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FPE Circuit Breaker Replacements: this article gives expert advice about replacing FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers - Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® breakers and discusses how to repair FPE StabLok Panels and circuit breakers for actual improvements in electrical safety.
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.
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Homeowners and renovators who encounter these panels should replace the entire panel and circuit breaker set with new equipment. Panel replacement, can involve significant expense, typically $800 to $1800 depending on service size and other factors.
Do not simply replace individual FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers:
1. No Evidence of Improved FPE Stag-Lok Replacement Circuit Breaker Performance
First of all, there is no data suggesting that new stock, replacement FPE breakers, or "new old stock" FPE breakers found in storage somewhere perform any better than the ones already in the FPE Stab-Lok® panel.
In at least some cases, replacement circuit breakers are manufactured in Asia as copies of the original, problematic breaker design, as we discuss at #3 below.
2. Other FPE problems besides circuit breakers
FPE Second, there are other functional and safety concerns in the panel besides the breakers themselves. We've seen panel bus damage, panel bus meltdowns, and failure of breakers to remain secured in or onto the connecting bus itself.
See REPLACEMENT PANELS for some panel replacement alternatives that might reduce the repair cost.
For several reasons We do not recommend attempting to "repair" an individual failed Stab-Lok® breaker by buying a replacement either from used stock, new stock, or "compatible" stock:
4. A few other warnings about things people try to reduce the hazards of FPE Stab-Lok® Breakers:
In sum, if you could replace all the FPE Stab-Lok® equipment with (somehow magically obtained) all "new" FPE Stab-Lok® equipment (found in a used-or new-old-stock warehouse for example) the risk level for the building would not be sufficiently different from before the replacement and would remain high: there remains a latent risk of fire from failure of these breakers to trip in response to overcurrent.
5. Replacement Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab-Lok® Panels is Recommended
For some cost and method alternatives when replacing an Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® Panel or "load center"
(Mar 13, 2012) Anonymous said:
Dan, the one point that I find very confusing is why Schneider-Federal Pioneer Stablok panels and breakers have not been shown to have an elevated risk of danger--except for the relatively few breakers subject to the recall. If the stablok design is inherently dangerous, Federal Pioneer breakers should seize frequently enough to result in a "body count."
Also, when you describe Asian replacement stab-loks as similarly inadequate, are the breakers you tested NRTL-listed?
(Oct 2, 2012) Mike said:
Still have seen nothing regarding FPE Replacements, such as being made by American Circuit Breaker, except, "not recommended", "no evidence the replacement is any better", ect., and other opinions. The testing and research into FPE is extensive and proven. Why, as you have many resources available to minutely test the originals, do you rely on mere opinion and conjecture regarding the replacements. In my experience, I have seen none of the supposed problems with the so called "split buses" buses or other parts of the FPE panel, excepting wire bending radius inadequacies, so it seems a repacement of the FPE breakers with AMC breakers would work satisfactorily. AMC has been UL tested, and approved. They have not been proved to be unsafe.
Anon and Mike:
There are certainly field reports of FP failures from the Canadian product, but in point of fact we have very little data from the Canadian installations and too few tested breaker samples to support an unequivocal conclusion about their performance. However, in speaking with a Schneider engineer several years ago, it was made clear that there was no product redesign from the original defective FPE design. I asked Schnieder where their manufacturing line equipment came from, figuring that perhaps the manufacture, testing, or QA were different from the offending plant(s) in the U.S. but the company appeared to get nervous and declined to offer further information.
Keep in mind that the FPE defects are a latent hazard - the breakers fail to repond properly to an overcurrent. If an overcurrent does not happen, no evidence of failure shows up. We do not have a study of differences in electrical wiring and installations between the U.S. & Canadian homes, nor a study of differences in frequency of overcurrent events - in particular, interruptabole electrical ignition events in which a fire will be caused ONLY if the protection device is defective, improperly sized, miswired, tapered with.
I much appreciate the discussion, but with respect, your comments and conclusions about the safety of FPE equipment are simply incorrect. The articles found in this section draw from, quote, cite testing that has been performed through 2012.
