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This page contains a closing statement regarding a CPSC Investigation of FPE Circuit Breakers and additional safety information for consumers.
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U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
CLOSES INVESTIGATION OF
FPE CIRCUIT BREAKERS AND PROVIDES
SAFETY INFORMATION FOR CONSUMERS
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Consumer Product Safety Commission
announced today that it is closing its two year investigation into
Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® type residential circuit breakers.
This action was taken because the data currently available to the
Commission does not establish that the circuit breakers present a
serious risk of injury to consumers.
The Commission investigation into Federal Pacific Electric (FPE)
circuit breakers began in June, 1980, when Reliance Electric Co., a
subsidiary of Exxon Corporation and the parent to FPE, reported to
the Commission that many FPE circuit breakers did not fully comply
with Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL) requirements. Commission
testing confirmed that these breakers fail under certain UL calibration
test requirements. The Commission investigation focused primarily
on 2-pole residential circuit breakers manufactured before Reliance
acquired FPE in 1979.
To meet UL standards, residential circuit breakers must pass
a number of so-called "calibration tests." The purpose of these
tests is to determine whether the circuit breakers will hold the
current for which they are rated and also automatically open or
"trip" (shut off the current) within the specified time limits if
over-loading of the circuit breakers causes current levels in excess of the
breaker's amperage rating. (Overloading can occur because a
consumer plugs too many products into a circuit or due to the failure
of a product or component connected to that circuit.) While the
Commission is concerned about the failure of these FPE breakers to
meet UL calibration requirements, the Commission is unable at this
time to link these failures to the development of a hazardous situation.
According to Reliance, failure of these FPE breakers to
comply with certain UL calibration requirements do not create a
hazard in the household environment. It is Reliance's position
that FPE breakers will trip reliably at most overload levels unless
the breakers have been operated in a repetitive, abusive manner
that should not occur during residential use. Reliance maintains
that, at those few overload levels where FPE breakers may fail to
trip under realistic use conditions, currents will be too low to
generate hazardous temperatures in household wiring. Reliance
believes that its position in this regard is supported by test data that
is provided to the Commission.
The Commission staff believes that it currently has insufficient
data to accept or refute Reliance's position.
The Commission staff estimates that it would cost several
million dollars to gather the data necessary to assess fully whether
those circuit breakers which are installed in homes but which may
fail UL calibration tests present a risk to the public. Based on
the Commission's limited budget ($34 million for fiscal year 1983),
the known hazards the Commission has identified and must address
(involving products of other manufacturers) and the uncertainty of
the results of such a costly investigation, the Commission has
decided not to commit further resources to its investigation of
FPE's circuit breakers. However, despite its decision to close
this particular investigation, the Commission will continue its
investigation of circuit breakers generally. The Commission can
reopen its investigation of FPE breakers if further information
The Commission advises consumers to take certain safety
precautions with all circuit breakers and fuses. Consumers should:
-Know your electrical circuit. Know which outlets and products
are connected to each circuit.
-Never overload any electrical circuit by connecting too
many products to the circuit. Be particularly careful not
to connect several products that demand high current (such
as heating appliances) to a low amperage circuit.
-Comply with local building codes in wiring or adding electrical
circuits. Make sure the wiring and devices used in the
circuit are connected to a circuit breaker or fuse of the
-Immediately disconnect any electrical product if problems develop.
Have the product examined by a competent repair person.
-Investigate to determine why a fuse blows or circuit breaker
trips. Do not simply replace the fuse or reset the breaker.
If a fuse blows or breaker trips, it is often a warning that
the circuit is overloaded. Check the circuit for causes of
overloading (for example, too many appliances plugged in, a
malfunctioning product, a short circuit). When in doubt,
consult a licensed electrician.
Consumers who have questions concerning circuit breakers, or
who wish to report information relating to their safety, may call
the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's toll-free safety
hotline at 800-638-CPSC, teletypewriter for the hearing impaired
at 800-638-8270 (Maryland only 800-492-8104).
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Note: as we didn't add this reviewers list until 2007, this list of technical reviewers is incomplete; we have received comments and suggestions regarding this topic, edits and remarks included, from engineers and management from the US CPSC, electricians (many listed at our page on field reports of FPE failures), home inspectors, licensed electricians, and electrical engineers, and even a few attorneys and real estate agents, since 1986. Technical review, critique, content suggestions, questions, or clarifications are invited and where a contributor wishes, credit and links will be provided to that source. Contact us to provide feedback.
Dr. Jess Aronstein, electrical engineer, Poughkeepsie, NY, forensic engineering services, independent laboratory testing for various agencies firstname.lastname@example.org (independent electrical panel testing, including FPE Stab-Lok® panels, to April 2010)
David Carrier, electrical engineer, 53 Henmond Blvd., Poughkeepsie, NY 12603 845-430-7527 email@example.com (independent electrical panel testing, including FPE Stab-Lok® panels, beginning 2010)
Alan Carson, Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto, Ontario. Mr. Carson is a home inspection professional, educator, researcher, writer, and a principal of Carson Dunlop Associates, a Toronto home inspection and education firm. Mr. Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors
Carl Grasso, Esq., Herzfeld & Rubin, New York, NY. Mr. Grasso is an attorney who managed a plaintiff's class action litigation against Federal Pacific Electric in New Jersey.
William King, US CPSC Director of Electrical Engineering (Ret).
Licensed Electricians: FPE FAILURE FIRE PHOTOS includes electricians who have provided cases and photographs of field failures of FPE equipment at this website.
Homeowners, Home Inspectors, Electricians: FPE FAILURE FIELD REPORTS includes anecdotal field reports provided by a range of contributors including electricians (and some home owners or home inspectors) who have provided cases and photographs of field failures of FPE equipment at this website.
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
Aluminum Wiring Information WebsiteAluminum Electrical Wiring Hazards and Repairs: in-depth authoritative info, photos, documents including selection of proper vs. ineffective repair methods. E.g.: Ideal 65 "Twister" purple connector fails in field and lab testing with aluminum wire.
2007 FPE Stab-Lok® TECHNICAL REPORT - an updated test report of independent testing (a large 1.2MB PDF file) using a larger pool of FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers than the older CPSC and Wright Malta tests found significantly higher failure rates of FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers, including a look at critical safety failures (breaker failed to trip at 200% of rated current or jammed) which found up to 80% failure rate for FPE Stab-Lok® GFCI circuit breakers (n=4), 12% failure rate for double pole FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers (n=120), and a 1% failure rate for FPE Stab-Lok® single pole circuit breakers (n=345).
1982 Reliance Electric Co. SEC Quarterly Report: Note C. reports litigation between Reliance and UV Liquidating Trust and contends that "... improper and deceptive practices were employed for many years to secure UL listings for Federal Pacific's circuit protective products..."
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
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TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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