinsco is safe and is only replacing it because I kept bugging her until she got sick of it.

And yes, there is sadly nothing I can do about the other half of the duplex I believe. Hopefully if that panel catches fire I can get my family out in time.
 
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Old 01-18-19, 08:19 AM
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That sounds like a really good resolution given the circumstance. As long as it's a licensed electrician doing the install it should be up to code as getting a permit and inspection is required.
 
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Old 01-18-19, 09:19 AM
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Anything I can ask her / the electrician to make sure that it is up to code?
Ask for a copy of the inspection record from the town or whoever does your inspections.
 
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Old 01-18-19, 09:23 AM
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I would have had some issues with the electricians report.

FOUND LED NON-DIMMABLE LAMPS ON DIMMER.

REPLACED DIMMER WITH LED TYPE.
Replacing just the dimmer is no solution to this issue, replacing the non-dimmable LED lamps with dimmable LED lamps is part of the solution.


RETURNED ON 01/14 TO CHECK OUT FLICKERING OF LIGHTS, ARCH FLASH AND

POPPING NOISE.
This is the typical indication of a failed Zinsco panel, I have seen enough of them over the years to know that flickering and intermittently losing power at some receptacles is a major symptom. Usually when Zinsco panel is at this point sizzling can also be heard which is the arcing of the breakers on the surface of the aluminum bus. This is why the pitting of the aluminum bus occurs. That panel is definitely a hazard and needs replacing immediately.

FOUND NO PHYSICAL EVIDENCE OF OVER HEATING OR

LOOSE CONNECTIONS.
Had the electrician removed some breakers for inspection he would have found that they were overheating and burning up from the back side, you cannot see this just by looking in the panel or even feeling the breakers, the breakers must be removed. Evidently this electrician is not well versed or experienced enough with these old panels to know how to diagnose the problems.


Don't trust her judgment because she still believes the Zinsco is safe and is only replacing it because I kept bugging her until she got sick of it.
Appears the problem is being resolved.


For what it's worth, here is more information on Zinsco.

https://inspectapedia.com/electric/Zinsco_Summary.htm
 
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Old 01-18-19, 01:39 PM
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Electrician just left. Panel is fixed (electrician told me that it was very smart that I got it replaced). He told me that one of my light fixtures was loose and that several plugs were loose. Do I need to bug my landlord about that too, or is it minor enough that I shouldn't worry about it?
 
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Old 01-18-19, 01:59 PM
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Or maybe given how many issues I have seen I should just pay for an electrical inspection and give her a list of things to fix
 
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Old 01-20-19, 08:35 AM
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Electrician just left. Panel is fixed (electrician told me that it was very smart that I got it replaced).

Is this the electrician that said everything was safe or a different one?


He told me that one of my light fixtures was loose and that several plugs were loose.

How would the electrician know this unless he removed the light fixture and the loose receptacles? Surely he would have corrected these issues when he found them. Was he talking about the attachment screws or the wiring connections? Loose connections with aluminum wiring causes fires.
 
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Old 01-20-19, 07:21 PM
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I think he was talking about the attachment screws. He pointed out that when he unplugged my TV the plug going into it was loose (we had stuff like cell phone chargers be flimsy in plugs, but it doesn't fall out), and in one of the lights on the ceiling (hanging from a fan), one of the places where the bulb goes was loose.

Honestly with the amount of issues going on I have decided to spend $300 on an electrical inspection, to be on the safe side. After that I plan on sending my landlord a list of electrical issues that needs to be repaired.
 
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Old 01-20-19, 07:32 PM
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$300 is a lot of money.
An electrician that you hire can do that inspection for you for a one hour service call.
 
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Old 01-20-19, 09:06 PM
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I tried to hear a company to do an electrical inspection and that's what they quoted me. Hmm, looks like I need to make some more calls!
 
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Old 01-20-19, 09:39 PM
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It wasn't a home inspection company was it.
 
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Old 01-21-19, 11:01 AM
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I tried to hear a company to do an electrical inspection and that's what they quoted me.
In reference to Ray's question, do not call a home inspection company. There are a few good ones out there, but there are far more that are not qualified to even criticize much less do electrical inspections. You want to call an electrical contractor who specializes in residential work.
 

Last edited by pcboss; 01-22-19 at 02:43 PM.
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Old 01-22-19, 10:04 AM
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Just hired my own master electrician. He looked at the panel and the attic and behind a plug and said everything was safe. Our place is properly pigtailed with copper, so he said the aluminum wiring wasn't of concern. He initially quoted me $200 but didn't charge me anything when he came, other than cup of coffee!! Thanks everyone for your help, looking forward to sleeping well at night again.
 
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