Are Federal Pacific Circuit Breaker Panels Safe?

Leave a Comment - 68


Craig Nelson

Subject: Testing Federal Pacific Breakers

Not ONCE has anyone mentioned testing these breakers. This is true of ALL breakers of ANY manufacture! Breakers that have never been tested no matter who makes them are not guaranteed to trip if they have been in service for many years. Main breakers in most homes have never been turned off since the house was built. Molded case breakers should be exercised (yup!) every few years to make sure the lubrication is loosened up, the mechanisms will operate correctly and the breaker will latch closed properly. They also can be tested to determine if they will trip when an overcurrent is applied, and at the appropriate current level in the specified amount of time. If your panel is 20 years old (or more), would be a good idea to have the breakers tested. If it is an FPE panel, have all the breakers tested. If they test good, I challenge anyone to tell me they are any less reliable than anyone else's. Note that it has been clearly stated that not ALL FPE breakers were bad. Proper testing would eliminate any that are. I have a GE panel installed in 1976. I replaced ALL the 15A and 20A breakers 5 years ago because 3 were not operating properly. Given that these breakers of these sizes suffer overloads frequently throughout their lifetime and they're cheap, it's prudent to replace them in total periodically and any that seem not to work properly in the interim. I also tested all the breakers last year. (I am a qualified test tech with the equipment to do so; you can hire people to do this for you.) I did not find any breakers that did not meet specifications, but then the larger breakers have never (to my knowledge) ever tripped from a fault or overload. Anyway, people can change out the FPE panels wholesale if they want to, but I still think it is a knee-jerk solution. Proper testing will confirm these or any other brand of breakers work properly. This would be prudent regardless and is a LOT cheaper than replacing an entire breaker panel.


Subject: Federal Pacific stab loc panels

Hello Craig,

I would suggest you look into the issues with the Federal Pacific panels a bit further. First there were independent test conducted and some of the breakers were close to 3 times rated capacity before tripping some never tripped. Your house wiring will burn in either case. Second the company is out of business so replacement parts are old stock or used items not a good option either. Lastly the bus's bars on most of their panels were of poor quality substandard to most other manufacturers products. Not to mention a recall was started in Canada on these panels never made it to the us as the company was out of business by then. That said if you want to run the risk of fire in your home so be it. But my family's safety is worth more than the $2500 panel replacement/service upgrade. You are very correct that all brands of breakers should be cycled to insure they will trip in event of an over current situation, and also GFCI outlets for that matter.

linda setzkorn

Subject: testing breakers

who would you hire to test your breakers? I had someone tell me today that I needed to replace my whole unit because it was an FPE. we had him here to give an estimate on a generac generator. He wanted to charge us 1600.00 to replace it and said we were living on borrowed time and could burn up any day. I read your article and want to get my breakers tested but don't know who to call

Brunhilde Bauer

Subject: amps and boxes

As an insurance agent: I am concerned for my clients safety as well as mitigating loss before it occurs. I ask and inform everyone about this danger and what they should do... As a Homeowner...and mom: Really, people...These boxes need to GO. Too many occurrences.....period. You say "Down 50%"? Down from what? 200,000 down to 100,000 still means 100,000 occurrences... YOU may be willing to risk everything on that, but I'm not. I had the outside riser, and a new box installed with upgrade to 200 amps, and the Electrical company installed a new meter outside...It did not cost more than $2400. SMALL price to pay for sleeping well at night. Get quotes from reputable electricians/companies, and get it DONE. Or.... don't and wish you had later....


Subject: Cost

As a concerned insurance agent, and being that it's ONLY $2400, I would assume you cover this cost for your clients that you are so concerned for right???

John J. Hazel

Subject: Federal Pacific Stab Lok Breakers

I just replaced every breaker in my panel with new ones from Connecticut Electric. UBIF series. My panel was inspected by two electricians who found no evidence of overheating of any kind. The breakers are expensive but I cannot afford to replace the panel. And we have 26 FPE panels at my condominium.YMMV


Subject: Federal Pacific panel

I just got an inspection done on a condo I'm planning to purchase. It failed inspection bc the panel is outdated and a few outlets didn't trip when they were tested. How much was your estimated to replace it?

Tony Valdez

Subject: FPE breakers will fail

My wife and I came home one night after shopping to the ozone smell of burning electrical stuff in the kitchen. My first reaction was that the motor on the refrigerator had burned out. After convincing myself the refrigerator was fine, we tried to find the problem without success. I opened the breakers for the kitchen, refrigerator, lights, stove top, oven/microwave and called the fire department. They couldn't find the problem either and "requested" I kill all power to the house. The next day two electricians agreed to come out that Saturday morning and spent two hours searching for a problem. We had an insta-hot water heater under the sink that failed. It melted insulation in the wall outlet it was connected to and was still too hot to hold comfortably.

