Is your Federal Pacific circuit breaker panel safe?

You can spot a Stab-Lok breaker by Federal Pacific Electric from the red strip across the switch. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Garrett R. of Columbus, Ohio)

You can spot a Stab-Lok breaker by Federal Pacific Electric from the red strip across the switch. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Garrett R. of Columbus, Ohio)

Your electric panel ensures your home’s electrical safety, but is it safe? If your home was built between 1950 and 1990 and is equipped with a Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) panel with Stab-Lok circuit breakers, you run a significant risk of breaker malfunction and fire.

The breakers inside the panel are designed to guard your home’s electrical system against circuit overload, short circuits and outside power surges coming into the panel. When an overload occurs, a breaker protects you by tripping, thus shutting down the power to the circuit. However, if a breaker is defective or not operating properly, the risk of fire to the panel and consequently to your home becomes imminent.

Multiple tests done on the breakers since the 1980s have proven that one in four Stab-Lok breakers will be defective and not properly trip off. Unfortunately, when the testing began in the early 1980s, a New Jersey court later ruled that FPE committed testing fraud and a cover-up, labeling the breakers as meeting the standards set by the UL when in reality, they were defective.

In 1983, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) closed its two-year investigation and felt it impossible to create a product recall at the time because of budget issues, even as Federal Pacific panels and breakers continued to be installed in millions of homes that to this day still run the risk of an electrical fire. An estimated 2,800 fires each year directly result from Federal Pacific panel breaker malfunction. Federal Pacific Electric has been out of business for many years, but the danger and damage caused by their negligence continues.

Many electrical panels have Federal Pacific or its logo on the front cover.

Do you have a Federal Pacific panel?

If you own a home between 23 and 63 years old, check your breaker box. A Federal Pacific panel will usually have its name or logo on the front cover. Inside, you will find the name Stab-Lok printed near the center or side of the panel. The intact breakers will have the signature red strip that runs across the front.

If you find you do have a Federal Pacific panel or Stab-Lok breakers, call a licensed electrician in your area for further information regarding replacement.


About this Angie's List Expert: Jodi Wells has been with Wells Electric for 37 years. She is a published writer and takes great interest in health, well-being and safety. She is a graduate of the University of Dayton with a degree in education.

As of March 18, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.


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What does it cost to replace a circuit breaker box?

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Electrical work is extremely dangerous, so make sure you hire a licensed pro for work around the home.
Electrical work is extremely dangerous, so make sure you hire a licensed pro for work around the home.

If you discover that you have an old Federal Pacific breaker box, a faulty circuit breaker or an outdated fuse box, how much can you expect to pay to have a qualified electrician replace it?

Comments

What about Federal Pacific main breakers and fuse panels from1920-1950. Have these been an issue as well?

Hello Tim, thank you for your comment. Could you tell me how much it cost to replace this panel? is there a need to do any other replacements other than the panel and breakers? Thanks a mil!

You do not have to replace your entire panel if you have Federal pacific Stab-lok style breakers. There is a company, Connecticut-Electric, Inc that makes brand new, ETL listed, same test as UL, circuit breakers that are safe to use and completely safety agency listed. There seams to be a "red scare' out there about these breakers, yes, there were some issues. Even the federal government couldn't make a decision based upon the facts present to say that Federal Pacific breakers are actually unsafe. Why spend all that money replacing your entire panel, which most electrician love to hear. They just see dollar signs.

My Pool house and garage burned last year due to one of these boxes. I just purchased a condo and its has this box as well. First thing I did after closing was replace the panel. Wish I had known about the problem earlier.

I need to replace mine and I just to know how much did it cost?

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