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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Real Estate and Landlording => Topic started by: jeromedawg on September 24, 2021, 02:27:08 PM

Title: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 24, 2021, 02:27:08 PM
Hey all,

So we did a self-inspection for our insurance company (Mercury) and they just called out that we have a Zinsco breaker box and need to replace it by October 22nd presumably in order to keep our insurance :(

The breaker box I *believe* says "Sylvania" and it looks like Zinsco-Sylvania is the same in terms of breaker boxes. Home was built in 1980. I asked the home inspector and he's saying it's not Zinsco...

Is there something I'm missing here?


(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/pw/AM-JKLUoBxQ0ZsWGSwxNrcaCEmR47gD6ko9Bf3JN7dS-bqUFUqwS5IVWmHeo1_DKDDWtkEGLgr_47v5X5ED4UPY5FPyFHNkyHZi6gMzUpMyyCekym_b4TceXSaPiVDuH8PEQobKFU52teQ8KcE-4MCpga7ohcw=w1263-h947-no?authuser=0)
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: JLee on September 24, 2021, 03:15:07 PM
I would ask an electrician, not a home inspector, but I found this - https://www.docelectricalservices.com/electrician-services/zinsco-electrical-panels/
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 24, 2021, 03:21:12 PM
I would ask an electrician, not a home inspector, but I found this - https://www.docelectricalservices.com/electrician-services/zinsco-electrical-panels/

Yea, I'm speaking with an electrician now. His opinion is that it's not a big deal -- of course the insurance company has their own reasons, the main being Zinscos being associated with higher risk of electrical fires, etc.

I suppose we could get quotes from another insurance company :T
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 24, 2021, 04:04:00 PM
I asked at DIYChatroom and a lot of ppl are saying just to replace the panel. The electrician I spoke with said it's an involved (pulling permit, changing wire gauges, rewiring, being without power for potentially a day, etc) task if I were to update to a 150a panel. I could stay with a 100a if I don't plan on expanding (I don't) though and it shouldn't be *as* involved. He didn't seem to think it was a big deal though.

It sounds like insurance companies may share info too, so if I try to get a quote elsewhere they'll know what kind of panel this is and may call it out as well...
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: joenorm on September 24, 2021, 09:23:30 PM
If it is in fact a Zinsco then you should replace it. They got a reputation for catching fire. Does it have the color coded breakers?

A panel swap(if you stick with the same amperage) will not be a big job for a good electrician. Should take 4-6 hours once they get started. 
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 24, 2021, 09:35:17 PM
If it is in fact a Zinsco then you should replace it. They got a reputation for catching fire. Does it have the color coded breakers?

A panel swap(if you stick with the same amperage) will not be a big job for a good electrician. Should take 4-6 hours once they get started.

Per the picture I posted, the breakers are different colors for different sized ones. I confirmed with an electrician that it's a Zinsco panel (just branded as Sylvania). A lot of ppl on reddit and other DIY forums are suggesting going up to 200a. This may require a change in wiring, etc. The electrician I spoke with said it's pretty involved in that you have to schedule with the electric company to turn off/on the power at certain points in time, there could be delays, blah blah blah. It sounded like if I were to go with him, he'd expect me to do all the paperwork and scheduling. He's the lowest cost at $2100-2500 depending if I go 100a vs 200a, and the price could still go up if there's a wiring change required. The other vendors have all quoted at least $3k minimum upwards of $4500 so far. This is a meter main combo so I think they would have to find an approved meter main unit to swap it out with which seems like that adds to the cost too. A lot of this stuff is foreign to me so I'm not sure what to think of it.... some people were saying I should ask/demand for the money back from the home inspector as he failed to call out the Zinsco panel - other people on other forums seem to think that's petty. To me it's more of an issue of principle. When I asked *general* questions about the panel to home inspector on it, then told him electricians I spoke with confirmed it's a Zinsco box, he sort of seemed to put his hands up and divert the call-out to alleviate himself of responsibility.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: joenorm on September 24, 2021, 09:47:53 PM
200a is the standard for residential panels and has been for awhile now. But if your home functions without problems on 100a and you're not planning to expand or add things like an EV charger then why add more capacity you will not use?

You could say panel swaps are involved, sure. But they are standard issue for an electrician and done everyday.

The photo of your setup is not visible to me, that's why I asked about the the color coded breakers.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 24, 2021, 10:00:36 PM
200a is the standard for residential panels and has been for awhile now. But if your home functions without problems on 100a and you're not planning to expand or add things like an EV charger then why add more capacity you will not use?

You could say panel swaps are involved, sure. But they are standard issue for an electrician and done everyday.

The photo of your setup is not visible to me, that's why I asked about the the color coded breakers.

I guess that's the question - we aren't even residing there and are renting it back to the sellers currently. We won't know what our usage is until after we move in on 10/10. As it is, we're running the AC a lot in the tiny apartment rental but that's because it gets hot and stuffy in here (on the 2nd floor with poor cross-ventilation) so our electric bill gets driven up like crazy especially over the summer. I work from home but it's a laptop and a small monitor, I also have my personal laptop going and so does my wife, 3 air purifiers mostly on low most of the time, a chest freezer, small kitchen appliances (Instant Pot, Air fryer, and kettle), a 65" tv, sometimes an electric heating pad, phone chargers and lights. Nothing super crazy... the cost differential doesn't seem like it would be that big between 100a and 200a but it might be the other 'small things' that add up like wiring changes, possibly changing the meter, and whatever else...?

Try this link:
https://photos.app.goo.gl/VXR9B746funvnLCC8
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: Malcat on September 25, 2021, 06:08:56 AM
Oh the joys of home ownership, lol.

I don't get why an electrician seems to be trying to talk you out of upgrading your panel, that seems kind of strange. If you are going to spend to have a new panel installed, I would lean towards getting a bigger one. Get estimates on the difference of cost and see if that works for you.

I'm curious though, do you ask all of these questions on multiple forums? How do you not drive yourself insane with constantly fielding so many different kinds of responses?
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: MayDay on September 25, 2021, 06:22:57 AM
We recently replaced a 1950 100a panel, upgraded to 200, and moved it out of the bathroom to meet code. I don't know how much of the cost was moving it but it was not cheap.

However we are very happy we did it as we had maxed out the box and it was getting very hard to find breakers (could only get them at a salvage place) and they were failing semi regularly.

Plus you know, meeting code and all that lolol. Better not to build a basement bathroom around your electric box, former owner.

ETA: total cost was 7000 and about half was moving the box. We got a couple quotes. MCOL.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: affordablehousing on September 25, 2021, 08:31:53 AM
Remember you have one life to live and if you overanalyze each detail, you're going to die accomplishing very little. Gas won't exist in California at some point in the future, everyone is putting in 200amp services to charge their future car quickly. Just suck it up and get a new panel. It definitely is a Zinsco, those breakers are recognizable as them anywhere and that's what matters not the sheet metal box. The breakers are what connect to the bus bar and catch fire and burn your house down anyway.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 25, 2021, 08:53:13 AM
Oh the joys of home ownership, lol.

