Your circuit breaker panel protects your home from problems caused by external power surges, circuit overload, and short circuits. A breaker cuts off the power to a circuit by tripping when it detects a circuit overload.
Federal Pacific Electric Company (FPE) was one of the most common manufacturers of circuit breaker panels in North America from the 1950s to the 1980s. Millions of their panels were installed in homes across the country.
Unfortunately, breaker failure happens every year in homes equipped with Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Stab-Lok panels. Despite this information and the number of electricians and home inspectors who warn against this equipment, FPE Stab-Lok panels were never officially recalled.
If your home has a Federal Pacific breaker panel with Stab-Lok® circuit breakers, you run a significant risk of breaker malfunction and fire, as many are defective and dangerous. To be on the safe side, you should replace any Federal Pacific breakers in your home.
Let’s take a closer look – learn how to identify whether your home has one, and how to handle removal from your home.
Identifying Federal Pacific Panels
If you own a home built between 1950 and 1990, you might have a Federal Pacific circuit breaker. FPE breakers do not comply with National Electrical Code (NEC) requirements, and therefore the NEC has banned new installation of FPE breaker panels.
Doubt Surrounding FPE Stab-lok Panels
Millions of homes were built with FPE Stab-Lok panels between 1950 and 1990. If your home was constructed during this time frame, then it may contain one of these panels. Usually, “Federal Pacific” or “FPE” will be written on the box’s front cover. Inside the box, look for a label that says, “Stab-Lok.” The breakers will have a red stripe across each switch.
The trouble with an FPE Stab-Lok panel is that it can function perfectly fine — until suddenly it doesn’t. It only takes one short circuit or overcurrent.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) began an investigation in the early 1980s and hired electrical experts to test FPE Stab-Lok breakers installed in homes from 1960 to 1985, which did not fully comply with Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. requirements. Fifty-one percent of the tested breakers failed to trip.
The breakers would fail to trip, melt, catch fire or even conduct electricity when turned off. In some instances, breakers were tested to 200 percent of their rating and it would still fail to trip. In some cases the breakers failed to trip at ANY amount of current which poses a critical danger to home occupants! Federal Pacific (FPE) committed fraud by falsifying their UL testing, making their listing void.
You have a Federal Pacific Breaker, now what?
The CPSC recommends getting this type of panel inspected by a qualified electrician “to look for any signs of overheating or malfunction among the circuit breakers.” However, after testing over 4,000 breakers, CPSC states that you can only identify a defective Stab-Lok breaker by first removing it and then testing it. This process can be more expensive than installing a new, less risky Federal Pacific Electrical panel or any other brand. In many cases, it makes more sense to replace an FPE Stab-Lok panel.
A flickering light on the porch, or an exhaust fan that won’t work are a few common issues that homeowners can look out for. Determining where the problems are stemming from can take a lot of training and knowledge. If you suspect that you may have a Federal Pacific Electrical panel, or any outdated circuit breaker panel in your home, please contact our licensed Electricians as soon as possible.
Electricity is one of the most important features in our homes that grant us the ability to live our day-to-day lives in a comfortable, efficient way. There are a unique set of threats that come with dealing with the electrical system in your home or business.
We Replace Federal Pacific Breakers!
While electricity can be dangerous, there are a few simple things you can do to prevent serious injury to you & your loved ones. At Sunrise Electric Co, it's our job to provide the best electrical care in the region and to ensure that our customers remain safe. Our team of trusted, licensed electricians put safety first when providing our services. Please give us a call if we can help you determine whether you have a Federal Pacific Panel in your home. Don’t wait until it’s too late!