FPE breaker failed to trip - this is a typical breaker side blow-out that occurs.The Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab-Lok® Electrical Hazards Website

InspectAPedia tolerates no conflicts of interest. We have no relationship with advertisers, products, or services discussed at this website.

FPE Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® Electrical Panel & Circuit Breaker Hazards Home Page: here we explain the fire and shock hazards associated with Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® circuit breakers and service panels, provides a complete history of the FPE Hazard, and we provide and cite independent, unbiased research on FPE failures, and recommends replacement of the panels.

Photographs are provided to aid in identification of Federal Pacific FPE Stab-Lok® equipment. The current status of FPE Stab-Lok®equipment hazards, recalls, product safety research, and consumer warnings can be found here.

Replacement FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers are unlikely to reduce the failure risk of this equipment. We recommend that residential FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panels be replaced entirely or the entire panel bus assembly be replaced, regardless of FPE model number or FPE year of manufacture. We do not sell circuit breakers nor any other products.

Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2015 InspectApedia.com, All Rights Reserved.

Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® Circuit Breaker Hazard Current Status, Failures, Research, & History

For information on FPE Stab-Lok® equipment that can be copied to any website,
see FPE Stab-Lok® Hazard Summary Page for Public Use

Federal Pacific Electric "Stab-Lok® " service panels and breakers are a latent hazard and FPE circuit breakers can fail to trip in response to overcurrent, leading to electrical fires. The breakers may also fail to shut off internally even if the toggle is switched to "off." Some double-pole (240-Volt) FPE circuit breakers and single-pole FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers simply do not work safely.

There are other FPE panel-defects independent of the breaker problems, panel and panel-bus fires and arcing failures in some equipment. The failure rates for these circuit breakers were and still are significant. In some cases failure to trip occurs 60% of the time - a serious fire and electrical shock hazard.

Failures are documented in the CPSC study and by independent research. Additional independent testing and research are on-going and are reported here. FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panels should be replaced. Do not simply swap in some replacement breakers. (Details are

Article Contents

A Summary of the Problem: Federal Pacific Stab-Lok® ® Electric Panel and Circuit Breaker Hazards

Please see FPE HAZARD SUMMARY for the full detail of this FPE topic.

Having reviewed documentation regarding this issue, and having discussed the issue with forensic experts in the field, we are convinced that a latent hazard exists where FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers continue in use. The hazard is worst for double-pole breakers.

Published reports of actual tests that were performed indicate that under certain conditions it is possible for one leg of these circuits to attempt to trip the breaker, resulting in a jammed breaker which will afterward not trip under any load condition. A reader might infer from the CPSC 1983 press release that the manufacturer and some Commission members were of the opinion that these conditions would not occur in the field.

This was and remains an erroneous conclusion. Some very common household appliances operate are powered by a two-pole 240V circuit (protected by the type of breaker under discussion) but use two or more independent 120V sub-circuits inside the appliance. Two obvious cases are electric clothes dryers and ranges. If, for example, the low-heat (110V) heater in a dryer were to short to the dryer case, a serious overcurrent would occur on one "leg" of the circuit.

Another wiring practice, using a single two-pole breaker to power a split circuit which uses a shared neutral, such as may be installed in kitchens in some areas, is nearly certain to have each leg of the circuit loaded independently and thus subject to single-leg overloading and subsequent breaker jamming. A breaker which jams and then fails to trip under this condition is, in our opinion, a serious fire hazard.

A more careful reading of the CPSC press release of March 3, 1984 suggests that the authors were careful NOT to conclude that there is no hazard, but simply that the information at hand did not prove the hazard, and that the Commission did not have funds to pursue testing.

In this document, the representation that no real hazard exists is made by the manufacturer of the device - not exactly a neutral party, and even that wording is cautious in tone: "FPE breakers will trip reliably at most overload levels." Readers should see the failure rates cited in the IAEI letter below.

FPE Stab-Lok® Equipment Means Latent Fire Hazards

It's the exceptions that cause fires. An FPE circuit breaker will appear to "work just fine" in passing along current to the circuit it feeds, until there is an overcurrent, short circuit, or similar condition. When those exceptional conditions occur, this equipment fails to protect the circuit and the building from overheating and fires, in some cases at a failure rate around 60% of the time. I estimate that the normal industry failure rate on circuit breakers is less than .01%.

Consumers should read and follow the Commission's advice regarding circuit breakers. But this advice is insufficient. The Commission's admonition to avoid overloading circuits and to turn off and have examined devices which seem to be creating a problem is a poor substitute for reliable, automatic, overcurrent protection.