"Why didn't the breaker trip?"

"We can check, but look at our web site and search the internet for Federal Pacific breaker panels."

New panel and sub-panel for pool equipment was about 3,000.


Subject: Federal Pacific Electric Circuit Breaker Panel

We have the subject panel installed in our townhouse community. Our FPE is a 200 AMP, 120/240 Volt A.C., 1 Phase, 3 Wire. It has 2 - 50 AMP switches for our Kitchen Range, 2 - 40 AMP for our A/C, 4 - 30 AMP (2 for our Hot Water Heater and 2 for our Washer/Dryer located atop the panel, and 2 -50 AMPS for Lights (with 9 - 15 AMP and 5 - 20 AMP with individual switches) located under the others in our panel. Our panel, and those of several other townhouses, are connected underground to two large electrical box components located above ground outside our backyard. A trusted Virginia Electrical Company has given me an estimate to replace our circuit breaker panel with a new high grade replacement that has surge protection included in the replacement cost - Total cost $4,000.00. A second estimate from another trusted company has been requested. Is this quote a fair price for a replacement panel?


Subject: costs to replace

When getting quotes for this type of service, be sure your are looking at the scope of work. While $3000.00 is way too much for replacing a box, it is not an exceptional price for replacing the entire service. Here in Pennsylvania, service upgrade/replacement costs range from $1800.00 - $3600.00 depending on many factors such as distance from point of attachment to panel location, does the point of attachment need to be moved, do the interior circuits need to be extended, number of arc fault breakers needed, inspection fees, etc. Another thing to consider when looking at a quote is the warranty duration. Its very easy to knock a price and say its a rip off, but unless you have a full grasp of the work that is being done, you're not in a position to second guess the quoted price. However another licensed electrician is, that's why its always a good idea to get several quotes and compare apples to apples. Yes you can have it done "cheaper" by a guy who wants to do it on the side, but if it fails, how quick is he going to be able to get to you to correct it if it was a "side job"? Remember, you get what you pay for, and you must ALWAYS do your due diligence to make sure you are getting the best deal for the best price, cheaper doesn't always mean better. However if you rate your safety and the safety of your family in dollars and cents, a bad service is the least of your problems. Just to be clear, I have 20 years in the industry, and from my own personal experiences, if you have an FPE panel in your home, it is worth the time, effort, and cost to replace it. Like anything else, there are good ones, and bad ones. However when you have an item that has such a high failure rate, the "better safe than sorry" statement holds true. Unfortunately, there are no recall notices for faulty electrical equipment like you have in the automotive industry, so trust the guys who have the field experience to be able to give you the pertinent information you need to make an informed decision.


Subject: Federal Pacific Circuit Breakers

The church's insurance company did an inspection and told us to have the Federal Pacific circuit breaker boxes inspected. There are four of them. An electrical engineer, with his PE, inspected the electrical equipment and sent us a written report. In the report he told us the following:

"Each of the noted Federal Pacific circuit panels (actually load centers) are protected by a UL listed, Square D, 60 amp, 2-pole circuit breaker. In the very unlikelihood that one of the 20 amp, single pole circuit breakers, in the Federal Pacific panel were to fail, the UL listed 60A/2-pole, Square D circuit breaker would trip, thus protecting the Federal Pacific Panel and all down-stream equipment." (This is copied exactly from his report.)

Will the upstream, 60 amp breaker protect the 20 amp Federal Pacific breaker if the Federal Pacific breaker fails to trip in an overload situation?

Also, no where in the report did he comment on the safety or lack thereof with Federal Pacific circuit breaker boxes.

William Lukasik

Subject: An electrical engineer, with his PE.

John, this "engineer with his PE" needs to go back to school! The 60-amp will ONLY trip once its current (amperage) value has been exceeded! ANY current over 20 Amps WILL cause the supposed 12 gauge copper wire to melt the insulation covering the wire. This MAY short the Black (Hot or Line) to the White (Neutral / Return) or Ground (Bare/Green) causing the 60-amp breaker to trip, IF it doesn't, expect the Fire Department to respond. Not only am I an Electrical and Fire Protection Engineer, but also a retired Fire Marshal/Investigator.


Subject: FPE circuit breakers

A 2 pole 60amp circuit breaker is NOT adequate to "protect" a single pole 20amp load. If the FPE 20 amp breaker does not trip, what logic train of thought would allow one to conclude that a 2-pole breaker, rated 3 times higher would then trip?!?


