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Status of FPE Stab-Lok® ® equipment & FPE History: this document provides citations to latest research & status of FPE Stab-Lok® ® electrical panels & circuit breakers and provides a complete history of the Federal Pacific Electric Company, FPE (1950 to present), giving dates and events which may assist in recognizing Federal Pacific Stab-Lok® Electric Panels & hazards in buildings.
Replacement FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers are unlikely to reduce the failure risk of this equipment. We recommend that residential FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panels be replaced entirely or the entire panel bus assembly be replaced, regardless of FPE model number or FPE year of manufacture. We do not sell circuit breakers nor any other products.
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Latest Research & History of Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® ® Electrical Panels & CIrcuit Breakers
[Click to enlarge any image]
Illustration of an FPE Stab-Lok type circuit breaker at left is from FPE Patent No. US3093773 applied in 1959, issued 1963. Documents such as patent applications help recreate the product history and variations in company names involved with the FPE Stab-Lok circuit breaker and panelboard design.
2014 Where is the Federal Pacific Electric company today? Leaving out some steps and omitting (for now) Exxon's role as a successor owner of FPE:
2012 FPE Stab-Lok® Hazard Study (published by IEEE January-February 2012)
Comments on the findings of this study can be read at Where is there recently-published data updating findings on the FPE Stab-Lok® ® Hazard?.
2011 Commission Closes Investigation Of FPE Circuit Breakers And Provides Safety Information For Consumers, Revised 18 Feb 2011. The original document was revised to include the following warning:
2010 Further testing of electrical panels collected from homes, including FPE Stab-Lok® units, was transferred from Dr. Jess Aronstein to David Carrier, in Poughkeepsie, New York.
2008 - 2007 FPE Stab-Lok® TECHNICAL REPORT (revised) - an updated, faster-loading copy of the 2007 FPE circuit breaker test report of independent testing (a large 1.2MB PDF file) 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).
2008 FPE Class Action Lawsuit Results: In May 2008 the FPE Class Action Lawsuit in New Jersey was finally settled. New Jersey homeowners who were the original owners of an FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panel received $500. in settlement as part of the action. Institutional class members also got varying amounts, depending on their installations.
2007 FPE Stab-Lok® TECHNICAL REPORT - an updated test report of independent testing (a large 1.2MB PDF file) 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).
2006: Fifty FPE Field Failures Reported to US CPSC - 2006 letter from Dr. Jess Aronstein, consulting engineer
2005: 2005 FPE CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT - for homeowners in New Jersey.
25 April 2005 History of Federal Pacific Electric Company: from a trademark dispute court case opinion filed: American Circuit Breaker Corporation v. Oregon Breakers, Inc., and cited below, regarding FPE trademark and products sold in Canada and the U.S. - contents of this ruling include historical data about FPE:
At issue [in this court case] is the sale in the United States of circuit breakers imported from Canada under the trademark STABLOK. In an ironic twist, the circuit breakers are gray. Whether viewed as a gray market case or not, American Circuit Breaker Corporation (“ACBC”) must establish a “likelihood of confusion” to prevail.
The essential facts are undisputed. ACBC holds the STABLOK trademark in the United States. Schneider Canada holds the Stab-Lok® trademark in Canada. Federal Pioneer Limited (“Pioneer”), a subsidiary of Schneider Canada, manufactures circuit breakers for itself and ACBC. The circuit breakers sold by the companies are identical except for the casing color. Pioneer manufactures black circuit breakers for ACBC and gray ones for itself. The parties have stipulated that, except for the casing color, there are no material differences between the products, and that the gray circuit breakers are “genuine” versions of the black ones. This dispute arose because Oregon Breakers bought gray circuit breakers from a Canadian third-party supplier and, without permission from ACBC, sold them in the United States.
Historical summary of FPE excerpted from court case cited below: In 1950, Federal Pacific Electric Company (“FPE”) adopted the trademark Stab-Lok® for circuit breakers. FPE eventually sold its U.S. circuit breaker business, including the U.S. Stab-Lok® trademark, to Challenger Electric.
Since 1950, ACBC American Circuit Breaker Corporation and its predecessors have continuously used the trademark Stab-Lok® on advertising, marketing, and sales of circuit breakers in the United States. ACBC is the record owner of the U.S. mark Stab-Lok® , which was issued in 1988. Under the Lanham Act, the mark is incontestable and ACBC has the exclusive right to use the mark.
In 1988, Challenger Electric sold the circuit breaker portion of its business to ACBC’s predecessor, which in turn assigned all of its rights in the business and trademark to Provident Industries, Inc. Provident Industries, Inc. changed its corporate name to American Circuit Breaker Corporation in late 1988.
