Why should I replace my obsolete and dangerous Federal Pacific Panel?
Should I Replace My Federal Pacific Panel?
Your home may still have a type of electrical circuit breaker that has been the subject of a long-running debate over safety concerns.
These worries centre on whether the Federal Pacific panel and its Stab-Lok circuit breakers are prone to failing to trip, causing a fire hazard through electrical overload and subsequent overheating of wiring.
Despite decades of controversy, lawsuits and product recalls, homeowners are still facing the crucial question: are Federal Pacific panels dangerous?
There’s another issue – you may not realize you have a Federal Pacific Stab-Lok-type panel in your home. Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) panels have a derivative with a different name: Federal Pioneer.
We’ll be looking at the background of FPE and Federal Pioneer later, but first, we’ll consider our main focus here…
Are Federal Pacific Panels Dangerous?
Many FPE electrical panels have been tested and found to have high failure rates, with nearly a third showing some type of potentially hazardous breaker defect.
These problems mean that when a surge or other power issue such as a short circuit occurs, the breaker does not trip properly. This can result in wires overheating, creating a fire hazard. Warning signs that you have a faulty FPE panel include burn or scorch marks on the box or loose breaker switches.
Some estimates reckon that homes with FPE panels and breakers are 20 percent more likely to have a fire than homes with breakers that work correctly.
The FPE and Federal Pioneer History
Federal Pacific Electrical panels are also referred to as FPE breaker boxes and FPE Stab-Lok breakers. From the 1950s to the 1980s, many of these panels were installed in homes. So, when FPE stopped making electrical panels under its own name, millions of homes already had Stab-Lok breakers.
Then, other companies secured the rights to produce entire Stab-Lok products – boxes, panels and breakers – under different names. Schneider Electric, a Canadian company, manufactures panels and breakers under the name Federal Pioneer (FP).
What’s the Problem with Federal Pacific and Federal Pioneer Panels?
Electrical circuit breakers – including FPE Stab-Lok panels and Federal Pioneer breakers – need to trip in the event of a circuit overload.
Overloads can occur if too many high-powered devices and appliances are plugged into a low-voltage circuit.
Unless the breaker trips when the voltage exceeds its maximum capacity, wiring heat levels can become dangerous and cause a fire.
This is why many independent electrical safety experts say you should replace your Federal Pacific or Federal Pioneer panel.
Federal Pacific Panels
There are basically two types of residential Federal Pacific Electrical panels – FPE Stab-Lok single-pole breakers and FPE two-pole Stab-Lok breakers.
Safety concerns about Federal Pacific panels were raised with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) decades ago. In 2011, the CPSC announced its Federal Pacific investigation was closed – without saying whether the circuit breakers were hazardous or not.
However, the veteran electrical engineer who has played a key role in testing FPE breakers, Jesse Aronstein, insisted that they should be replaced on safety grounds.
The Federal Pioneer brand of electrical panels and circuit breakers is a Canadian version of the Federal Pacific panel.
Following Electrical Safety Authority’s concerns that Federal Pioneer breakers may not trip, the manufacturer, Schneider Electric, announced a voluntary replacement package for some of its breakers (NC015 and NC015CP).
Jesse Aronstein urged homeowners to replace all Stab-Lok-type panels and breakers.
As Jesse Aronstein has been a leading figure in the Federal Pacific Panel fire hazard controversy, it’s worth taking a quick look at his credentials to establish how seriously he should be taken.
Aronstein, who has a doctorate in materials science, has lectured at universities and been an expert witness in Canadian and US court cases.
He became involved with the Consumer Product Safety Commission and FPE circuit breakers in the 1980s. When he and his team tested the breakers, they found in their opinion a solid reason why Federal Pacific panels need replacing – 51 percent of the breakers failed to trip.
In 2020, Aronstein concluded that Pacific Pioneer breakers were basically the same as Federal Pacific panels in terms of defective calibration.
Can I Just Replace Federal Pacific Breakers?
According to many electrical experts and home inspectors, Federal Pacific breakers replacement on its own may not be a good idea.
Instead, they recommend that the entire electrical panel should be replaced, saying that the replacement of FPE Stab-Lok breakers is unlikely to reduce the risk of trip failure.
Electrical Panel Safety Inspections
Reputable, licensed electricians like WireChief Electric understand the risks associated with Federal Pacific and Federal Pioneer panels.
We also realize that many homeowners may not be aware of the fire hazard that faulty electrical panels pose.
If you have an FPE or FP electrical panel in your home – or are unsure what type of breakers have been installed – contact us for an electrical panel safety consultation in Vancouver, BC. We can help you with your Electrical Panel Replacement