Subject: FPE Stab lok Breakers and FPE Stab Lok Panel

It seems to me that there is some confusion with FPE Stab Lok panel and FPE stab lok circuit breakers. These are two separate issues. The circuit breakers should have the signature red stripe. According to a report done in the 80's and I am quoting from this report, FPE cheated on its testing to cover up the fact that the product did not reliably meet the applicable UL (Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.) safety standard requirements. The question often arises as to whether there are any years or models of FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers that meet the standard performance requirements. The answer is that only FPE Stab-Lok® breakers with (authentic) pink UL listing labels and white dots on the handles are likely to perform as required by the UL standard. Of course you will be lucky if that label is still on circuit breakers that old. The second issues is that this report was on FPE Stab Lok panels. The report clearly states that replacing the circuit breakers will not address the problem of the FPE Stab Lok panel. The bus bar and its design was found to be faulty. There are many different buss bar construction used in FPE panels. One particular design (stab socket on a post attached with a 8-32 steel screw) had a high probability of overheating and deteriorating due to significant current flow. So my point would be that you have to hire an electrician who is familiar with the FPE problem and can correctly diagnosis that you have that problem. As the owner you might want to read up on the FPE problem as there is a ton of info out there (be careful when they interchange terminology such as FPE VS FPE Stab Lok because saying FPE is akin to saying they all are bad) and ask the electrician about the FPE panel to see if he knows what you know.


Subject: Fed Pac Breakers

The engineer was correct in that the 60a breaker will probably operate correctly and eventually trip. However, this will not happen until the 60a breaker is overloaded. The real question is if you'd like to protect your 20a circuit with a 60a breaker? Do you know precisely how many amps on that 20a circuit will create enough heat to start a fire? I would not care to find out the hard way that the threshold was below 60a!

Teddy irizarry

Subject: Federal pacific

It does not surprise me that an electrical engineer wrote that off the way that you did most engineers that I know have no experience in the field and have no idea of what danger of Federal Pacific panel can cause!!


Subject: Keep your home updated

Its amazing that people are always trying to get someone else to pay to keep there house updated. If your panel was made in 1962 why should a company t g at closed years ago pay for it, or you insurance company. I could list off 100 things in your home that could cause a fire because they are 50 years old come on people, ranges, oil burners, furnaces, dryers... Its up to you to keep your panel up to date, did you get 50 years out of your oil burner? By the way, breakers were the worst thing to happen to electricity, when properly used fuses were the safest way to go, people just abused them by putting pennies behind them. Like knob and tube, if light and switch boxes were fiberglass it would be the safest wiring method as the conductors are 12" apart 97% of the runs. But anyways, if you want to do some welding, short out a FPE circuit haha, it's unbelievable how bad they function

Brad Klingensmith

Subject: FP

The difference is that the company lied, falsified the results of testing, and blatantly put out a dangerous product. It's not a wear and tear issue where people are trying to get replaced for nothing, ie, your car tires with 40k miles on them. These critters were a problem from day one, the covered it up, lied, cheated and decided to let their customers fry.

Paula Mersing

Subject: stove

I have an electrical stove that is a Frigidaire. It is nearly 75 yrs old and works just fine. My parents bought it years before I was born. I am going to replace it in the spring with a newer model.

Kevin B

Subject: Curiousity vs. Federal Pacific

I recently bought a 1960's era home with one of these panels. While replacing the kitchen ceiling light (and being the curious sort that I am) I wondered how the 20A breaker would actually behave if I intentionally shorted the 12 gauge wires serving the fixture. Since the panel is also located in the kitchen I had a good view of both ends of the circuit. Despite all the controversy I fully expected a flat out dead short would cause the breaker to trip and so with only minor trepidation took my trusty and handy screwdriver, gave the neutral line a twist around its shank, and put its tip against the exposed black wire. BAM, SPARKS, NOISE, it was really quite ceremonious, and blew the tip clean off my screwdriver, BUT, the breaker DID NOT TRIP. Being also a welder I have something of a sense for the relationship between current and melted steel. To look at what was left of my screwdriver I would argue that well more than 20 amps went through it. With my suspicions suitably aroused I kept a much closer eye on the panel as I continued to do further work around this house. When it came time to evaluate the electric wall heater in one of the bathrooms I noted a funny sounding buzz that seemed to be in the panel. It turned out to be coming from the contact between the breaker and the buss bar, arcing, smoking, smelling, and well on its way to starting a fire. Immediately flipping the breaker off did the trick and kept the place from burning down. In my book, that's two different faults observed in the same panel, case closed, these things are dangerous, if you have one get rid of it.

Bill D

Subject: FPE

I have one if theses boxes. I plug a vacuum in and the power went out for that part of the house, need to call an electrician. Why is no one responsible for this expense except the home owner? Is there a class action suite I the works does anyone know? Please write me back if you have any updates. Thank you.


Subject: Class Action

The company went out of business long ago. Canadians responded with a lawsuit first and got what there was to get. In the US, we're a little slower at holding companies accountable sometimes.


Subject: FPE Breaker Trip

It sounds like your circuit was overloaded and the breaker actually worked as intended (tripped). The problem with FPE is that they will fail to trip when they should.


