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Here we describe how to reliably identify FPE Equipment: this article series describes how to identify Federal Pacific Stab-Lok® Electric Panels and circuit breakers in buildings. It is information for building inspectors, home buyers, home owners, electricians exploring the background of possible hazards associated with Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® circuit breakers and service panels.
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.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
Also see our discussion of pre-1970 FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers at FPE Pre-1970 STAB-LOKS OK?. For more information on FPE replacement options, see FPE REPLACEMENT PANELS and FPE REPLACEMENT BREAKERS. This page assists in identifying Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® electrical panels and circuit breakers. More FPE information is in the links listed at Related Topics .
While this article series includes FPE Stab-Lok® equipment part or model numbers (seelinks listed at Related Topics ), those examples are provided to assist in the identification of this equipment - tests and field reports indicate that all of the FPE Stab-Lok® equipment, electrical panels and circuit breakers sold and installed in the U.S. suffers the no-trip breaker and other problems across all residential equipment models and ages. Thanks to Patrick Hedderman for suggesting this clarification.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about identifying FPE Stab-Lok® and Federal Pioneer electrical panels and circuit breakers and about their associated hazards, testing, failure rates
Question: Someone substituted a FedPac breaker in a panel of a different brand - is that a problem?
I'm a "neighbor" in Saugerties, NY and have so appreciated the information I've learned about the Fed Pac breakers on the site. My daughter is moving into a "new" home (built in '73) and we noticed that there is a fed pac main breaker switch that has been added to her non fed pac box with all the circuit breakers. (Please forgive if I use non electrical language)
It does not say "stab lok" on the main breaker box. I'm assuming they upgraded from 110 at some point, thus the additional main breaker box.
I'm having someone come look at it, and possibly replace the fed pac part.... but if it doesn't say "stab lok" on the fed pac main breaker which is the only fed pac product, does it need replacing? Thanks so much for any direction you can provide.
- J.P., Saugerties NY
Reply: Check the panel connecting bus bar design, assure compatible breakers, watch out for amateur work
A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem with an electrical system, and in this case, if odd parts have been substituted in a panel that makes me worry about amateur or "low budget" prior repairs and problems.
That said, it's worth a careful inspection of the property by an expert home inspector who might pick up other signs that increase or decrease our concern for the electrical system as well as all other topics pertinent to condition of the home.
FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers may say FPE or Federal Pacific but may not have the words stablok on the breaker - take a look at our circuit breaker identification photos at FPE BREAKER ID PHOTOS.
The electrical connectors on a given circuit breaker must match the electrical bus bar design in the electrical panel. What will determine the proper and allowable circuit breaker in your panel, besides trying to avoid problem products, is the connecting bus design in the electrical panel - the metal strips into which circuit breakers clip and connect to obtain power.
So if someone substituted a breaker of a brand that does not match the panel brand, the connections might be improper and unsafe.
An electrician can examine that connecting strips (the electrical panel "bus" or "bus bars") and tell you what breakers are supposed to connect onto it, and might confirm that by panel labels if they remain in place. If someone "forced" into an electrical panel bus a breaker that was not designed for that particular bus, the connections are typically damaged and certainly unreliable and perhaps unsafe.
If you can send along some sharp photos of the circuit breaker in question, and when your electrician opens the panel, photos of the panel interior and the connecting metal bus bars we can make a more definite comment on what you've got.
Over the past 12 years, I have called out hundreds of FPE Stab Lok panels. I am very familiar with these panels after initial learning about them through my ASHI training and gaining significant knowledge from your website. I commonly refresh my memory by visiting your site and direct my clients to your site when they are purchasing a house with one of these panels. And I always recommend that FPE Stab Lok panels be replaced.
Chris thank you so much for the photos and correspondence. Because the panel in your photos is an old and uncommon model, your photos and field observations are important and I will as you suggest add them to our website data at http://inspectapedia.com/fpe/fpeid.htm along with a credit to you. If you do not want to be identified as a contributor just let me know and I'll be glad to delete that information. We would much appreciate hearing any comments, critique, suggestions, or further questions that you may have after you've taken a look at that article.
It is not surprising for someone to question whether or not this is a Stab-Lok® design panel as I agree that it does not, from externals, resemble the better-known FPE models in labellng. And the physical layout of the panel and the close proximity of the four subordinate breakers to the main invites one to question how the bus and breaker design fit into the space behind that internal panel cover plate.
Even having studied many FPE products installed in the field and in photos, both residential and commercial, this exact model is not one I've seen before. It appears to use a copper bus, it is cramped, appears to be double-tapped, possibly improperly wired, and obsolete. I'd guess this unit is quite old, probably a "Federal Electric" or a "Federal Noark" panel made before "Stab-Lok® " term was applied to that product design, and possibly dating from the 1950's. I couldn't quite make out the logo on the panel top.
I agree that the breakers look "different" in their toggle ends from the common Stab-Lok® breakers, but in other FPE Stab-Lok® design photos you'll see some toggle switches that do resemble those in your photos. Without a direct view inside we can't be dead certain of the exact bus and breaker design, and I agree that it is possible that FPE produced other breaker panels that did not use the Stab-Lok® design, though I've yet to find a record or example of such.
More concisely, in answer to your question - Is this a Stab-Lok® panel? - without seeing the panel interior, I'm not sure. If it's not, it's a first.
I have not found data, field examples, nor photos of a Federal Pacific, FPE, FP, Federal Noark, Federal Electric &c. residential circuit breaker panel that did not use one of the several (problematic) Stab-Lok® bus & breaker designs, and the design shows up as commercial equipment as well.
I have passed on this question to our other FPE experts for comment and will update here accordingly, and we invite comment from other readers or experts on the FPE Stab-Lok® topic.
The FP/FPE fuse panels do not have the same "no-trip" issue, except for the models that used a combination of both fuses and circuit breakers.
Those panels, at least the models whose interior we've examined, including some commercial equipment, were indeed built to the Stab-Lok® design even though the product name did not necessarily include those words.
I would agree that you were also correct and acting in accord with home inspection standards to stop where you did, without further disassembly of the panel, as doing so can be dangerous and is beyond the scope of a home inspection. But it would be useful to see the internal bus details.
If the panel in your photos is available, when it is replaced, as it should be, it might be contributed for our further testing and study - if that's possible let me know and I'll forward the test-engineer's address to you.
Even the most well-informed and conscientious building inspector or researcher is going to come across odd, obsolete, rare, or otherwise questionable equipment from time to time, and any reasonable expert should understand how one might have raised doubt about applying the "Stab-Lok® " design for the product in your photos.
Adding to the poor performance of FP / FPE breaker equipment this panel is obsolete, crowded, double tapped. Replacing it would make good sense to me.
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Question: can you tell me if this is an FPE Stab-Lok Panel
See FPE HAZARD SUMMARY to understand why you should replace this equipment.
Questions & answers or comments about identifying FPE Stab-Lok® and Federal Pioneer electrical panels and circuit breakers and about their associated hazards, testing, failure rates.
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