2004 FPE Stab-Lok® TECHNICAL REPORT - St. Louis ASHI Seminar including: Hazard Summary & Independent Tests confirms Stab-Lok® failures. This article is a comprehensive survey of the FPE Hazard, its history, the issues, and recommended repair: replacement of the FPE Stab-Lok® panel.
2004 FPE Update: Exxon Buys a Scandal Along With A Company Business Week Article 7/21/80 now available on line
2004: 21 February 2004: Update of ongoing FPE Failure testing reported to ASHI - American Society of Home Inspectors [this topic has been reported to ASHI previously and has been addressed at ASHI conferences and seminars.
HAZARDOUS FPE CIRCUIT BREAKERS AND PANELS - Testing Update paper presented for the St. Louis ASHI chapter by Dr. Jess Aronstein, reporting on updated FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panel circuit breakers in independent testing and commented on various tests and circuit breaker models including:
2002: FPE Class Action Lawsuit Results - 2002: New Jersey Judge's Summary Judgment for the Plaintiffs against FPE 8-15-2002 & 29 October 2002 - "FPE violated the Consumer Fraud Act because FPE knowingly and purposefully distributed circuit breakers which were not tested to meet UL Standards as indicated on their label and there is an ascertainable loss for which treble damages are recoverable;" as reported by the Superior Court of New Jersey. [Note: only very limited recovery rights were granted to homeowners and only in New Jersey. The case may still be under appeal as of January 2007].
From 1997 to 2000, Oregon Breakers sold gray Pioneer manufactured
Stab-Lok® circuit breakers in the United
2000 FPE breakers fail (photos) in lab test of field-supplied panel 10/00
1999 FPE Failures continue: FPE breaker fails, results in fire: field failure reports can be read
1999: May 1999 :FPE Stab Lok Website author converses with Schneider Electric re: Federal Pioneer Equipment - further data not forthcoming.
December 1999: Ohio FPE Stab-Lok® failure-caused panel-fire documented at the website.
June 1999: IAEI International Association of Electrical Inspectors publishes anonymously and disclaimed, an article [penned by a previous FPE employee] - stating that there have never been failure, safety, or other issues with FPE Stab-Lok® equipment. OUR REPLY disagreed and cited authoritative data found here along with follow up notes
1997: 14 October 1997: Ontario Canada Home Warranty Program issues a warning regarding Canadian Federal Pioneer [Canadian version of FPE Stab-Lok® ] equipment provided by Schneider Electric if made in 1996 and 1997, and announces a recall program for Canadians. 1997 Schneider Canada Federal Pioneer circuit breaker recall, Schneider Canada Federal Pioneer circuit breaker recall British Columbia Fire Commissioner's Notice and Warning, and Federal Pioneer breaker recall notice from the Canadian Electrical Safety Authority
1996: 1996-1997 Federal Pioneer NCO15 and NC015CP circuit breaker recalls from Schneider Electric in Canada are newer products than the earlier FPE Stab-Lok® design
1995 Federal Pacific Electric Panels: Fires Waiting to Happen, Debate Waiting to Be Ended. Opinion article by DJF.
1995: 11 October 1995: The FPE Stab-Lok® Website created by DJ Friedman as a consumer information and electrical product failure research project.
1995: In February 1995 Cutler Hammer decided to close the FPE Switchgear facility (see history for 1986, below) and started his own company, Federal Pacific Equipment, Inc., hiring the FPE Employees.
1993: Prior to 1993, ACBC (American Circuit Breaker Corporation) manufactured black Stab-Lok® circuit breakers for the U.S. market at its plant in Albemarle, North Carolina, and Pioneer manufactured in Canada gray Stab-Lok® circuit breakers for the Canadian market. Following an intellectual property dispute in the early 1990s, ACBC entered into an agreement with Pioneer and Schneider Canada.
Part of the dispute [in the legal case cited below and from which this history is drawn] centered around Pioneer’s claim that it had acquired rights to market under the Stab-Lok® mark in the United States, as well as Canada. Although the details of the settlement agreement are confidential, the parties reveal the key elements in their briefs.
Under the agreement, Pioneer manufactures black Stab-Lok® circuit breakers for ACBC for sale in the United States and ACBC has agreed to purchase guaranteed minimums from Pioneer.