Subject: Hi Bill, I am buying an older

Hi Bill, I am buying an older home equipped with an FPE panel. My home inspector HIGHLY recommended we get the panel replaced. We had 2 electricians separately check out the house and they both recommended replacement as well. From what I've read online it sounds like FPE panels are an imminent danger.

There was a class action lawsuit that was settled in NJ, but that's all I've seen.

I agree that it doesn't seem right that the homeowner should be responsible but I guess we are on our own now! Good luck!


Subject: bad breakers or bad box?

The simplest solution is to just swap all the breakers for modern ones. The panel box itself is fine and will be no different from a new one you pay thousands to have installed. New breakers may cost you a few hundred depending on the size of the panel.


Subject: No. These boxes MUST be

No. These boxes MUST be replaced, no exceptions. Newer Fed Pac circuit suffer from the same problems as the older ones.They don't trip. The secondary problem is that the the circuit breaker's connection to the copper bus that is located along the back of the box, is not stable, and can produce enough heat to arc weld the breaker to the bus even though it looks good on the surface.


Subject: No. The breaker panel must be

No. The breaker panel must be replaced. No exceptions. Newer Fed Pac circuit breakers have the same basic problem as the older ones. They do not trip. The other problem is that connection between the breaker and the copper bus along the back of the panel, is not stable. It may look good on the surface, but the breaker itself could be welded to the bus. Fed Pac boxes suffer from poor engineering.


Subject: I just found out

I just found out about this issue and I have one of these in my basement. I am so angry I could spit. If this is such a major issue, why wasn't it brought up to me when I bought my house 2 years ago? I would NOT have purchased a house with a built in fire hazard. I don't have thousands of dollars just laying around to fix this, and naturally no insurance or home warranty is going to cover it.


Subject: Stab-Lok Circuit breakers

This is where this list has not done their homework. The breakers which were suspect were manufactured 1979 and older. The company, after a take over, self reported itself and an investigation was conducted. The Federal govt found no evidence of higher risk but did conclude the 1979 and older did not meet all test requirements

A breaker swap is overpriced at $1,000 for a 100 Amp


Subject: FPE 100 amp double pole breakers

Hi Kevin,
Connecticut Electric distributes NP2100 breakers and you can buy them retail for about $219. UBIF type NA. Federal Pioneer in Canada sells the trademarked breaker for about $76 USD.


Subject: No Stab-Lok wording

I have a FPE panel in my home, however, it does not have the Stab-Lok wording inside. Is this also a fire hazard?


Subject: Blew me up...

Journeyman Electrician; in 1983 was working on a 1200 Amp, 3-phase commercial panel (FPE) and a 3-pole 60A brkr "cross-phased. Inherent defect in brkr. resulting plasma ball melted panel on opposite wall 6 feet away, and sent my partner and me to the hospital w/2nd & 3rd. degree burns. I was release in a day but he stayed for 3 weeks. Way to go FPE!

Jane Girl

Subject: Federal Pacific Breaker

We live in an apartment and I was wondering, if these boxes really need replacing. I can tell you now, the landlord will not replace this complex's circuits. I've heard tenants talking about their lights blink on and off and ours does it too. Every now and again the breakers will shut off I guess because of overload. (Some tenant's air conditioners have stopped working as of last week). We turn the circuits back on and go on about our business. Two tenants got shocked by turning on the light switch. The fire department saw nothing wrong. What if the State says the owner don't have to change them?

Shelby Kuenning

Subject: F P panel

Call your local or state consumer protection agency and tell them the issue, providing the information on this site. Also, provide this information to the fire department, because if they are passing these panels they are either ignorant, complacent, or, worse, corrupt. I've been a home and building inspector for ten years. One client had an FP panel, I identified it as needing replacing, the seller's realtor argued about it (no surprise there), the buyers were addressing some other issues with the permission of the seller, working one evening, and the panel caught on fire while they were there.

If the above doesn't elicit a response, try to find out who carries their insurance and bring it to their attention. They don't want to insure this kind of thing and will likely take action. It shouldn't take this much, but landlords are often cheapskates and don't care who might get injured or killed, either existing in an advanced state of denial, or hedging their bets because ultimately it won't hurt them.


Subject: FPE Breakers for sale at home depot

I was studying the FPE posts here and decided to look into their situation. A FPE search turned up their breakers being on the market at Home Depot. I don't see any new panels . Could these be the same breakers that gave problems long ago?


Subject: Breakers at Home Depot USA

I realize that this is an old post. The breakers that Home Depot USA sells are Connecticut Electric UBI type F. The are made to replace Stab-Lok breakers. They are in production now. Made in China. Federal Pioneer makes genuine Stab-Lok breakers and are sold at Home Depot in Canada. There are online companies that will ship the Federal Pioneers to the United States.

m young

Subject: Fed pacific stab lok box

am told that I have to replace the box before I can sell my house. It was remodeled in 1986 and a new GE box is right beside it with breakers. As far as I can tell the new box has only the A/C unit and some lights in it. the Fed, Pacific has the rest like the electric stove and dryer.