I don't get why an electrician seems to be trying to talk you out of upgrading your panel, that seems kind of strange. If you are going to spend to have a new panel installed, I would lean towards getting a bigger one. Get estimates on the difference of cost and see if that works for you.

I'm curious though, do you ask all of these questions on multiple forums? How do you not drive yourself insane with constantly fielding so many different kinds of responses?

Yea, I think he was just giving his personal/honest opinion on the "trouble" you have to go through to update the panel and how the costs quickly add up, particularly if you intend on upgrading to a new panel and the wiring then has to be re-done.

I had asked him if you need a bigger panel for car chargers and he surprisingly was of the opinion that you don't really need to. The reasoning was that most people charge their cars overnight and you're not really going to be doing much else at that time. You have to be running A LOT of things at the same time to even hit the 100a max (possibly multiple car chargers, pool pump, jacuzzi, lights on everywhere, vacuum running, AC or furnace blowing, blender blending, etc....lol). This is kind of an interesting subject but have any of you actually 'hit or exceeded the max' on your panels? 


As far as asking the same question in different places... I don't know, I see it as one in the same but just soliciting for more responses to a wider audience. IMO It's good to get different kinds of feedback on stuff like this, especially with things I know very little about. Sort of a form of 'research' (of course with the understanding that most people responding aren't professionals) versus just trying to Google for everything and talk to 10 different contractors verbally (and while I'm currently sick with a cold)


We recently replaced a 1950 100a panel, upgraded to 200, and moved it out of the bathroom to meet code. I don't know how much of the cost was moving it but it was not cheap.

However we are very happy we did it as we had maxed out the box and it was getting very hard to find breakers (could only get them at a salvage place) and they were failing semi regularly.

Plus you know, meeting code and all that lolol. Better not to build a basement bathroom around your electric box, former owner.

ETA: total cost was 7000 and about half was moving the box. We got a couple quotes. MCOL.

Dang... that's pricey. I didn't realize moving the box would be something that costs so much. How recent is "recently" btw?
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: lhamo on September 25, 2021, 09:37:10 AM
You just spent over a million dollars on a new house.  I know that is a lot of money, but spending what is needed to bring it up to current standard is to be expected and worth the investment.

Upgrade the panel and go up to 200 amps.  Your future self will thank you.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: MayDay on September 25, 2021, 09:38:37 AM
I can't remember, the pandemic fried my brain. I think it was April.  Definitely in 2021.

We never used a whole 100a all at once but multiple individual circuits were maxed out if we did things like use the oven and microwave... so it was constantly mildly annoying, and we had no open spots to add garage charging for an electric car.



Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 25, 2021, 09:49:29 AM
I can't remember, the pandemic fried my brain. I think it was April.  Definitely in 2021.

We never used a whole 100a all at once but multiple individual circuits were maxed out if we did things like use the oven and microwave... so it was constantly mildly annoying, and we had no open spots to add garage charging for an electric car.

Makes sense - I can see where you'd want this for the electric car. And being in CA, we're headed that way anyway so might as well

You just spent over a million dollars on a new house.  I know that is a lot of money, but spending what is needed to bring it up to current standard is to be expected and worth the investment.

Upgrade the panel and go up to 200 amps.  Your future self will thank you.

Yea, you're right - the price differential isn't that great between a 100a and 200a panel anyway. I think where the cost/headache comes is if you have to get the electric company/city to dig up the existing wiring, assuming it's not sufficient. I believe they bill you for that... or maybe they will bill the contractor taking the work on and that's why some of the other electricians are charging $3500-4500.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: MayDay on September 25, 2021, 09:57:13 AM
The electrician working with the utility to get the line to the house upgraded is part of the cost. We didn't have to deal with the utility at all.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: PMJL34 on September 25, 2021, 10:04:04 AM
Jerome,

This is why I tell people that whole home inspectors for purchases are mostly useless. Sorry you have to deal with this.

However, it's not a big issue. Just upgrade to 200amp and call it done. You most likely won't have to touch the panel for the rest of your life.

The reason your electrician is saying go with 100amp is because he's lazy and cheap. If he keeps it 100amp, then he doesn't have to do anything except change the meter+panel combo. Most electricians will do this while the power is on (aka HOT). They don't like to deal with city + utility company because they are slow. 

For a 200amp, you will most likely need to change the feeder wires from the street to your meter. In addition, utility company will most likely need to swap the power lines to your house (it is most likely 90amp rated aluminum wires). It all sounds like a lot of work, but it's not and absolutely worth the cost. The entire work should be around 3-5K and you won't have to move the location of your panel so there's no added cost there.

New builds in CA cannot have gas and require solar. It's not just electric car charging, it's the possibility of going all electric in the future including dryer, water heater, stove, etc. that all require more power than you currently have for a 2k sq ft home.

Best of luck!
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 25, 2021, 10:30:10 AM
Jerome,

This is why I tell people that whole home inspectors for purchases are mostly useless. Sorry you have to deal with this.

However, it's not a big issue. Just upgrade to 200amp and call it done. You most likely won't have to touch the panel for the rest of your life.

The reason your electrician is saying go with 100amp is because he's lazy and cheap. If he keeps it 100amp, then he doesn't have to do anything except change the meter+panel combo. Most electricians will do this while the power is on (aka HOT). They don't like to deal with city + utility company because they are slow. 

For a 200amp, you will most likely need to change the feeder wires from the street to your meter. In addition, utility company will most likely need to swap the power lines to your house (it is most likely 90amp rated aluminum wires). It all sounds like a lot of work, but it's not and absolutely worth the cost. The entire work should be around 3-5K and you won't have to move the location of your panel so there's no added cost there.

New builds in CA cannot have gas and require solar. It's not just electric car charging, it's the possibility of going all electric in the future including dryer, water heater, stove, etc. that all require more power than you currently have for a 2k sq ft home.

Best of luck!

Thanks @PMJL34!

It's true - it's hard finding one who will provide you useful results at least... he did call out a few things that allowed us to get those other credits back. But this was a big one that he missed.

I just spoke with another electrician and he was saying that he was going to try for 200a but it also depends on whether or not the city/electric company will actually approve it. Sometimes they won't, in which case the max he could put in is a 125-150a panel. The first electrician I spoke with was actually saying he'd lean towards putting a 125a panel in and I think it's because of the same reasons the second electrician I spoke with was giving (that there just may not be approval for it OR the work is more involved and will take a long time to complete). The guy I just spoke with said that if that kind of approval is needed, his experience with our electric company is that it can take them 4-8 weeks to actually approve of the process - he was saying they're slow and are a pain to work with so expect for it to take a while to happen.

He was speculating that we likely would be able to at least get a 125-150a panel in based on the square footage of the home (just under 2700) though.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: PMJL34 on September 25, 2021, 08:16:27 PM
That's even more BS.

You are allowed to have 200amps. I could be wrong, but I have never heard of limits despite SQ footage.

