Federal-Pacific stab-lock circuit breaker panels manufactured between 1970 and 1985 are defective and unsafe! They must be removed and replaced, and they are not under any recall or warranty. Only in New Jersey there is a class action lawsuit. There is no government fund to help pay to replace these fire hazards. You’re on your own. Personally, I would not sleep in a house that uses one of these for power distribution. Consider yourself warned.
Federal Pacific Electric Panels, Fires Waiting to Happen
Why you should replace your FPE breakers!
FPE Stab-Lok or Federal Pacific Electric Stab-lok circuit breakers can fail to trip at an alarming rate. In the original testing, at a modest overload (135% of rating) switches that had never been touched (never mechanically switched) were energized on both poles. These failed 25% of the time, followed by a lockup that meant the switch would never trip in the future at any overload. Once these switches had been flipped on and off (mechanically energized), failures increased to 36%!
Worse, when individual poles on these switches were energized under the same conditions, 51% of the “virgin” switches failed, and for switches that had been mechanically energized, a whopping 65% of them failed!1
In the most recent independent tests of FPE Stab-Lok equipment, using a larger pool of FPE Stab-Lok circuit breakers than the older CPSC and Wright Malta tests found significantly higher failure rates of FPE Stab-Lok circuit breakers, including a look at critical safety failures (breaker failed to trip at 200% of rated current or jammed) which found up to 80% failure rate for FPE Stab-Lok GFCI circuit breakers (n=4), 12% failure rate for double pole FPE Stab-Lok circuit breakers (n=120), and a 1% failure rate for FPE Stab-Lok single pole circuit breakers (n=345). (To download this article see “Technical Reports” below.)
When a circuit breaker will not trip in response to an overload there is a serious risk of fire.
What is the Proper Repair for FPE Stab-Lok Panels and Circuit Breakers?
Home owners and renovators who encounter these panels should replace the entire panel and circuit breaker set with new equipment. Panel replacement, can involve significant expense, typically $800 to $1200 depending on service size and other factors.
Do not simply replace individual FPE Stab-Lok circuit breakers: first of all, there is no data suggesting that new stock, replacement FPE breakers, or “new old stock” FPE breakers found in storage somewhere perform any better than the ones already in the FPE Stab-lok panel. Second, there are other functional and safety concerns in the panel besides the breakers themselves. We’ve seen panel bus damage, panel bus meltdowns, and failure of breakers to remain secured in or onto the connecting bus itself.