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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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.
Circuit-breaker no-trip rates for a limited sample of both "American" brand and "Canadian" brand Federal Pioneer Stab-Lok type circuit breakers sold as Canadian Pioneer and American Pioneer were summarized in independent tests performed by J. Aronstein as of April 2017 finding a 38% failure-to-trip for Canadian Pioneer FP circuit breakers and a 14% failure-to-trip rate for American Pioneer circuit breakers.
Photo: an ACBC FP Stab-Lok circuit breaker that can be currently (2017) found for sale online such as at Amazon.
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 has been and continues to be sold under the brand name Federal Pioneer or FP or FP Stab-Lok® and is produced by Federal Pioneer, a Canadian division of Schneider Electric.
In the United States FP or Federal Pioneer® Stab-Lok circuit breakers were distributed by ACBC (no longer in business) as replacements for FPE Stab-Lok breakers under contract with Federal Pioneer - Schneider Electric, Canada. As of April 2017 ACBC-branded "FPE" circuit breakers continue to be marketed to U.S. consumers from a variety of sources such as Amazon and Pacific Coast Breaker, a privately held company in Mcclellan, CA. Also see CHALLENGER ELECTRIC PANELS.
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.
Preliminary1 Test Results for a Small Sample of Canadian-Produced Stab-Lok type Circuit Breakers
|Canadian FP / FPE
& Canadian Pioneer Brand
& American Pioneer Brand
|Failures: UL 135% Test||9||38%||7||14%|
|Failures: NO-TRIP @ 200% (Jammed)||1||4%||0||0%|
1. Opinion: while the Canadian FP circuit breaker test results shown above look compelling, readers must note that for statistical validity a substantially -larger sample size is required to obtain a sound estimate of the actual circuit breaker defect rate. However test results to date, including on a few new circuit breakers have indicated that there may be problems with some of the brands, and those results have been sufficient to justify expanding to a larger sample set.
2. American-Pioneer or American FP stab-lok circuit breakers were produced by Canadian Federal Pioneer (Schneider Electric) and were sold under exclusive contract in the U.S. by ACBC, American Circuit Breaker Company, no longer in operation (2017) - Ed.
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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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
I live in Ottawa ONT Canada
I recently had a Outdoor GFI outlet fill with water and caused the box to arc so bad that the hot wire melted right off.
I was shocked to see that the breaker did not trip, I consulted with an electrician and his conclusions were that the breaker had to be faulty. I bought a brand new Siemens stab loc 15 amp breaker for my Federal Pioneer panel, The electrician tested it (dangerously) by shorting it to the box, Sparks! and no trip of the brand new breaker. This should trip the breaker, no matter what right?
Please help, I am reading a lot about Ferderal Pacific being dangerous and panels should be replaced....but not much about Federal Pioneer. I was on the phone with tech help at Schneider,(who bought Federal Pioneer). They claim that if my panel is in Canada and that it is Federal Pioneer, it should be fine and that one of their breakers would be safe. When I questioned him on the chances of 2 new breakers being faulty, he had no suggestion or comment.
I would really appreciate any input or advice you may have. - Anon, 17 sept 2015, Ottowa [by private email]
Thank you ...l for the important field failure report. If you do not object I'll add it to our field reports of this product, keeping you anonymous unless you want to be identified.
We have researched and published considerable information about Federal Pioneer used in Canada beginning at FEDERAL PIONEER ELECTRIC PANELS and at FPE FAILURE FIELD REPORTS you will find more field failure reports for FPE panels of what appears to be the identical design.
There is in my opinion a very good chance of multiple breaker failures in this product line as there appear to be inherent design issues, particularly corrosion at the breaker to bus connection and breaker overheating.
Take a look at the material we've provided and do let me know what questions remain.
It would be helpful to have photos of your panel cover, markings, labels, breakers, and also to know the age of the panel or when it was installed.
It is also my opinion that if it were my house I'd replace the panel.
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.
Reply from Anon:
I appreciate the reply. I did already read that article you linked me to and I am glad that you agree that the panel should be replaced. It is definitely troubling that these things are still sold, when it seems clear that they are/can be dangerous. I can't believe that Schneider could deny this over the phone with me!
Also incredible that they did not reply to your questions.
When I go shopping for my new panel in the next couple of weeks, I will be sure to research a panel and replacement breakers that have nothing to do with their company.
At this point I would prefer to remain anonymous in fear of having my house condemned before I have the money to afford this costly repair.
I will send you the pictures of my panel and any damage we may discover upon further inspection.
Again, I appreciate what you are doing here,
Schneider is a big company. I have no data and thus nothing to criticize about their other products. I agree that the response on FP was disappointing.
I simply asked if they had any data to suggest a better performance of the Canadian product, if they had made any changes to the product design from the original FPE product made in the U.S. or if the equipment actually physically making the breakers was any different. In sum, were there any product differences other than the label. The engineer was very cooperative in our original conversation, said he didn't know but would find out; then the company fell silent which to me says a manager gave the word to provide no information.
I could be wrong but it seems to me if I were making a product that had good test data and specs I'd be happy to publicize them.
I've been careful to point out that we have much less field data on FP performance in Canada than FPE performance in the U.S. We don't know if that's because the installed base is smaller, the electrical work is generally better (thus fewer events that should cause a breaker trip), lower propensity to report, or something else. Very few (less than a few %) of electrical failures are ever reported, making field reports important.
Hang on to your old FP panel, leaving it as intact and undisturbed as you can, as there may be an engineer left who's willing to carry on Aronstein's testing.
Continue reading at FPE HAZARD ARTICLES, STUDIES or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.
Or see CHALLENGER ELECTRIC PANELS where an apparently-identical FPE Stab-Lok breaker is discussed.
Or see FEDERAL PIONEER ELECTRIC PANELS identification guide
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