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This article explains the possible hazards of the Federal Pioneer Stab-Lok® electrical panels & circuit breakers,in more recently manufactured FP product versions.
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Are Newer Federal Pioneer Stab-Lok® Electrical Panels Safer than Older FP or Federal Pioneer Panels & Breakers?
The Federal Pioneer brand of electrical panels and circuit breakers is a Canadian version of the Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® equipment. The FPE website explains the hazards associated with the American product: Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® circuit breakers and service panels, provides a history of the issue, recounts research on FPE failures, and recommends replacement of the panels.
Readers should also see FPE & FP IDENTIFICATION, HOW TOO for help in identifying Federal Pioneer old and more recently-manufactured Stab-Lok® products, and see FP FEDERAL PIONEER in CANADA for a discussion of the safety of older Federal Pioneer equipment. These discussions pertain only to the Federal Pioneer Stab-Lok® electrical equipment brand made in Canada, not to the Federal Pacific Stab-Lok® brand made and installed in the United States.
In Canada, the Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panel and circuit breaker line was sold under the brand name Federal Pioneer or FP or FP Stab-Lok® .
Recent data about the performance and hazards of Canadian-made Federal Pioneer equipment newer than 1997 is lacking though there has been a Canadian product recall and a hazard warning for older equipment. In U.S.-made Federal Pacific Electric components, we recommend against replacing individual FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers - there is no evidence that doing so will improve the safety of the electrical system.
We recommend that any U.S. FPE Stab-Lok® panel and older Canadian FP equipment be replaced entirely.
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We have much less field and test data on the Canadian FP products. There was a 1997 Canadian FP recall notice (discussed at FEDERAL PIONEER CIRCUIT BREAKER RECALL) and a 1997 warranty alert (discussed at Federal Pioneer Warranty Alert).
We have received only a few field reports about Canadian FP installations than U.S. FPE installations, but we lack data to know if that’s due to fewer website readers from Canada, fewer FP panels installed in Canada than FPE in the U.S., better Canadian electrical wiring workmanship overall, fewer electrical events that should trip the breaker, or a better product or redesigned product in the Federal Pioneer versions of this equipment sold in Canada.
In sum: as of March 201 we still cannot report that the older or newer Federal Pioneer panels installed in Canada perform the same, better, or worse than the older, discontinued US Federal Pacific Electric or FPE Stab-Lok® version of this product.
Building owners should not rely on any Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® electrical panels, and building owners should be cautious about continuing to rely on any older Canadian Federal Pioneer design.
But it is certainly possible that Canadian versions - the Federal Pioneer equipment made much more recently, say after 1997, may have been improved-on and might perform acceptably.
We’d like to see photos of recent Canadian FP electrical panels, labels, and interior bus design and breakers to perhaps be able to offer more information.
History of Federal Pioneer Electrical Panels & Breakers made in Canada
Schneider Electric in Canada purchased and has continued to market the Federal Pioneer line (which is the Canadian version of Federal Pacific Electric) of Stab-Lok® products.
How to Identify "Old" vs. "New" Federal Pioneer Circuit Breakers
Quite some time ago we (D Friedman) asked a Schneider engineer if Schneider made any product changes or improvements over the original FPE Stab-Lok® version when it was picked up in Canada. While at first he was friendly, later, perhaps after talking with management, neither the engineer I spoke with nor anyone else at Schneider responded to any questions about this product whatsoever.
(The photo shows old and new circuit breakers such as seen in the Federal Pioneer NBLP38-TF32 electrical panel photographed in 1997)
At that time, I took that to mean that perhaps the company had no compelling good news to report, but I acknowledge that they could simply be afraid to share test or any other data, regardless of the product’s performance, as I explain below.
Some of the original product problems appear to have been inherent in the design of the breaker internal parts and the bus assembly, and I was told by some engineers that a redesign to correct these problems would have priced the product out of its niche in the market (the low end).
So we are faced with the situation of a company who has so far not provided public information about the product’s testing, performance, or engineering changes. We would very much welcome a Federal Pioneer product testing and performance update so to be able to inform to consumers whether or not later versions of the Federal Pioneer product line have been improved and perform acceptably.
I speculate that Schneider/Federal Pioneer may have indeed made corrections or improvements in the product since the 1970’s and 80’s, and I speculate further that they may be reluctant so say so since that would admit prior problems and thus risk liability and claims.
What should a Homeowner Do About a Recently-Made Federal Pioneer Electrical Panel?
Reader Question: Is this FP Panel one of the model that may be defective ? and that should be replaced ? - Boite Electrique Federal Pioneer en Canada?
I have the following electrical pannel from Federal Pioneer that is 30+ years old. Is this one of the model that may be defective ? and that should be replaced ? Is there any recall ? [Are there] funds available for replacement ? Thank you in advance - Louis - 3/3/2014
Reply: history and limited field data suggest FP panels are hazardous but we lack a larger body of independent research or updates from the manufacturer about Canadian Federal Pioneer breaker & panel design, design changes, performance
The short answer is we have less actual data on which to base a conclusion but all of the history and the limited evidence we do have suggests that it'd be meaningfully safer to replace the panel. In addition to seeing breakers held in place by adhesive tape in FP panels, a search to identify ANY design or manufacture change that would support a claim of greater safety than the US FPE mark led nowhere but to stonewalling. You'd think if there was good news the manufacturer would share it.
But the facts are more complex. In my OPINION even if a manufacturer had improved the design of a product to make it more safe, they'd be reluctant to say so out of concern for admitting liability for prior versions of the product. See FP FEDERAL PIONEER in CANADA.
Without more field data and independent testing one cannot not assume that the newer Canadian Federal Pioneer electrical panels and circuit breakers have been proven unacceptable or unsafe, but given the very bad performance of the original designs of the original FPE Stab-Lok® product which were widely sold over many years, one should not fail to look for (or wish for) more current test and engineering data on this product.
Comments & Questions for Schneider about FP Panels
If it were my home and my panel shown at the top of this page, I would call the Schneider Electric company and, in as respectful a manner as I could, I’d simply put these questions to them
Federal Pioneer Electrical Panel Field Reports Requested
CONTACT US - We invite building owners, electricians, fire marshals, manufacturers, or independent testing laboratories to report to us on the field performance or field failures or product testing results for this product and we will publish here any updates we are able obtain.
We’d also like to see photos of the bus design itself – an electrician can open the panel – remove the cover, and if necessary pull a breaker to expose the bus and breaker connectors – that might tell us if visible changes were made even if we don’t know if internal breaker design changes were made.
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Technical Reviewers & References
Key Articles & Reports on Federal Pioneer Stab-Lok® Electrical Panels & Circuit Breakers
The following are key articles on this Federal Pioneer electrical equipment.
Readers who own a Federal Pioneer electrical panel should see:
Details, public documents, and test reports concerning Federal Pacific Electric and the Stab-Lok® electrical panel and circuit breaker design are at: