Federal Pacific Breakers: What You Need To Know

Federal Pacific Electric panels were manufactured between the 1950’s-70’s, however they no longer meet federal safety requirements.

The photos above came from a service call that one of our electricians checked out back in 2013.  The breaker failed to trip, causing the outlet to burn up. The client had a Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) service panel and breakers.

What does that mean, and how did it happen?

FPE breakers are known to have up to a 60-70% failure-to-trip rate. When breakers fail to trip, surges and overheating go right through to the device, which can cause burnouts like this. Sometimes it will burn up the breaker itself, creating an even bigger safety hazard. The bigger problem than this, however, is that they work fine otherwise.  There is almost never any warning sign that there is a problem with this breaker until it actually has a problem.

When you have a power surge, the breaker designed to prevent further damage to your circuits by turning off, or “tripping.”  When it doesn’t turn off (fails to trip), the surge causes damage to anything connected to it – wires, fixtures, appliances, etc.  In some cases, it can and has caused damage to entire homes.  Even with a surge protector installed, it does little to curb the damage.

Quick History

FPE panels served their purpose at the time of manufacture between 1950’s-70’s.  However, they no longer meet federal safety requirements, and many places discontinued use in the late 1970’s.  In the 1980’s, the Consumer Protection Safety Commission began to look into the issue – to this day, there are still reports of fire and other hazards linked to these breakers (click here and search “federal pacific” under All Types on SaferProducts.gov). The design idea of the Stab-Lok brand was good in theory, but the internal mechanisms of the breaker are faulty. Which, by extension, makes finding individual replacement breakers very difficult.

Other brands (such as GE, Square-D, Eaton, etc.) are much better at meeting current safety code requirements.

What You Can Do

panel replacement
Our electricians rebuilding a residential electrical service

Panels and installations are continually improving to meet the code standards.  Consider checking out your panel even if you don’t have any issues with your FPE panel.  If you are actually having problems with the panel, we highly suggest getting a service upgrade.

Due to the high liability of this brand, we don’t warranty repair work on a FPE brand panel, we will only replace them to a more reliable brand, which we WILL warranty.

Please contact us if you have any further questions or if you want to upgrade your panel, or handle any other needs or questions – your safety is our top policy.

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