And I think you'll find that we have documented that the FPE replacements are the identical design, in fact are generally, new old stock that was purchased from FPE. I have asked experts to keep us informed about any additional testing of FPE, FP (Canadian equipment now sold by Schneider) and of the replacement market products.
Aronstein also points out that self-selection of product submitted for "independent" testing is itself problematic. At least in past experiences manufacturers first screened product to weed out failing devices before submitting the remainder for testing. And asy ou know from reading FPE history, there was still more serious test fraud occurring in the in-house tests.
Excerpting from FPE Stab-Lok® : FIRES WAITING TO HAPPEN where you also posted comments and where we provide more details, we cite:
What's needed is an amended circuit breaker test procedure that obtains breakers for testing from the open marketplace, from the very same sources that will be used by consumers and electricians when buying replacement circuit breakers.
Watch out: Finally, the fact that you have not personally seen "supposed problems", while it is an understandable reaction, is not sound. One individual's experience is hardly a technically sound approach to product evaluation. Or putting it in fancier language, absence of evidence in one person's personal experience is hardly evidence of absence of a problem. In fact we have both independent test results indicating no-trip failures and field reports indicating no-trip failures of these devices.
Reader Question: is my FPE panel part of this FPE warning?
(Nov 2, 2012) Mike H said:
I came across this forum while looking for replacement breakers. I have a Federal Electric Products Company panel Catalog No 108. It does not say Stab Lok anywhere. Is this still part of this FPE warning? I believe the house was built in the late 50's in Wisconsin not New Jersey. I've been in it since 1997.
(Oct 12, 2012) Randy said:
What about the new Connecticut Electric breakers being manufactured and tested?
FPE Stab-Lok circuit breakers were marketed under a variety of names and variatioins on FPE, FP, etc. The design and bus connections are easily recognizable even if labels (which were sometimes swapped by the manufacturer) are confusing.
If you need help identifying the product see
It's not clear that all replacement circuit breakers are in fact "new", nor have we been able to obtain (despite requests) in-house nor independent test reports focused on just the breakers about which you inquire.
However a limited number of these replacement breakers were included in independent testing reported-on by Aronstein and indeed no-trip circuit breakers were found in that cohort as well.
Some "replacement" FPE circuit breakers in fact are new old stock; others, worse, are used circuit breakers held back by electricians or other suppliers. It's also important to understand that if the same equipment is being used to produce circuit breakers as those that previously performed poorly one would worry about the product produced. It's also important to understand that the design changes contemplated by the successor owners of the FPE product line would have priced the resulting product out of its price point in the marketplace. That's why the successors at one point wanted their money back.
At FPE HISTORY we report on a pertinent court case: Quoting from a 2005 court case American Circuit Breaker Corporation (ACBC) v. Oregon Breakers Inc., we can confirm that despite claims of functional or mechanical differences betweeen U.S. sold and Canadian-Sold FPE or FP Stab-Lok circuit breakers in at least some instances of product source, the products are identical. Quoting [note that ACBC refers to the American Circuit Breakr Company]:
Technical note: UBI replacement circuit breakers are sold as replacement units for FPE Stab-Lok or Federal Pacific Electric or Federal Electric or Federal Pioneer circuit breakers. A reader corresponded with us in 2014 expressing concern that his condominium management planned to replace existing FPE breakers with UBI units. Yet there was no supporting test data indicating that such a replacement plan was safe or effective.
The reader subsequently provided a collection of UBI circuit breakers to Dr. Jess Aronstein for independent testing. Results are reported below.
The person who sent these UBI circuit breakers to Aronstein for testing is an EE who had one passing about 200% of rated current without tripping. He had his panel changed and the condo board is considering making it a mandatory change in all other units. (They "upgraded" from the original FPE breakers some years ago.)
In a letter to the condominium board the reader's comments included this remark:
Except from private email, J. Aronstein to a reader who contributed UBI circuit breakers for testing:
FPE Fire Report Filed with US CPSC
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