It is precisely because dangerous conditions can and do occur without adequate recognition and action by a consumer that circuit breakers and fuses are installed to provide overcurrent protection in the first place.

Therefore it is hardly an adequate "fix" for FPE breakers to just tell consumers to handle these cases manually.

It is possible that some individual FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers may perform with adequate reliability, possibly those manufactured after the companies discovered safety defects and improper practices in listing the product, and possibly those manufactured in Canada.

However, at least some "new" and "replacement" FPE breakers are actually new old stock that was never modified in design nor manufacture or appears as new stock made on the same production equipment, to the same specifications, and/or of the same design as old stock and failing breakers.

In absence of an explicit statement from the manufacturer and/or the US CPSC indicating that newer stock equipment is defect free, and considering that defects occur in both breakers and the panels themselves, and finally, that testing showed failures in both in-use equipment and new off-the-shelf devices, our advice to consumers and electricians is that these panels be replaced with newer equipment, particularly those which use 240-volt double-pole breakers described in the literature.

In our opinion, if a fire or other hazard occurs with this device, neither the manufacturer nor the Commission, who have suggested in the press release that data was inconclusive or inadequate to establish a hazard, will accept responsibility for losses that may ensue.

However a building inspector, home inspector, or contractor who makes any warranty of safety, by virtue of his/her position close to the consumer, is certain bear this very liability.

Canadian FPE Stab-Lok® panels and Federal Pacific or Federal Pioneer Circuit Breakers

Please see FEDERAL PIONEER ELECTRIC PANELS for the full version of this article series on Canadian FP panels.

In May 1999 we learned from Schneider Canada that Federal pioneer circuit breakers sold by that company are re-named from Federal Pacific circuit breakers and that two 15-amp single-pole models NC015 and NC015CP made between August 1, 1996 and June 11, 1997 have been recalled.
The Schneider and Federal Pioneer as well as some Square-D recall notices are available here.

We asked the company engineer with whom we spoke if he could determine if Federal Pioneer and Federal Pacific components sold in Canada were made in the U.S. or if tooling used to produce them was identical with that used in the U.S. If this is the case (as one might expect based on economies of production) one should consider the possibility that other defects reported in the U.S. may also appear in Canadian installations.

As we report at FPE HISTORY, quoting information from legal cases from 2005, all Stab-Lok® breakers are essentially identical.

The Federal Pioneer Warranty Alert was issued by the Ontario New Home Warranty program in October 1997 and provides for circuit breaker replacement. Schneider Canada is an electrical supplier whose product lines combine those previously marketed under the names Federal Pacific Electric, Federal Pioneer, Square-D, Tele Mechanique, Modicon, and Merlin Gerin.

Carl Grasso, an attorney who researched FPE failures for the New Jersey class action suit explains that since a portion of the safety defect with FPE breakers may be due to variations during manufacture, and since Canadian breakers may be manufactured in a different plant from those made in the U.S., it is possible that the field performance of Canadian breakers may be different than the U.S. design. Schneider Canada, the Federal Pioneer parent company, has not provided information regarding design or manufacture changes over the U.S. design, nor provided test data regarding the product.

As of May 2008 we have had a few reports of failures in the Canadian Federal Pioneer (Stab-Lok® ) equipment and also reports of failures of "replacement" FPE circuit breakers installed in U.S. panels. Having inspected some Canadian FPE (Federal Pioneer-brand) electric panels, we observed two ongoing concerns:

1.) the same bus design was used as in the U.S. equipment. I've seen very poor retention of breakers in the bus - in one house the breaker was held in place by duct tape, as the spring design in the contact of the breaker where it plugs into the special opening in the bus appears not to have held the breaker in place. We have also seen breakers modified with their inserting pins bent and modified to fit a breaker into a slot where it did not belong - a step that is impossible with other breaker designs.

2.) A similar or identical panel design may expose consumers to panel arcing and fires regardless of changes in the breakers themselves.

Back of the envelope cost-benefit analysis of replacing an FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panel

Aronstein/Lowry (2012), estimate that the potential savings from a ten-year replacement program for FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panels in the U.S. alone would result in

These figures are difficult to translate into the cost/benefit of FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panel replacement for an individual building owner. Worse, some building owners, particularly home sellers, may figure that electrical panel replacement is an avoidable cost that is of more benefit to future owners than to themselves.

The cost to replace an electrical panel is basically the cost of materials and labor: the cost of the new panel and breakers and the labor to remove the old panel and connect existing electrical circuits into the new one.

