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I am a Realtor and must depend on the advice from competent service vendors often in my business. Duane Elliott with Lighthouse Electrical & Maintenance has come to my rescue many times in the last several years. Duane has been accessible, precise and fair in his dealings with me and with my clients. I have used Duane's services at my personal home and have been very pleased with the work done.

Linda Kimbro Lane
Linda Lane Realty, LLC

FPE Panels

Federal Pacific Electric Stab-lok type (FPE Stab-lok®) residential circuit breakers are reported to pose a fire hazard. FPE Stab-lok® circuit breakers and load centers (electrical panels) can still be found in millions of homes. Even though FPE has not made a circuit breaker since 1986, the circuit breaker operations were acquired by other companies. In the United States, Stab-lok® circuit breakers are sold by the American Circuit Breaker Corporation.

How to Identify FPE Electrical Panels

FPE panels are easy to identify. They usually display the FPE or the "Stab-Lok" brand. Look at the inside door of your electric for the markings. Because they have been installed in older homes, the markings may not be completely visible.

Federal Pacific Electrical Panels Information

Federal Pacific Electric (FPE, aka Stab-Lok) electric panels have a history of breakers not tripping when they should. The Problem Circuit breakers are supposed to shut off when current reaches levels that
could start a fire or damage equipment.

Due to design and/or quality control problems, the FPE Stab-Lok circuit breakers do not always work reliably. Testing has shown that roughly 30% of the 2-pole circuit breakers fail to trip when they should. Virtually 100% of some lots of these breakers are defective. Fuses served the same safety function before we had circuit breakers. The situation with the FPE circuit breakers is the same as the old unsafe (but common) practice of over fusing or putting a penny in the fuse socket behind the fuse itself to deal with the nuisance of fuses frequently blowing... There isn't an inspector or electrical contractor (or even a realtor) who would not agree that these conditions should be corrected. And fast!"

The difference is that overusing is easy to see, but there is usually no visual clue if the breaker is working correctly or not. "... the homeowner's perception is that 'the breakers work fine'." There is no way for an electrician to look at a panel and know if the breakers will trip when they should.

The Solution

Recently some companies have started making replacement breakers for FPE panels. In most cases these are manufactured with the same problematic design of the original, and there is no data that they are more reliable. Also, replacing the breakers does not address problems with the buss bars in FPE panels that are not as well documented as the circuit breaker problem. The only solution that addresses all of these problems is to replace the entire panel. In closing, remember that any repair work should be performed by a licensed
electrician.

*Safety information provided by Lighthouse Electrical, Inc. a North Carolina Licensed Electrical Contractor, (336) 407-8121.

Information derived from http://www.cornerstone-inspection.com/fpe.html, a home inspection web site. Property owners are advised to inform themselves on FPE panels and corrective actions to take, if any, before deciding on the best course of action.

Need more information on Federal Pacific Electric (FPE, aka Stab-Lok)? These electric panels have a history of breakers not tripping when they should.

The Problem

Circuit breakers are supposed to shut off when current reaches levels that could start a fire or damage equipment. Due to design and/or quality control problems, the FPE Stab-Lok circuit breakers do not always work reliably. Testing has shown that roughly 30% of the 2-pole circuit breakers fail to trip when they should. Virtually 100% of some lots of these breakers are defective.

Fuses served the same safety function before we had circuit breakers. The situation with the FPE circuit breakers is the same as... "the old unsafe (but common) practice of overfusing or putting a penny in the fuse socket behind the fuse itself to deal with the nuisance of fuses frequently blowing... There isn't an inspector or electrical contractor (or even a realtor) who would not agree that these conditions should be corrected. And fast!"

The difference is that overfusing is easy to see, but there is usually no visual clue if the breaker is working correctly or not. "... the homeowner's perception is that 'the breakers work fine'." There is no way for an electrician to look at a panel and know if the breakers will trip when they should.

The Solution

The best solution is to replace the panel. Recently some companies have started making replacement breakers for FPE panels. These breakers are likely manufactured with the same problematic design of the original, and there is no data that they are more reliable. Also, replacing the breakers does not address problems with the buss bars in FPE panels that are not as well documented as the circuit breaker problem.

In closing, remember that any repair work should be performed only by a licensed electrician. Call your Electrical Service Experts at (336) 407-8121.

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