Q: I recently inherited a Miami area property from my grandparents’ estate. The house was built in the 1940s, renovated in the early 1970s and late 1990s, and has come through hurricanes and other hazards just fine. The problem is the electrical panel. It was made by a company called Zinsco-Sylvania and I was turned down for insurance because of this thing three separate times! Is there any insurance company that will insure an older home in great condition aside from this one thing? The electrical panel works just fine, and I don’t see why it’s an issue. What insurance will insure a Zinsco panel?
A: It’s hard to say what insurance will insure a Zinsco panel, because it’s not just the panel that’s the problem – though it is a well-documented issue – it’s the wiring and the breakers. Even if there’s a company that will insure the home, the presence of that panel means that your premiums could be much higher. Why? These panels and aluminum wiring cause some big problems – they cause fires. Zinsco-Sylvania is not the only older panel with problems, either. The Zinsco-Sylvania panels are past their lifespan as the last panels were installed in the late 1970s – the newest ones are 40 years old! The safety standards back then were not as stringent as they are now. Among the issues with these panels are that the breakers can appear to be off when the panel is still powered, the bus bar corrodes, aluminum wiring oxidizes on its own, but can experience galvanic corrosion when unanodized aluminum is joined to copper wire or steel wire without an appropriate bridge.
This might not be what you want to hear, but it’s time to put serious thought into replacing the panels and wiring throughout your house. After all, someone did it in the 1970s to get rid of the old-style fuse box and knob and wire. The house has been lucky so far, but that luck might not hold forever on 40+-year-old wiring. If you’re going to sell the home, there are not many inspectors who would write a clean inspection report with that Zinsco box still in place. If you’re going to occupy the home, you’ll run into the same problem – no insurance company is likely to want the risk that the panel represents. If you are going to rent the home, and the home sustains damage from a fire caused by the old wiring and breaker box, you could be on the hook for material damages to your tenant’s belongings and injuries to your tenants
Rewiring and replacing a fuse box is not a DIY job, but a job for a licensed electrical contractor and electrician. The work must be inspected and approved before it can be insured, too. Come in and talk to an independent insurance agent about how to correct issues with your home that are getting in the way of your homeowner’s policy. We want you to be safe in your home and have peace of mind that comes with good coverage.