FPE Stab-Lok breaker boxes
Modern Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) circuit breakers are safe and widely used.FPE Stab-Lok breaker boxes are a different matter. FPE Stab-Lok panels were widely used from the 1960s through the 1980s when they were finally taken off the market.
Stab-Lok breakers were used widely in the 1960s through the early 1980s and considered fire and electrical safety hazards. These breakers have a history of not tripping in an overload situation, causing fires. Even more importantly, some breakers have failed to disconnect live circuits when turned to the off position, thus exposing service personnel to possible electrical shock.
In some cases, double trip breakers (240 volts) are defective by not tripping and allowing one leg to remain energized. In short, homeowners should replace FPE “Stab-Lok” breakers and breaker boxes as soon as possible.
Problems with the FPE Stab-Lok panels
FPE Stab-Lok breaker boxes have also been cited for having other problems separate from the breakers. Panel and panel bus failures, including arcing and main panel failures, have been common. During laboratory testing, the FPE Stab-Loks failed to trip up to 60% of the time.
Failure rates of competing breakers are predicted at 0.1%. Failures were so high the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) put out a consumer alert concerning the problem. The CPSC stopped just short of issuing a recall basically due to a lack of funding.
Industry experts estimate 2000 fires are caused annually by FPE Stab-Lok breakers and service panels. Experts also estimate there are 28 million FPE Stab-Lok breakers still in service in the US, even with a conservative 30% failure rate.
Nine million defective breakers are still in service. We still find them in service regularly; however, most of the faulty panels in our service area have been replaced.
How to identify FPE Stab-Lok breaker boxes
You can sometimes determine if you have FPE Stab-Lok breakers by inspecting the outside cover of your breaker box. Look for the words FPE or Federal Pacific Electric, or Stab-Lok these may also appear on the inside of the service panel.
Do not remove the service panel cover; everything you need to know is on the surface. If you suspect you have a Stab-Lok panel, we recommend you contact a qualified electrician immediately.
Most electricians say Stab-Lok breaker boxes should be taken out of service and replaced immediately. Replacing breakers is not an acceptable solution; a qualified electrician should replace the entire service box.
This may sound extreme; however, when you consider the safety issues involved and the fact that most of these Service Panels are now 40 or more years old, a service upgrade is probably in order anyway.
Avoid After Market Breakers
A Google search produced several sites that offered new and used Stab-Lok breakers. It is our personal view shared by most responsible electricians that Stab-Lok service panels should be replaced immediately.
A Google search will also produce several valuable sites to provide additional information on Stab-Lok breakers. One such site is Inspectapedia.com. Here is the direct link to the Stab-Lok section. http://inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpepanel.htm
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