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3 Reasons You Should Upgrade Pushmatic Breaker Panels

by Theresa Burke

How much do you know about your home's electrical panel? Most people know that older homes used fuse boxes in place of breaker panels, but fewer realize that breaker panels have also gone through several iterations. Any Pushmatic panel still in service is likely to be many decades old, as this design was most common when many residential buildings still used fuse panels instead of breakers.

These panels are relatively distinctive since their method of operation differs substantially from modern designs. Instead of flipping a switch to turn a breaker on and off, you push a button. If you have a panel like this in your home, here are three reasons why you should consider replacing it as soon as you can.

1. Age

Like most things in your home, electrical panels have an expected service life. You should plan to replace your panel every 20-30 years or ensure that you schedule routine inspections by an electrician for older panels. Since Pushmatic-style fell out of favor many years ago, any panel still in a home is likely to be well beyond its expected service life.

Your electrical panels are critical to protect your home's wiring and prevent fires, so keeping an old and outdated panel can potentially lead to disaster. Age alone is a reasonable reason to replace these outdated designs. Even if installing a new panel seems too expensive, you should have a qualified electrician inspect and test your Pushmatic breakers to ensure correct operation.

2. Mechanical Issues

Your circuit breakers must correctly function when you need to reset one or turn it off manually. The internal design of Pushmatic-style circuit breakers can lead to mechanical failures that make the push button challenging to operate. It may be hard to press the button or tell whether you've successfully disengaged a breaker.

These mechanical issues can be especially problematic if the indicator flag fails. This flag tells you the state of the circuit so that a stuck flag can lead to potentially dangerous situations. For example, you may believe you've turned a circuit off even if that breaker is still on.

3. Replacement Costs

As with any outdated piece of equipment, finding replacement parts for a Pushmatic panel can be challenging. Newer breakers may not work with your panel, and other components may only be available used or by special order. As a result, you may pay more over the long run to keep your electrical panel working than you would to replace it with a newer design.

Pushmatic electrical panels use a design long superseded by better options. If you have one of these panels in your home, have an electrician inspect it as soon as possible and consider installing a replacement as soon as you can afford one. 

For more info, contact a company like Mr. Obsolete.