FPE breaker failed to trip - this is a typical breaker side blow-out that occurs.FPE Stab-Lok® Hazards - Proving Your Case

  • FPE STAB-LOK HAZARD PROOF - CONTENTS: Proving the FPE Stab-Lok® Hazard is Real. What tests prove that the FPE Stab-Lok® latent electrical safety hazard is real?
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about the performance & relative safety of Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® circuit breakers & electrical panels
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This article explains the burden of proof that FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breaker and electrical panels is a real hazard not just a theoretical one.

This document explains the latent electric shock and fire hazards associated with Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® electric panels and circuit breakers. Federal Pacific Electric "Stab-Lok® " service panels and breakers are dangerous and can fail, leading to electrical fires.

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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FPE Stab-Lok® Hazards - Proving Your Case

The FPE safety hazard or "problem" is that some 240-Volt FPE circuit breakers and possibly also some 120-Volt units simply may not work. That is the breaker may fail to trip or even when physically switched "off" manually some breakers may remain "on" internally, continuing to conduct current!

These serious failures have been tested and shown to occur at very high rates - much higher than other circuit breaker failures in general.

But identifying one of these defects can lead to an argument and in some cases, even lawsuits! For example, a knowledgeable inspector or contractor observes one of these panels and recommends replacement. An owner or another inspector, unaware of the background, refuses to cooperate, and insists there is "no problem." Who's right?

There is indeed "a problem." FPE panels and circuit breakers are a "safety-related defect." In some conditions the equipment may not provide the safety protection (against fire) that was intended.

This defect is associated with FPE panels and circuit breakers manufactured in the 1970's and possibly extending to current equipment. Testing was performed in 1982-3 by Wright Malta Corporation for the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

What actually happens to cause unsafe conditions? Testing performed on FPE 2-pole (240V) circuit breakers indicated that in some overload conditions, particularly when one pole of the breaker is overloaded, the circuit breaker will not trip. Some tests showed that as many as 65% of the circuit breakers would malfunction.

Once this malfunction has occurred the breaker is "locked" and it will not trip under any circumstances, creating an even more serious fire hazard.

Are there real-world instances in which a current overload occurs on just a single "leg" of a 240-Volt circuit? Sure. At least some clothes dryers, air conditioning circuits, and electric ranges split the 240-V delivered to the appliance to run individual components such as a dryer drum motor or individual heater elements.

Multiwire branch circuits which share a common neutral wire also serve different loads in a building. Main breakers in the panel split power to the two panel buses. We have received many field reports with examples of failures to trip for such equipment.

To get technical depth and citations for proving your case, see:


Reader Question: are FPE Panels really so bad?

(Apr 4, 2016) Jos Patrick said:

If federal Pioneer and Stab-Lok panels and breakers are so bad that they represent a deadly risk to the public then why have they not been mandated by Canadian federal and or Canadian provincial governments to be removed and replaced. Is such was true, the manufacture would be forced to subsidize the cost or governments would be giving tax breaks to people for replacement costs.

I believe that most of this is hype, perpetrated by the electrical contractors to get more business.

I have wired several panels over the years and the costs being quoted are nothing more than a greedy rip off.

This question/comment was posted originally at HOW TO CONTACT


I understand that if you haven't personally seen the FPE ailure data you might make mistake warnings for hype,moreso if like most people you don't enjoy reading technical report.

But with respect, Joe, you're mistaken. In an industry where circuit breakers fail to trip when they are called on - only a fraction of one percent, like 0.01 % of the time, you have double pole FPE breakers that can fail 60% of the time. That is certainly not hype, it's a high failure rate.

To say "why wasn't there a recall" skips over history of money set aside for a recall but not spent, charges of fraud, loss of labeling, and other clear evidence. It's like saying "We have a police force, so why heck, surely there are no robberies in our town" is an independent publisher of building, environmental, and forensic inspection, diagnosis, and repair information for the public - we have no business nor financial connection with any manufacturer or service provider discussed at our website.


Continue reading at FPE Stab-Lok® : FIRES WAITING TO HAPPEN or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.



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