Does anyone know if I will be able to just get the lines moved to the GE box and that would be a fix?

Any idea of cost. Interesting that it passed code the way it is now when the house had a major remodel in 86.

Amanda V

Subject: FP Stablock

My husband and I recently listed our home for sale. We have one of these stabloc boxes that is original to the home since 1962. Once a realtor brought to our attention there was concern we started investigating. We have actually read the statement from the consumer protection agency and what's written in the above article is misrepresented and inflammatory IMO, no pun intended.
DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH ON THIS ISSUE. THESE BOXES ARE IN MILLIONS OF HOMES TO THIS DAY. Fires have dropped 50% across the board since these "fire hazard's" were installed. The Consumer Protection Agency conducted their own studies and could NOT find evidence that these boxes are an inherent danger to bodily harm or a risk to property. They closed their case in 1983. Without any NEW EVIDENCE they sited that they would not RE-OPEN the case due to a lack of funding. Fire departments are being stripped down to bare bones because statistically fires are dangerous are these REALLY??? I'd put FPE record up against some kangaroo court in NJ any day. ALSO KEEP IN MIND THIS HAS BEEN NOTED AS AN ISSUE WITH MANY DIFFERENT BRANDS OF THE stabloc boxes, not JUST Fed. Pacific!!!


Subject: FP Stablock

Different brands of "Stabloc" boxes? Really? Where do you get that information? Stabloc is a trademarked brand, so where are all these other "stablocs" you are talking about?
Just because overall fires are down 50% over the years you are saying that these panels are safe?
Twisted logic there, as the 50% reduction is due to upgraded electrical codes in NEWER installations, not older wiring or panels.
And just because a panel has been sitting there for 50+ years does NOT mean it is safe.
The problem with these is mainly in the double pole breakers that supply large appliances such as dryers, A/C units, and stoves. As long as there is no overload, you will NEVER know if the breaker is defective.

The only reason the CPSC stopped it's investigation were the logistical problems involved in gathering the needed information and the money it would cost.
I agree that everyone should do their own homework on these, but if I had one it would be replaced immediately.


Subject: FP Stablock

I have one of these "fire hazards" installed in my house which was built in 1972. I bought the home in 2000 and didn't have a problem until my 17 yr old daughter, who was home alone, was curling her hair in her room and the breaker did not trip. A wire that controlled a switch in my garage got red hot and caught fire. My daughter called me to tell me the power was out in her room and I instructed her to look at the breaker and only then did she notice the fire inside the garage wall that coming out of the switch box and had reached the ceiling. Luckily I keep fire extinguishers in the house and she was able to put the fire out. I'm just thankful nobody was hurt and I didn't lose all my possessions because somebody decided to cut corners with testing the reliability of these devices just to make a buck.

Dustin Hill

Subject: FedPac

I am an electrician. They are dangerous. If you value money over your families safety at least make sure your smoke detectors work.
The engineers who created these have stated there was a last minute switch at manufacturing that resulted in them no longer being UL compatable. The company who bought FPE pocketed the money meant to be used toward the recall.
You will never get a home insurance policy if they know you have a FedPac panel. Banks will not put loans towards houses with FedPac panel.
The problem lies within the fact that after the breakers trip once there is a 50% chance they no longer provide the protection they are there to provide.

Mark P

Subject: Federal Pacific Dtab Lok

Expect to pay approx $1,000.00 for an average 2,300 sq ft home.

By the way--your homeowners insurance won't pay to "upgrade"!


Subject: Just curious as to why would

Just curious as to why would you expect your homeowners insurance to pay for this fix? This is a maintenance issue, not a claim. Would they replace an older water heater that could "potentially" leak, or to clean a dirty furnace that could cause a fire? These types of things come with home ownership and too many people treat their home insurance as a "maintenance plan" and then continue to wonder why insurance costs continue to rise.


Subject: Danger!

We recently purchased a "fixer-upper".. a large older home (1960's) that has been added onto several times, and as a result we have 5 smaller FPE breaker boxes throughout the house. We had no evidence of problems, but have been saving to change them to bring the house up to code. We replaced the first one yesterday...I wish I could post the pics. You couldn't tell anything was wrong just by looking at the panel, but the inside of the box was completely blackened, wires were burnt, a hole had been burned through the back of the box, and there was even scorching on the outside of the box. It is a miracle our home hasn't burned down. Now working to get the rest of them out immediately! We were lucky to have an electrician friend help with the were only $120. But that was for a small box (12-15 breakers I think, we have 4 other boxes to do to complete the whole house), if you have one box for the whole house I imagine it would be a bit more.

