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FPE breaker failed to trip - this is a typical breaker side blow-out that occurs.Replacement FPE Stab-Lok® Circuit Breakers

  • FPE REPLACEMENT BREAKERS - CONTENTS: Advice about replacing FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers. Why is replacement of the FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panel recommended instead of just installing replacement circuit breakers? Performance of replacement FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about the purchase of replacement FPE Stab Lok circuit breakers: where they are obtained, where they are made, are they tested, how they may be expected to perform, whether or not you should use them
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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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What is the Proper Repair for FPE Stab-Lok® Panels and Circuit Breakers?

UBI brand replacement circuit breaker (C) InspectApedia.com- EliHomeowners 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 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]

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.

3. Replacement Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab-Lok® Circuit Breakers

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"
see REPLACEMENT PANELS which describes conventional

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?

Reply:

Yes Mike,

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

FPE & FP IDENTIFICATION, HOW TO

Randy:

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).

UBI Replacement Circuit Breaker Independent Tests

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

FPE Fire Report Filed with US CPSC

Report No. 20140520-9B4E8-2147444369 was Submitted to CPSC
1 Website

donotreply@cpsc.gov via bounce.secureserver.net
Attachments5/20/14

to editor
Daniel Friedman,

Thank you for using SaferProducts.gov to submit your Report to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). We received your Report No. 20140520-9B4E8-2147444369 on Tuesday, May 20, 2014.

Attached is a PDF copy of your Report. This is the only time you will be provided a copy of your Report. We suggest that you save it for future reference. Occasionally, the CPSC will contact a submitter to clarify information provided in a Report or to gather additional information. A representative from the CPSC may contact you in the future.

How will CPSC use this Report?

Reports we receive help us in our mission to protect the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death related to thousands of types of consumer products under the agency's jurisdiction. CPSC reviews every Report that is submitted. Where appropriate, we may undertake additional product investigations.

CPSC staff cannot respond to every Report on an individual basis. However, your Report is extremely important to CPSC because we are an agency that relies on Reports such as this to help us do our job.

What Happens Next?

If your Report meets the minimum requirements for publication on SaferProducts.gov, which include your consent to publish the Report, CPSC will send it to the identified manufacturer or private labeler within 5 business days, where practicable. If you provided consent, the manufacturer or private labeler will also receive your contact information, and may contact you to verify the information in your Report. A manufacturer or private labeler will have an opportunity to comment on your Report or make a claim that it contains confidential or materially inaccurate information. Reports that meet the minimum requirements for publication should be posted on SaferProducts.gov 10 business days after CPSC sends the Report to the manufacturer or private labeler.

Reports that do not meet the minimum requirements for publication will be maintained for internal use by CPSC.

If you have any questions, please visit www.SaferProducts.gov, or call (800) 638-2772.

Thank you again for using SaferProducts.gov.

2015 Northgate Gardens condo board in Waltham MA opined that UBI Circuit Breakers are Safe & Reliable

[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]

Reply:

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.

  1. First, independent tests confirmed failures in these UBI circuit breakers at a failure rate significantly above industry norms in which overall, failure to trip occurs at a fraction of a percent of the time. Important concerns about test sample size are given in the start of this article. However high failure rates in small samples can be compelling evidence of a problem.
  2. Second, circuit breakers are expected to perform reliably for decades, not for just four years.
  3. Third, the board may not understand latent safety hazards. A latent hazard means in this case that an unreliable circuit breaker will not itself initiate a fire, shock or other injury or loss.

    Rather the breaker will fail to protect the building and its occupants when an unsafe condition such as an overcurrent or short circuit occurs. Thus the hazard can easily go un-noticed for a long time - until something bad happens. I use the analogy of driving around in your car with the seatbelt cut through to a mere thread. Up to now the seat belt has been just fine. But, then, you've not been in a crash, either.
  4. Finally, you might say to the board leader that his reasoning about "listed products being guaranteed as always safe" is as specious as saying that "because we have laws in our country there is no crime" - a policeman would be expected to understand that example.
  5. I recommend careful and accurate documentation of your presentation and the board's response, as heaven forbid, when there is a fire, loss, injury or death there could be a lot of finger pointing for which it may be helpful to have kept clear and unbiased notes.
  6. Building condo occupants will want to consider electrical repairs (panel replacements) at their own individual expense (see the three links I give just below) and certainly occupants will want to know about the no-trip hazard.

    I suggest turning off any circuit that seems to be misbehaving, with the significant caveat that some circuit breakers may remain "ON" internally even when manually switched to the "OFF" position - something an occupant may notice if lights or receptacles don't go "off" when the breaker is switched off.

See:

2016 Northgate Gardens condo board in Waltham MA elects to replace FPE Stab-Lok Panels including replacement UBI Circuit Breakers

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.

FPE - UBI Replacement Circuit Breaker Discussion [with a vendor of replacement breakers]

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 FAILURE FIELD REPORTS - over 270 field reports concerning FPE circuit breaker failures

Or see FPE REPLACEMENT PANEL

Or see FPE Stab-Lok® : FIRES WAITING TO HAPPEN

Or see ZINSCO CIRCUIT BREAKER TEST REPORT - similar testing on replacement circuit breakers sold for Zinsco electrical panels

Suggested citation for this web page

FPE REPLACEMENT BREAKERS at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES: ARTICLE INDEX to ARTICLE INDEX to FPE STAB-LOK BREAKERS & PANELS

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