Should I Replace My Federal Pacific Breaker?
Homeowners should be aware that their property may still have a type of electrical circuit breaker that has been the subject of a long-running debate over significant safety concerns. Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) were a popular residential electrical panel choice in the mid to late 20th century, as it was a well-known cheaper alternative to some of the more recognizable panel companies.
However, according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, FPE Stab-Lok panels shouldn’t be inspected but replaced. In the interest of you and your family’s safety, our Vittetoe Electric experts are here to explain.
What Is a Circuit Breaker Panel?
A circuit breaker is an electrical safety device designed to safeguard an electrical circuit from damage caused by an overcurrent or short circuit. Its essential function is to disrupt current flow to protect equipment and to avoid the risk of fire.
While every home is unique, circuit breakers are usually located in low-traffic spots of the home, such as a basement, garage, or utility closet.
The Dangers of a Federal Pacific Breaker Panel
Millions of homes throughout the United States, including Colorado, had a Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok Panel installed. As issues came to light some officials suspected that the panel was responsible for causing house fires. Investigations than began into the safety of these wide-spread panels to determine their safety and if they were fit for purpose. From this vigorous testing, it was concluded that the breakers had a dangerous and potentially life-threatening flaw.
Studies have shown that up to one in four Stab-Lok breakers are faulty and run the risk of malfunction or electrical fire. A New Jersey court ruled that Federal Pacific Electric fraudulently labeled these faulty breakers as meeting certain safety standards. Federal Pacific panel breaker failures are the cause of an approximate 2,800 fires each year.
How To Tell if You Own a Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok Panel
If your home is between 25 and 65 years old, you may have a Federal Pacific panel installed and it’s worth checking. Usually, ‘Federal Pacific’ or ‘FPE’ will be written on the box’s front cover, if you’re unsure, look inside the box and see if you can see a label that states ‘Stab-Lok’. The breakers themselves will have a red stripe cross each switch.
If you find that your home has an FPE panel but are unsure if to replace it as it’s been functioning properly for years, remember that it could still fail to trip in the future and prove fatal. Contact the Vittetoe Electric team to discuss your replacement options with a license electrician.
Replacing a Federal Pacific Breaker
As we’ve discussed, the trouble with owning an FPE Stab-Lok panel is that it can function perfectly fine – until it suddenly doesn’t. With the safety of your family at risk, it’s important that you replace yours as soon as possible. Ensuring that your circuit breaker panel is functioning properly will give you peace of mind. The panel provides your home with a critical piece of protection against smoke or fire damage triggered by electrical overloads.
The lifespan of electrical breakers is typically between 30 – 40 years and replacing an old circuit breaker is a job best handled by a licensed electrician.
Unsure if your circuit breaker panel is safe for your home?
If you’ve discovered an FPE panel in your home and want help with a replacement circuit breaker, contact Vittetoe Electric: 1 (303) 521 7827. We are a locally owned and operated with qualified and certified electricians to assist Colorado homeowners.
Vittetoe Electric is your single source for a complete range of high-quality electrical services, including design/build, engineering, and maintenance.