Gary Rumbaugh

Subject: Feberal Pacific Electrical panels

The cost can sometimes be more than just the cost of replacing the panel itself. In Lincoln, NE our local electrical company will make you upgrade to a new digital electrical meter if you don't already have one ($300) when replacing your main service panel. They also strongly encourage you to move your overhead entrance cables to underground if they are not already. This is at no cost to the consumer. But, if you are replacing your panel, which is pretty much a one time deal and you currently have a 100 amp service it is suggested to upgrade to 150-200amps. The cost here is about $200.00. Often the location of the old panel doesn't meet current code due to the presence of water pipes or it may now be in a bathroom that wasn't present with the home was constructed. So relocating the panel is another additional cost. As a construction manager what looks to be a simple installation of a new panel often ends up costing $1,800.00 after all the changes take place. If the panel needs to be relocated you can add another $500.00 to that figure.


Subject: I would rather use the

I would rather use the original breakers before I would put some Chinese "Connecticut Electric" garbage in. Every stablok I have dealt with never had a problem


Subject: fed pacific

Exactly right and they give false info in the states the consumer protection agency issued no recall because of budget cuts but what realy happend was that they allready did testing in the 80s and ruled in favor of federal pacific and nothing changed so they issued a statement that said they saw no new reason to open the case again and had a limited budget that is used for things that do show a inherrit risk to public safety.Im wondering has anyone changed there stab loc system out that hasnt been forced to do for a realistate deal?It seems odd they are makeing a stink about it since fires are down 50 percent across the board starting from approximately 50 years ago about the time these things became put federal pacifics track record up against some new jersey kangaroo courts record anyday.


Subject: Federal Pacific

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


Subject: follow-up question

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!


Subject: Federal Pacific Breakers and panels

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.


Subject: Great Article

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.

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This can be maddening. Over the past 40+ years, in 4 houses, I have had or have run across this problem from gas meter leakage, water well pump column vibration, doorbell transformer, circulating pump, an extremely small (mist spray) water pipe leak, flourescent and sodium lights, security system horn dead battery, gas meter leaking slightly, bees in wall, bat colony, electric typewriter left on, stereo left on very low, and speaker inductive hum.

This seems to be a popular and recurrent question, so I am going to give the long answer for use by future questioners too.

I am assuming you do not hear this noise away from your house, or that other family members can hear it to. Obviously, if you hear it elsewhere also and other family members cannot hear it, then maybe you have tinninitus or are hearing your own high blood pressure blood flow (seriously). This commonly gets more acute at night when it is quiet, so all you are hearing is your internal ear sounds. I had this happen once because of a middle ear blockage - drove me crazy, getting up in the middle of the night because I thought I heard a water leak through the walls. Try putting on a pair of earmuffs or hearing protectors - if you still hear it or hear it louder, this is probably the case.

One method if hum is on the clearly audible side is make a 2 foot long cone out of paper to hold against your ear - like an antique hearing horn - then in each room face each of 4 directions while listening for where sound is the loudest, and turn your head to pinpoint the exact direction - I would spend 10 minutes doing this before getting into detailed stethoscope listening.

Otherwise, sounds like time for the old stethoscope (about $12 at a drug store - get a metal soundhead one, not cheap plastic, which does not pick up vibration as well). Also, if you are older (say over 35 or so) your hearing might have started to deteriorated with age, so if you have children or grandchildren with sharp hearing, they might be able to help track it down. I am sure a young child or grandchild, if you have one, would love this sort of treasure hunt (with appropriate "treasure" for a reward for tracking it down). 

Being careful not to come in contact with electricity with the stethoscope, check all the likely sources listed below. Start by placing it against pipes and walls and floor in each room of the house - water sourced noise goes a long ways, and tends to reverberate in the walls, so if that is the source likely to hear pretty easy. Hold stethoscope against bare pipes, both hot and cold, and heating system radiators or hot air vents.

If listening to water and hot water heating pipes indicates it is not water sourced, then you could turn off the master (outside) breaker or all the inside breakers and see if it goes away. I would only do this during above-freezing weather and early on a weekday, just in case a breaker fails to turn back on correctly when you switch it. Older master breakers particularly, which typically have never been used, sometimes break or fail to reclose properly after being shut off, so then have to be replaced. You want to be doing this at a time of day when, if necessary, you could get an electrician in the same day to replace it without paying weekend or nighttime emergency call rates.

If turning off the master breaker (or all other breakers) eliminates the hum, then turn them on one at a time until you find the one that turns the hum back on, then track where that circuit likely feeds (hopefully it is labelled) and check every switch, outlet, and light fixture.