The property owner or an electrician can buy a new electrical panel complete with circuit breakers for a cost ranging from under $100. U.S. to around $200. (depending on panel ampacity and number of circuit breakers) at most building supply stores. The cost of panel installation/replacement varies widely depending on where you live but typically ranges from $1000. to $2,500. .

Also there may be financial relief for seniors or people of limited means in some communities or according to some readers, even from some insurance companies. Check with your local senior citizens state, town, or county agencies and with your insurer.

A expert reviewer pointed out that:

We agree that there is a lot of folly in how individuals approach safety and risk. Here we address viewers who may be open to a more accurate understanding of the risk of fire, shock, etc.

In my OPINION [DF], considering the significant contribution of FPE Stab-Lok® equipment to house fires, replacing the equipment is likely to be less costly than the cost of a fire.

If we wanted to make a completely emotionless assessment of the cost-benefit of replacing an unsafe electrical panel that is associated with about 2.5% of all of the annually reported electrical panels in the U.S. and is present in about 17 million homes in the U.S. as well as in many other buildings, or if we wanted to consider that there is about one fire per year for every 6000 FPE Stab-Lok® Panels in homes, let's say that your

To the costs you are avoiding, add

In my OPINION, one might infer that even if we were not willing to pay one cent to reduce the risk of the time, trouble, or even injury or death that might ensue from a house fire caused by an FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panel or breaker failure, that is, if we just consider the cost of a replacement electrical panel, replacing the panel is a good deal.

* GE PowerMark Gold 125 Amp 12-Space 24-Circuit Main Breaker Load Center Contractor Kit, Model # TM1212RCU1K, Internet # 100182490, Store SKU # 393844, retrieved 10/2/2012

For people who are unable to promptly replace an FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panel we recommend that you should be sure you have working smoke detectors properly installed and at least you will be able to sleep at night. Also

Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab-Lok® Panel Replacement Financial Aid?

There is no financial recourse, no product recall, no financial help, no warranty claim, no replacement fund currently available for FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panels except for a very limited class action result in the state of New Jersey. New Jersey residents can
see FPE CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT for more information.

For more information about the cost of panel replacement, FPE replacement options, electricians, and an approach that can save part of replacement cost in some cases: see the articles listed just below

How to report your FPE Stab-Lok® panel or circuit breaker Failure - Reporting Federal Pacific and Federal Pioneer Equipment Problems

Please see FPE INCIDENTS, HOW TO REPORT for full details of reporting FPE Stab-Lok® ™ and other electrical product failures

We invite voluntary field failure reports from readers who are aware of or who experience failures of Federal Pacific and Federal Pioneer equipment order to add to the existing data base.

In addition to informing us of an FPE Stab-Lok® or Federal Pioneer electrical panel or breaker event so that we can add this incident report to the data base we maintain, we encourage readers to report such events also to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission - it's easy: you can use a simple form at the CPSC's website: https://www.cpsc.gov/incident.html or you can send the CPSC email on incidents to: info@cpsc.gov

There is no requirement that failures be reported to us for tabulation here. This website is not a government or other official document, nor does it receive nor request funding. Contact the author.

Printed copies of our website pages are permitted (hard copies on paper) for free (not for sale) distribution provided that you do not edit the content, you include a citation of the source web page, and you do not imply that our website is endorsing any product or service for sale.

Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab-Lok® Information for your website: for information on FPE Stab-Lok® equipment that can be copied to your website,
see FPE Stab-Lok® Hazard Summary Page for Public Use


Continue reading at FPE HAZARD SUMMARY or select a topic from the More Reading links or topic ARTICLE INDEX shown below.


Or see FPE HAZARDS - 2012 [PDF] - separate file reports independent FPE failure test results

This FPE information Website hosted by Dr. Jess Aronstein also provides copies of his research reports: FPE-INFO.ORG

Suggested citation for this web page

FEDERAL PACIFIC FPE HAZARDS at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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Question: I can't afford to pay for a new electrical panel - where can the money come from?

Thanks alot! 71 yrs old, on social security, everything went up, especially Taxes, food etc. Now I can't sleep worried my house is going to burn down. Where does the money come for this!! I'm sure it's not cheap to replace circuit boards electricians are expensive. Thanks my money was right there for you when we put in Federal Pacific.... - Joann Novotny - 6/23/11

Reply: cost-benefit analysis of replacing an FPE Stab-Lok electrical panel

Joann, please don't blame InspectAPedia for the installation of an unsafe electrical panel in your home. If you are unable to promptly replace the panel, take a look at the advice in the articles listed just above this FAQs section and also linked-to at the "More Reading" links at the bottom of this article titled:


Be sure you have working smoke detectors properly installed and at least you will be able to sleep at night.

