Old and Outdated Electrical Panels: A Call for Replacement in the USA


The electrical panel, sometimes referred to as the circuit breaker, fuse box, or service panel, is a critical component in any residential or commercial building. It serves as the primary distribution point for electrical circuits in a home or business. Over the years, a number of electrical panels have been found to be outdated or have faced recalls due to various reasons ranging from design flaws to safety issues. Using these panels could pose potential risks to homeowners, including electrical fires.

Outdated and Recalled Electrical Panels

Below are some of the most notorious outdated or recalled electrical panels that should be replaced immediately if they’re found in your property:

1. Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Panels

Federal Pacific Electric panels, particularly those with Stab-Lok breakers, have been under scrutiny for many years. There have been reports and studies suggesting that some FPE breakers fail to trip in response to an overload or a short circuit. A breaker that fails to trip can lead to a fire hazard. Consequently, many experts recommend replacing these panels.

2. Zinsco or GTE-Sylvania Panels

Zinsco panels, later labeled as GTE-Sylvania, have known issues where certain breakers melt to the bus bar, preventing the breaker from tripping, which can result in an overload and potentially a fire. If your property has a Zinsco panel, it’s advisable to have it checked by an electrician and consider a replacement.

3. Pushmatic Panels

Although not recalled, Pushmatic panels are now considered obsolete. They don’t have main breakers, which makes turning off power to the house a challenge in emergencies. Moreover, replacement parts for these panels are hard to find and can be expensive.

4. Split-bus Electrical Panels

These panels were popular from the 1950s to the 1980s. While they’re not inherently dangerous, they don’t come with a single main disconnect. This means you may have up to six breakers that can turn off power to the house. Over time and with modern electrical needs, they can become problematic.

5. Fuse Box

While not a panel, per se, it’s worth noting that many older homes still operate with fuse boxes. Fuses blow when overloaded, which means replacing the fuse each time. Modern circuit breakers are more efficient and safer. If your home still uses a fuse box, consider upgrading to a modern electrical panel.

Safety First

While the above list is not exhaustive, the key takeaway is the importance of regular electrical system checks. Many of these outdated panels may still be functioning but are not up to par with today’s safety standards and demands. With increasing electrical loads in modern homes, the risk of an outdated panel failing becomes ever more pronounced.

If you’re unsure about the status of your electrical panel, consider the following steps:

  • Professional Inspection: Get a licensed electrician to inspect your panel, particularly if it’s one of the mentioned brands or if your home is more than 25 years old.
  • Stay Updated on Recalls: With a growing emphasis on product safety, recalls are not uncommon. It’s a good practice to regularly check for recalls related to household items, including electrical components.
  • Upgrade When Necessary: If your panel is old, even if it’s not on the list above, consider an upgrade. Modern panels are built to higher safety standards and can better handle the electrical demands of contemporary households.


While many old and outdated electrical panels may have served homes faithfully for decades, safety should always be the top priority. Upgrading these panels is a crucial step in ensuring the safety of homes and their inhabitants.