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Let's say I am at a house from 1951 that happens to have a Zinsco panel, and it won't replaced for some time.

If I purchase a power strip/surge protector from a name brand manufacturer (e.g. Tripp Lite) that contains a 15A resettable circuit breaker, will that afford me any significant protection in the event of an electrical fault in a device connected downstream of the power strip? Would this approach offer any mitigation for the issues the breaker panel presents?

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One of the more common problems with Zinsco breakers is that they don't trip under an overloaded or fault condition. Using a power strip would provide some overload /fault protection but you'd need them at every outlet. Then consider that light fixtures, switches, washers, dryers, pool pumps, etc. can experience faults. How are you going to protect those? You can't.

There's also the insurance problem. I just had an inspection done at my house for homeowners insurance and the electric was part of the inspection. Before the inspector came out he asked if I had a Zinsco or Federal Pacific panel. I told him "no, that I had a Culter-Hammer". He said good because he wouldn't even come out for the inspection if I had one of those two because no insurance company would give a policy.

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  • Yup, and the worst case for Zinsco is a 2-pole 240V breaker. When one half tries to trip the other half, the internal mechanism will "tram" in its track and bind up. Jul 14, 2022 at 0:45
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It might provide some protection from the device to the receptacle, but will not protect the wires inside the wall.

If the device shorts, good. If short in the wall, very bad.

One 15 amp power strip will not protect the whole house or even the whole circuit, so how many will you have to buy, 10 or 20.

Price for a better panel starts to look better.

Replacing a panel is not rocket science, you can probably do most of the work yourself and just needs inspection, depending on local regulations.

Power needs to be off before the panel, but some power companies will turn off your power for free, just ask a few weeks before to schedule.

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