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If I type "electrical panel lifespan" into Google, I get a lot of results from electrical service providers that panels and circuit breakers both wear our after several decades, and require replacement. Some suggest as short as 25 years!

I'm more than a little skeptical of this. I don't know of anything in the NEC that requires replacement of a panel or breakers. Also, given the source, I suspect a large conflict of interest is at work here, and these electricians are attempt to install fear into people to sell them a product they don't need.

Is there any serious merit to this? I've no doubt that a breaker that trips all the time might need to be replaced, but in all the houses I've lived, breaker trips are rare.

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  • Was the claim merely that electrical panels can need replacement after 25-40 years (which can be true) or that they usually need replacement after that timeframe (which is definitely not true)? And possibly part of the bias is that these electricians often find themselves replacing 25-40 year old panels (probably sometimes just because they're out of breaker slots), but they're not thinking about all the 60 year old panels they're never called in to replace.
    – Nate S.
    Mar 23, 2021 at 15:09
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    And I mean, you're asking us to comment on these sources you found, but you're not linking to them and expecting all of us to go find them ourselves? That's... not very helpful. On this site, we expect all relevant details to be added to the question, not to tell potential answerers to figure it our for ourselves because you can't be bothered to link any of the examples you've already found.
    – Nate S.
    Mar 23, 2021 at 18:28
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    The reason I asked you to give links is because Google results vary based on location and your previous searches, and what I'm seeing isn't lining up with what you're describing. It would also take you ten seconds to drop a few links of examples of what you're talking about, and I have no idea why you're refusing to do so.
    – Nate S.
    Mar 23, 2021 at 20:40
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    For example, this page (hedgehogelectric.com/blog/2019/june/…) says panels have an average lifespan of 25-40 years, but only recommends inspection at that point, and is one point of an 11 point list to determine if a panel should be replaced. This page (improvementcenter.com/electrical/…) says 60 years is average.
    – Nate S.
    Mar 23, 2021 at 20:45
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    The site's help center explicitly states that a good question should not only have been proceeded by research, which you say you've done, and I believe that you have, but that you should also share that research to give those who are volunteering their time to answer your question a better understanding of what your knowledge is and what it is that may be leading to the confusion you're asking about. I'm pretty sure that's what @NateS. was asking for, though he may not have been quite that explicit in his request.
    – FreeMan
    Mar 24, 2021 at 11:57

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I suspect part of the problem may be AFCI, GFCI and other recent advancements. A simple panel is totally passive - as long as there are no loose connections causing sparks/arcs, and actual breaker trips are not very frequent, there is little to wear out.

However, code has changed over the last few decades to mandate AFCI and GFCI protection. Breakers which include AFCI and/or GFCI protection have complex electronics - in many cases actual microcontrollers - and are therefore much more susceptible to wearing out, just like any other complex electronic device. In fact, many of these devices now have built-in automatic testing to help avoid surprises.

On the other hand, I have read many times that typical large appliances (refrigerator, dishwasher, clothes washer, dryer, etc.) have 10 - 15 year lifetimes. But those devices can often be kept running far longer with relatively minor repairs. In other words, YMMV.

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    My breakers don't have "Best Before" dates on them, so I'm also very skeptical of having to replace them periodically. I thus think it's safe to assume that properly listed breakers will either fail their self-tests or fail safe (trip once they "wear our"). It sounds crazy for the authorities to approve a product that relies on periodic replacement for safety, without clear instructions to the consumer when to do so.
    – TooTea
    Mar 23, 2021 at 7:48
  • They are mechanical, but unless things are tripping, there is no wear & tear on the parts. And trips should be few & far between - in the last 10 years (maybe longer) except when I've messed up while working on something (i.e., put it all back together, turn on, immediate trip), I've had probably 3 or 4 trips on individual circuits (different circuit each time). There really shouldn't be wear & tear, unless arcing/sparking/trips/poor installation/etc. Mar 23, 2021 at 19:09

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