How old is a Pushmatic electrical panel? Is it safe?

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Although the Pushmatic breaker design was first produced in the late 1930s, most panels and breakers date from about 1950 through 1970. We have heard that they were manufactured up until the mid-1980s, but have never seen a Pushmatic in a home built after the '60s. So any panel still around is a minimum of 50 years old, and probably much more. We came across one in a house built in the late 1940s a few years ago, making it over 70 years old.

    Instead of throwing a switch to turn a Pushmatic breaker off, you push a button. Push it again and the breaker comes back on. A small indicator beside the button tells you whether it's is on or off. Unfortunately, as these panels age the indicator “flag” tends to stop working. They are mechanical devices from another era, and not intended to survive this long. Also, the breakers use only a thermal breaker design, while modern breakers have both a thermal and magnetic trip mechanism. And there’s more: if these old breakers are not “exercised” occasionally, they became stiff and difficult to trip or reset. Although not considered unsafe because of the breaker design, Pushmatic components have become unreliable with age and replacement is recommended.

    Pushmatic breakers were originally manufactured by the Bulldog Electric Products Company, which was taken over by I-T-E in the 1950s, so the equipment may have a Bulldog or I-T-E imprint on it. And because I-T-E absorbed Walker Electrical at around the same time, some older Walker panels will have I-T-E Pushmatic breaker.

    Also, see our blog posts Who is the manufacturer of those "bad" electric panels? and How old is a Wadsworth breaker panel? and Why are Zinsco and Sylvania-Zinsco electric panels a problem? and How old is a Walker EQ Load Center electrical panel? Is it unsafe? and Why are Challenger electrical panels not insurable?

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Here’s links to a collection of our other blog posts about ELECTRIC PANELS:

What causes copper wires to turn green or black in an electric panel?  

What is the maximum number of circuit breakers allowed in an electric panel?

When should a corroded or damaged electric panel cabinet or disconnect box be replaced? 

What is a tandem circuit breaker? 

When did arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) breakers first become required?

Can an electric panel be located in a bathroom? 

Can you add circuit breakers by different manufacturers to an electric panel if they fit?

My circuit breaker won't reset. What's wrong?  

What is a split bus electric panel?

How do I identify a combination AFCI (CAFCI) circuit breaker? 

•  What is the maximum gap allowed between the front of a recessed electric panel box and the wall surface surrounding it? 

What are the requirements for NM-cables entering an electric panel box?

Why is a fuse box/panel an insurance problem for homebuyers? 

Why is bundled wiring in an electric panel a defect?

What is the difference between GFCI and AFCI circuit breakers? 

Why are old electrical components not always "grandfathered" as acceptable by home inspectors?

What happens when you press the "TEST" button on a circuit breaker in an electric panel?

What is a Dual Function Circuit Interrupter (DFCI)? 

What is the difference between a Combination Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (CAFCI) and an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) circuit breaker?  

What is the difference between "grounded" and "grounding" electrical conductors? 

Why is an old fuse panel dangerous?  

Who is the manufacturer of those "bad" electric panels?

Why is the circuit breaker stuck in the middle? 

What is the life expectancy of a circuit breaker? 

My circuit breaker won't reset. What's wrong? 

Why do some breakers in my electric panel have a "TEST" button on them?

What is the right size electric panel for a house? 

• What do I need to know about buying a whole house surge protector? 

What is the maximum allowed height of a circuit breaker (OCPD) above the floor?

• What is the maximum height you can mount an electric panel above the floor? 

• What is the code required clearance in front of an electric panel?

What is the main bonding jumper and where do it find it in an electric panel? 

   Visit our ELECTRIC PANELS and ELECTRICAL - OLD AND OBSOLETE pages for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles. 

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