Replacing an electrical panel is basically cost of labor plus the new panel. You or an electrician can buy a new electrical panel complete with circuit breakers for a few hundred dollars at most building supply stores. The cost of panel installation/replacement varies widely depending on where you live.

Also there may be financial relief for seniors in your area; check with your local senior citizens state, town, or county agencies.

Finally, in my opinion, considering the significant contribution of FPE Stab-Lok® equipment to house fires, replacing the equipment is likely to be less costly than the cost of a fire. Details are at Cost-benefit analysis of replacing an FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panel.

Reader Comment:

A lot of Home Insurance company's are helping with paying for the replacement of these panels, especially now that most companies will not insure a home with these panels in them. I would suggest to anyone to contact your insurance company to see what they are or are not helping with. - Gator 7/14/11

Question: are the FPE hazards the same in both main panel and sub panels?

I have my service panel and a main panel. Are the issues the same with both? Do they both need to be replaced? - Don E. 8/11/11


Yes Don E. - the FPE breakers don't know if they are in a main panel or a sub panel. Their performance doesn't vary by that criterion.

Question: Is there a retrofit kit available for FPE Panels?

Is there a retrofit kit available for FPE panels? - David W. Nies 9/19/11

It is my understanding there is a retro fit kit for FPE panels??? If so how do I get one? - Budd 9/4/12


David and Budd

Eaton - Cutler Hammer make replacement bus and breaker assemblies that can fit in some FPE panel steel enclosures. See FPE REPLACEMENT PANELS for details.

Question: is there a similar risk with FPE panels that use fuses

What are the risk associated with domestic cut out fuse - Ajiroghene sunny 1/1/12


No A.S. Fuses are completely different devices. However if your electrical panel uses fuses it may be under-sized and obsolete for modern home usage levels. You should review that question with your electrician.

Question: Electrician Report on FPE Failure - breaker didn't shut off

I’m a licensed 309A electrician in Stoney Creek Ontario with 30 yrs exp.
Last year did a service call on an a/c unit ,shut off breaker went outside began to service unit, was electrically thrown back ,did a volt test and there was power, went inside and tested breaker and it was hot, this was my first experience with a defective breaker.
-I purchased a double pole 30 amp Stab-lok to install a heater in my garage, wired it up turned on breaker , heater is working good. Decided to install longer cable so I could place heater in another location, shut off breaker and began to unwire unit, I was almost electrocuted because I was grounded, my heart felt like base drum…..
Tested the breaker ,,hot on one pole,, removed breaker did an ohm test, one side does not shut off…. - Pete Vann 1/5/12


Pete, thanks so much for the comment. Thank goodness you were not killed by that failing FPE Stab-Lok unit. Indeed it has been shown by independent testing that a scary feature of FPE's is that the breaker toggle may be switched to the OFF position but one or more breaker poles may remain "on" or energized internally. Very dangerous.

Please see the HOW TO REPORT FPE INCIDENTS link (page left) - you would be doing a service to also report this incident to the US CPSC.



Reader comment from Anonymous:

Pete, sounds like you should start using a voltage tester every time!

Reader comment from George Campbell 1/17/2012

Pete Vann - An experienced 309A electrician should be smart enough to us a volt meter to make sure the line does not have a voltage potential EVERY TIME. Not just for Stab Lok breakers. I've been an electronics tech and engineer for 28 years and I know enough to test an AC or DC line at work or at home before I trust there is on voltage. I also have a breaker panel full of STAB LOK. I have done extensive work in my house (AC, Water Heater, additional outlets, etc.). So far I have found that they do turn off. And in a few cases I know they do trip. Guess I am lucky so far but I'll be changing the panel out soon.

Reply from DF:


The failure of FPE breakers to switch off internally when the toggle is moved to the "off" position has been well documented and occurs at a stunningly high rate - let's not risk killing someone or burning a building by asserting otherwise in one person's experience.

I agree that using a VOM or other voltage tester is good safe practice; but after following electricians and electrical work for nearly 50 years I have the opinion that very often fellows perform extensive work without taking that precaution. In any event, blaming the victim for a very dangerous electrical device is not a sufficient solution to the problem any more than blaming a passenger injured when the seat belt breaks during an accident.

Question: Electrician Report on FPE failures to trip

Being an electrician a few years now have ran into a few of these panels. They were common in trailers from the smaller 100amp mini trailer version to the industrial 40 space commercial which uses challenger style breakers. I've seen many times the breakers do not shut off entirely causing electrocution risk. As a man of safety you always check for voltage even if the panel is well known QO ,homeline, ge, etc. I've seen I-line breakers on 480 not kill a pole causing an electrocution risk. Although very rare it does happen.

