If your home was built between 1950 and 1980, there’s a chance that you might have a Federal Pacific circuit breaker (also known as the FPE Stab-Lok breaker panels).
Because of the cost and ease of installation, the Federal Pacific panel was widely adopted in suburban developments. If you have one of these panels, your home is at considerable risk of breaker malfunction or fire. While Federal Pacific Electric has been out of business for some time, many were installed during this time period and they are quite common. These panels appear normal from the outside, but they pose a serious fire hazard. It has been suggested that there are as many as 28 million of these breakers in use in the U.S. which means that in some conditions, as many as one million of them fail to provide proper fire protection.
What’s Wrong with Federal Pacific Panels?
The circuit breaker panel in your home is the center of your home’s electrical system. Its job is to receive power and evenly distribute it across your house. They are one of the most important safety devices in any home, protecting against short-circuiting, overheating, and circuit overload. If too much current starts flowing through the wiring, and the electrical breaker fails to stop that on time, there is a high risk of starting an electrical fire.
If you need an Electrical Service Panel Upgrade, Randy’s Electric is more than happy to help.
The main reason for Federal Pacific Stab-Lok Breaker failure is their high rates of not tripping when they should.
In a 1980s court case, it was revealed that not only were the breakers failing to pass the Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) guidelines but that Federal Pacific committed fraud and a cover-up regarding their testing. They labeled the breakers as meeting the UL standards when they clearly did not.
It was discovered that many of these Stab-Lok breakers did not disconnect when overloaded. In the 1980s the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) investigated the performance of the circuit breakers. CPSC performed its own laboratory tests on samples of FPE Stab-Lok single-pole and double-pole breakers. For these samples, they found that 85% of the double-pole breakers and 39% of the single-pole breakers failed one or more of the UL test criteria.
The easiest way to tell if you have a Federal Pacific panel is to check the cover on your breaker box. You’ll see the name Federal Pacific or FPE printed or etched onto the panel cover. If there are no markings on the exterior of the cover, open it up and check to see if there is any Federal Pacific branding.
The box itself is not the danger—rather it’s the FPE Stab-Lok circuit breakers. These breakers typically have a red stripe on the end of the switch where the circuit amp rating is printed in black.
What if I have a Federal Pacific Panel? Do I have to replace it?
The short answer: yes
The long answer: While you aren’t required by home inspectors to replace your panel, it’s in your best interest and safety to replace it. The best course of action is to replace the entire panel and circuit breakers with newer units. Replacement FPE Stab-Lok circuit breakers are unlikely to reduce the failure risk of this equipment. We recommend that residential FPE Stab-Lok electrical panels be replaced entirely regardless of FPE model number or FPE year of manufacture (Source: https://inspectapedia.com/fpe/FPE_History.php).
Randy’s Electric provides a 25-year warranty on service panels provided by our electricians. This includes enclosure, bus bar, and main breaker. The warranty on service panels is transferable. Randy’s Electric will either repair or replace the product at no additional charge. The warranty does not cover any problem that is caused by conditions, malfunctions, or damage not resulting from a defect in material.
At Randy’s Electric, we can upgrade your Federal Pacific panels to keep you and your family safe. If you are looking for an “electrician near me,” or “Minneapolis Saint Paul electrician,” be sure to give us a call at 612.260.1964.