Unsafe Electrical Panels in Calgary Homes

Do you have an older Calgary home built before 1990? You may be dealing with an outdated panel that could pose a safety hazard. An out-of-date electrical panel could have circuit breakers that fail to trip when there is a short circuit or circuit overload, which is at risk of causing an electrical fire. While many newer electrical panels have safeguards to prevent such an event from occurring, there are a few older electrical brands that may still be installed in your home. If not upgraded to the current Canadian Electrical Code (CEC), this could pose a serious risk.

The Most Common Faulty Electrical Panel found in Calgary.

Federal Pioneer Electrical Panels

Federal Pioneer is the Candian variant of the U.S based Federal Pacific electrical panel brand. This is the most common type of electrical panel that can be seen in older Calgarian homes and across Canada. During its initial creation, the Federal Pioneer panel was regarded as a success in electrical systems innovation. This brand developed the now common stab lock breaker as opposed to the older method of bolting in. This made it so that breakers could simply be pushed into the panel instead of having each one screwed into place.  

However, this brand ran into issues in the early 1990s when it was discovered that some breakers were faulty and would not trip. This also includes the fact that poor and even fraudulent manufacturing & labeling was occurring. 

Since this time, old Federal Pioneer breakers have been recalled and should no longer be in use. If you are dealing with an older home that has not gone through a renovation or upgrade, however, you may still be dealing with an unsafe electrical panel. If you have this electrical panel in your home please contact Ampt Over Electric today about our Electrical Panel Upgrade Services

Why Federal Pioneer Electrical Panels are Unsafe

It is a well-known anecdote in the electrical industry that you could ‘weld’ with a Federal Pioneer breaker. This being because this service failed to trip during a circuit overload in the event it will become intensely hot. This is a light-hearted form of humor, but it’s describing a hazardous situation. Electrical fires can spring up when a dangerous overcurrent occurs. Federal Pioneer breakers are unlikely to provide the necessary safety protection that is expected of circuit breakers. Independent testing has confirmed that FP circuit breakers fail to trip up to 70-80 percent of the time. Because of this high defect rate, FP breakers are proven not to provide the proper circuit protection required by current codes and standards.

Another element to note is that while Federal Pioneer has since been recalled, new purchasable breakers are still on the market available for replacement. These breakers are up to code and completely safe to use. You would even have the ability to purchase them at local hardware stores such as Home Depot. The issue is that there has been no change in the breaker’s visual design, and once installed; it is nearly impossible to tell whether these breakers are the up-to-date models or an older faulty version. Ultimately the best course of action is to remove the entire FP panel and upgrade to a refutable electrical panel brand, whether or not you believe it has been previously upgraded.

 How to Know if You Have a Federal Pioneer Electrical Panel

Labeling

The first element you should look for in determining whether or not your current service is Federal Pioneer is by looking at the panel itself to see if it’s been labeled with FP brand name. However, given that these panels are outdated, it is also a possibility that the label has worn off and no longer readable. In this case, you can determine whether your home has a Federal Pioneer panel by examining its color. 

Colour

Federal Pioneer panels are often distinguished by their colorful design, coming in white with blue handles on the breakers, which can occasionally be seen in red. More modern electrical services are often colorless, sporting a gray panel with black breakers.

Less Common Out-of-Date Electrical Panels You Might See in Calgary

While Federal Pioneer is definitely the most common faulty panel found in Calgary, there are a few other panel brands and types of electrical services that can also pose a risk.

GT Salvania Electrical Panel

This panel may have a problematic design. While some versions of this brand are safe, GT was previously in partnership with Zinsco, whose panel design was recalled in the 1970s due to a faulty design. Inside many Zinsco panels, circuit breakers could trip and subsequently melt to the ‘bus bar’ within the panel. This meant that the breaker could no longer trip even if a short or overloaded circuit occurred. With this service flaw, electrical fires are a dangerous hazard. Though it may not be common in Calgary to come across this electrical panel, homeowners should know the dangers if they discover that their home is equipped with it. Many GT panels have been discovered to be re-branded Zinsco panels or use the original problematic design.

Knob and Tube Wiring

If you have a much older home built between 1900-1950, you may come across another system called knob and tube wiring. This service does not incorporate ground wires. Ground wires are imperative for protecting against surges and other faults by routing extra currents away from the circuits and safely into your box’s grounding bus. Shocks and fires can happen easily because knob and tube wiring contains hot and neutral wires only. This means you will have no defense from a fault.

Fuse Boxes

Fuse Boxes are another type of electrical system commonly found in homes built in the early 1900s. While not inherently dangerous, fuse boxes are often unable to accommodate a modern home’s energy requirements. Attempting to modify this type of panel to fit your home’s required capacity is where you may run into unsafe conditions.

Which Electrical Panel Brand You Should Upgrade to

If you discover that your home contains any of the above, you likely need to upgrade to a modern and safe electrical panel. Ampt Over Electric recommends brands such as Schneider Electric Home Line, Square D, and Siemens, but any newer electrical panel brand is typically fine to use. Talking to a professional will give you a clear idea of the specific needs of your home. If you seek further insights on whether or not your current electrical panel is safe or needs to be updated, we recommend reaching out to a trusted Calgary Electrical contractor such as Ampt Over Electric for a free quote.