Again, it just requires the city and utility company and that's why they are giving you push back. The reason they are saying 125/150amp is because they know that the current feeder wires/city wires are possibly rated for that, but not 200.

It's true that the city and utility are slow. But here's what you can do. Tell the electrician that you will handle the city and utility and you just need them to do the work. You log on to your utility company and request a panel upgrade (should be no cost). Same with city for permit (my city is $125). Everything is done online.

Once the applications are approved, you schedule a date for them to come turn the power off and upgrade their lines to your house. that's the day the electrician will come out and do the job (coordinate w electrician to make sure availability).

Everything is all done in one day. The electrician will unwire the old panel/meter and install new equipment including feeders while the power is off. The same afternoon the city will inspect it and give the utility company the go ahead to turn back on. Done.

If you find an honest electrician they will handle everything, but charge you a bit more. This way, you put in a little leg work, but almost all electricians will agree to these terms.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 25, 2021, 08:34:26 PM
That's even more BS.

You are allowed to have 200amps. I could be wrong, but I have never heard of limits despite SQ footage.

Again, it just requires the city and utility company and that's why they are giving you push back. The reason they are saying 125/150amp is because they know that the current feeder wires/city wires are possibly rated for that, but not 200.

It's true that the city and utility are slow. But here's what you can do. Tell the electrician that you will handle the city and utility and you just need them to do the work. You log on to your utility company and request a panel upgrade (should be no cost). Same with city for permit (my city is $125). Everything is done online.

Once the applications are approved, you schedule a date for them to come turn the power off and upgrade their lines to your house. that's the day the electrician will come out and do the job (coordinate w electrician to make sure availability).

Everything is all done in one day. The electrician will unwire the old panel/meter and install new equipment including feeders while the power is off. The same afternoon the city will inspect it and give the utility company the go ahead to turn back on. Done.

If you find an honest electrician they will handle everything, but charge you a bit more. This way, you put in a little leg work, but almost all electricians will agree to these terms.

This is basically what the first electrician was telling me to do, but for a much lower price than what the others have been quoting me. Everyone's telling me that the reason I'm paying more is because all the other guys will handle everything end-to-end. One other company just told me the electric company won't talk to contractors/electricians and that I have to initiate everything, so I'm not so sure about that. And if that's the case, where I have to coordinate with the electric company myself, why are most of these companies charging so much more again? This is what's confusing. The first electrician I spoke with said it would cost $2500 to do a 200a panel  (where everyone else is saying minimum $3000-$4500) but then the cost will go up if he has to re-wire for the 200a, which is likely the case. The pricing of rewiring still isn't very clear to me though... maybe the cost to rewire runs anywhere from $500-$2000?
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: Sibley on September 26, 2021, 09:03:13 AM
My two cents. OP, the reason the one guy doesn't want to deal with city/utility company is because it's a pain in the ass. He's willing to forego a lot of money to avoid dealing with them. That should tell you something.

It would also make me very curious about if there was a reason why he didn't want to deal with them, besides the PITA aspect. IE - check that his license is current and valid, check with your local building dept to see if they know anything about him. I got burned by using an electrician that wasn't up to snuff. It saved me $5k sure, but frankly I would have preferred to pay the extra money to not have to deal with the hassle I got dumped with. Which eventually involved paying a lawyer.

Also, you're getting told multiple things by multiple electricians, and you don't have the knowledge to call BS on any of them. You need that knowledge. They're telling you the town won't let you go to 200? You can go to the town and talk to the code people and they will tell you the facts. You may feel helpless and over your head, but there are things you can do to educate yourself, at least enough to make decisions.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 26, 2021, 09:36:18 AM
My two cents. OP, the reason the one guy doesn't want to deal with city/utility company is because it's a pain in the ass. He's willing to forego a lot of money to avoid dealing with them. That should tell you something.

It would also make me very curious about if there was a reason why he didn't want to deal with them, besides the PITA aspect. IE - check that his license is current and valid, check with your local building dept to see if they know anything about him. I got burned by using an electrician that wasn't up to snuff. It saved me $5k sure, but frankly I would have preferred to pay the extra money to not have to deal with the hassle I got dumped with. Which eventually involved paying a lawyer.

Also, you're getting told multiple things by multiple electricians, and you don't have the knowledge to call BS on any of them. You need that knowledge. They're telling you the town won't let you go to 200? You can go to the town and talk to the code people and they will tell you the facts. You may feel helpless and over your head, but there are things you can do to educate yourself, at least enough to make decisions.

The last electrician I spoke with quoted that I should expect to pay anywhere between $2500-$4500 depending on what the city says. He seemed pretty experienced dealing with the city and knew what he was talking about but he was saying that in the case with this specific electric company, they will not communicate directly with any contractor and that they will only coordinate directly with the resident on any projects. Outside of that, he seemed to imply that this electric company was difficult to work with and so it sounds like he will coordinate on behalf of his clients with the other major electric company in the area and it seems like they do allow contractor communication, etc (there are two electric companies in my area - this is the first time I've used the one we're stuck with and even when we had to switch over last year I wasn't impressed. They actually seem more expensive too)
So far this is the general consensus I've been hearing even from other electricians. One I just messaged via Yelp told me the same thing: the electric company doesn't allow contractors/electricians to communicate with them directly. In this case, I don't know that it's an issue of laziness as much as it is restrictions of the electric company but I'll clarify on Monday. I already shot an email over to the department handling meter updates so I'll find out soon enough.


BTW: what do you guys think about the idea of pursuing (or demanding) a refund from the home inspector considering he failed to call this out to begin with? If anything, it may have resulted in us getting additional credit back from the sellers. But aside from that, at least we would not have been surprised/caught off guard with the call-out from the insurance company either.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: Uturn on September 26, 2021, 05:14:22 PM
I had my meter and panel replaced about 3 months ago.  The electrician only needed a day, but power was off for 4 days waiting on code inspection and getting the power turned back on.  Luckily I had not moved in yet. 
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 26, 2021, 05:56:11 PM
I had my meter and panel replaced about 3 months ago.  The electrician only needed a day, but power was off for 4 days waiting on code inspection and getting the power turned back on.  Luckily I had not moved in yet.


Ugh, this is what I'd be afraid of potentially happening. Where are you located?
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 27, 2021, 10:45:32 AM
I had another electrician out today at the property and he gave me more of the run down. Basically the electric company here is plagued by red tape: I have to submit an application for approval, then they have to send a planner/inspector out, then they have to approve it before anything can happen. This could take 3-4 weeks in of itself. After that the electrician will coordinate directly with the city and electric company for all the permits and stuff. This could take another several weeks for everything to happen. He explained that with this company, chances of them approving 200amps is very low. If we really want it, it would likely require them digging a trench and changing the feeder to conform to what the electric company wants. This will increase the cost of the project significantly (he was guesstimating $10k at that point). So, he was saying that we would be fine with 125a. UNLESS we are planning to have multiple car chargers, a pool/jacuzzi, patio heaters, etc etc etc, chances of us really needing 200a is not going to be high. The other electric company in the area has no problem approving 200a and I thought he said that they actually mandate it (and I think they may change the feeder wires out and pay for the new panel or meter at least...not sure). So we got stuck with a lemon of an electric company, unfortunately.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: Uturn on September 27, 2021, 02:10:37 PM
I had my meter and panel replaced about 3 months ago.  The electrician only needed a day, but power was off for 4 days waiting on code inspection and getting the power turned back on.  Luckily I had not moved in yet.

