Are Federal Pacific Panels Dangerous?

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Hubert Miles

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If you live in an older home, you may have a Federal Pacific electrical panel; you may wonder, are Federal Pacific panels dangerous? This question has been asked by many homeowners who are concerned about the safety of their homes and Federal Pacific circuit breaker problems.

Yes, Federal Pacific Panels are dangerous. Tests have shown that Federal Pacific electrical panel issues include breakers that fail to trip during a short circuit, which could lead to an electrical fire. If you have a Federal Pacific Panel in your home, it should be replaced with a modern electrical panel.

Let’s explore whether federal pacific panels are dangerous and what is wrong with federal pacific electrical panels.

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Are Federal Pacific Panels Dangerous?

Whether Federal Pacific panels are dangerous has prompted many electrical contractors to advise homeowners of the Federal Pacific electric panel problems.

Federal Pacific Panels are circuit breakers installed in many homes and buildings between 1950 and 1980. Despite being outdated, these panels remain in use today, leading to questions about their safety.

Research has shown that there may be serious risks associated with Federal Pacific Panels, which could put people at risk of property damage and possible injury. Let’s explore the potential dangers associated with these panels and discuss the steps you can take to ensure your home is safe from any potential hazards.

Federal pacific electrical panel issues are well documented. In 2011, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a warning about the potential fire hazard of Federal Pacific Stab-Lok circuit breakers. This is due to their poor design and construction, which have been known to cause overheating that can result in fires or shocks.

While no Federal Pacific breaker panel recall was ever issued, their products have been subject to a class action lawsuit in New Jersey. The New Jersey Supreme Court found that Federal Pacific violated the Consumer Fraud Act violations, specifically by misrepresenting the safety of their products.

They were also found to have engaged in deceptive practices by failing to disclose that independent tests showed their circuit breakers had a higher failure rate than other brands.

The Commission’s research team estimates that it could cost millions of dollars to collect the data needed to determine if circuit breakers in domestic properties that may not pass UL calibration tests pose a risk to public safety.

Taking into consideration the Commission’s financial constraints of $34 million for the fiscal year 1983, as well as potential hazards that must be addressed concerning products manufactured by other companies and the uncertain outcomes of a pricey investigation, they have concluded not to allot additional resources towards their inquiry concerning FPE’s circuit breakers.

are federal pacific panels dangerous

Why Are Federal Pacific Panels Bad?

Many industry experts have raised safety concerns regarding “Are federal pacific panels dangerous” and “Why are Federal Pacific panels bad?

Dr. Jesse Aronstein independently tested and submitted his findings about Federal Pacific circuit breaker problems to the CPSC in 1982 that when energizing the breakers on both poles at a 135% overload, they failed 25% of the time. When energized on individual poles at the same overload, the failure rates jumped to 51%.

After being switched on and off, the failure rates jumped even more across all breakers. In the first case, the failure rates jumped from 25% to 36%, and in the second case, from 51% to a massive 65%! (1)

In addition to this, there are high rates of lock-up happening. A lock-up is when a switch, once tripped, will never trip in the future, regardless of the electrical overload. Even if you try to switch them off and on, they will not trip – it is as if your home doesn’t have a circuit breaker anymore.

CPSC did one of the more recent tests of the FPE Stab-Lok with 830 single-pole and double-pole breakers. The results show up to 70% of the double-pole breakers failed to trip in the presence of an overcurrent. And up to 80% of the single-pole GFI breakers failed to trip. And in the case of a second overcurrent, 100% of the jammed double-pole breaker testing did not trip. (2)

The panel’s bus bar was made of an inferior aluminum alloy compared to other manufacturers. Different problems have been reported, such as:

  • Arcing at the bus caused burned Federal Pacific panel.
  • Crowded wires within the panel box.
  • Breakers may not stay tightly connected to the bus bar.
  • The breakers can remain active even in the OFF position.
  • Breakers can unexpectedly trip upon removal of the electrical front cover.

Many home inspectors and electricians will tell you the best way to repair an FPE panel is to replace it entirely. Since they don’t work at such alarming rates, there is a severe risk of an electrical fire that you should not overlook.

There have been rough estimates that nearly 2,800 electrical fires each year are caused by a Federal Pacific breaker that did not trip.

are Federal Pacific Panels dangerous

Will a Federal Pacific Panel Pass Inspection?

From a home inspector’s perspective, Federal Pacific panels have two main safety issues that warrant the replacement of the electrical panel.

The Stab-Lok breakers in these panels are prone to failure and are a known safety concern that can be life-threatening and cause property damage. The breakers can fail to trip in the event of an overcurrent, causing a dangerous power surge or even an electrical fire.

The breakers can overheat, melt and fuse themselves to the bus bar. Other instances include the breakers melting and becoming loose, causing short circuits. It’s quite common for loose breakers to fall out when removing the panel cover for inspection, which is why many inspectors refer the panel for inspection by a licensed electrician.

Federal Pacific panels fall beyond an electrical panel’s 25 to 40-year life expectancy. These panels do not meet modern safety codes, which could mean your home is not adequately protected from hazards such as electric shock and fires.

Other electrical issues that are commonly found with Federal Pacific Stab-Lok breaker panels are ungrounded wiring and solid-strand aluminum wiring.

Do All Federal Pacific Panels Need to be Replaced?

A growing number of homeowners are becoming concerned about the safety of their homes due to the question of are federal pacific panels dangerous.

If you own or are buying a house with a federal pacific panel , you should know that it could pose a hazard to your home and family. Insurance companies now consider these as uninsurable electrical panels. Most insurance companies charge higher rates or no longer knowingly insure a home with an FPE panel due to Federal Pacific panel fire hazards.

While some of the older Federal Pacific panels without Stab-Lok breakers are safer, the reputation of the panels is not good, so it would be wise to replace the panel. Even without Stab-Lok breakers, Federal Pacific panels are beyond their useful life and no longer meet today’s safety standards.

You should have the panel inspected by a qualified electrician and replaced if necessary. Even if the panel appears to be functioning correctly, there may be hidden dangers lurking in the system. Don’t take chances with your home and family’s safety – replace those older federal pacific panels as soon as possible!

Are Federal Pacific Panels Dangerous FAQs

When determining are Federal Pacific panels dangerous, you need a thorough electrical inspection. However, you likely have additional questions concerning are Federal Pacific panels dangerous.

Are Federal Pacific panels safe?

No, Federal Pacific panels are not safe. They are known to have a high failure rate and can be a potential fire hazard. The breakers may not trip as they should when overloaded, and they can also cause connections to become loose, leading to an increased risk of electrical shock. If you own a home with Federal Pacific panels, it is recommended that you upgrade them as soon as possible for your safety.

Are Federal Pacific panels illegal?

No, Federal Pacific panels are not illegal. However, they are unsafe because their electrical components are known to fail and no longer meet current national electric codes. Therefore, it is recommended that they be inspected and replaced with newer panels if necessary.

How can I tell if my Federal Pacific Panel Breaker is unsafe?

To determine if your Federal Pacific Panel Breaker is unsafe, you will need to inspect the breakers for any signs of wear or damage. Check for breakers showing corrosion, arcing, burning marks, or discoloration. If the breakers show any of these signs, it may indicate that they are unsafe. Additionally, panels with this brand of breaker should be replaced as they have been deemed unreliable and uninsurable.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting professional home inspections since 2002. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Professional Inspector (CPI), Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
DISCLAIMER: The content published on HomeInspectionInsider.com is not professional advice. You should consult with a licensed professional and check local permit requirements before starting any project.
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