I can't stress enough to get the dangerous fpe's replaced. Once the breakers trip, they do not shut off or trip again due to arching welding the trip mechanism. I've seen outlets burned clean out of the wall causing fires many times. They had a huge run of these failed products here in the late 60's and 70's.

Also, do not think buying an aftermarket fpe replacement is going to magically fix the problem as the whole design was flawed. These panels buss system uses the stab-lok interface which doesn't make good enough contact(although used copper buss) and causes deterioration of the insulator board behind the buss making a serious arch condition to the panels enclosure.

I've been called out after the utility co pulled the meter out of an FPE firework show and the main never tripped. - Eric 1/26/2012


Thank you Eric for this field report on FPE - I invite you to also report your experience to the US CPSC. See FPE INCIDENTS, HOW TO REPORT

Question: Electrician in Hospital questions FPE Hazard in non-residential installations

I am an electrician in a hospital. The hospital was originally built in 1974 and alot of the branch circuit panels are FPE. These panels use type NA,NC,or NAGF breakers. Should I have the same concerns as a home owner? Are the panels I have the same as the residential panels? - Brett 3/8/12



Please take a look at HOW TO IDENTIFY FPE & FP (article link at the "More Reading" links at the bottom of this article ) - if your breakers and panel bus are the same FPE Stab-Lok design, as I imagine they are, then the same FPE hazard concerns apply to your building.

Certainly FPE Stab-Lok equipment was installed in both residential and many non-residential buildings. Aronstein/Lowry (2002) report that the product defects extended across the product line and across its manufacturing history, including the product's use in both residential and non-residential installations.

Keep in mind that this is a "latent" fire hazard - the equipment itself does not initiate the problem - but it fails to protect against overheating or fire should an overcurrent or short circuit occur.

And there is a particular hazard to you as an electrician: switching the breaker to "OFF" does not necessarily turn it off internally - the circuit you thought you'd turned off may still be life.

Question: A local electrician advertises for FPE Replacement but I've never had a problem with my panel

I received an advertisement from a local electrician offering to replace this panel in my Williamsburg home. Sounds like a scam. This house is 31 years old and no problem with my Federal Pacific panel. If I want to have my panel checked I would choose an electric contractor with good ratings on Angie's List and not respond to some ad dropped at my door. - Jimmy Jo 4/12/12


Jimmy Jo,

On the one hand, it makes perfect sense to hire an electrician who is familiar with FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panel hazards. After all, the risk of hiring an electrician to replace an FPE Stab-Lok® but who is unaware of the hazards involved means you might be hiring someone who is generally not well informed - which means there may be a risk of other mistakes or poor work.

On the other hand, if an electrician is getting business by scaring people inappropriately, s/he may not be someone you want in your home.


On the third hand, an electrician who warns you that FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panels are unsafe is not saying anything incorrect nor inappropriate. The hazards are well documented, and we agree that the panel should be replaced.

Recommendation Against In-Home Testing of FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panels, breakers, circuits

Watch out: in any case, "testing" or "inspecting" an FPE Stab-Lok® panel on-site by an electrician is a fundamentally bad idea. Not only will tests not be conclusive unless performed by one of very few experts, using special equipment and under very carefully monitored conditions so as to avoid setting the house on fire) but worse, "tests" of FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers by switching them on and off, or by applying an overcurrent, is at risk of significantly increasing the risk of a future failure - after testing OK the breaker may be at much greater risk of not tripping in response to an overcurrent should one occur, or simply not turning "OFF" internally even when you switch the toggle to the "OFF" position. Those are very serious hazards.

In sum, there is no need for FPE testing in your home, we already know that the equipment is hazardous, and such tests are unreliable and dangerous.

Reader comments:

All I have to say to Jimmy Jo is "Good luck!" You may need it. How do you know the panel is "fine"? Do you know if any of the breakers have ever been called upon to trip? I am a home inspector, and have seen numerous Stab Lok panels, some looking just as clean and pretty as when they were first installed. What does that mean? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!! Those panels have been there all that time, and have likely never been overloaded. Maybe yours have functioned properly, as I'm sure others have, but with the failure rate reported by well-respected electricians and other professionals, I would not want to risk my life or property for $1500. Why do we purchase insurance? For financial protection, even though you may never need it. Think of replacing an FPE panel in the same way. An insurance policy against loss of your house or life. Speaking of that, many insurance companies WILL NOT ISSUE A POLICY if they know an FPE panel is present. - Joe 8/4/12


thanks for the comment, we agree completely. Just because you never noticed a problem with a no-trip circuit breaker that's no promise that everything's fine. My jeep's seat belt is cut to a single thread. Each time I drive to the rifle range in my Jeep I fasten my seat belt. So far, I've never been in a car crash, so it's obvious that the seat belt is working "just fine" - right? - Editor.