I am in Raleigh, NC.  The electrician warned me there would either be a problem with the electric company missing the disconnect or the reconnect order.  They got the disconnect on time.  The reconnect was delayed almost two days.  They called Friday afternoon asking if Monday would be ok.  Nope, you are already two days late.  They finally got it done around 7PM.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: Omy on September 27, 2021, 02:36:50 PM
Most inspectors have you sign something limiting their liability if they miss something. Best case you might be able to get him to refund the inspection fee if he's feeling guilty.

How did the sellers get the home insured?  I would call your buyer's agent and have them check in with the listing agent. Is this something the seller should have disclosed prior to sale? Maybe the seller would be willing to contribute toward updating the panel?
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: sailinlight on September 27, 2021, 03:45:51 PM
Seconding that home inspectors are a waste of money. Their only purpose is pointing out trivial/petty items so you can be slimy and ask for money from the seller for fixing things that you never will. They never find things that actually need fixing.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: cchrissyy on September 27, 2021, 03:46:24 PM
Can you ask the sellers who they used for homeowners insurance?
Maybe you can get coverage from the same people, therefore buying yourself more time to deal with this repair.

And no, you can't get anything back from the inspector. Yes this sounds like something worth commenting on, but, no inspector promises to catch 100% and besides, unless the panel is illegal or wildly outdated how would they have known this insurer would have an issue with it? Again, the house is/was insurable or else the sellers couldn't have had it.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: Cadman on September 27, 2021, 03:53:52 PM
As someone who has installed quite a few main panels, I'd install a Square-D Homeline 200A panel and replace the main breaker with a 100A. No need to change your feed from the transformer, no need to get your power company involved. The electrician should be able to perform the work in a day and if you ever want to upgrade to 200A, only the feeder would need replacing, and swap back in your 200A principal breaker. For reference, materials would be under $200 including branch circuit breakers.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 27, 2021, 04:04:19 PM
Seconding that home inspectors are a waste of money. Their only purpose is pointing out trivial/petty items so you can be slimy and ask for money from the seller for fixing things that you never will. They never find things that actually need fixing.

Depends... the last home inspector we used (for the place we backed out of escrow on) called out a bunch of things, including one of the things that was a big part of why we backed out: more than significant crack in the foundation AND settling in the bedroom *directly* above. We would have been taking a gamble sticking with it and potentially pouring more money into dealing with getting the foundation reinforced/piered + leveled. He also used a gas sniffer to confirm a gas leak - we thought we smelled gas in the laundry room and he pulled out the sniffer to verify. This was more a 'favor' for the seller at the time. Ironically, the current home that we bought there was also a gas leak we identified on our own without the home inspector (we actually brought it to his attention and he brushed it off). The gas company actually came out and red-tagged, forcing these sellers to remediate the issue. Other than that, the only other thing of 'substance' he called out was the fact that the entire lower portion of the front living room wall was wet and needed further investigation (this led to a mold inspection to confirm that there is in fact mold in there and this factored into credits from the seller). The reason we went with this [lousy] home inspector is that he had first availability aligning with a sewer scope we had done and we were on a tight timeline. We should have just gone with the other company though as I'm confident they would have called more [legitimate] things out like this panel.


As someone who has installed quite a few main panels, I'd install a Square-D Homeline 200A panel and replace the main breaker with a 100A. No need to change your feed from the transformer, no need to get your power company involved. The electrician should be able to perform the work in a day and if you ever want to upgrade to 200A, only the feeder would need replacing, and swap back in your 200A principal breaker. For reference, materials would be under $200 including branch circuit breakers.

No involvement from the power company? Isn't that a violation? I've read/heard that you're supposed to be doing this in the context of a permit because the power company needs to kill the power going to your panel, then you get the work done, and have it checked off and approved before they flip the switch back on. Also for these kinds of meter main combos, don't you have to swap the entire thing out?


Most inspectors have you sign something limiting their liability if they miss something. Best case you might be able to get him to refund the inspection fee if he's feeling guilty.

How did the sellers get the home insured?  I would call your buyer's agent and have them check in with the listing agent. Is this something the seller should have disclosed prior to sale? Maybe the seller would be willing to contribute toward updating the panel?
Can you ask the sellers who they used for homeowners insurance?
Maybe you can get coverage from the same people, therefore buying yourself more time to deal with this repair.

And no, you can't get anything back from the inspector. Yes this sounds like something worth commenting on, but, no inspector promises to catch 100% and besides, unless the panel is illegal or wildly outdated how would they have known this insurer would have an issue with it? Again, the house is/was insurable or else the sellers couldn't have had it.

Good idea asking the sellers who they used for homeowners insurance. We're trying to get that now. But now that the panel has been reported by our insurance company, it's going to show up in the CLUE report so all other insurance companies are going to have access to and see that we have a Zinsco panel.
I did check with our insurance provider though and they said the premium won't go up but that if we don't replace it before 9 months (when they send out the renewal notice) they basically won't renew our policy for the next year. So we actually have a lot of time to sort this out.

As far as this being something that should have been disclosed by the seller, no idea - I would think they probably had no idea this was an issue though. So I doubt they'll offer to contribute more; especially seeing as they already 'discounted' the price down from where we had it going into escrow.

I have a thread going with the inspector, my realtor, and our insurance agent hahaha. After he sent his last email, which sounded like him trying to weasel out of responsibility, I cc'ed the insurance agent and said maybe the insurance agent can provide a better explanation of why this is a problem. If he fails to respond or respond 'satisfactorily' I will escalate this in the form of a complaint to the CA Real Estate Inspector Association and see where it goes from there. BTW: Zinsco panels ARE wildly outdated - they went out of business in the early 80s and have a horrible reputation. Of course, the inspector claims to have seen a lot of Zinsco panels where insurance companies never had issues with them. Maybe that's because the insurance companies didn't actually do as thorough of an inspection themselves (our insurance agent actually told us that MOST inspectors who go out to the home only look at the outside of the home at the general condition and to see if there are tree branches touching or covering the roof, and that they hardly ever go inside the home. Our insurance company had us do this "self-inspection" which I think is why this came up... I should have not done everything they asked me to do lol)
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: Telecaster on September 27, 2021, 05:17:56 PM
BTW: what do you guys think about the idea of pursuing (or demanding) a refund from the home inspector considering he failed to call this out to begin with? If anything, it may have resulted in us getting additional credit back from the sellers. But aside from that, at least we would not have been surprised/caught off guard with the call-out from the insurance company either.

