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Safety Warnings for Zinsco & GTE Sylvania-Zinsco Electrical Panels & Circuit Breakers
     


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Safety hazard warnings for Zinsco, GTE-Sylvania-Zinsco, & Kearney electrical panels & circuit breakers: here we outline safety precautions that should be taken by building owners where Zinsco and GTE Sylvania-Zinsco electrical panels are installed, and we outline some indicators that a problem may be occurring with this equipment.

This website discusses the electrical, fire, and shock hazards associated with Zinsco electrical components, circuit breakers, electrical panels, including certain Sylvania electrical panels and breakers which are in fact of the same product design and origin.

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SAFETY PRECAUTIONS - GTE Sylvania Zinsco Electrical Panel Safety Precautions for Homeowners and Home Buyers

Zinsco panel burnup on new breakers (C) J Simmons D FriedmanOur photo (left, courtesy of J. P. Simmons) shows that bus and circuit breaker burnups occur in Zinsco-Sylvania electrical panels even when new circuit breakers have been installed: the gray breakers in this photo were arcing and burning on the panel bus

.The following comments are incomplete - other safety concerns and advice may apply, pending additional technical review by industry experts.

  1. If you are having an emergency right now such as seeing smoke or fire you should get occupants out of the building and call the fire department. This is a general suggestion for any suspected building fire, and is not unique to Zinsco, Sylvania, or any electrical product manufacturer.
  2. Do not touch the electrical panel if you are standing on a wet floor.
  3. Warning of possible fatal electrical shock: If you have noticed any of the trouble signs listed in the next section below, or if you already know that you have problem electrical equipment such as the Zinsco components discussed here, have a qualified electrician inspect the electrical system.

    Where problems have been observed (such as flickering lights), the electrician can determine the cause of the problem and recommend the appropriate repair.
  4. Do not disassemble electrical equipment nor try to make electrical repairs yourself: You could be electrocuted or you could make the electrical equipment more unsafe by disturbing it. Although this website includes photographs of the interior of electrical panels, you should not try to see inside the electrical panel by removing screws to take off the cover yourself as this can be quite dangerous.
  5. Identify the electrical panel: Determine whether or not you have Zinsco or Sylvania-Zinsco electrical equipment installed by simple visual inspection of the electrical panel exterior, any exposed labels or markings, and by observing the characteristic red and blue-colored circuit breaker toggle switches.
    See IDENTIFY ZINSCO ELECTRICAL PANELS.
  6. Flickering lights? Pending replacement of unsafe electrical panels and circuit breakers of any brand, turn off any suspect circuits such as ones displaying flickering lights.
  7. Be sure that you have working smoke detectors in your home.
  8. Turn off unsafe or suspect electrical equipment. If there is evidence of or suspicion of overheating electrical devices turn off the offending electrical circuit or turn off all electrical power.
  9. Hire a professional who knows the issue: To inspect the electrical panel, to confirm that you have unsafe electrical equipment, and to replace unsafe electrical equipment in a home, you should hire a licensed electrician who is familiar with Zinsco/Sylvania equipment and the hazards it poses. Readers should also
    see ZINSCO FAILURE REPORT PROCEDURE to homeowners when a Zinsco Sylvania electrical panel is observed by a contractor, home inspector, or electrician.

SIGNS OF TROUBLE - Signs of Trouble Where Zinsco or Zinsco-Sylvania Electrical Equipment is Installed

Zinsco fail to trip (C) Daniel FriedmanThe following initial comments are incomplete - other safety concerns and advice may apply, pending additional technical review by industry experts.

See the US CPSC booklet on aluminum wiring and more to the point, the section on

Signs of trouble in homes with aluminum wiring as you may see some of these same symptoms.

  • Flickering lights
  • Smell of burning electrical devices such as plastic receptacles, receptacle covers, circuit breakers, or electrical wiring. Our photo (left) shows burning at an electrical receptacle on a Zinsco-protected electrical circuit after the Zinsco circuit breaker failed to trip.
  • Loss of electrical power on a circuit in the building might be due to an overcurrent and tripping off of a circuit breaker, or it might be due to panel bus and circuit breaker burn-up.
  • Warning: a Zinsco circuit breaker or electrical panel bus may be burned and not functioning properly without any external signs that would be visible to a consumer.
  • If you have noticed any of the GTE Sylvania Zinsco electrical panel trouble signs, and for that matter even if you have not, have a qualified electrician inspect the equipment and determine the cause of the problem as soon as possible. DO NOT TRY TO DO IT YOURSELF. You could be electrocuted or you could make the electrical equipment more unsafe by disturbing it.

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