Ask The Inspector Blog Series:
Question: Are Federal Pacific Stab-Lok Panels as dangerous as I have read online? - Alan S.
Answer: Despite there being no mandate requiring the replacement of these panels and breakers, since there is significant evidence that the breakers pose a safety risk, we recommend that they be replaced by a qualified electrician.
Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Stab-Lok was one of the most popular brands of electrical panels in North America from the 1950s to the 1980s. During this time, Federal Pacific Stab-lok electrical panels were installed in millions of homes across the United States. It has been discovered, however, that these panels have significant safety issues that can put homeowners at risk.
What is a Federal Pacific Stab-lok electrical panel?
A FPE Stab-lok electrical panel is an electrical distribution board manufactured by the Federal Pacific Electric Company. These panels contain circuit breakers that protect electrical circuits from overloading and short-circuiting.
Why are FPE Stab-lok electrical panels dangerous?
Federal Pacific Stab-lok electrical panels are dangerous because they have been found to have several safety defects that can cause electrical fires and electrical shock. The two main safety issues with these panels are:
- Faulty circuit breakers: Federal Pacific Stab-lok electrical panels were found to have faulty circuit breakers that do not trip when there is an overload or short-circuit. This means that the circuit breaker does not shut off the electricity supply to the circuit, which can cause the circuit to overheat, the wires to melt, and potentially cause an electrical fire.
- Poor construction quality: Federal Pacific Stab-lok electrical panels were found to have poor construction quality. The bus bars, which are the metal bars inside the panel that conduct electricity, were found to be poorly designed and manufactured. This can cause the bus bars to overheat and potentially cause an electrical fire.
Although FPE and its parent company still deny their panels had a higher rate of failure when used under normal conditions, a New Jersey court ruled that the company was guilty of fraud in a class action lawsuit settlement in 2005.
The court found that the FPE company “…knowingly and purposefully distributed circuit breakers which were not tested to meet UL standards”. This document summarizes the FPE class action lawsuit settlement procedure for affected homeowners. –Inspectapedia
What to do if you have a Federal Pacific Stab-lok electrical panel?
Despite there being no mandate requiring the replacement of these panels and breakers, since there is significant evidence that the breakers pose a safety risk, we recommend that they be replaced by a qualified electrician. If you have a Federal Pacific Stab-lok electrical panel in your home, have it inspected by a qualified electrician and they will determine if the panel is safe or if it needs to be replaced.
If you do decide to replace your Federal Pacific Stab-lok electrical panel, it is important to hire a licensed and qualified electrician. They can install a new panel that meets the current safety codes and standards.