You can try, but I personally wouldn't bother.  In a broad sense, you are correct in that he should have called out a poor panel, but he can fall back on the fact the panels have never been recalled and the panel (apparently) has been working fine this whole time.   I do inspections on commercial properties, including multi-family.  We always call out Zinsco panels, but don't recommend replacing them, instead recommend monitoring and managing in place.   

Personally, I'd upgrade the electrical service.  As others have mentioned, 200 amp service is pretty standard for single-family these days, and future demand will likely be greater, if anything. 

Also, I just saw @Cadman 's advice to just replace the panel and don't upgrade the service.  That's sounds like a good idea.  With older houses you have to upgrade lots of stuff over time.  Windows, maybe pipes, appliances, etc. Replacing an old panel shouldn't be that big of a deal. 
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 27, 2021, 05:52:02 PM
BTW: what do you guys think about the idea of pursuing (or demanding) a refund from the home inspector considering he failed to call this out to begin with? If anything, it may have resulted in us getting additional credit back from the sellers. But aside from that, at least we would not have been surprised/caught off guard with the call-out from the insurance company either.

You can try, but I personally wouldn't bother.  In a broad sense, you are correct in that he should have called out a poor panel, but he can fall back on the fact the panels have never been recalled and the panel (apparently) has been working fine this whole time.   I do inspections on commercial properties, including multi-family.  We always call out Zinsco panels, but don't recommend replacing them, instead recommend monitoring and managing in place.   

Personally, I'd upgrade the electrical service.  As others have mentioned, 200 amp service is pretty standard for single-family these days, and future demand will likely be greater, if anything. 

Also, I just saw @Cadman 's advice to just replace the panel and don't upgrade the service.  That's sounds like a good idea.  With older houses you have to upgrade lots of stuff over time.  Windows, maybe pipes, appliances, etc. Replacing an old panel shouldn't be that big of a deal.

Someone else (on another forum) actually recommended putting a larger panel in (one that can support 200a or more) but to use smaller main breakers instead.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: Glenstache on September 27, 2021, 06:09:01 PM
Go 200amp. The future is electrification, and appliances, car charging etc, will quickly get you to needing a 200amp panel. The z panels are known fire hazards for a reason. I've seen them fail, luckily without fire and much earlier in their lifespan than your 40 year old model. Also, if your house does burn down because of it and you didn't replace the panel despite being told it is a hazard, you could have a difficult claim if the insurance co is feeling pushy and finds out about the letter saying you need to replace.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: Cadman on September 27, 2021, 07:06:08 PM

As someone who has installed quite a few main panels, I'd install a Square-D Homeline 200A panel and replace the main breaker with a 100A. No need to change your feed from the transformer, no need to get your power company involved. The electrician should be able to perform the work in a day and if you ever want to upgrade to 200A, only the feeder would need replacing, and swap back in your 200A principal breaker. For reference, materials would be under $200 including branch circuit breakers.

No involvement from the power company? Isn't that a violation? I've read/heard that you're supposed to be doing this in the context of a permit because the power company needs to kill the power going to your panel, then you get the work done, and have it checked off and approved before they flip the switch back on. Also for these kinds of meter main combos, don't you have to swap the entire thing out?

I suppose I should clarify, when I said "no involvement from the power company", I was talking about them sending out a truck and disconnecting live lines from your transformer ($$) so that your service entrance could be upgraded to 200A by your electrician ($$). The permitting process can be initiated either by you, or your electrician, but all the power company cares about is an inspector sign-off on that permit. Most licensed electricians are permitted to pull/reinstall a meter (sometimes with a call to the PoCo, sometimes not). So what it really comes down to is changing out a panel for one that allows a 200A upgrade in the future, or tackling the entire service entrance which can be a costly undertaking.

But looking at your pic, I missed an important detail, that your meter box and circuit panel are combined. This is something we never see here in the midwest, and could make this a more difficult proposition if the meter base has to be removed from power.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 27, 2021, 07:23:09 PM

As someone who has installed quite a few main panels, I'd install a Square-D Homeline 200A panel and replace the main breaker with a 100A. No need to change your feed from the transformer, no need to get your power company involved. The electrician should be able to perform the work in a day and if you ever want to upgrade to 200A, only the feeder would need replacing, and swap back in your 200A principal breaker. For reference, materials would be under $200 including branch circuit breakers.

No involvement from the power company? Isn't that a violation? I've read/heard that you're supposed to be doing this in the context of a permit because the power company needs to kill the power going to your panel, then you get the work done, and have it checked off and approved before they flip the switch back on. Also for these kinds of meter main combos, don't you have to swap the entire thing out?

I suppose I should clarify, when I said "no involvement from the power company", I was talking about them sending out a truck and disconnecting live lines from your transformer ($$) so that your service entrance could be upgraded to 200A by your electrician ($$). The permitting process can be initiated either by you, or your electrician, but all the power company cares about is an inspector sign-off on that permit. Most licensed electricians are permitted to pull/reinstall a meter (sometimes with a call to the PoCo, sometimes not). So what it really comes down to is changing out a panel for one that allows a 200A upgrade in the future, or tackling the entire service entrance which can be a costly undertaking.

But looking at your pic, I missed an important detail, that your meter box and circuit panel are combined. This is something we never see here in the midwest, and could make this a more difficult proposition if the meter base has to be removed from power.

Ah ok. Yea, it's one of those meter main combos. I'm assuming I could still have a 200a rated meter main combo installed but just swap the main breaker in the panel out for a 125a or 150a main breaker? Then if/when the time comes to actually go up to 200a, deal with the trenching then and just swap back in the 200a main breaker?

Something like this?
https://www.homedepot.com/p/Square-D-Homeline-200-Amp-8-Space-16-Circuit-Outdoor-Ring-Type-Overhead-Underground-Surface-Main-Breaker-CSED-Dual-Disconnect-SC816D200C/100010108

Does the electric company usually provide the actual meter?
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 27, 2021, 08:14:34 PM
As someone who has installed quite a few main panels, I'd install a Square-D Homeline 200A panel and replace the main breaker with a 100A. No need to change your feed from the transformer, no need to get your power company involved. The electrician should be able to perform the work in a day and if you ever want to upgrade to 200A, only the feeder would need replacing, and swap back in your 200A principal breaker. For reference, materials would be under $200 including branch circuit breakers.

I asked a couple of the electricians about this. They seemed to frown upon it - the implication was that investigators would not permit this because who's to say you don't go in and max out all the spaces on a 200a panel when you only have a 100-125a breaker in it? I don't know if that's a thing but one of the electricians seemed to be saying that it was.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: PMJL34 on September 27, 2021, 09:30:21 PM
Again, everything is city specific, but I have a hard time believing that the utility company won't allow you to go to 200amp.

