How old is too old a panel

JoeNorm

Senior Member
Location
WA
Let's say you are going to embark on some substantial rework of a main panel in a residence. Whether it be a remodel or adding a backed up loads panel for a Gen or ESS.

When is the panel old enough to say we need to replace it. Does old equipment warrant replacement alone? Or does it have to be old as well as compromised some other way.

I know this is mainly a judgment call, but looking for input. The particular panel(s) that sparked this question are functional but pretty messy and quite old(at least 30 years). There is signs of past arching.

On one hand I want to replace them. On the other hand that's a can of worms in itself and I want to let sleeping dogs lie.

How do you make the call?
 

Greentagger

Senior Member
Location
Texas
Occupation
Master Electrician, Electrical Inspector
Substantial work?
Can replacement breakers be found?
Change a FP or similar.
Didnt like seeing mention of arcing.
The list could go on.
Whats the customer willing to pay for?
Is it safe in its existing condition? That’s probably the most important question.
 

JoeNorm

Senior Member
Location
WA
Safety is hard to quantify. It's been safe for this long. Probably will be for awhile longer. Does it look safe? Not really. But it has had changes done recently that were inspected and passed.
 

James L

Senior Member
Location
Kansas Cty, Mo, USA
Occupation
Electrician
I don't believe age is enough of a single factor to warrant at panel change out, especially something 30 years old. You're talking late 80s or early 90s?

But what I see in a lot of older panels is that there aren't enough breaker spaces, or there aren't enough spaces in the neutral bar, or all the neutrals have been doubled or tripled, etc... in those instances, I'm going to give the customer a cost vs convenience comparison.

I charge $250 minimum to rework the neutrals and grounds, and $50 for a twin breaker, installed. If they need grounds and neutrals reworked, and 5 twin breakers, they're close to halfway the cost of a panel swap out.

If there have been signs of arcing in the past, I won't hesitate to suggest swapping that whole thing.
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
You can visually inspect bus bars and termination lugs, you can even put some significant load on components and check for signs of series resistance but you really have no way of telling whether any or all breakers will do their job when called upon to open the circuit in a fault condition.
 

JoeNorm

Senior Member
Location
WA
I don't believe age is enough of a single factor to warrant at panel change out, especially something 30 years old. You're talking late 80s or early 90s?

But what I see in a lot of older panels is that there aren't enough breaker spaces, or there aren't enough spaces in the neutral bar, or all the neutrals have been doubled or tripled, etc... in those instances, I'm going to give the customer a cost vs convenience comparison.

I charge $250 minimum to rework the neutrals and grounds, and $50 for a twin breaker, installed. If they need grounds and neutrals reworked, and 5 twin breakers, they're close to halfway the cost of a panel swap out.

If there have been signs of arcing in the past, I won't hesitate to suggest swapping that whole thing.
I think this one is likely closer to 40-45 years old
 

James L

Senior Member
Location
Kansas Cty, Mo, USA
Occupation
Electrician
I think this one is likely closer to 40-45 years old
I still think age alone is not enough of a factor to change the whole thing. The panel itself is just metal and plastic. Doesn't hurt to change all the breakers, though. I think 25-30 years is a good age to replace moving parts.

But add to that the substantial work you're already goona do, along with wear, rust, corrosion or arcing, and it's a no-brainer for me to change the whole thing
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
New guts in existing enclosure.
I've done that in old fuse panels, not the smaller main, range and 4 plug fuse panels typically found in dwellings at one time but in commercial applications that had larger fuse panels. Set the new loadcenter inside original can - don't even have to make up raceways just put a few chase nipples in the sides to let conductors in and modify original cover as needed to allow access to the loadcenter. but still use deadfront that goes with new loadcenter.
 

Jraef

Moderator
Staff member
Location
San Francisco Bay Area, CA, USA
Occupation
Electrical Engineer
If it says FPE, it's a no-brainer rip and replace!

One thing that can trigger a replacement, or at least a sub-panel, is if you have to add circuits that now require AFCIs, but the panel is too old to have that available.
 

romex jockey

Senior Member
Location
Vermont
I see you have an assessment score line, what sort of score criteria do you use?
Well it's rather objective Fred. One can get a perfect '99' , but that is rare. Fwiw, I plagiarized it from NACHI , after becoming frustrated with the local yokel HI's on my turf.....some of whom condemn old panels w/out even opening them up.....

So i fill it out, hand it to customers, you can imagine the exchange(s).......how much to repair?.......how much to replace.....etc etc

Even my AHJ gave me a thumbs up...... which i consider high praise......~RJ~
 
Top