Pioneer continues  to manufacture gray Stab-Lok® circuit breakers for sale in Canada by Pioneer. The agreement forbids Pioneer from selling its Stab-Lok® circuit breakers in the United States for the term of the agreement. The effect of the agreement is that, although ACBC originally acquired its U.S. rights in the Stab-Lok® mark from Challenger Electric, a U.S. company, ACBC’s exclusivity of those trademark rights came about through the deal it struck with Pioneer, a Canadian company.
Accordingly, since 1993, both black and gray circuit breakers
have been manufactured by Pioneer in Canada and both
1988: In 1950, Federal Pacific Electric Company (“FPE”)
adopted the trademark Stab-Lok® for circuit breakers. FPE
[Un-dated] Two other FPE related events, estimated to have occurred in this time frame are listed just below.
Electro-Mechanical Corporation, purchased the assets of a dry-type transformer facility from Challenger and in conjunction with that purchase, acquired the right to use the name Federal Pacific in connection with their products, excluding Stab-Lok® circuit breaker products.
HC Zang Agency in Buffalo, NY says that "Federal Pacific Company and Federal Pacific Transformer Company of Bristol, Virginia are in no way related to the old Federal Pacific Electric (FPE)" and offers to answer questions about the old equipment.
1986 Challenger Electric Equipment Corporation acquired (some of the assets of) FPE from Reliance Electric in July 1986.
1983: 1983 CPSC Investigation of FPE Circuit Breakers Safety Information for Consumers
(Aronstein) provides report of independent testing and failures of FPE Stab-Lok® breakers. 1983 CPSC Investigation of FPE Circuit Breakers Safety Information for Consumers
CPSC management halts testing of FPE Breakers, citing high costs of continuing the project. The announcement does not exonerate the product and includes generic warnings to consumers.
1982: "Status Report - Evaluation of Residential Molded Case Circuit Breakers", Wright-Malta Corp., (For U.S. Consumer product Safety Commission, Project# CPSC-C-81-1455), August 10, 1982 (Contains analysis of mechanism of failure of FPE two-pole Stab-Lock breakers.) Additional 1982 FPE Stab-Lok® reports are listed below.
1982: 31 March 1982: Reliance Electric Financial Statements acknowledge that FPE previously obtained UL Listings by fraudulent means and that at "some point thereafter, lost their UL listing."
1982 Reliance Electric Co. SEC Quarterly Report: Note C. reports litigation between Reliance and UV Liquidating Trust and contends that "... improper and deceptive practices were employed for many years to secure UL listings for Federal Pacific's circuit protective products..."
1982 CPSC Calibration and Condition Tests of Molded Case Circuit Breakers, Final Report December 30, 1982, summary pages, indicating failure rates found for FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers
1981: 17 February 1981: Federal Pacific announced that it would voluntarily replace or field modify certain models of its [predominantly commercial and industrial] molded case circuit breaker line. [No recall, no field repair was offered for residential equipment.] Funds were set aside for this replacement [but may not have been expended.]
1980: June 1980, Reliance Electric and FPE brought suit against UV Industries [a liquidating trust which previously handled the assets of the bankrupt FPE company.] for damages of $345 million or for rescission of the previous sale by UV of the FPE line to Reliance, referring to deceptive practices which went on for years on obtaining UL listing for FPE products.
5 July 1980: Reliance Electric stopped shipping FPE Stab-Lok® equipment on or about July 5, 1980. Keep in mind that equipment in the pipeline in supply houses was never recalled, so homes built considerably after that date may still have an FPE Stab-Lok® panel installed.
1980 FPE - Exxon Buys A Scandal Along With A Company improper practices used to obtain UL Listing for most of FPE's circuit breakers and notes testing which indicates "possible defects." 1980, Reliance Electric Co.
21 July 1980: Business Week magazine reports on FPE/Reliance Electric scandal. Exxon Buys a Scandal Along With A Company Business Week Article 7/21/80 now available on line.
Lawsuit filed 26 June 1980 charges the Federal Pacific Electric Company of having employed "materially deceptive and improper manufacturing, testing, and certification practices" in production of one of the nation's most widely-used circuit breakers [the FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breaker]
September 1980: Reliance Electric brought legal action against Sharon Steel Company which had assumed the liabilities of UV Liquidation.
1980 Reliance Electric Co. Press Release: improper practices used to obtain UL Listing for most of FPE's circuit breakers and notes testing which indicates "possible defects." 1980, Reliance Electric Co. "It appears that Underwriters Laboratories labels for most of FPE's circuit breakers were obtained through improper practices", a Reliance spokesperson said. Shipments of the product were stopped on or about 5 July 1980.
