A Barrie Inspections home inspection checks for old and outdated Federal Pacific Electric panels along with other electrical defects.

Many Home Buyers Often Ask Why Federal Pacific Circuit Breakers Can Be Dangerous. Today I’ll provide you with the basic overview and some verifiable resource data to explain why we feel your Federal Pacific Electric panel should be replaced!

If you own a home built between 1950 and 1990, chances are you might have a Federal Pacific breaker panel installed. Produced by the Federal Pacific Electric company, these breakers are now considered a safety hazard due to their numerous problems. So how are they hazardous? The answer is fairly simple.

Studies have shown that up to one out of every four Stab-Lok breakers are defective and run the risk of malfunction or electrical fire. A New Jersey court ruled that Federal Pacific Electric fraudulently labeled these faulty breakers as meeting certain safety standards. However, the Consumer Product Safety Commission did not issue a product recall due to budget issues.

While Federal Pacific Electric has been out of business for many years, Federal Pacific panels and breakers are still in millions of homes around the country. Federal Pacific panel breaker malfunctions are the cause of an estimated 2,800 fires each year. As a result, electrical companies recommend that homeowners replace any Federal Pacific panels with new, up-to-date circuit breakers.

How to check to see if you have a Federal Pacific Electric panel. Barrie Inspections finds these FPE panels in many older homes in Victoria Texas home inspections.

Faults in construction and materials used have created conditions where these panels can allow overcurrent, leading to panels overheating. When something like this occurs, the heat may cause interior parts to melt and lead to electrical fire. Even if the panel looks okay, it doesn’t always mean that everything is functioning how it should be inside.

If your home has a Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) circuit breaker panel with Stab-Lok circuit breakers, you run a significant risk of having a breaker malfunction and potentially a fire. While these types of circuit breakers were once commonly installed in houses across the country, many are defective. To be on the safe side, Barrie Inspections feels it’s a good idea to replace all Federal Pacific breakers in your home with a circuit breaker that meets modern safety standards.

Circuit Breakers Are Critical to Your Home’s Safety

The breakers inside a circuit breaker panel guard your home against serious electrical problems and play a vital role in protecting your home against electrical fires. They do so by preventing circuit overload, short circuits, and external power surges from coming into the panel.

When an overload does occur, the circuit breaker trips and shuts down the power to the circuit. The circuit breaker acts as a safety net, helping to prevent the electrical circuits from overheating and catching fire. Homeowners can then reset the circuit breaker once they figure out what caused it to trip.

If a breaker is defective or not operating properly, common in FPE breakers, it could cause a fire in your home. Even circuit breakers that have operated without issue for many years could be one power surge away from a dangerous house fire.

Federal Pacific Electrical Panel Flaws

  • Breakers can suddenly trip when dead-front cover is removed.
  • Breakers can fail to trip during an overload or short situation.
  • Connections between the bus bars and breaker can become loose.
  • Breakers frequently jam within their sockets, causing overcrowding inside the panel.
  • Breakers can split when inserted into sockets.
Federal Pacific Electric panels are well known for their failure to trip a circuit breaker upon overload. This image shows the result of an overload that failed to trip the breaker properly.
Burnt FPE panel from an overload

Identifying Federal Pacific Panels

  • If your home is between 25 and 65 years old, you may have a Federal Pacific panel. To determine whether this is the case, you should check your breaker box for a Federal Pacific label or logo. A Federal Pacific panel will usually have its name or logo printed or embossed on the front cover. 
  • Inside the panel, you should find the name “Stab-Lok” printed near the center or side of the panel.
  • Intact Federal Pacific Electric breakers will also have a signature red strip that runs across the front of the switch portion.

What You Should Do if You Have a Federal Pacific Panel

If you have an FPE electrical panel, and it hasn’t been inspected for some time, call a professional. Even if it seems like the panel looks fine on the outside, it doesn’t mean there aren’t problems inside. The only way to ensure the safety of your workplace or home is to have the panel inspected by an electrician. It should be noted however, that not all electricians are familiar with the problems associated with Federal Pacific panels.  Ask the electrician what they know about these panels and if all you get is a blank stare in return, that would be a pretty good sign to find a more knowledgeable electrician.

For more information on FPE panels and their hazards, visit HERE.

Barrie Inspections is able to handle all your real estate inspection needs! We have the experience and expertise to give you the best value and the most detailed inspection! Call 361-298-0472, email James@BarrieInspections.com, or schedule on our website 24/7 HERE. Barrie Inspections is ready to help you!