Why not just put an online application to utility like I suggested? It doesn't cost anything and the worst they can tell you is "no." The application literally takes like 2 minutes. No more of this electrician said this or that and just get the facts from the source. Better yet, just call your utility company tomorrow morning and straight up ask. Mystery will be solved in a matter of minutes.

Is the panel on the exterior in your tract? If so, you can also just walk around and talk to neighbors or sneak a peek. If even one person has 200amp, then there's your answer. On second thought, wouldn't everyone have (or had) the same panel as you since it's a tract build? If this is the case, there will be many others who have problem solved this already you can learn from.

For the record, I don't think it's worth "upgrading" to a 125amp for 3k. 


 
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 27, 2021, 09:45:55 PM
Again, everything is city specific, but I have a hard time believing that the utility company won't allow you to go to 200amp.

Why not just put an online application to utility like I suggested? It doesn't cost anything and the worst they can tell you is "no." The application literally takes like 2 minutes. No more of this electrician said this or that and just get the facts from the source. Better yet, just call your utility company tomorrow morning and straight up ask. Mystery will be solved in a matter of minutes.

Is the panel on the exterior in your tract? If so, you can also just walk around and talk to neighbors or sneak a peek. If even one person has 200amp, then there's your answer. On second thought, wouldn't everyone have (or had) the same panel as you since it's a tract build? If this is the case, there will be many others who have problem solved this already you can learn from.

For the record, I don't think it's worth "upgrading" to a 125amp for 3k.

I started the process earlier today and requested 200a. The problem is they likely aren't going to get any sort of response back to me until 3-4 weeks out according to one of the electricians who has dealt with them.

The panel is in fact on the exterior. I definitely would be interested to see the neighbors' panels but I also don't want to snoop (and get caught) lol. You're right though - this is a tract with the same build throughout, so seeing what others have is probably worth while.

I'd MUCH prefer to find an electrician who will put a panel in that can support 200a but where we're just using main breakers that conform to the electric company and what they will allow/approve. It seems like I should be able to do this, I just need to find an electrician who understands what I'm trying to do and who will actually do it without thinking it's a problem... I don't see why it would be despite the electrician's objections. EDIT: thinking about it more, perhaps the electrician's concern might be that you get a 200a panel installed with a 125a main breaker or whatever but then you swap it back out with a 200a main breaker after the job has been completed. So now you're effectively operating at higher amps when you weren't approved for it and aren't supposed to be.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: cchrissyy on September 27, 2021, 09:53:48 PM
Quote
It seems like I should be able to do this, I just need to find an electrician who understands what I'm trying to do and who will actually do it without thinking it's a problem...

if you see any neighbors have newer panels, ask them who they hired
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 27, 2021, 10:05:53 PM
Quote
It seems like I should be able to do this, I just need to find an electrician who understands what I'm trying to do and who will actually do it without thinking it's a problem...

if you see any neighbors have newer panels, ask them who they hired

Forgot to mention but the 'good news' is that we don't need to be in such a huge rush. The insurance company requested this be done by October and now an extension into November but if we don't do it then the consequence is that they just won't renew our policy after the year is up. They send out the renewals 9 months in so basically I just need to get this taken care of within that timeframe. I think the risk is that if there's a fire caused by the panel, the insurance company may have grounds to deny any claims for damage etc because they warned me via that letter. So it's better just to get it taken care of sooner than later but I'm going to try not to stress over it and have it seriously impact our efforts with moving and everything else that still needs to be taken care of: fumigation, cleaning, carpet, etc... once we've moved in I think we'll start tackling the electrical stuff. I got the ball rolling on the lengthy process so it's not like we can do much about it anyway right now. We just have to hope and pray nothing goes seriously wrong in that regard.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: Cadman on September 28, 2021, 10:16:12 AM
As someone who has installed quite a few main panels, I'd install a Square-D Homeline 200A panel and replace the main breaker with a 100A. No need to change your feed from the transformer, no need to get your power company involved. The electrician should be able to perform the work in a day and if you ever want to upgrade to 200A, only the feeder would need replacing, and swap back in your 200A principal breaker. For reference, materials would be under $200 including branch circuit breakers.

I asked a couple of the electricians about this. They seemed to frown upon it - the implication was that investigators would not permit this because who's to say you don't go in and max out all the spaces on a 200a panel when you only have a 100-125a breaker in it? I don't know if that's a thing but one of the electricians seemed to be saying that it was.

Perhaps they didn't understand the question, or were just feeding you a line, but there's no technical or legal reason this would be 'frowned upon'. In fact, maxing out the number of slots in a panel isn't necessarily a bad thing as it means your loads are more evenly distributed and you'll avoid overloading single breakers. As long as the principal breaker is sized appropriately for the service feed (100A), you can hang as many branch breakers on it as you like.

The primary difference between a 100A panel and a 200A panel is the size of the internal busbars. You can order a 100A panel with 40 slots, or a 200A panel with 20, the number of branch breakers doesn't matter.

All of this assumes you don't have a grid-tied Solar PV system, in which case there are some additional considerations.

 
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 28, 2021, 10:19:42 AM
As someone who has installed quite a few main panels, I'd install a Square-D Homeline 200A panel and replace the main breaker with a 100A. No need to change your feed from the transformer, no need to get your power company involved. The electrician should be able to perform the work in a day and if you ever want to upgrade to 200A, only the feeder would need replacing, and swap back in your 200A principal breaker. For reference, materials would be under $200 including branch circuit breakers.

I asked a couple of the electricians about this. They seemed to frown upon it - the implication was that investigators would not permit this because who's to say you don't go in and max out all the spaces on a 200a panel when you only have a 100-125a breaker in it? I don't know if that's a thing but one of the electricians seemed to be saying that it was.

Perhaps they didn't understand the question, or were just feeding you a line, but there's no technical or legal reason this would be 'frowned upon'. In fact, maxing out the number of slots in a panel isn't necessarily a bad thing as it means your loads are more evenly distributed and you'll avoid overloading single breakers. As long as the principal breaker is sized appropriately for the service feed (100A), you can hang as many branch breakers on it as you like.

The primary difference between a 100A panel and a 200A panel is the size of the internal busbars. You can order a 100A panel with 40 slots, or a 200A panel with 20, the number of branch breakers doesn't matter.

All of this assumes you don't have a grid-tied Solar PV system, in which case there are some additional considerations.

So I *think* the reason they may frown upon it might be because there's nothing stopping you, as the homeowner, from having a handyman swap that main breaker back out with the 200a breaker that originally came with the panel (or from you doing it yourself). I think they don't want to be liable, knowing they set it up this way and later you do that and it comes back to bite them. I don't know if it's because they did this before and that has happened or if they heard about these kinds of things happening through the trade-grapevine. 

EDIT: I just heard from another contractor who I asked and he flat out said no: "Is it possible to get a panel rated for 200amps installed but then just use a smaller main breaker that is 125a or 150a, whatever conforms to SDGE's allowance/approval?" - am I missing or leaving something out the way I'm asking it? I think it's pretty understandable, so I'm thinking the electricians around here just aren't big on the idea of doing something like this; perhaps the power companies here also frown upon it. I mean, it is CA too and things are pretty stringent as-is.

