An electric service panel is one of the most important safety devices in your home. The panel’s main function is to continuously monitor the amount of electricity that’s travelling to various places in your house and to turn off if too much is being called for in a certain area. The reason too much electricity can be a problem is that the wires in the house are sized for a given load and when they are overworked they overheat and can cause a fire.
Most electrical equipment manufacturers specify a service life of an electric panel somewhere around 40 years so if yours is older than this you should really consider updating it to maintain the overall safety in your house.
There are two brands of panels that, regardless of age, are known to have a poor record of performance. Ultimately, this results in an elevated risk of fire and the overwhelming recommendation within the residential electrical industry is to replace these panels. The brands are Federal Pacific and Zinsco.
There is a wealth of information regarding safety issues with this equipment, most of which recommends replacement.
The following links offer additional information:
Federal Pacific Electric Panels