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December 29, 2011

Updating The Electrical In Mom’s 1950s Time Capsule Condo

By Sara In AZ

I guess I have learned, in the process of remodeling this condo, that not all vintage things are “good”. Like old gas heaters, which we will discuss in a future post, and old electrical panels.

Mom and I  were pretty much warned by everyone who saw the fuse box that we had better replace it pronto or we could have a BIG problem on our hands. I was waiting for it to just explode into a big ball of flames one day, that’s how scared of it I was!

Here is the “vintage” electrical panel in all of it’s glory.


We had a Zinsco panel and the electrician knew exactly what it was as soon as he saw it. He said they used these panels A LOT back in the day, but they are not really reliable for tripping the fuse in case you have a problem. He told us  sometimes a fuse would only halfway trip, so then it would just be there smoldering. And smoldering, and smoldering………………………..and then – well you can guess what happens next.


So we pretty much said get this old panel outta here!!!

I never realized all the work and coordination that went into changing out and upgrading the fuse box. The electrician had to get permits, which took a while. Then he had to coordinate with the city to come out and inspect everything before we had any work done, then he had to coordinate with the electric company to turn off  all the power and take the power lines down the day all the work was getting done, then the city had to come back and inspect! Sheesh! Here I thought they were just going to come and slap a new fuse box on the wall! Boy, was I ever wrong!!!

Here are said power lines disconnected from the condo.


While we were at it we also had them install an actual outlet in the bathroom, as the only outlet in the bathroom was was the single plug outlet in the bathroom light. Not really convenient for all of our modern day bathroom items like electric toothbrushes and blow dryers and flat irons etc.


We received a new, super tall, mast on the roof in the process of upgrading the fuse box.

Hmmmmmm, it’s almost just like a palm tree isn’t it! 🙂


And here she is, our pride and joy – the new fuse box!!!


Ahhhhhhhhh, yes much, much better.


You know what’s sad? Mom now has a MUCH better and larger fuse box for her tiny condo than I have for my bigger 1970s house!!! I think that’s pretty hee-larious!

Come back next Thursday when we start our painting extravaganza!!!

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14 Responses to Updating The Electrical In Mom’s 1950s Time Capsule Condo

  1. Eartha Kitsch Reply

    December 29, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Yay! for no fires! Of course now I worry because we didn’t get any permits…and the city didn’t come out…nothing. Our guy just slapped a new box up. Is that smoke I smell?

    • Sara in AZ Reply

      December 29, 2011 at 6:54 pm

      HA! Yes, yay for no fires! I sure you are completely fine. I’ll bet it is just done differently in different areas in regards to the permits and stuff.

  2. Annie B. Reply

    December 29, 2011 at 4:56 pm


    What a nightmare! All that electrical spaghetti in the old box gives me the willies. The new box for Mom is certainly worth all those hoops you had to go through, though.

    Happy New Year to you and yours!!

    • Sara in AZ Reply

      December 29, 2011 at 6:57 pm

      Annie!!!! Nice to see you back around these parts, it’s been a while!

      That old box definitely had to go, and just looking at these pics is making me even more happy we have the new one!

      Happy New Year to you and yours as well!

  3. Onyx Reply

    December 29, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    This is disturbing to me because the house I’m in currently has a Zinsco panel. It’s going to eventually be coming out when I upgrade the electrical here, do you mind if I ask how much a new panel set you back?

    • Sara in AZ Reply

      December 30, 2011 at 12:58 am

      Hi Onyx! Really I am sure you are fine. Don’t stress about it. I think most all of the other places around my Mom still have the original Zinsco panels and I have not heard of any problems with them. I would definitely plan on getting a new panel sometime in the future though. Electrical is funny you know, it is something you really don’t see and don’t ever really think about but it was actually the single most expensive thing we did to the place. I cannot remember totally, because my Mom paid for it, but I know it was in the $3000 range. Also, we did have a few other things done as well, so that is also in that price. You may be able to find someone to do it for a bit less, just make sure they are licensed and bonded.

  4. DrJulieAnn aka The Modern Retro Woman Reply

    December 30, 2011 at 1:37 am

    What? No dust? No blood?

    Seriously, though, I think I have fuse box envy. Just don’t tell The Mister that I’m looking over someone else’s box…

    • Sara in AZ Reply

      December 30, 2011 at 4:59 pm

      I know, where is all the mess huh?!? This one we got off easy on, as the workers had to do all the dirty work – like crawling around in the attic. eek!

      It’s funny, after the new box was installed we would just go out and look at how pretty it was, seriously!

  5. blackberry Reply

    December 31, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a panel box installed outside before.

    • Sara in AZ Reply

      December 31, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      I think it is pretty much just the way it is done here, esp. because we have no basements. Every house (new and old) has them outside – that I have seen.

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  7. Jacki Reply

    January 28, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Hi Sara, we are moving back home to AZ after 25 years Air Force. We are in the process of buying an untouched 1963 house in Scottsdale. The inspector said we are needing a new electrical set up similar to your mom’s. Being that we live in the DC area right now we are trying to do everything long distance. I plan to come out there for our closing for a couple of weeks to get some things done and I’m hoping I can get it taken care of then. How long did it take from the time that you called the electrician to the time he finished the work? That is including pretty much everything that had to be done including inspections. By the way that old one looks great compared to ours… that’s how bad it is :^(

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      January 29, 2012 at 12:02 am

      Hi Jacki! Thanks for the comment. Oh gosh, I feel your pain. Your house will be beautiful one day though, just never forget that. As you can see from my posts, it just takes some time. I would love to see pics of your time capsule house if you ever have the time, I’m sure it is amazing.

      It sounds like you are doing the right thing by having a new panel installed, I cannot imagine what yours looks like. eeks! Don’t forget to bundle other things in at the same time if you need them, it is better/cheaper to get it all done at once – like adding an outlet in the bathroom. Mom’s bathroom had no outlet beside the one plug in the light. We also added a vent fan in the bathroom since there was none.

      If you need a reference to a good electrician we used Tap and Sons.
      I cannot recommend them highly enough. They were always on time, they were super nice, they did a great job, and they did exactly what they said they were going to do. I would say it took about 3 to 4 weeks from the time we had him out to estimate until the job was completed. Our job was held up by the permit process though, so your job could go faster being that you are in Scottsdale. I don’t know if it is possible to have someone go out and look at the job before you even get here – that way they could estimate it and get it set up, but they may need a deposit from you, we had to put half down. It might be worth looking into to get the ball rolling.

      Check back in with us and let us know how things are progressing!

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