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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:
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 fact, limited testing of replacement FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers also detected failures to trip in response to overcurrent conditions.
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.
The photo of gray circuit breakers shown here illustrate UBI-brand replacement circuit breakers, provided by reader E.K. (2014) who included this image in an FPE UBI breaker field failure report described at FPE FAILURE FIELD REPORTS. [Click to enlarge any image]
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:
Note: while there have been field failure reports of this product as well as failures in independent testing, the total sample size remains too small for high-confidence statistical inference. In our opinion both prudent avoidance (or replacement) as well as further testing are merited. - Editor
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.
For some cost and method alternatives when replacing an Federal Pacific Electric Stab-Lok® Panel or "load center"
see REPLACEMENT PANELS which describes conventional
(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 variations 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 STAB-LOK 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 between 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 Breaker Company]:
The essential facts are undisputed. ACBC holds the STAB-LOK trademark in the United States. Schneider Canada holds the STAB-LOK trademark in Canada. Federal Pioneer Limited ("Pioneer"), a subsidiary of Schneider Canada, manufactures circuit breakers for itself and ACBC.
The circuit breakers sold by the companies are identical except for the casing color. Pioneer manufactures black circuit breakers for ACBC and gray ones for itself.
The parties have stipulated that, except for the casing color, there are no material differences between the products, and that the gray circuit breakers are "genuine" versions of the black ones.
This dispute arose because Oregon Breakers bought gray circuit breakers from a Canadian third-party supplier and, without permission from ACBC, sold them in the United States. - AMERICAN CIRCUIT BREAKER v. Oregon Breakers, 406 F.3d 577 (9th Cir. 2005).
This research has moved to a separate article. Please see UBI FPE CIRCUIT BREAKER TEST RESULTS - current test results showed a greater than 50% failure-to-trip rate as of January 2017
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[In August 2015] I appeared before the condo Board to convince them that the entire condominium (350 units) are in jeopardy due to our faulty UBI replacements breakers.
The Board [leader] insisted that since the new breakers were sold here in the US they must conform to the US safety standards (i.e. have UL approval) and therefore they are "kosher". In his reasoning that five of my seven breakers turned out to be faulty may be because they are several years old by now.
Of course, the board reasoning does not hold water, if five of my seven breakers would not trip because of their "old age" (2004), then since the entire condo has breakers of the same age they must be in the same condition! That alone should have alerted the board to pass a decision to change them.
At this stage all I can do is to inform the units' owners and potential buyers so they will learn about this ticking time bomb and hopefully change their unit panel. Obviously common areas panels in the buildings will not be changed.
... the condominium name[is] "Northgate Gardens" in Waltham, MA.
[Anon, 13 Aug 2015 by email to DF]
It sounds as if your board leadership, quite understandably, wants to avoid a significant electrical repair cost to address this latent safety hazard. But in my opinion you are quite correct that a meaningful hazard exists and that these breakers and panels will not protect the buildings and occupants from electrical hazards anywhere near industry norms.
In July 2015 the condominium management reported on a plan to have an electrician inspect all of the panels at the property. The reader E.K. cited above questioned, as did other experts, the reliability of a visual inspection to assure safety of circuit breakers that must be tested according to a UL Standard. [Private communication EK to DF et als. 7/29/2015]
In November 2016 the condominium board decided to replace all of the electrical panels in the complex, comprising 351 units plus a commons area. The reader E.K. cited above arranged for provision of the removed-circuit breakers to permit additional testing to the UL standard.
UBI FPE CIRCUIT BREAKER TEST RESULTS - in January 2017 test results of the first set of circuit breakers were provided. Additional tests of more circuit breakers from a range of installations will increase confidence in the test results but preliminary test results were dramatic. Still this small sample (n=29) showed overall a greater than 50% failure-to-trip rate as of January 2017.
For space and clarity, this discussion has moved to UBI FPE CIRCUIT BREAKER VENDOR COMMENTS On FPE Stab-Lok replacement breakers.
Continue reading at UBI FPE CIRCUIT BREAKER TEST RESULTS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.
Or see FPE HAZARD REPORT - 2017 [PDF] that supercedes the older reports
Or see FPE FAILURE FIELD REPORTS - over 270 field reports concerning FPE circuit breaker failures
Or see FPE REPLACEMENT PANEL
Or see ZINSCO CIRCUIT BREAKER TEST REPORT - similar testing on replacement circuit breakers sold for Zinsco electrical panels
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