I'm curious but is there anyone here from CA who has actually done something like this (bigger panel installed with smaller main breakers)?

On another note: the inspector wants me to call him. I'm pretty sure he's just going to try to go down more rabbit holes as to why he didn't call out the Zinsco panel or divert attention away from the fact that he missed it, along with a bunch of other excuses. I emailed him back asking what he wants to talk about. I don't want to waste my voice while still recovering from a cold.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: Cadman on September 28, 2021, 11:24:18 AM


So I *think* the reason they may frown upon it might be because there's nothing stopping you, as the homeowner, from having a handyman swap that main breaker back out with the 200a breaker that originally came with the panel (or from you doing it yourself). I think they don't want to be liable, knowing they set it up this way and later you do that and it comes back to bite them. I don't know if it's because they did this before and that has happened or if they heard about these kinds of things happening through the trade-grapevine. 

EDIT: I just heard from another contractor who I asked and he flat out said no: "Is it possible to get a panel rated for 200amps installed but then just use a smaller main breaker that is 125a or 150a, whatever conforms to SDGE's allowance/approval?" - am I missing or leaving something out the way I'm asking it? I think it's pretty understandable, so I'm thinking the electricians around here just aren't big on the idea of doing something like this; perhaps the power companies here also frown upon it. I mean, it is CA too and things are pretty stringent as-is.

I'm curious but is there anyone here from CA who has actually done something like this (bigger panel installed with smaller main breakers)?

On another note: the inspector wants me to call him. I'm pretty sure he's just going to try to go down more rabbit holes as to why he didn't call out the Zinsco panel or divert attention away from the fact that he missed it, along with a bunch of other excuses. I emailed him back asking what he wants to talk about. I don't want to waste my voice while still recovering from a cold.

Perhaps it's just something they're not familiar with, and if that's the case, then continuing to pursue it probably won't be to your advantage, but I can assure you it's not uncommon, you just need to make sure you've chosen a manufacturer that uses the same frame size principal breaker. This happens frequently in solar PV installations as both your main breaker and PV feeder breakers can allow more current to be drawn than the busbars can support (120% rule). For a 200A panel and 10kW PV, I needed to derate my primary breaker to 175A.

The liability bit doesn't add up, either, as you could just as easily swap in a larger rated breaker than whatever panel size they install (note: don't do that!). And since you don't have anywhere near the load that would trip your existing 100A main, if you were dumb enough to put in a 200A breaker, it wouldn't become a hazard until you exceeded 100 amps. The only way I can see that happening would be adding additional circuits (like an EV charger) in which case the electrician would immediately see your service conductors were undersized and know something was up. It sounds like they just don't want to do it, and that's okay.

If you can afford to wait and do it all to 200A, that may be your second best option. Your SE would be aluminum conductors; I haven't kept up on AL pricing, but CU is at an all time high.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: joenorm on September 29, 2021, 01:11:00 PM
As someone who has installed quite a few main panels, I'd install a Square-D Homeline 200A panel and replace the main breaker with a 100A. No need to change your feed from the transformer, no need to get your power company involved. The electrician should be able to perform the work in a day and if you ever want to upgrade to 200A, only the feeder would need replacing, and swap back in your 200A principal breaker. For reference, materials would be under $200 including branch circuit breakers.

I asked a couple of the electricians about this. They seemed to frown upon it - the implication was that investigators would not permit this because who's to say you don't go in and max out all the spaces on a 200a panel when you only have a 100-125a breaker in it? I don't know if that's a thing but one of the electricians seemed to be saying that it was.

Perhaps they didn't understand the question, or were just feeding you a line, but there's no technical or legal reason this would be 'frowned upon'. In fact, maxing out the number of slots in a panel isn't necessarily a bad thing as it means your loads are more evenly distributed and you'll avoid overloading single breakers. As long as the principal breaker is sized appropriately for the service feed (100A), you can hang as many branch breakers on it as you like.

The primary difference between a 100A panel and a 200A panel is the size of the internal busbars. You can order a 100A panel with 40 slots, or a 200A panel with 20, the number of branch breakers doesn't matter.

All of this assumes you don't have a grid-tied Solar PV system, in which case there are some additional considerations.

So I *think* the reason they may frown upon it might be because there's nothing stopping you, as the homeowner, from having a handyman swap that main breaker back out with the 200a breaker that originally came with the panel (or from you doing it yourself). I think they don't want to be liable, knowing they set it up this way and later you do that and it comes back to bite them. I don't know if it's because they did this before and that has happened or if they heard about these kinds of things happening through the trade-grapevine. 

EDIT: I just heard from another contractor who I asked and he flat out said no: "Is it possible to get a panel rated for 200amps installed but then just use a smaller main breaker that is 125a or 150a, whatever conforms to SDGE's allowance/approval?" - am I missing or leaving something out the way I'm asking it? I think it's pretty understandable, so I'm thinking the electricians around here just aren't big on the idea of doing something like this; perhaps the power companies here also frown upon it. I mean, it is CA too and things are pretty stringent as-is.

I'm curious but is there anyone here from CA who has actually done something like this (bigger panel installed with smaller main breakers)?

On another note: the inspector wants me to call him. I'm pretty sure he's just going to try to go down more rabbit holes as to why he didn't call out the Zinsco panel or divert attention away from the fact that he missed it, along with a bunch of other excuses. I emailed him back asking what he wants to talk about. I don't want to waste my voice while still recovering from a cold.


Where I live this would be totally permissible. The trick might be finding a Meter/Main combo that is approved by your utility that has the ability to swap mains. Is the smaller breaker available? As stated above, using a bigger panel with a smaller breaker is no problem at all according to the NEC.

Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 30, 2021, 08:24:17 AM
Yesterday I spoke with another electrician who works for the 'competing' electric company in the area - he installs panels and does other jobs as a side gig and he really seemed the most knowledgeable of all the electricians I've spoken with thus far - in fact, he told me he's working with a client who lives in the same tract as me lol. His price seems reasonable too for the panel upgrade - he quoted $3000-3200 for a 200amp install, and he was saying that he's pretty confident getting it up to 200a won't be an issue. It's not a direct burial situation where the conduit was laid in a dirt trench directly and covered up. HOWEVER, and he said this came up with his other client who lives in the same tract: the fact that there's a gas meter *below* the panel is problematic. He was saying that the electric company will force me to relocate the meter. So I'll have to get in touch with the gas company to confirm that and figure out what's involved. The gas co has an online estimator that I followed and it says relocating the meter 2-3 feet will cost $600. So if this is accurate, the entire job *should* cost $3600-3800, which isn't too bad considering what's involved. He was pretty sure we're not going to have to go through the trouble of trenching though - that is where it would cost significantly more.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: lhamo on September 30, 2021, 08:54:04 AM
If something needs to be relocated could it be the electric panel rather than the gas meter?  Then you could just dig a new line for the electric to go to the new panel location and sever/cap off the old electric line at the street.  Look into trenchless digging.  We used it for our water main replacement -- that cost us $7500, but not sure how much of it was attributable to the actual trenchless part vs. the piping and other labor.  We have a very steep rockery slope to navigate, about 50 feet.  The "mole" took less than an hour to navigate it.

