This document describes how to identify Federal Pacific Stab-Lok® Electric Panels in buildings with special focus on the Federal NOARK Stab-Lok® Panelboard and the Federal NOARK Load Center.
This is safety information for building inspectors, home buyers, home owners, electricians exploring the background of possible hazards associated with Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® circuit breakers and service panels.
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 2017 InspectApedia.com, All Rights Reserved.
[Click to enlarge any image]
Federal NoArk™ electrical panels (synonyms Federal NoArk, Federal NoArc, FPE No-Ark) or FPE no-arc electrical panel labels identify older versions of the Stab-Lok® circuit breaker design discussed beginning
at FEDERAL PACIFIC FPE HAZARDS
summarized at FEDERAL PACIFIC FPE HAZARD SUMMARY.
Because the product design, materials, and history are all of a piece and share the same company and production, Federal noark Stab-Lok panelboards and circuit breakers
are of the same design and have the same hazards as other Stab-Lok ™electrical panel buses and circuit breakers.
Therefore this article focuses on how to identify Federal Noark panelboards. At left we show a Federal Noark Stab-Lok® Panelboard Model NS412.
The Federal Pacific Panel interior label and model number are shown in this photograph. [Photograph courtesy of Arlene Puentes.] Catalog No. 116-68C (Federal Pacific Electric Company) the FPE company name does not appear on this portion of the label.
Here is what another model of the Federal NOARK Electrical Load Center looks like. (Some inspectors misreport this product as "Federal NOARC".)
Even before inspecting this electrical panel closely you can see the characteristic FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breaker red-painted toggle faces. The center black identification label in this Federal NOARC load center Catalog No. 116-68C is black painted.
Later FPE Stab-Lok® load centers painted white or other colored text directly onto the gray-painted electrical panel face.
Here is the unambiguous text which identifies this Federal NOARK load center as a Federal Pacific Stab-Lok® design and Federal NOARK Stab-Lok® LoadCenter Cat.No. 116-68C.
Note that in some literature the Federal Noark panelboard product may be referred to as "Federal Noarc" - typically a typographical error. Here are two more photographs to assist in identification of Federal NOARK electrical panels showing a Federal NOARK Stab-Lok® panelboard Cat.No. NS412.
11/11/2014 Federal NoArc electric box said:
We have a federal noarc electric box in our house we just moved into (built in 1953). Is it of the Stab-loc family of no trip breakers? We live in Los Angeles County. Do we need to replace our panel? Attached are photos of it our Federal NoArk electrical panel box, cover, label, and circuit breakers.
Everything is working fine but we wanted to hook up a 60 amp GFCI sub panel for our spa it and it doesn't really look possible. Thanks, - J.S., LA CA 11/2014
Yes Jason, the FPE Stab-Lok design with the safety issues discussed in this article series were produced over quite a few years and sold under more than one brand mark, including the Federal Noarc. Thanks for the photos - I'll post them in the article above and comment further.
Watch out: in addition to the unreliability (failure to trip on overcurrent) of these circuit breakers, your photos show rust on the panel raising additional safety and no-trip worries independent of the FPE concerns.
See CORROSION in ELECTRICAL PANELS
Your photos also show missing breakers and open electrical panel cover slots - the photo at below right - an unsafe condition as sparks can easily exit the panel, risking a fire in in nearby combustibles.
See ELECTRIC PANEL INSPECTION
You should replace the panel.
I was reading in many sources, particularly home inspectors' discussion boards, about other issues when I stumbled upon a photo of a breaker panel and some mention about why Stab-Lok breakers are so bad - as is the nature of researching on the internet my focus shifted to that for a while. I recalled rather clearly that the apartment I grew up in had a Stab-Lok panel which advertised that name very obviously on it. I further recall a situation where a damaged TV cord that shorted neutral to hot did not trip the breaker despite causing quite a bit of smoke.
[Click to enlarge any image]
I bought my first house a year ago, had a home inspector who is well-reviewed go over it, and he found no issues with the electrical system but cautioned that he isn't an electrician. There is a detached garage with electricity. The main panel in the house is a Novaline which is quite old but I'm told they're considered to be good panels. The garage subpanel is a Federal Noark. Since the breakers externally look like the Stab-Lok breakers (unique shape of the lever) I decided to pop open the cover and see.
I do not know the age of the garage and its wiring (where the Federal panel resides), however the house was built in the 1940s. The garage has been added onto multiple times. I believe electricity was brought into the garage in the 70s or early 80s. The wiring in the garage is a mixture of types...plastic jacket with ground, and cloth jacket with or without a ground in various spots, as well as what you can see in the pictures which is in metal conduit. The garage has a couple of 240 outlets (the small twist style, not big like a dryer outlet) in addition to easily a dozen 120s.
One of the breakers is very wobbly...as if next to nothing is holding it in. This doesn't inspire confidence. I operate power tools on these circuits, and unattended things like battery chargers. I need to be able to trust this panel.
About the loose breaker...the panel cover actually is applying a fair amount of pressure on the breakers themselves. Does this in any way improve the reliability of the connection to the buss bar? I understand the breakers are flawed at a design level, but if I can rest assured that the panel won't go up in flames at any random time...only connect loads when I am present, etc, it would help since even a small panel is not cheap to replace and will be something to save up for.
I already know from what I've read that your advice, and that of others, will be to replace this panel. I figured you may want the photos, so I've attached them.
K.K. in Canada - by private email, 2015/12/28
Thank you for the additional Federal Noark panel photos, we include them in this article as an aid to other readers. Indeed these are an FPE Stab-Lok design electrical panel and circuit breakers that was widely distributed in both the U.S., and as your email indicates, in Canada as well.
Your photos show that in addition to the questionable performance of this product - failures of the circuit breaker to trip in response to overcurrent and poor breaker connections in the panel - this panel is quite over-crowded.
In my opinion the home inspector should have warned you about the performance history of the Federal Noark panel in your home. However some home inspectors, in my experience now a small minority, are of the view that their job is easier, faster, and less contentious if they eschew reporting of hazardous products for which there is not a widely-known government-demanded product recall.
Watch out: regarding loose circuit breakers held into an FP or Federal Noark panel by its cover or faceplate: this electrical panel was not designed to rely on the cover to hold the circuit breakers securely in place. Reliance on cover pressure on circuit breakers to keep the breaker seated is inherently dangerous, and in fact some time ago an electrician working in in the U.S. in Atlanta Georgia was killed from just this circumstance. On removing the electrical panel cover one or more circuit breakers moved, causing an electrical arc explosion and the worker died.
See FEDERAL NOARK PANEL FAQs in this article (below) for more reader discussion of this electrical panel replacement options.
Continue reading at FPE HAZARD SUMMARY or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.
Or see FEDERAL NOARK PANEL FAQs
Or see FPE HAZARD REPORT - 2017 [PDF] independent research article by Jess Aronstein, supercedes older FPE hazard reports by this author - separate file reports independent FPE failure test results
Or use the SEARCH BOX found below to Ask a Question or Search InspectApedia
For space and speed Federal Noark panel FAQs has been moved. Please see FEDERAL NOARK PANEL FAQs
Use the "Click to Show or Hide FAQs" link just above to see recently-posted questions, comments, replies, try the search box just below, or if you prefer, post a question or comment in the Comments box below and we will respond promptly.
Search the InspectApedia website