Question: I want to add two circuits to my StabLOK panel - can I do it myself?

I have a Stab Lok panel and want to add two 240 V 20A and 2 110V 20A circuits. Should i consider replacing the panel? Can i do it myself? - @John, 4/26/12


From Tom 4/30/12

@ John (four days ago) - YES - change the panel out. The Federal Pacific panels are defective and dangerous.

As for whether you can do it yourself - My thought is this - if you have to ask this question, you probably cannot do it. It is not hard to install or change out a panel, but if you do it wrong, you risk your life and the lives of anyone who comes into the house. Hire an electrician who can do it right if you have ANY question as to your abilities. He will have insurance to cover you in case he does it wrong - do you have that kind of coverage? I doubt it. Likewise, he has the skills needed to do the job quickly and safely.


Tom, very well said. Thank you for your comments. 4/30/12 Daniel Friedman

Question: FPE Stab-Lok failure leads to apartment fire

We had a Federal Pacific panel in an apartment we were renting. On Friday, a bathroom fan jammed and failed to run. The fan got very hot and melted the motor. As the motor melted, the plastic fan cover melted into the melting metal motor, and the wall caught fire. After the wall caught fire the entire apartment caught fire, burning us out of our home.

Had the Federal Pacific circuit breaker reacted correctly, as the metal fan motor melted the resistance would have gone down, causing more and more amperage to flow. Once the flow got to 15 amps - which is the limit of the circuit breaker for that appliance - the circuit breaker should have tripped, cutting off electricity to the circuit. Instead, it did not trip, causing a serious fire. Everything in our apartment is destroyed, all due to deferred maintenance by our landlord, and by the Federal Pacific circuit breaker that failed to trip.

Jimmy Jo said he thought it was a a scam that an electrician would offer to replace his Federal Pacific panel. All I can say is replacing those breakers may save your life and the lives of those you love. Whether you hire the ambitious electrician who is trying to build business by replacing these super dangerous panels or another electrician, HIRE SOMEONE AND FIX IT. My family is living (Thank GOD!) proof that these breakers are dangerous, plain and simple. - Tom 4/30/12


Tom, thank you for this important FPE fire report. We are of course so sorry to read that the fire occurred and that you had a serious house fire. I encourage you to report the fire to the U.S. CPSC - FPE INCIDENTS, HOW TO REPORT. And help me out as topic editor -

  1. Were you aware of the FPE Stab-Lok panel fire hazard before your fire occurred?
  2. Were you aware of the US CPSC position on this hazard?
  3. Had you read information about FPE Stab-Lok at this website? If so, is there something we could have said here, or some information we could have provided that would have prompted you to have the panel replaced before the fire occurred?

Question: Electronics Engineer opted to replace FPE equipment, expresses hazard opinion

I'm a well experienced electronics engineer for over 40 yrs. After seeing a report in February 2012 by WFTV 9 (a local central Florida TV station) about these panels, I knew (by sheer luck of the draw) my 1985 built home just had to have one of these "defunct" FPE Stab-Lock panels---of course IT DID! I just replaced the entire panel with a Square-D. I checked my next door neighbor's panel and they also have the FPE Stab-Lock. I advised them of replacing it---they haven't! After follow-up investigating on many web sites about these FPE panels---ANYBODY who has one in their home is at HIGH risk of fire hazard! Take my well intended advice: DEFINITELY replace the panel whether it currently works and /or has never had a problem! This is a VERY insidious problem and VERY high risk! - Kurt 5/16/12



thank you for your helpful comments. Part of the difficulty of the FPE hazard is that although the hazard has been demonstrated as real by compelling independent evidence, both research and actual field reports, the company successfully stopped the CPSC investigation, money held out for a product recall was never used for that purpose, the company is now gone except for a remains left for protection against litigation, and in the absence of an "official U.S. Government recall" some folks who have conflicting interests (including a real estate agent who contacted us today) simply deny the hazard. You are right in your respect for the hazards involved.

Question: Did FPE Pay for Panel Replacements?

Did FPE pay for the change out? - Alton 6/18/12


Alton, what a great question to bring out a little bit of not-easy-to-find FPE history. When FPE was sold, the buyer, on discovering they'd bought a liability, negotiated a multimillion dollar allowance that was to be used to pay for a panel recall. But no recall was ever issued, they pocketed the money instead. All of that information is in public documents; see FPE Exxon Scandal Article for an example.