UL's de-listing of nearly 400 circuit breaker labels started the legal process. By May 1980 it became obvious that the real problem was "deception" that occurred over a long period of years. Reliance suspended without pay Federal Pacific Electric President Harry E. Knudson, Jr. (Watchung, N.J.) and four other key Federal Pacific Electric executives.
1979 Reliance Electric acquired the [bankrupt] Federal Pacific Electric Company from UV Industries.
1964 Federal Pacific Electric Company joined with Westinghouse Electric, Allis-Chalmers, I-T-E, General Electric Company as appellants v. Pacific Gas and Electric Company and Ohio Brass Company v. Southern California Edison Company, in the United States Court of Appeals, 96h Circuit, January 6, 1964, as "several of the vast number of civil anti-trust suits commenced against a number of manufacturers of electric products as an aftermath of the Government's criminal prosecutions in Philadelphia.
They are here on appeal from interlocutory orders of the district court." cf: 326 F.2d 575, January 6, 1964 (Loeb & Loeb, Alfred I. Rothman, John L. Cole, and Robert A. Holtzman, Los Angeles, Cal., for appellant Federal Pacific Elec. Co.
1960: Circuit Breaker with Plug In Terminals, FPE Patent application from 19 January 1953 was granted 21 January 1960, US Patent 2,921,240, to Thomas M. Cole, Harrison, NY. assignor to Federal Pacific Electric Company, Newark, NJ, a corporation of Delaware.
"The subject matter of the present application is related also to the copending application of myself and Paul M. Christensen, filed November 15, 1949, and which issued as Patent No. 2,647,225 on July 28, 1953, said patent disclosing and claiming a panel board con struction for mounting in side-by-side disposition circuit ybreakers which are substantially of the same width."
1959: FPE Patent application filed (patent not issued until 1963), U.S. Patent No. 3,093,773, Panelboard with Circuit Protective Devices, Thomas M. Cole, Harrison, NY., assignor to Federal Pacific Electric Co., a corporation of Delaware, filed Mar 23 1959, Ser. No. 801,349, cites "The Magic E", publication, Federal Noark, Catalog 1000 A, July 1953, The Federal Pacifc Electric Co.. [probably refers to the Stab-Lok E-bus design - ed.] This patent describes a combination electrical panelboard using both cartridge fuses and stab-lok circuit breakers - shown at above left.
1956: According to some writers, during this era (but probably later than this year) McGraw Electric purchased part of the product lines from the Federal Pacific Electric Company. [We have not substantiated this detail -DF]
1953: patent granted to Federal Noark (research for patent document is ongoing) - referred to in 1959: a U.S. Patent No. 2,910,630 Circuit Breaker Panelboard was granted to Hammersly and assigned to GE made reference to " OTHER REFERENCES Federal Noark Catalog 1000A, July 1953, " ( Hammerly, Herman J. "Circuit breaker panelboard." U.S. Patent 2,910,630, issued October 27, 1959.) This citation appears in other patent applications as well, such as John, Michael J. St. "Sequence bus panelboard." U.S. Patent 2,997,628, issued August 22, 1961. Park, Lakeside. "Panel board and circuit breaker combination." U.S. Patent 3,089,063, issued May 7, 1963. Kingdon, Ralph H. "KINGDON." U.S. Patent 3,105,173, issued September 24, 1963.)
1952: U.S. Patent No. 2,599,695, 10 June 1952, to Paul M. Christensen and assigned to Federal Pacific Electric Company, Newark N.J., a corporation of Delaware. "In said patent provision is made for mounting a plu
rality of circuit breakers, all of which are substantially
1952: In 1952, Federal Electric Products Company, a U.S. company that was later merged into FPE, registered the trademark Stab-Lok® in Canada.
1950: FPE adopted the trademark "Stab-Lok® " . Source: United States Court of Appeals, American Circuit Breaker Corporation v. Oregon Breakers Inc., No. 03-35375 D.C. No. CV-01-00308-DCA Opinion by Judge McKeown, filed April 25, 2005
1949: FPE patent filed 15 November 1949, issued as Patent No. 2,647,225, on 28 July 1953, Terminal Patent Assembly, disclosing and claiming a panel board consitruction for mounting side by side disposition circuit breakers which are substantially the same width. - Cole, Thomas M. "Terminal panel assembly." U.S. Patent No. 2,647,225. 28 Jul. 1953. This patent is referred to later in US Patent 2,921,240, Jan 1960 (described above). The citations for this 1949 patent extend back to 5 December 1933, Emyrs M. Williams, Akron Ohio US patent No. 1,938,309 which described a flush-type electrical outlet or switch.
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