05 Jan

Is Your Electrical Panel A Fire Hazard?

Do you have a Federal Pacific or Zinsco electrical panel in your home? If you do, you should consider replacing it as soon as you can as they are fire hazards.

Consider the following information taken directly from official reports…

Federal Pacific Electric “Stab-Lok” service panels and breakers are a latent hazard and FPE circuit breakers can fail to trip in response to overcurrent, leading to electrical fires. The breakers may also fail to shut off internally even if the toggle is switched to “off.” Some double-pole (240-Volt) FPE circuit breakers and single-pole FPE Stab-Lok circuit breakers simply do not work safely.

There are other FPE panel-defects independent of the breaker problems, panel and panel-bus fires and arcing failures in some equipment. The failure rates for these circuit breakers were and still are significant. In some cases failure to trip occurs 60% of the time – a serious fire and electrical shock hazard.

Failures are documented in the CPSC study and by independent research. Additional independent testing and research are on-going and are reported here. FPE Stab-Lok electrical panels should be replaced. Do not simply swap in some replacement breakers.

More on FPE panels…

What is the Proper Repair for FPE Stab-Lok Panels and Circuit Breakers?

Homeowners and renovators who encounter these panels should replace the entire panel and circuit breaker set with new equipment. Panel replacement, can involve significant expense, typically $800 to $1800 depending on service size and other factors.

Do not simply replace individual FPE Stab-Lok circuit breakers:

No Evidence of Improved FPE Stag-Lok Replacement Circuit Breaker Performance

First of all, there is no data suggesting that new stock, replacement FPE breakers, or “new old stock” FPE breakers found in storage somewhere perform any better than the ones already in the FPE Stab-lok panel. In fact, limited testing of replacement FPE Stab-Lok circuit breakers also detected failures to trip in response to overcurrent conditions. In at least some cases, replacement circuit breakers are manufactured in Asia as copies of the original, problematic breaker design, as we discuss at #3 below.

Other FPE problems besides circuit breakers:

FPE Second, there are other functional and safety concerns in the panel besides the breakers themselves. We’ve seen panel bus damage, panel bus meltdowns, and failure of breakers to remain secured in or onto the connecting bus itself.

Replacement Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab-Lok Circuit Breakers:

For several reasons we do not recommend attempting to “repair” an individual failed Stab-lok breaker by buying a replacement either from used stock, new stock, or “compatible” stock. The replacement equipment has not been independently tested and demonstrated to perform any better than the original materials.

Engineers involved in this research have explained that a good part of the source of product failure for FPE Stab-Loks was in the original design and its specifications.

It appears that while there were some “on the fly” (and unapproved) changes from time to time on the manufacturing line for this product, there was never a redesign suitable to attempt to “design out” the product failure.

One expert mentioned to us privately that he believed that the original product’s price point in the electrical equipment market was at the low end, and that had Federal Pacific attempted a redesign they’d not have had a product they could sell at their price point.

There are other hazards in the equipment besides the breakers, including bus and bus insulation meltdowns and shorts.

A few other warnings concerning efforts people will attempt to reduce their hazards of FPE Stab-Lok Breakers:

“Exercising” the circuit breakers by turning them on and off has not been shown to “un-stick” or in any other manner improve the probability of working properly, and conversely, such activity may in fact increase the chances of a future failure.

“Testing” circuit breakers by applying a load may give an instantaneous picture of the performance of individual breakers but it does not predict their performance when a real safety problem occurs (overcurrent) later. More important, except if performed by a very expert person, in-place testing is very dangerous, risking fires in the building being tested.

In sum, if you could replace all the FPE Stab-Lok equipment with  all “new” FPE Stab-Lok equipment (found in a used-or new-old-stock warehouse for example) the risk level for the building would not be sufficiently different from before the replacement and would remain high: there remains a latent risk of fire from failure of these breakers to trip in response to overcurrent.

Replacement Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab-Lok Panels is Recommended

All the above information was taken from Taken frominspectapedia.com


And finally, check out the News Story below to get a feel of how real the problem is:

In summary, after reviewing all the data concerning these panels, I don’t think anyone could claim they are safe.

So how about you? Do you have a Federal Pacific or Zinsco electrical panel in your home? If so, you really should consider replacing it as soon as possible.

Give Metro’s Best Electric a call today for your free panel replacement estimate.

About Karen Mares

A Portlander born and raised, Karen lives in Southwest Portland with her husband and children. Karen has kept journals throughout her life, and she began her personal blog, Random Thoughts From A Suburban Mom in 2007. She hasn't stopped writing since, channeling her passion for words and information into writing and communicating through social media and blogging.