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This article addresses the occasional claims by parties with conflicting interests, such as home sellers, real estate agents or attorneys representing sellers or other interests who sometimes state that there is no Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® hazard or cite the absence of a final government recall as a reason to assume that no action is justified.
We include links to public documents concerning legal and safety issues surrounding this equipment and we link to articles offering FPE panel replacement advice and money-saving alternatives.
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The bottom line on FPE Stab-Lok® equipment: The FPE Stab-Lok® Panel is a latent fire hazard. The panel or its entire bus assembly should be replaced, not simply some or all of the FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers. Replacement cost ranges from $800 to $2000. There is no useful FPE recall, warranty, or other financial relief. See FPE REPLACEMENT PANELS.
Making printed copies of this document is permitted. Electronic reproduction or copying of our website pages and articles in any other form is prohibited, with this exception: we provide FPE Stab-Lok® Hazard Summary Page for Public Use that can be freely copied in print or electronic form and that can be copied (without modification) to other websites.
This Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® Electrical Panel replacement advice discusses the real hazards of FPE Electric Stab Lok panels and FPE circuit breakers.
Home buyers and home inspectors who encounter a difference of opinion about FPE Stab-Lok® equipment expressed by a home seller, seller's attorney, or real estate agent, sometimes report the view that because there was no US Government recall of FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panels, there is no concern regarding that equipment.
Do not rely on electrical panel age as a guarantee of safety
Do not rely on electrical panel age, nor on an "inspection" by an electrician or home inspector or building inspector as "proof" that the electrical panel is or is not as safe and reliable as other brands. Don't rely on a home owner, seller, real estate agent, or anyone else who says "it's been fine so far" either.
FACT: Saying that an FPE Stab-Lok® panel has "performed just fine up to now" is not a reliable indicator of its safety.
What if up to now there has been no evidence of a "failure" in a home serviced by a Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® electrical panel?
If you haven't seen FPE failures yourself (a sample of "one" is not statistically meaningful), instead see FPE FAILURE FIRE PHOTOS which is a collection of field failure reports, fires, overheats, and FPE problems which has over 130 entries (and more on file waiting to be entered).
In the Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® ™ panel bus assembly shown here, the equipment "looked fine" to the home inspector, home owner, home buyer, real estate agent, and everyone else, until the licensed electrician, someone familiar with FPE failures, removed a few circuit breakers to show the burning bus-to-breaker connections in the electrical panel.
Considering that only 2% to 5% of electrical failures are ever reported to any collecting authority, this is significant data.
Why have some homes with FPE Stab-Lok® breakers & panels "never seen a problem"?
Past history is no promise of future: Statements about this equipment by an owner or realtor that "there has never been a problem in this building" are not a safe
predictor of what can happen in the future. It may simply be the case that the circuit breakers have not been called-on to
respond to an overload condition. An overcurrent or short circuit - hazards against which circuit breakers are designed to protect the home and its occupants - may not have occurred at a particular property.
Although Federal Pacific Electric lost it's UL listing for a time, it subsequently went out of business. There was no product recall issued in the U.S. (There was a product recall of some Canadian products under the Federal Pioneer brand version of this panel.)
Instead of relying on the presence or absence of a government-ordered product recall, in this case we suggest reading the test data cited at the FPE Stab-Lok® information website, the court findings of fraud by FPE, and the many field reports of failures and even fires. The FPE hazard is real, well defined, and unambiguous.
The absence of a recall of FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panels does not mean the absence of a problem. Aluminum wiring
is a recognized fire hazard but was never "recalled". Do not waste time looking for an FPE product recall, FPE warranty claim, or FPE panel replacement money: there isn't any except for
a successful class action lawsuit that affects some New Jersey homeowners and an older Federal Pioneer (same product
different label) recall for some Canadian equipment. FPE and FP product recalls are discussed further below.
OPINION: Relying on a product recall is like believing that there is no crime because we have police departments or believing that there are no auto accidents because cars have brakes. There can be real hazards without a recall. There has been no recall of pennies put in fuse sockets, for example.
Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® (TM) panels and breakers are easily identified by markings on the panel front face (inside the door), writing on paper labels that may glued to the inside of the panel cover or inside the panel enclosure, the appearance of the circuit breakers, and unique appearance of the panel bus design (that breakers are plugged into).
Some of these details can be observed safely only by a licensed electrician who can remove circuit breakers but most of them are easily observed by a homeowner.
See HOW TO IDENTIFY FPE & FP for help on how to identify or recognize Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab Lok circuit breakers and electrical panels - Product Identification photos and advice" helps identify Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® equipment.
Watch Out: we advise against purchasing replacement FPE Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® circuit breakers or panel parts. Data indicates that these replacement parts do not perform more safely than old or original FPE parts, and other innate safety concerns with the panel and bus assembly also would remain in place. The FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panel and its part should be replaced entirely.
Do not just replace the FPE circuit breakers, and do not install substitute or "replacement" FPE breakers that "fit" in the panel. We have yet to be supplied with independent test data indicating that these new breakers perform any better than the originals, and we have received field reports of failures and burn-ups with "new" and "replacement" FPE breakers.
Furthermore, there are FPE panel bus, bus-to-breaker connections, and panel connection problems that appear to contribute to panel and breaker failures.
Replace the Panel If the electrical panel or circuit breakers are identified as Federal Pacific Electric or "Stab Lok" the electrical panel should be replaced and a new panel with new breakers installed. The FPE REPLACEMENT PANELS link at the "More Reading" links at the bottom of this article offers some alternatives and can save you some money.
The FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panel should be replaced. No new breakers, no inspections, no tests. Replaced.
Don't look to the government: We know of no meaningful program offered by any company nor government agency which provides financial assistance for the replacement of this unsafe electrical panel.
This FPE photograph is of the backside of the electrical panel bus assembly where an overheating condition and "meltdown" are occurring. This damage could not be seen unless the panel is taken out of the enclosure.
So who pays?: Home buyers and some home sellers often ask us who should pay for replacement of this unsafe electrical panel. Our opinion is that the panel is unsafe and should be replaced, but we are a neutral party with regard to who should pay for this repair.
Payment or allowance for addressing any substantive defect discovered at a property being purchased is a matter for negotiation between the parties, with advice from their attorney and real estate agent.
What does it cost?: Typical installation of a new 100-Amp electrical panel in the U.S. ranges from $900. to $2800. including parts and labor - not significant as a portion of value of a home. Some replacement methods (steel panel enclosure reuse) may reduce that cost in some cases..
Working in a tight space, installing a higher ampacity electrical panel, or other considerations might push this cost up closer to that higher $2800. figure. The cost of replacing an FPE Stab-Lok® panel can sometimes be reduced if the electrician agrees that it is suitable to re-use the original steel panel enclosure, inserting a new bus assembly and breakers, because the labor of rerouting wires is eliminated. That option is suitable only if the service size and thus the panel enclosure size is large enough to meet modern requirements. See REPLACEMENT PANELS.
OPINION: It is unfortunate when a building seller, real estate agent, or their attorney put the safety of future occupants of a building at risk by attempting to head off negotiation on this particular defect by asserting that there is no hazard. The risks are well documented by both field reports and independent lab testing. The cost to cure this common building defect is quite small compared with the value or purchase price of almost any building. An owner or real estate agent who is informed about this safety hazard and who fails to disclose this condition to another future buyer may be liable for real estate fraud as well as for any ensuing loss.
Because the safety of the future occupants of the building as well as the building itself are at risk, the new owner should assure that the panel is replaced, regardless of who pays for it. If the building is not being sold, certainly the current owner should have this safety hazard corrected promptly.
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