Aug 18 2010

Fire Hazard for Federal Pacific Breakers

Posted by admin in Electric Tips


Federal Pacific electric panels and circuit breakers were very popular about 25 years ago. These were installed by electricians throughout the United States, including Scranton, Wilkes-barre, Dunmore, Clarks Summit, and Pittston Pennsylvania.

Then, about 25 years ago, Underwriters Labratories (UL) identified that some of the breakers and equipment would burst into flames and fail to work. UL revoked their listing.

To check to see if you have a Federal Pacific breaker box installed in your home or business, open the metal door on your breaker box (the user door, not the one that requires you to remove screws!), and look for a label showing the manufacturer. If it reads, Federal Pacific, call us to a free quote on changing out your potentially fire hazardous breakers.

The following article, written by a home inspector for the Washington Post, provides more detail.

by Alan Gould, Washington Post
January 13, 2007, page F1.

These electrical panels, widely used by builders in the 1960s and 1970s, are considered unsafe. The problem is usually described as a latent hazard – that is, the panels and circuit breakers themselves do not cause unsafe conditions such as a short in a wire, but the breakers often will not trip when they should. That can lead to overheating and fires. In extensive testing by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the circuit breakers had a failure rate of approximately 25 percent. I see many Federal Pacific-brand electrical panels in homes I inspect, sometimes several in a week. They are easy to identify by the Federal Pacific and Stab-Lok branding on the panel cover. If a household electrical circuit is overloaded, the circuit breaker in the panel is supposed to trip (cut off) so that heat cannot build up and cause scorched wires, melting and fires. I rarely see evidence of this, but the many cases of failure have led to an industry view that because these panels are obsolete and possibly dangerous, replacement should be considered. That usually costs between $1,000 and $1,600. To date, there is no recall or class-action lawsuit for this panel, but the CPSC has issued safety warnings. The product is no longer manufactured.

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