Are Challenger Electrical Panels Dangerous?

Myth vs. Reality

Any electrical panel can have issues, especially if poorly maintained. As a home inspector, I don’t see Challenger panels standing out above other brands as problematic, so I have no reason to single them out as dangerous.

Challenging the Myth

Let’s break down some of the most common arguments against Challenger panels you’ll see around the web.

“They’re related to Zinsco, which is bad.”

  • Classic association fallacy. Affiliation with a discredited brand doesn’t make Challenger panels guilty by association. 

“They can overheat and harm users.”

  • Any poorly maintained electrical panel can overheat, and we see it all the time across all brands (no more so with Challenger panels).

“Outdated panels are bad news.”

  • We often hear this about Bulldog Panels, too. Being over 30 doesn’t automatically put a panel on the brink of catastrophic failure. If that were true, most homes in Portland would be in trouble (they aren’t).
  • Also, this statement doesn’t account for maintenance history or other crucial factors.

“They’re outlawed.”

  • Untrue, these panels are completely legal to have and use.

“They’re a code violation.”

  • This isn’t the case.

“Insurance companies aren’t writing new policies or renewing policies for structures with Challenger Panels.”

  • I’ll concede this point. Some insurance companies in Florida are singling out Challenger panels as a hazard.

Anecdotal Evidence Isn’t Conclusive Evidence

Anecdotal evidence refers to individual observations or experiences unconnected to a systematic investigation or study. While it can offer helpful insights, it lacks the rigor and control of scientific research and doesn’t conclusively prove anything.

For example, I’ve seen anecdotal evidence of problems with nearly every panel brand, but it’s pretty evenly dispersed, and I see no reason to single out a specific brand.

The Bottom Line

Allowing anecdotal evidence to color our judgment on this or any other home inspection issue would be unfair to the many homeowners who trust Murphy Home Inspection to provide an unbiased, thorough, expert evaluation of their property. 

As professional home inspectors, our main obligation is to assess the safety and condition of a home based on empirical evidence and recognized standards. Succumbing to anecdotal evidence or rumors would undermine the integrity of our assessments and put unnecessary financial burdens on homeowners.

To sum it up, I’ve seen nothing that leads me to believe these panels are problematic or dangerous. Should new evidence emerge, I’ll absolutely revisit my stance.