Humming sources include (not in any particular order, a + in front means likely or common source of humming, - means rare or not likely):

1) + toilet fill valve - slightly leaking toilet inlet valve (listen where water tubing comes into toilet tank, and look inside tank to see if there is any water flow into or ripppling of the water in the tank or the bowl, or from the bowl filling tube (usually a small black plastic flexible tube which comes out of the fill valve (usually far left side of tank) and is clipped onto and discharges down into a hollow vertical brass or plastic tube or pipe in the toilet tank, which refills the toilet bowl after you flush)

2) + leaking faucet - kitchen, tub, shower, sink, utility tub, etc - it is amazing how just the smallest valve leak can make a hum or hiss that you can hear through the walls (especially at night), but only drips every few seconds.

3) - electric service meter dial motor

4) - electric breaker panel - rarely, a loose main power feed to a panel (especially with aluminum main service wire) will get loose enough that it vibrates back and forth and hums in its connector. A loose bus or snap-in breaker slot cover plate in the panel can also do this rarely

5) - gas meter or overpressure vent (unlikely, as you have had it replaced)

6) + boiling in the bottom of hot water heater or boiler because of buildup of lime, but would usually be intermittent - only when unit is heating

7) + furnace fan or electrostatic filter (forced air heat), or circulating pump (hot water baseboard heating), or steam condensate pump or overpressure venting (steam system).

8) - gas control valve or electric control box on a gas furnace, or its transformer (most have a 120V to 24, 16 or 12V transformer inside the front of the furnace

9) + air filter or electrostatic filter alarm on forced air furnace - some have a passive "whistle" opening that sounds softly when the filter is getting blocked, and if blocked with dust could make a hum rather than a whistle.

10) + Some water softener systems also have an "alarm" device to tell you it is time to service the unit, so check that if you have such a unit.

11) - a slightly leaking overpressure/overtemp valve on hot water heater or furnace (would be dripping)

12) - air venting from the air vents on hot water heating system. These will commonly make a hum or wheeze sound, for only for a few seconds at a time - not continuous unless leaking water

13) - city water system booster pump sound through the water column (if there is one near your home) - listen at the incoming water pipe - if much louder there than at other pipes within the house, that could be a house, though unlikely. If you think this could be it, find your water shutoff valve (typically 10' into your lawn from the street) and listen there. Would also be audible at neighbor's service pipe if that is the source.

14) - gas system compressor sound coming through gas pipe - listen to gas pipe outside the house and inside the house near furnace - if louder outside,, this could be a possible source, but the compressor or pressure reducer would have to be near your house. Would also be audible at neighbor's service pipe if that is the source.

15) + auxiliary booster circulating pump in your hot water or steam heating system (there may be one separate from the furnace, likely in the basement or a utility closet - most commonly found on  multi-unit apartment building with central heating and in 3 story or higher buildings, but you never know)

16) + a water leak, either inside or a leaking hose bib or pipe, or in your service pipe coming to the house

17) - electric on-demand water heater or electric-powered water filtration unit under the kitchen sink or inthe basement

18) + refrigerator compressor or fan hum

19) + doorbell transformer (front or back door - transformer is usually NOT at the doorbell, it is usually mounted in an open space like nailed to a basement joist, in an entry closet, or in the cubby space under the stairs - always physically near to the door, but NOT always on the same floor)

20) - any instant-on device like a TV

21) + any audio device (stereo, iPod, music player dock, computer, etc) that may have been left on at very low volume. Also, VERY rarely, if stereo or external speaker wires are run close to and parallel with an electric wire in the wall, they will acquire an  inductive voltage and hum.

22) + anything with a transformer, including stereo, add-on computer or iPod speakers, battery charger (rechargeable batteries or spare car battery or rider mower or boat battery charger), any portable electriconic device. Also portable device chargers (computer, iPod, cell phone, etc) - even if the device is not plugged into the transformer, as long as the transformer (charger) if plugged into an outlet, it is transforming high to low voltage, and transformers commonly hum

23) - electric typewriter left running

24) - electric ultrasonic cleaner or denture cleaner or electric toothbrush left on 

25) - home hair drying hood left on

26) - a lint buildup-jammed bathroom, kitchen, or attic fan. Many of these have, for safety, so called "self limiting" motors that if they jam just sit there and hum, but do not burn out.

27) - an attic cooling fan whose thermostat has failed, so is on all the time

28) - electronic furnace thermostat

29) + air conditioning unit, or aquxiliary air conditioner evaporator

30) + humidifier / dehumidifier - either permanently installed or portable

31) + portable heater / fan / air purifier

32) - automatic animal feeder waterer - either water supply or electric, as applicable

33) - dishwasher motor runningcontinuously - not shutting down after end of cycle

34) - convective or direct-vent oven or cooktop exhaust fan not shutting off

35) + flourescent (tube or CFL) or sodium or halogen light bulb / ballast hum (either inside, outside front door fixtures, or public street lights). These can hum quite pesistently when the starter circuit sticks on, or the bulb is dying and will not start (light completely), so the started circuit tries continually to start the lamp - can make a hum audible up to a block away on street lights.