Also this way you only have to deal with disruptions to one service.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on September 30, 2021, 08:58:56 AM
If something needs to be relocated could it be the electric panel rather than the gas meter?  Then you could just dig a new line for the electric to go to the new panel location and sever/cap off the old electric line at the street.  Look into trenchless digging.  We used it for our water main replacement -- that cost us $7500, but not sure how much of it was attributable to the actual trenchless part vs. the piping and other labor.  We have a very steep rockery slope to navigate, about 50 feet.  The "mole" took less than an hour to navigate it.

Also this way you only have to deal with disruptions to one service.

Good point. I'll ask the electrician about this. I suspect it may end up costing more to move the panel than to relocate the gas meter though. But in the first place, we need to have the power company come do their survey/assessment of the situation before anything. I'll check with the electrician on this though.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: NaN on October 12, 2021, 09:04:17 AM
When we bought our house we had an inspection, too (worthless few hours of my life). The inspector missed that the panel, a new SquareD 100 amp box from Home Depot that was installed recently but did not have the city inspection sticker on it. That should have been a red flag, but it was missed.

After a lot of research and document collection I found out that this electrician wired the new panel up HOT, meaning the wires from the meter were completely hot when he wired them up into the new breaker. He avoided having the power company come out to disconnect the meter so he could wire up his panel. Why? Because to do that, he had to get a permit with the city. To get a permit with the city required an inspection. An inspection means everything had to be brought up to code.

Rewind to when this became a problem. We had no clue about the panel at this time. When we were remodeling our bathrooms we hired an electrician to run new home runs (we moved everything in the bathroom - long story but well worth it). Since we did get a permit for this major reno work, when the inspector came out to do the Rough electrical he looks at the panel and immediately says: "This is not an approved panel, the whole thing needs to be inspected. And I can already tell you have a major problem, the neutral wire is bare so the wire needs to be replaced". After further inspection the neutral wire was bare from the box to the meter, and the meter to the pole. It was bare even buried underground.  This was a 1960s job so not to shocking. But anyway, we were told that to pass our inspection we had to bring this panel up to code. To say we my partner (now wife) at the time were pissed is an understatement.

We go back and review our documents because something did not sit right (8 months into new house). Turns out the seller marked "All improvements to the house were done with a permit". Big no-no lie. Lawyers involved on both sides. We got him to pay for the entire fix.

But it turns out it gets even better. So we hired this guy to run a new buried line, ~100 ft from pole to the existing meter location. We were going to replace everything with a new box, new digital smart meter, etc. Everything was going to stay in the existing location. They dig the trench 2' down, lay the cable, bury it to the house, and then start ripping out the old panel. We would be out of power for maybe a day.

It was a good thing I was home that day. So a little bit of description or orientation. The electrical panel was in the master bedroom in a corner of the house, the closest corner to the power pole, more or less. The panel basically sat, now in the inside, right up into the wall corner on one side, and on the other side was a 9' wide window. The electrical guys start ripping out the wall underneath the old panel since the new panel will be taller. After it is ripped out the worker inside starts doing something that shakes the entire window from the outside. I was standing outside and my 9'x4' window was shaking like it was the top of a drum after being hit. Seeing glass shake like that was terrifying. I run inside and yell for him to stop.

Once inside, I am standing there figuring out what he is doing. He is chipping away a wood stud so the new taller panel can fit. I kind of get nervous. Then I inspect this situation some more (with the wall opened up) and the old panel was installed the same way. About an 1" of the stud through the most of the 3.5" deep was chipped away.  Turns out, most new electrical panels are 14.25" wide. I measured the cavity between the studs, 13.25". In order for the panel to fit in the 13.25" cavity, this stud had to be chipped. The other stud could not because it was in the corner. The panel couldn't move anymore into the corner. We had a big problem.

Well, after a bit of looking at this after everyone calmed down, it was further determined this stud was the king stud for the window framing. So not only did the previous electrician wire this all up hot without a permit, the electrician chipped away at a key window framing stud without any hesitation. What did this mean? It meant that the electrical wiring could not exist in that wall cavity. I looked for a 13" wide box, but I could not find one. What about outside? There was now not enough space between the corner and window side to be up to code. We had to move the meter and interior box. We had to move it to another corner. That meant the wire that was already laid down had to be dug up again, and then a new trench dug to the new location. An exterior panel was installed with the meter, and then a 200-amp line was run into the garage. This was the only place we could put the new panel without ripping up a deck, or moving the pole our service came from.

Long story - we didn't pay a dime for any of this. And it was expensive (double trenches). Lawyers were involved, with the smoking gun an actual receipt of the work done by the licensed electrician, no record of permit, and the seller's disclosure saying all improvements were permitted. It took months to sort this out.

Bottom line: do not have a box replaced without a permit. Just don't do it. And if you must insist, I guess you will have to mark "No" to whether all improvements were done with proper permits when selling.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: RWD on October 12, 2021, 10:16:17 AM
I'm curious though, do you ask all of these questions on multiple forums? How do you not drive yourself insane with constantly fielding so many different kinds of responses?
I think jeromedawg might hold the record for most threads started on these forums now. 631 topics! The next closest I could find was arebelspy at 602 topics started.
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on October 13, 2021, 07:02:26 PM
I'm curious though, do you ask all of these questions on multiple forums? How do you not drive yourself insane with constantly fielding so many different kinds of responses?
I think jeromedawg might hold the record for most threads started on these forums now. 631 topics! The next closest I could find was arebelspy at 602 topics started.

You're probably right lol. I start a thread for every new problem I have when it comes to house crap. It's ridiculous. I started a journal for it too. On that note, regarding this stupid panel, I heard back from the power company and they are giving me 2 options basically:

1) Move gas line to the outside AND modify your existing closet to conform to code with the updated panel, which means leveling out the floor of the closet (in which case there's currently a step) and a number of other things to match the dimensions they spell out in their requirements

2) Move/relocate the electric panel/meter outside of the closet which will then require trenching and laying larger conduit...

Both options are completely on my dime. Pick your poison.


smh... surprise after surprise...
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: PMJL34 on October 14, 2021, 11:50:05 AM
Bummer. Option 2 seems to be faster and cheaper. Good luck!
Title: Re: Zinsco box called out on inspection report from insurance
Post by: jeromedawg on October 15, 2021, 08:39:30 AM
Bummer. Option 2 seems to be faster and cheaper. Good luck!

I'm not sure. The other electricians I've spoken with seem to make trenching out to be something that costs thousands. I don't know to what extent I'd have to alter the closet and what that would cost though either... I'm guessing Option 2 would be faster but more expensive and Option 1 would take longer but cost less.