Challenger Breaker Panels were installed in thousands of homes in the 1980s and 1990s. Most of the issues in these panels were actually caused by their breakers. Issues from these breakers include:

- Insufficient tripping (not tripping when there is an issue present)

- Overheating

- Melting

- Sometimes: House fires.

Issues I have personally witnessed with these breakers and panels include:

- Dryers losing power

- Intermittent light flickering

- Live breakers which should have tripped

- Melted breakers

- Power issues

- So much damage to the bus bar that the panel had to be replaced

Although these breakers were recalled, many homeowners are not even aware that their panel could be an issue.

Here are some images of one of the Challenger panels I replaced due to overheating/melting of breakers which ruined the bus bar:

Identifying a Challenger Panel: If you want to check if your panel is a Challenger panel, you can check your breakers. The breakers should say Challenger, or if you open your panel door, there should be a brand label listed as Challenger. If you're unsure, you can send us an email and we would be glad to identify your panel brand for you. If you do have a Challenger panel, we do recommend replacing the panel, or at minimum replacing the breakers (if the bus bar does not have damage), as they do pose significant risk.

Challenger isn’t the only panel brand with dangers. Other hazardous panel brands include: Zinsco, Pushmatic, and Federal Pacific. If you have any panels under these names, please hire a licensed electrician to at least have a look. If you do not have a panel with this brand, it is still a smart idea to get your panel bus checked to ensure that there is no corrosion, rust, or other damage.

To read more about these recalls, here's a link to another good article: CLICK HERE.


Lead Electrician Gloudeman Electric, LLC

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What’s that on your inspection sheet, and is it really that important to fix? Great question. An inspector's job when looking at your electrical system (or the system of a home you're looking at buying) is to find anything that is against electrical code; it is their duty as inspectors to ensure that everything of concern is noted.

Some items may include: open junction boxes, exposed splices, ungrounded electrical panels, ungrounded “open” plugs/switches, reverse polarity, etc. Below I'll get into the "what's that?" of some of these inspection list items and why they're important.

  • Open/missing ground. The purpose of a ground is to safely transfer any unsafe faults back to their source, and to quickly trip (open) a breaker to stop the power from flowing. If there is no ground, then the above isn't possible, which can lead to hazardous situations.

  • Exposed splices/open j (junction) box. Any type of electrical connections (where you might see wire nuts making connections/splices) need to be safely contained inside of a box. When there is an exposed connection (wire connections outside of a junction box), it opens up a potential hazard for other tradesman/homeowners that come in proximity of these splices. Some potentially dangerous situations include if the wires were to get wet, if a rodent were to chew them, or if the connections were to become loose. Since the wires are exposed, these situations could create potential for a fire.

  • Reverse polarity. Reverse polarity means that the electricity is flowing on the wrong terminals of the receptacle (means that the electricity was wired "backwards"). This happens when the “hot” wire (also known as the black or red wire) is wired on the neutral side and the neutral wire is wired on the “hot” side. I'll offer a few examples as to why this is bad. When a lamp is plugged into a reverse polarity outlet, the lamp socket will have power even if the lamp is switched off. In another example, say your toaster was plugged into an outlet that was wired in reverse. If you were to stick your knife in the toaster to retrieve your toast, you could get shocked if your knife were to touch the metal. Essentially, reverse polarity leaves items that normally wouldn’t be energized with voltage.

  • Undersized breakers. Breakers are rated for a certain amount of current to pass through them. When a breaker has more current running on it than it is rated for it will trip. This said, the correct wire size is needed for a breaker. For a 15 amp breaker, the circuit should have 15 amp wire (and so on). To give a picture of why this matters, if you had a hose and cranked up the water pressure inside the hose, and shrunk it, eventually that hose would burst. The same goes for wire. Eventually the wire's insulation would melt and heat, causing a hazardous situation. This is why the size of a breaker and the wire it is on matters.

I hope this has given some insight into a potentially confusing inspection report. If you're wondering how your home stacks up, even if you aren't thinking of selling, I do offer electrical system inspections (in-depth inspections as well as panel and surface inspections). Above all, you reading this means you care about your home's safety and are an informed-homeowner--good job!


Lead Electrician

Gloudeman Electric, LLC

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A tripping breaker is a nuisance! We’ve all been there. You get up to use a light switch, go to plug your favorite blender in, or open the fridge--only to see that the power is off. Keep reading to learn a little about breakers and what to do if one trips.

Breakers have come a long way. Until the 1960s, fuses were used instead of breakers. With fuses, if there was an electrical hazard, the fuse would pop and have to be replaced once the issue was solved. Nowadays, we can reset a tripped breaker and it will still function once the issues are solved.

What can cause a breaker to trip? There are many things that can set off a breaker. Here are a few examples:

  • If your home's hot (live) wire touches a metal part of your appliance, the ground wire provides a path back to your panel, from there the excess current causes the breaker to safely trip, alerting you to a hazard.

  • If you have too many items (lights, appliances) running on a single circuit, it can cause an overload.

  • Water can get into a plug or fixture, which alerts your system of a hazard and can trip a breaker.

What can you as a homeowner do to troubleshoot? For starters, you can make sure all of the switches on the affected circuit are turned in the off position. This ensures that you’ve eliminated your light fixtures as the problem. Another thing you can do is unplug anything on the circuit that is tripped (appliances, phone chargers, etc.). Once you unplug all items and turn off all switches, go back to your panel and reset the breaker. If it resets successfully without tripping again, plug in whatever it is you unplugged one item at a time, checking each time to see if the breaker trips again. If it does not, you’ve now isolated the issue to your lighting circuit. Turn on the switches one at a time, with the same method as above (checking to see if the breaker trips after turning on each switch). Once you’ve identified which part of your house is affected, you may use that breaker for all other items until your electrician gets there.

If your breaker still trips after turning off all lights and unplugging all items, it probably means there's something else going on internally and we'd recommend keeping the breaker off until an electrician comes.

Hope this helps!


Lead Electrician

Gloudeman Electric, LLC

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