Why should I replace my obsolete and dangerous Federal Pacific Panel?

Why should I replace my obsolete and dangerous Federal Pacific Panel?

What is a Federal Pacific Electrical Panel?

Federal Pacific Electrical panels are a type of electrical panel made by the Federal Pacific Electrical Company. Other Federal Pacific Electrical panels names include the Federal Pacific Electrical breaker box or the FPE Stab-Lok breaker. Many houses constructed between the 1950s and 1980s have these panels.


Should I Replace My Federal Pacific Electrical 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 electrical 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 still face 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…

how dangerous are federal pacific panels?

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 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 called 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 name, millions of homes already had Stab-Lok breakers.

Then, other companies secured the rights to produce all Stab-Lok products – boxes, panels, and breakers – under different names. Schneider Electric, a Canadian company, manufactures panels and breakers under the Federal Pioneer (FP) brand.

Federal Pacific and Federal Pioneer Panels

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 case 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 Electrical Panels

There are two types of residential Federal Pacific Electrical panels: FPE Stab-Lok single-pole breakers and FPE two-pole Stab-Lok breakers.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) raised safety concerns about Federal Pacific panels decades ago. In 2011, the CPSC announced its Federal Pacific investigation was closed – without saying whether the circuit breakers were hazardous.

However, Jesse Aronstein, a veteran electrical engineer who has played a key role in testing FPE breakers, insisted that they should be replaced on safety grounds.


Federal Pioneer Panels

Picture source: Reddit


The Federal Pioneer brand of electrical panels and circuit breakers is a Canadian version of the Federal Pacific panel.

Following the 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.


Aronstein’s Credentials

As Jesse Aronstein has been a leading figure in the Federal Pacific Panel fire hazard controversy, it’s worth looking 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 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 the same as Federal Pacific panels regarding defective calibration.



Can I Just Replace Federal Pacific Breakers?

According to many electrical experts and home inspectors, replacing Federal Pacific breakers alone may not be a good idea.

Instead, replacing the entire electrical panel is recommended, as replacing 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.