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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 the late 1940s through 1970. We have heard that the breakers were manufactured up until the mid-1980s, but have never seen a Pushmatic panel in a home built after the '60s. So any panel still around is a minimum of 50 years old, and probably much more. Unfortunately, we know of no serial number to decode for the exact age, but you can use our article How do I determine the age of an electrical panel? to find clues that will help you get the approximate year of manufacture.
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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