Yes, you should replace your Federal Pacific breaker, and this article will tell you why.
About 40 years ago, the last Federal Pacific breakers were produced. In case you aren’t familiar with them, these breakers had been manufactured by the Federal Pacific Electric Company (FPE).
The company had seen its success for quite a while, as its breakers were installed all over the country in millions of houses.
The circuit breakers can malfunction over a single short circuit or circuit overload, causing safety and fire risks. That’s why the production of FPE breakers was halted permanently.
In this guide, you’ll find out more about FPE breakers—their dangers, what to do if you have one, and more!
What is the importance of a circuit breaker?
Circulate breakers perform a vital role in house electricals. Simply put, they are tasked with receiving and distributing power throughout the house.
In addition to that, they serve to cut off the electricity in the event of a power surge or circuit overload. This helps to prevent breaker damage and fire and safety hazards.
Your breaker or electrical panel has to be regularly inspected and checked by an experienced and licensed electrician to ensure its utmost safety and performance for your house.
What are the risks of using an FPE breaker?
Here are the disadvantages of using an FPE breaker:
1) They don’t meet current building and safety codes
FPE electrical panels were sold from around the 1950s to the 1980s. But still, lots of older houses are equipped with them today.
That means that they don’t comply at all with the updated building and safety codes of today. The following contribute to the risk of using the FPE Stab-Lok Panel:
- Lots of wires are tangled and forcefully fit inside the breaker panel.
- The bus bars are mounted with a spring.
- Breakers are still working even if the lever is in the down position.
FPE electrical boxes and breakers aren’t good for two reasons: one, they’re not safe to use, and two, they will lower your property’s value.
2) Their design is very flawed and might not work properly
The second risk of FPE circuit boxes is they have many design flaws, even when compared to models that are their contemporaries.
Below are some examples of them:
- Breakers can trip all of a sudden if the dead-front cover is removed.
- The system has overcrowded wires with it which negatively affect its performance.
- The bus bars are loosely integrated into the breaker panel.
- They can suddenly split when connected to sockets.
3) They were made with poor-quality materials
Besides having design flaws and not complying with modern breaker codes, FPE breakers may have production defects, as they were made using sub-par materials.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) discovered through testing that the company used weak materials rendering the final product unstable and faulty.
To be specific, CPSC found that 51 percent of FPE breakers failed to trip and they could burst into fire. From there they concluded that these breakers were not suitable and safe for use.
What are the damages that can be caused by FPE breakers?
According to the Washington Post, Federal Pacific breakers had failed to protect American homes during power surges, resulting in 2,800 fires, 13 deaths, and $40 million of property damage.
Often the problem is that the breakers weren’t able to provide enough power for all the devices used throughout the house or even in a single room.
This can cause loud popping or sizzling noises, a burnt scent, and bursts of flames coming from the breaker and bus bar units. As such, having FPE breakers today is an unwise choice.
How can I tell if I own an FPE Stab-Lok panel?
You can easily tell whether or not you own an FPE Stab-Lok panel. If your home was constructed between 1950 and 1980, then you can begin to suspect that you have this panel.
So, if it is, look further into it. FPE electric panels have the FPE word in front of the cover and the Stab-Lok word inside, plus their bus bar switches sport a red stripe.
What should I do if my home is equipped with FPE breakers?
Due to the harm and fire risks FPE breakers can cause, as we have discussed here, you have to contact a qualified electrician as soon as you know you have them.
They can then inspect and suggest far newer, better, and more modern breaker panels. This way, you can rest assured of the safety and comfort of your family and your valued home.
Even though you will need to spend a certain amount, it would be a great investment that will give you peace of mind—which is priceless.
Can I troubleshoot my Federal Pacific Breaker problem myself?
Unless you carry an electrician license and have abundant experience in electricals, you mustn’t troubleshoot your FPE breaker on your own, whether the problem is minor or major.
In fact, it is against the law to do that, which is just right, because your and your family and property’s safety is on the line.
How much will it cost me to replace an FPE breaker?
On average, you can expect to spend between $1,500 and $2,000 for replacing your FPE breaker with a newer and safer model.
This cost range comprises everything already, including rewiring, repairs, moving the breaker to another spot, and installation.
FAQs about Federal Pacific Breakers
- Are Federal Pacific Breakers still available?
Even though the Federal Pacific Electric Company has been out of business for decades, its breakers and panels are still used by many old homes today.
That makes these homes susceptible to fire and spark damage, endangering everyone living in them. Thus, they must be replaced with a well-performing and modern breaker as soon as possible.
- What happened to Federal Pacific Electric Company?
Federal Pacific Electric Company was caught committing fraudulent acts by the US Court in 2005.
What they did was illegally put dishonest labels on their breakers, boxes, and panels indicating they were UL-safe and certified for use.
Speaking of UL, it’s a certification validating that the products meet the electrical safety and performance standards set by the governing authority.
- Are Federal Pioneer breakers the same as Stab-Lok ones?
They are altogether different brands, although the names Federal Pioneer and Federal Pacific seem related to each other.
Having said that, Federal Pioneer breakers are like the Canadian version of Federal Pacific Stab-Lok panels, and these breakers are also dangerous if they aren’t able to trip the electricity.
In this event, the wiring of the Federal Pioneer system can quickly heat up and potentially be caught in flames as well.