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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I keep hearing about those panels being bashed by inspectors (most of them have only a remote knowledge of electricity) saying "They are not CSA approved anymore" and must be replaced. Before someone makes a declaration like this I would like to see the test results and statistics of which panels or breakers were tested, what was the batch number, the serial number range or any other identifying information.
I think, before anyone says "This panel must be changed", that person must test the breakers first and then tell that they are dangerous.
Also, a professional electrician must give a choice (or solution) to change the whole panel or only the bad breakers?
I would like to hear from electricians with knowledge and experience of testing those breakers that are "DANGEROUS", not their gut feeling or guessing.
 

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Estwing magic
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Test a breaker? How? Nobody’s going to send a crummy old breaker to a proper test lab for testing, especially one that costs eight dollars fresh and new.

Most electrical contractors will base a decision on experience and very few will try to scare a customer into a panel change. A homeowner always has the option to get different opinions. Homeowners, however, will pay big money on flooring, plumbing fixtures and countertops and ignore the electrical. Nobody throws a party to brag about their new electrical panel.

Thank you for filling out your profile.
 

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There is NO CEC requirement to change out those obsolete panels. At least in MB.
Breakers for Sylvania, Commander, ITE Blueline, Federal, Bulldog are expensive and in some cases no longer available. We can not install new AFCI breakers in Federal, but can replace any existing which require so. Other brands don't even have AFCIs but there are workarounds to enable us to add to these.
Some of the Federal breakers had a recall many years ago and while Federal has the worst reputation of not tripping on overloads, I have found occasional breakers, of every manufacturer, which do not trip.

The small residential type breakers don't have serial numbers and AFAIK, don't have batch codes.

Personally, I wouldn't recommend changing a panel unless there was physical damage or a major number of additional circuits. The cost of some of these orphans can be exorbitant.

I realize as an engineer, you are looking for definitive answers, however there isn't a one answer covers all scenario.
 
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The is a lot of evidence on Federal Pacific but I had not heard about Federal Pioneer. Federal Pacific is the US version of Pioneer but I didn't know they were suspect
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
There is NO CEC requirement to change out those obsolete panels. At least in MB.
Breakers for Sylvania, Commander, ITE Blueline, Federal, Bulldog are expensive and in some cases no longer available. We can not install new AFCI breakers in Federal, but can replace any existing which require so. Other brands don't even have AFCIs but there are workarounds to enable us to add to these.
Some of the Federal breakers had a recall many years ago and while Federal has the worst reputation of not tripping on overloads, I have found occasional breakers, of every manufacturer, which do not trip.

The small residential type breakers don't have serial numbers and AFAIK, don't have batch codes.

Personally, I wouldn't recommend changing a panel unless there was physical damage or a major number of additional circuits. The cost of some of these orphans can be exorbitant.

I realize as an engineer, you are looking for definitive answers, however there isn't a one answer covers all scenario.
Thank you for your answer. I agree with what you say. The reason I put the question out this way is that the building inspectors scare the new homeowners and say they must replace the panel. I am an immigrant in Canada and might not be familiar with some stuff here, but from what I have seen here in Montreal scared me. Wires in the panels that are going across from one corner to another diagonally, main feeding cable insulation almost cut by the panel edge, connection box with wires bringing power from two different breakers...I have heard that QBH breakers fit the commander panel (haven't checked myself). Wouldn't it be easier to replace faulty (or even all) breakers instead of replacing the whole panel. When the inspector says Commander panels (breakers) are no more CSA approved, I say but the one installed 15 years ago was approved. Maybe the resent ones are not good because they are made in China?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Test a breaker? How? Nobody’s going to send a crummy old breaker to a proper test lab for testing, especially one that costs eight dollars fresh and new.

Most electrical contractors will base a decision on experience and very few will try to scare a customer into a panel change. A homeowner always has the option to get different opinions. Homeowners, however, will pay big money on flooring, plumbing fixtures and countertops and ignore the electrical. Nobody throws a party to brag about their new electrical panel.

Thank you for filling out your profile.
Yes, the properly installed panel is more important to me than the nice kitchen sink. My wife is a real estate broker and every inspector who saw a Commander panel told her this must be changed. There are many ways to test the breakers (not from Canadian experience, I personally used electric motor with a brake and amperemeter) without sending to a lab, but I agree that $8 breaker is not worth the move.
 

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Estwing magic
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Here is the memo from Eaton on replacement breakers in Canada. It can be easy to replace breakers. The difficulty with some older panels (Westinghouse Nova Line for example) is that the wiring space was very limited. You can be guaranteed that, if there was any DIY work done, it will be a mess. Even if they were only touched by legitimate electricians, if the breaker spaces are near capacity, it’s difficult to avoid a mess. New panels have much more space to work with.

