Most Dangerous Panel

Most Dangerous Panel

When it comes to dangerous panels, there is one that stands out as the most Dangerous Panel. Although it’s not the most dangerous to the homeowner, it is the most dangerous to the home inspector.

I have previously written about Zinsco panels here. And while all Zinsco panels share the same internal components that are regarded as a safety hazard, there is one version of the Zinsco that poses an extra danger to anyone inspecting the panel.

The meter directly above the panel

electric panel
The most dangerous type of Zinsco panel

The version of the Zinsco in question is the version where the electric meter is directly above the panel, all in one box. This type is a shock hazard to any inspector attempting to remove the dead front cover. For this reason, we recommend NOT removing the dead front cover.

The dead front cover

Every panel has an out panel cover, and an inner panel cover. The inner panel cover is called the dead front cover. Why? Because this cover keeps people who are accessing the breakers from ending up dead. A homeowner may need to turn power at the breakers on or off, and the breakers should be accessible. But the wiring behind the breakers can be very dangerous, and the dead front cover makes the breakers accessible while covering the wiring inside. However, to fully understand the conditions of the panel, the inspector will usually try to look behind the dead front cover.

Dead front cover
Dead front cover

Typical meter to panel connection

In many Zinsco panels, as well as most every other panel, the panel is connected to the electrical meter by two very thick wires. The wires themselves are insulated with a rubber covering. While one should never touch these wires, the insulation offers at least some level of protection from any accidental contact.

Zinsco connected with wires
Zinsco connected to meter with wires

Bare Metal makes a Dangerous Panel

The Zinsco panel with the meter right above the panel all in one box was often constructed without these two insulated wires. Instead, the meter and panel were connected by two solid bare metal bars. These bars sit just above the cover. The bars are near impossible to see looking straight at the panel, and can only be seen by getting low and looking up into the panel.

As the bars are uninsulated, touching them directly or with anything metal, is dangerous.

looking up a Zinsco panel
looking up at a Zinsco panel

The issue is when attempting to put the dead front cover back onto the panel. There is no protection from accidentally hitting the bar metal bars with the metal dead front cover.

If the cover comes anywhere near the bars, there is a potential for the person holding the panel to get shocked. Due to the design of the panel, it is very difficult to put the dead front cover back onto these panels without the cover touching the bare metal bars.

Multiple inspectors have been shocked by attempting to inspect this version of the Zinsco. It is recommended only a qualified electrician remove the dead front cover of this version of the Zinsco panels.

And like all Zinsco panels, every Zinsco panel should be fully evaluated by a licensed and qualified electrician for signs of corrosion and failure. And for peace of mind, it is recommended all Zinsco panels be replaced with a modern panel.

In addition, some insurance companies may deny coverage on homes with a Zinsco panel. Check with your insurance provider.

Book your inspection by calling 818-298-3405 or book online here.