If you own a home that was built between the early 1950’s and the late 1980’s, there is a good chance that you have a fire waiting to happen in the form of a Federal Pacific electrical panel. These were a very common brand of panel during these years. At the time they seemed like a good economical piece to install as the center of the electrical system, however in the early 1980’s there were questions raised as to their safety specifications. These questions were focused on their ability to trip at their rated settings. In many cases it was found that they did not trip under overloaded conditions creating a great fire hazard. In 1983, the Consumer Product Safety Commission concluded a 2 year investigation into the panels and breakers in question and found that although there were issues with them, they had to stop the investigation and possible recall notice due to budget constraints. Federal Pacific was bought out and soon went out of business after this report was concluded.
There are several apparent flaws with Federal Pacific electrical panels. First off would be their age. They were made in a time where less stringent codes were in place compared to today. These panels would not come close to today’s standards for safety. Another is the design of the panel. These panels have less space in them which makes for crowding of the wires inside and having to bend the wires beyond their specified bending radius to connect them to their terminals. Another big issue with them would be how the breaker connects to the bus of the panel. Their claim to fame was the Stab-Loc system where there was a spade on the front tip of the breaker that stabbed into a notch cut out on the bus. Today’s breakers have a small spring loaded clamp that clips onto a tab on the bus providing a positive connection. FPE Stab-Loc design was not a very reliable connection creating a loose connections which in turn will cause heat either damaging the buss or breaker, or potentially welding the breaker to the buss. I have seen these connections so loose that the breaker simply falls out when the panel cover is removed. Lastly would be the problems with these breakers not tripping under fault conditions. This is the most concerning issue here as there is a tremendous amount of current generated during a short circuit. This results in heat that can be very damaging to the panel, wire, and devices connected to the circuit, not to mention whatever is causing the short. This is an issue to be very concerned about as it would be able to do the most harm in a short amount of time.
In closing, if you have a Federal Pacific electrical panel in your home or business take heed and call us or another qualified electrical contractor to come out and take a good look at it.
Call HB Electric Solutions today at 253-256-7861