In sum, I'm repeating the explanation I gave below for Kurt.

Question: Hospital Electrician Asks if he should be concerned about FPE panels in the hospital

I am an electrician in a hospital. The hospital was originally built in 1974 and alot of the branch circuit panels are FPE. These panels use type NA,NC,or NAGF breakers. Should I have the same concerns as a home owner? Are the panels I have the same as the residential panels?

Is there a answer to this question. I have read alot about this topic and it clear that they are referring to residential home. What about the stab lok in commercial buildings, motels or apartments - Harvey 7/28/12


Harvey, thanks for the important question. Indeed FPE made an extensive range of equipment, both residential and commercial. In some instances breakers and parts were reported to have been swapped between the two, as well as swapping breakers among amperage ratings.

I have two suggestions:

1. take a look at our FPE Stab-Lok design identification photos and text beginning at

FPE & FP IDENTIFICATION, HOW TO (links at the "More Reading" links at the bottom of this article )

and if you see the same breaker and bus design in the equipment in the hospital it would be prudent to presume it's the same equipment and that it has the same hazards.

2. I'd welcome any sharp photos you can send along of the panels, panel labels, bus and breaker details that you have installed.

Also, in the event that your hospital does have FPE Stab-Lok design equipment installed, its important to understand how to approach the risk and to understand what all the risks are. In addition to the "no-trip" problem (most severe on 2-pole breakers), there are frequent reports of breakers that remain "on" internally even though the physical breaker toggle or handle has been moved to the "OFF" position - this could pose a very serious risk to you personally when working on such equipment.

Do not assume that power has been turned off - use safety procedures, test equipment &c accordingly.

Question: Where can I find an electrician qualified to work on FPE Panels ?

Looking for electricians qualified to work on Federal Pacific Panels in the Anderson, SC area. - Terrie Mann 9/10/2012



I may not have understood clearly your use of the words "work on Federal Pacific Panels" but to be clear, "working on" the panel is not a safe approach. The panel should be replaced.

Any licensed electrician should be fully capable of properly replacing any electrical panel of any brand. No special knowledge about FPE Stab-Lok® equipment is necessary simply to replace one of those electrical panels. But ...

Watch out: if you have the bad luck of running into an electrician who is not familiar with the FPE Hazard, s/he could put you and your family and home at extra risk by expressing the opinion that "there is nothing wrong with the FPE panel you have installed so no action is needed". It is in part to avoid that risk that we recommend electricians who are familiar with FPE hazards, just as similarly we do so for aluminum electrical wiring repairs.

At DIRECTORY OF ELECTRICIANS we list licensed electricians who assert that they are familiar with the equipment and the hazards. If you find a local electrician whose work satisfies you and who is familiar with the issue, encourage him/her to contact us to be listed in the directory if s/he does not already appear there. There are no costs or fees involved. InspectApedia has no financial relationship with companies offering products or services that may be discussed at this website.

Question: FPE panel Y95003A-514 in a 20 year old house "does not look like an FPE panel"

We saw a FPE panel Y95003A-514 in a newer home. Are those bad too. It did not look like FPE panel. The house is 20 years old. - Sam Sain 9/14/12



We have no data and no field reports indicating that late model FPE Stab-Lok equipment is safer than earlier made devices. If you're not sure what is installed see the article titled


(links at the "More Reading" links at the bottom of this article )

Question: Where is there recently-published data updating findings on the FPE Stab-Lok® ® Hazard?

I am writing to see if you have published data from the NJ condo study showing increased failure rate with FPE Stab Lok panels and breakers. - D.H., Washington State



Thank you for asking about updated status on FPE (Federal Pacific Electric) Stab-Lok® ® hazards. Because of publication restrictions and rules imposed by IEEE, we have cited but not published the contents of the most important recent study that contains updated and authoritative research on the FPE hazard. However we do cite and refer readers to the document in our FPE home page where for reader benefit I include this email, keeping your identity private (let me know if you want to be identified). (at http://www.inspectapedia.com/fpe/FPE_Stab_Lok_Hazards.php )

From the IEEE you should be able to obtain this updated report that is current as of 2011:

Jesse Aronstein, Ph.D., P.E., and Richard Lowry, Ph.D., "Estimating Fire Losses Associated with FPE Stab-Lok® ® Circuit Breaker Malfunction", IEEE ESW-2011-29, Industry Applications, IEEE Transactions on, Jan.-Feb. 2012,

