Federal Pacific Electrical Panels Safety

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Home Inspector with Hud Certified 203K Consultant nachi10010504

There has not been a recall by the consumer product safety commission reason being is that the company involved have filed bankruptcy and they are the ones that need to fix the problem if they was still manufacturing the product, the national electrical code have changed many times since this company have filed bankruptcy several years ago (1980 was the last resources that I have). If the company was still manufacturing this product today the end result will be different. If you have one of these Federal Pacific Electrical (FPE) panels or intend to purchase a home that has one of these FPE panels, we suggest that you talk with your state licensed electrician (home inspectors is not licensed in the state of California) and decide what is right for you and your family simply because many homes still have them in operation today after the company have been out of business for many years.

Federal Pacific Electrical

 

As a Certified Home Inspector, this information puts our report in a very difficult situation for the reason that this electrical service panel will be a part of when we perform a whole house Home Inspection and the FPE comes up for discussion. These FPE breaker panels do “perform their intended function” when performing a visual inspection. The panel does not “initiate” an unsafe condition doing the day of the inspection, which leaves us in the precarious position of knowing that a latent problem may exist in a FPE breaker panel that we check off as “performing intended function”. My inspection is limited to the day of the inspection and is not part of any future unsafe condition that may develop because of the result of the failure of this FPE product. The problem with FPE is that some of the double pole 220 volt circuit breakers and some of the single pole 120 volt circuit breakers may not operate as intended if overloaded. A good breaker trips turning off the power to that circuit if it is overloaded. FPE appear not to trip every time which could result in a fire. Published reports of tests conducted on FPE two pole 220 volt circuit breakers indicate that under certain conditions one leg/pole may attempt to trip the breaker. The result is a circuit that stays live, and a circuit breaker that has been compromised and when reset, will not trip the next time it is under any excessive load. In many instances the breakers are loose and fall out when the cover is removed. Loose contacts can also be the cause of arcing which is a spark that can result in a fire. Unfortunately these panels appear to work perfectly during normal operation allowing electricity to flow without any problems or symptoms giving a false sense of security. The home inspector is not responsible for any unsafe condition after he report theses condition or if it happens after he leaves the property The following has been said about Federal Pacific Electric “Stab-Lok” panels: That these panels pose a latent threat and could be a hazard.

The circuit breakers may fail to trip in the case of an overload or short-circuit. A circuit breaker that fails to trip could cause a fire or personal injury. The problem with Federal pacific breaker panels is that some of the double pole 220 volt circuit breakers and some of the single pole 120 volt circuit breakers may not operate as intended if overloaded. A good breaker trips turning off the power to that circuit if it is overloaded. Federal Pacific breakers appear not to trip every time which could result in a fire. Published reports of tests conducted on FPE two pole 220 volt circuit breakers indicate that under certain conditions one leg/pole may attempt to trip the breaker. The result is a circuit that stays live, and a circuit breaker that has been compromised and when reset, will not trip the next time it is under any excessive load. In many instances the breakers are loose and fall out when the cover is removed. Loose contacts can also be the cause of arcing which is a spark that can result in a fire. Unfortunately these panels appear to work perfectly during normal operation allowing electricity to flow without any problems or symptoms giving a false sense of security. Federal Pacific Electric’s statement in response to this problem is cautious in tone: “FPE breakers will trip reliably at most overload levels“. It should be noted that Federal Pacific is no longer in business. Aftermarket breakers are available for these panels. Most of these panels are large and had a lot of circuits and the cost of replacing all the breakers is often more than the cost of installing a new panel and to anyone buying your property at a later stage, it still has a Federal Pacific (defective) panel. There was a class action lawsuit initiated. We believe that the lawsuit has been discontinued. The attorney’s phone number is no longer in service. Millions of U.S. and Canadian homes were built with circuit breaker panels that one expert has questioned as a potential fire hazard. Issues about Federal Pacific Electric’s “Stab-Lok” circuit breakers were first raised with the Consumer Product Safety Commission decades ago. The CPSC closed its investigation of the breakers in 1983 because, it said, the data available to the commission at that time did not establish “that the circuit breakers pose a serious threat of injury to consumers.”

Federal Pacific Electrical

In an updated 2011 CPSC news release, however, the commission clarified that the investigation was closed “without making a determination as to the safety of FPE circuit breakers or the accuracy of the manufacturer’s position on the matter.” Now, a man who played a key role in identifying issues with FPE breakers is back with a new claim that Stab-Lok breakers made by other brands may pose a fire hazard as well, and is strongly urging homeowners to replace ­all Stab-Lok-type panels and breakers. Electrical engineer Jesse Aronstein, 82, who has been testing the FPE breakers for decades, met with the CPSC last month to ask the agency to definitively warn consumers about the danger. “Nobody whose word can be taken as an authority . . . has made a positive recommendation that people should change out their [breaker] panels for safety reasons,” Aronstein told CPSC staff. “When some agency of authority picks up the ball on this, then I can stop.” In a statement to The Washington Post, the agency said, “CPSC will be reviewing the information to determine if additional investigation is warranted under our statutes.” Long history of questions Aronstein — who has a doctorate in materials science, has lectured at universities, and has served as an expert witness in U.S. and Canadian court cases — got involved with the CPSC and circuit breakers in the 1980s. The CPSC hired the company he worked for to test the safety of FPE’s Stab-Lok breakers, which were installed in homes built from 1960 to 1985. Circuit breakers are supposed to trip — or shut off — when electrical wires are overloaded so that those wires don’t heat up and cause a fire. But when Aronstein’s team tested the FPE Stab-Lok breakers, 51 percent failed to trip, according to the results he submitted to the CPSC. Based on the above information and in the interests of safety, I recommend that my clients consult with a qualified state licensed electrician and discuss the replacement of these panels.

Fred Sweezer Sr. 1-562-234-2689

www.TheLongBeachHome inspector .com

Certified Home Inspector Certified HUD 203k HUD inspector S0712 FHA

Compliance Inspector FHA T477

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Rainer
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Dinah Stallworth-Lewis
Priority Real Estate LLC - 318.332.8281 - Natchitoches, LA
NATCHITOCHES, LA HOMES FOR SALE

Fred,

Thanks for sharing this information about FPE electrical panel boxes.  This is information I want forget when showing and listing homes. It is unfortunate the company that makes the electrical boxes have gone out of business.  

Dec 09, 2019 09:25 PM #1
Rainmaker
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Fred Sweezer Sr.
Hud Certified 203K Consultant - Long Beach, CA
Certified Home Inspector

Thanks Dinah! 

Dec 10, 2019 10:51 AM #2
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Rainmaker
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Fred Sweezer Sr.

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