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Important Technical Info: FPE Stab-Lok Panels

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[#1] Posted: 02/13/2008 - 7:14:46 PM
By Daniel Friedman
THE FPE Stab-Lok HAZARD
The hazards of Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab-Lok panels have been studied and documented thoroughly, have been the subject of national home inspection seminars and conferences, published in newsletters, and published in the Journal of Light Construction. Basically we have circuit breakers that fail to trip at a rate thousands of times worse than normal industry standards, a bus that can fail to retain the circuit breakers, and possibly other defects that extended across the product life of this line.

FPE Stab-Lok PANELS SHOULD BE REPLACED
Because an FPE Stab-Lok circuit breaker has a very unusually high rate of failure to trip (and because there are other bus and panel design defects and failures) these electrical panels should be replaced. Period.

FPE RESEARCH
More than 20 years of independent research and field reports as well as US Government documents(from the SEC) and a recent court finding in New Jersey confirm that the the company acted fraudulently and that the FPE Stab-Lok hazard is a real one - breakers fail to trip in response to an overcurrent, up to 60% of the time.

Home inspectors and owners should see: The FPE Hazards Website http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/...anel.htm

Inspectors are welcome to print hard copies of any pages of this website that they wish to provide to their clients, home owners, realtors, or their state authorities.

FPE REPORT
The latest FPE Stab-Lok Panel technical report is in .pdf format and can be downloaded directly using the link just below. If you are having trouble accessing this file just shoot me an email using the address at the bottom of this post and I'll send a copy to you directly.

http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/...0525.PDF

If the .PDF form is too slow to download, an older copy of this report is at

http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/...ouis.htm

Home inspectors anywhere are invited to print the technical report and/or pages from the website to give to clients in homes where an FPE Stab-Lok electrical panel is found.

FIELD REPORTS OF FPE Stab-Lok failures
See http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpefire.htm

HOW TO IDENTIFY FPE Stab-Lok EQUIPMENT
See http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpeid.htm

FIELD INSPECTIONS/ELECTRICIANS "OK"
No visual inspection and in fact not even electrical testing in the field can reliably identify the hazards at a specific panel. Worse, testing these panels in the field is dangerous and can actually INCREASE the risk of a future breaker's failure to trip. This problem, added to lack of familiarity of the issue among some electricians, is why it is unreliable to ask for and rely on an electricians "inspection" of an FPE Stab-Lok electrical panel. A list of electricians who are indeed familiar with and can replace FPE panels is maintained at http://www.inspect-ny.com/poin...electric - listings are free to qualified electricians.

UP TO NOW OUR FPE PANEL HAS BEEN FINE
The observation by some owners that "up to now we've never had a problem" is unreliable. Most circuit breakers are never called-on to trip due to an overcurrent. It's like riding in a car with a seatbelt connected just by a thread. Up to now everything seems just fine, but then, you've not been in a crash which would call on the seatbelt for protection. The panel does not itself initiate a problem; rather it is likely to fail to protect the building wiring (and thus the building and its occupants) when an overcurrent (that should trip the breaker) occurs. Properly put we call this a LATENT SAFETY HAZARD.

REPLACEMENT FPE Stab-Lok CIRCUIT BREAKERS
Are not recommended. See the discussion at http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/...kers.htm for more details.

REPLACEMENTS FOR FPE Stab-Lok ELECTRICAL PANELS
The typical cost to cure - a new electrical panel - is a miniscule portion of the value of a home and in no circumstances should be considered a "show stopper" in a real estate transaction. Further, home inspectors should have no position about who should pay for such a repair (such is unethical). The panel should be replaced, no matter who pays for it. Replacement options at http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/...lace.htm include methods that for some cases can cut the typical replacement cost in half.

CANADIAN FPE
Federal Pioneer Stab-Lok circuit breakers and panels were and may still be sold (under Schneider Electric) in Canada. I have definitely had failure reports from the Canadian version of this product but reports have been few compared with in the U.S. We don't know if this is due to differences in the product (there has been one FPE recall in Canada and Schneider engineers declined to comment on whether or not they'd made improvements or changes to the Canadian product) or due to differences in Canadian electrical installation practices or other factors. Candian Federal Pioineer Panels are discussed at http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/...neer.htm

FEDERAL PACIFIC ELECTRIC PANELS
Fires Waiting to Happen - article by DF - see http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpe.html

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
The ONLY source of claims that there is "no hazard" with this product have in my experience originated with folks with a serious conflict of interest: an attorney charged with protecting FPE's remains (the company is long out of business) and EXXON against a product liability suit, and secondarily, some real estate agents and some real estate sellers, wishing to avoid a possible safety issue being raised regarding a home have made the (unsupportable) claim that the product is not defective.

I am an independent building failures researcher who has studied this topic for many years and like active home inspectors, I'm required to be without conflict of interest in reporting (I have no financial relationship with the product nor with its replacement).
####

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniel Friedman is an educator, author, and a building failures researcher. Friedman combined education and experience from careers in computer engineering design and new construction, and historic Building restoration to build a professional practice as a Building failures researcher, writer, publisher, home inspector, and consultant specializing in construction, environmental testing, and inspections. Friedman's time is divided between performing home inspections/sick Building investigations - a consumer protection service for owners or home buyers - and writing, teaching, researching about related topics.

Want to learn more about Zinsco panels? Just click on any of Dan's links above or join Dan and others who are discussing them now on TIJ's forums.

   
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