36) - a dying electronic photocell designed to turn on your outside lights

37) - home security system, especially its alarm or horn. If the alarm is sounding but for some reason the main power is not getting to it, then as the battery goes dead (or if full voltage is not getting to it) is can give off a squeek, hum, or rasping sound - ditto if insects like wasps or hornets build a nest in it, so it cannot sound correctly.

38) + well pump, pressure tank, or filtration system, if you are on a well

39) + insect or bat nest in the attic or walls or in outside bins or cupboards, electric panel/meter, or outside telephone connection box (bees /wasps / hornets most likely) - though this usually varies by time of day, although it would "pulse" at the time of day when they are waking up or going to sleep.

40) + carpenter ants or termites - their continuous chewing of the wood can sound like a hum till you get right up against the colony, then you can actually hear the chewing

41) - a regional hum, as has been occurring at times in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Arkansas - where micro-seismic activity causes a hum or booming sound. Google or call your local paper and see if anyone has been reporting this in your area.

42) + outdoor power service transformer - either a metal (typically army green or gray) about 1 foot diameter "can" mounted on a power pole if you have overhead service, or a 2-3 foot cubic metal box on the ground or in a manhole pit near the street if you have underground service, which usually serves 4-6 houses (so may be in a neighbor's yard) and will have a voltage rating marked on it, usually in yellow stick-on lettering - like 4160V - 220V. Usually has high voltage - keep away safety markings on it.

43) - you have found where the Caddyshack gopher (who hummed to himself) moved to after Bill Murray blew up his happy home at the golf course.

Hope this list helps you (and future users with the same question).

Unless you feel uncomfortable doing minor repairs or don't understand that you should turn the electicity OFF before doing such can do the job yourself with a screwdriver and needle nose pliars...within 15 minutes. 5-10 minutes if you've done it before.

The amperage is the rated power it can handle. Modern houses are generally built with 200 amp panels, and a lot of the newer ones are going 300-350 amps as more and more electronic devices and fancy and high-demand kitchen devices and increased lighting are used in homes.

Both are just as safe - the 200 amp one will just have many more breaker slots, allowing way more circuits, and providing more room for expansion in the future, especially for power-hungry things like shop tools. Each uses only as much electricity as is used in the circuits - the panel itself does not consume any electricity, so no long-term impact there. It is just a circuit connection box where the individual circuits are connected, with circuit protectors (breakers) in line before it connects to the main line to your electric usage meter.

Unless you are real tight on money on this job, I would upgrade to 200 amps capacity - the incremental cost is about $100-200 or so over the 100 amp panel. If your incoming power line cannot handle 200 amps, you could install a 100 amp main breaker to keep the power company happy but put in the 200 amp breaker panel, so in the future a main line upgrade could be done with only a main disconnect breaker upgrade of $100 or so, without having to change anything inside the house.

Having the larger panel, especially if 200 amp capacity all the way from the meter, can be a selling point (or rather, lack of a negative point) to a potential buyer with lots of electronics or who is into shop power tools. It would also facilitate conversion to electric heat / water heating if someone wanted to do that.


As I understand it, you are looking at putting in a fan where there is no ceiling electric outlet. Since I am not sure, will try to break out piece by piece, undersanding these wouyld all be lumped into one job (possibly excluding wiring new outlet and switch). I hate to be so general, but access is the key here - if access is easy and there is a suitable light switch in the same room, cost can be at the low end of this range. If assess is poor and you don't want holes knocked in your drywall, then get more expensive real fast.

1) cost of fan typically $125-250 unless high end model

2) remove existing regular 4" box, install supports to joists and new box (ceiling fans need specially supported boxes due to the extra weight and swaying motion of the fans) $50-75

3) tap electric from existing circuit at existing box, upgrade existing light switch box to add one or two more switches (Adjustable for fan speed, 2nd for light, if so equipped), run wiring to ceiling fixture $125-250

4) put up fan, connect, test $75-100

So - total About $250-425 with no box there now, plus cost of fixture. A simple install to replace an existing fan, or install where the ceiling box was wired for a fan, would be only about $75-100.

This all assumes the existing nearby electric circuit can handle the addition of the fan - if not, then wiring cost will go up. It also assumes there is access via open attic or joists to install the wiring. Otherwise, installation cost OK but does NOT include repair to holes in drywall or ceiling to pull wiring.

Note also that an existing ceiling light box would probably NOT fill the bill - code in almost all jurisdictions requires 12 ga wire for fan motors, most household circuits are 14 or 16 gauge, so would need new wire pulled from a circuit with adequate capacity.

Get bids ! I worked on one job where the owner in a high-end house decided to put in fans with fancy candeliers underneath after construction was done - cost almost $3000 to do installation because all the wall and ceilings were finished in a high-end finish, so all wire pulling had to be done remotely - including removing siding to put in pull boxes at changes of direction and fasten conduit to studs. PLAN AHEAD !