An updated version of the original paper, possibly available from Dr. Aronstein, identifies the name of the defective circuit breakers - information that was not identified in the published version due to conference rules. Abstract:

Abstract - A method is presented for connecting small branch circuit breaker functional test data to statistical fire loss data. Test results are presented for field samples of a particular line of circuit breakers that have an abnormally high defect level. The test results are then utilized in combination with available electrical fire statistics to estimate the annual number of fires and consequent injuries, deaths, and monetary loss associated with the defective breakers. An estimate is then made of the reduction of injury and loss that can be achieved by encouraging replacement of the defective breakers. The role of the electrical safety community in promoting replacement of the
defective breakers is discussed.

In my OPINION the Aronstein/Lowry IEEE-published study is an important update on the FPE hazard. It establishes the FPE Stab-Lok® hazard to a new higher level of certainty across the entire product line, and concludes that "... there are substantial fire losses due to the defective operation of FPE Stab-Lok® (R) circuit breakers.

The Aronstein/Lowry report found failure rates confirming those documented in earlier FPE Stab-Lok® studies and it cites the considerable body of failure data that has been produced since the CPSC closed its investigation in 1983. Importantly, Aronstein/Lowry also conclude that defects exist across the entire FPE Stab-Lok® ® circuit breaker product line (rather than just the specific breaker types originally investigated by the US CPSC).

The study also recaps more recent legal history of the FPE Stab-Lok® breaker product, citing the 2002 New Jersey class action lawsuit in which the judge ruled that the manufacturer of FPE Stab-Lok® ® breakers committed fraud over a period of many years by applying UL-labels to circuit breakers that did not meet UL product testing standards. The decision drew principally on the company's own documents, but public documents also indicate that FPE lost their UL listing when deceptive testing and labeling of breakers was discovered (see our citation of press reports - FPE Exxon Scandal Article, published at InspectAPedia.com).

In sum, the recent Aronstein/Lowry study is a call-to-action to the U.S. CPSC to finally make a clear warning to both the electrical trades and the public concerning the FPE Stab-Lok® ® hazard.

Question/Comment: what does "hire a professional mean?"

The common used phrase is "hire an experienced professional".  I work for a company that requires two years experience, drug testing, four weeks on the job training, etc., etc. and these guys screw up all the time. Anon, 4/5/13


Anon you make a good point, that it can be tough for people to figure out if their "professional" is one. On the job conduct, workmanship, licensing, are all clues. If you have specific additional tips we'd be happy to publish them here. _ Daniel

Question: Kevin Adams thinks modern FPE breakers are perfectly fine

(Sept 18, 2015) Kevin Adams said:
it is important to acknowledge the breakers in question were manufactured 1979 and earlier. Many home inspectors incorrectly think all Stab-Loc breakers could be a fire hazard. Electricians are glad to confirm this myth because they make $1,000 for a quick half day job of swapping out the panel.

Reply: Wrong

Sorry, Kevin, you are mistaken. Just take a look at both independent testing of FPE breakers, including modern "replacement" FPE Stab-Lok breakers, as well as at field reports as recently as 2016 (see FPE FAILURE FIELD REPORTS) and you'll find that your opinion is not supported by the facts.

InspectAPedia is an independent publisher of building, environmental, and forensic inspection, diagnosis, and repair information provided free to the public - we have no business nor financial connection with any manufacturer or service provider discussed at our website.

We are dedicated to making our information as accurate, complete, useful, and unbiased as possible: we very much welcome critique, questions, or content suggestions for our web articles. Working together and exchanging information makes us better informed than any individual can be working alone.

Question: are FPE breakes in a 1985 house also a concern?

(Nov 21, 2015) David McQu said:
My house was built in 1986 and has the federal pacific panel. Is there a risk that there are defective breakers in it?


Yes. See the field report for 2016 found at see FPE FAILURE FIELD REPORTS

Question: Bolen agrees that FPE panels should be changed-out

(Jan 14, 2016) Max Bolen said:
I recommend people change out FPE panels, inform them of the risks. The customer can make a decision to spend money or not. This contractor doesn't net "1,000.00" for a "quick half day job", but I am interested in reducing the likelihood of a customer's house "potentially" catching fire. There is no "good" FPE panel or breaker, any available brand is safer. FPE has no equal in regards to it's problem, and a lot of homes still have them.

Reply:an FPE Stab Lok panel in a home is is a serious hazard but hardly the only one

Thanks for the comment, Max. Actually there are other problem-brands or individual problem breaker models made by other manufacturers, as you will find here at InspectApedia.



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