The Truth about Challenger Residential Panels. Are Challenger Panels Safe?

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From Left to Right Zinsco Style Q, Challenger Style C, FPE Style NA, Half Size Challenger Style A

I have seen so many articles stating Challenger panels are not safe and you will be at risk of an electrical fire. These articles will usually focus on Zinsco and Federal Pacific Panels. These articles that state the challenger panels should be replaced with a New Panel are not true in many cases.

The Most Common Challenger Plug-in Residential Circuit Breaker is Type C. Although the Challenger style is obsolete, Eaton has them Available with the Challenger Part Number with the UL tag so there will not be a problem with an inspector. Circuit Breakers in your panel should be manufactured by the same manufacture as the panel itself. If you have a Challenger panel, the Breakers are supposed to be Challenger.

All of the circuit breakers in the images are available New and are approved to install in the Challenger panels

What can be done if the Circuit Breakers are obsolete, can I use an interchangeable Circuit Breakers? Eaton Type BR is approved in Challenger Panels as long as the part number is on the breaker. Older versions of the BR do not.

If you look at the picture of the four different Circuit Breakers used in the Challenger Panels, you can see just offering the type C may be incorrect. This is why we ask for more information or pictures prior to taking orders. Most people do not have the expertise necessary to do this.

Challenger also used FPE and Zinsco Circuit Breakers in many Residential Panels and these are the ones that have had trouble according to many experts. 

The Zinsco Style may be labeled as Zinsco, Challenger or Sylvaina. The full size is type Q and the two ploes are type QC. The half Size is R38 for 1 poles and RC38 for 2 poles. The full part number is either Q for 1 Poles and QC for 2 Poles. For 1 Poles the part number is Q and then the amperage (Q20) and the two poles are QC and then the Amperage (QC20). For Half size 2- 1 poles is R38-20 for 2- 20 amps (R38-20) and RC38-20 for a 2 Pole 20 amp (rc38-20)

Actual Challenger Circuit Breakers Type C and Type A

The Challenger Style is Type C is the full size and the half size with the hook (left ot right side) is Type A. To order these, the full part number is either C or A, then the number of Poles and then the Amperage so for a full size 20 amp 1 pole, it is C120 or A120(R or L) add R or L suffix to identify what side you need the hook to be on. R for right side and L for left side.

Challenger panels with FPE Circuit Breakers

The Federal Pacific Style is type NA for full Size and NC for half size. to order these these full size 20 amp 1 pole is NA and then the amperage NA20 and the half size is NC20. 2 Poles are a little different, For full size it is NA then the number of poles and then the Amperage NA220 and half size is NC220

Challenger Panels with Zinsco or Federal Pacific Circuit Breakers

These panels are the primary panels of concern. From our experience, The Zinsco Circuit Breakers are not the problem, it is the connection to the busbar. If your busbar gets pitted by a poor connection due to the design of the Circuit Breaker, there are replacement busbar kits available. Brand new Circuit Breaker replacements are also available

When it comes to FPE, we have seen many Circuit Breakers that will not trip. If you can change out these panels, it would be suggested.