 

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Here is the memo from Eaton on replacement breakers in Canada. It can be easy to replace breakers. The difficulty with some older panels (Westinghouse Nova Line for example) is that the wiring space was very limited. You can be guaranteed that, if there was any DIY work done, it will be a mess. Even if they were only touched by legitimate electricians, if the breaker spaces are near capacity, it’s difficult to avoid a mess. New panels have much more space to work with.

That's a nice chart!
Thanks
 

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Thank you for your answer. I agree with what you say. The reason I put the question out this way is that the building inspectors scare the new homeowners and say they must replace the panel. I am an immigrant in Canada and might not be familiar with some stuff here, but from what I have seen here in Montreal scared me. Wires in the panels that are going across from one corner to another diagonally, main feeding cable insulation almost cut by the panel edge, connection box with wires bringing power from two different breakers...I have heard that QBH breakers fit the commander panel (haven't checked myself). Wouldn't it be easier to replace faulty (or even all) breakers instead of replacing the whole panel. When the inspector says Commander panels (breakers) are no more CSA approved, I say but the one installed 15 years ago was approved. Maybe the resent ones are not good because they are made in China?
There is a big difference between condemning the panel as a whole, and condemning the wiring in that panel. Old panels can still be in decent shape electrically. It's not just old panels that have improper wiring practices.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thank you for your answer. I agree with what you say. The reason I put the question out this way is that the building inspectors scare the new homeowners and say they must replace the panel. I am an immigrant in Canada and might not be familiar with some stuff here, but from what I have seen here in Montreal scared me. Wires in the panels that are going across from one corner to another diagonally, main feeding cable insulation almost cut by the panel edge, connection box with wires bringing power from two different breakers...I have heard that QBH breakers fit the commander panel (haven't checked myself). Wouldn't it be easier to replace faulty (or even all) breakers instead of replacing the whole panel. When the inspector says Commander panels (breakers) are no more CSA approved, I say but the one installed 15 years ago was approved. Maybe the resent ones are not good because they are made in China?
Correction, not QBH, BQL2100
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
In my area, Pittsburgh, PA., home insurance companies like State Farm will not insure a house with Federal Pacific Pushmatic or Stab-Loc.
The city of Pittsburgh and most inspectors in the surrounding area will not pass those panels.
That's all I need to know, testing is a non issue.
It is worst here in Quebec, but do you agree that it is not fair to the homeowners who have those panels installed and working well? Specially ones that had the breakers replaced to the conforming types?
 

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It is worst here in Quebec, but do you agree that it is not fair to the homeowners who have those panels installed and working well? Specially ones that had the breakers replaced to the conforming types?
Yes, and expensive. I have seen Pushmatic that would not trip even when hot and neutral were wire nutted together. Some nut, not me, tried it on a job once., almost caught the place on fire.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Yes, and expensive. I have seen Pushmatic that would not trip even when hot and neutral were wire nutted together. Some nut, not me, tried it on a job once., almost caught the place on fire.
I check the temperature of my breakers regularly with electronic thermometer. So far had no change between ambient and breaker temperatures for more then 0.7 C° on small loads (15A) and 1.5 C° on big loads (30-100 A). I do not think the breaker just decides to burn one day. If it is defective, it must show higher temperature difference under the load, unless the defect is not bad contacts, but just a bad production. I agree that if the contacts are cooked, that breaker will not trip under any circumstance. But if the temperatures under the load are not high, then in my opinion those should be OK. But then again, I am not the insurance company owner.
 

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My POV is that these panels have known issues with them, not saying all breakers are defective but at the end of the day spending the 1300 or so to swap it out for a new panel board is worth the money. Because it’s a lot cheaper than replacing everything in your house 🏠
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
My POV is that these panels have known issues with them, not saying all breakers are defective but at the end of the day spending the 1300 or so to swap it out for a new panel board is worth the money. Because it’s a lot cheaper than replacing everything in your house 🏠
A new 200A panel cost is about $600 that comes with 10 15A breakers and 1 of each 30A and 40A. The replacement breakers cost for the same amount of breaker set that comes with the new panel is $500 (prices taken from Home Depot). To replace all breakers in a 200A panel will take about 2 hours max, if one knows what he is doing. To replace a panel will take about 6 hours. So which way is cheaper? Not mentioning that many people can replace their breakers themselves (not that I recommend doing so).
 

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Since you're in Quebec, the gestapo there have laws that prevent you from working on electrical.

So yer kinda SOL buddy.

I only glanced over this thread, but is there a question in here somewhere ?
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Since you're in Quebec, the gestapo there have laws that prevent you from working on electrical.

So yer kinda SOL buddy.

I only glanced over this thread, but is there a question in here somewhere ?
The initial question was what is the right thing to do:
1. Replace the panel
2. Replace all breaker
3. Test and replace the faulty ones
4. Hire a lawyer and fight insurance companies
5. Fight with the home inspector that makes a declaration that "This is a Commander panel and must be replaced".

I am a retired Electrical Engineer and have hard time taking blunt declarations.
 
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