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Is my Fed. Pacific Board Safe

Posted by deealex (My Page) on
Sun, Mar 7, 10 at 10:22

There was an electrician working on a house near me and I asked him to replace a light for me. He noticed I have a Federated Pacific board and said they aren't safe as they don't trip. Now, I'm really worried about it and wondering if i should have it changed. He quoted about $1100 or more. But, I have an electric company I usually use that is very reasonable and I think would be much cheaper, but not sure.

Actually my first question is the safety of the board I have and do I really need to change it? My house is small and I don't have outlets overloaded. Was built in 1978, FL.

Dee


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Is my Fed. Pacific Board Safe

Not safe at all. If anything happens that normally would result in a breaker tripping, EX: cord to a lamp shorting out, nick in a wire shorting, failure of a receptacle. Instead the power could stay on making everything else become the fuse (cord of the lamp dancing around in flames as it melts, entire wall around a receptacle in flames, nick in a wire inside a wall with it smoldering, etc. There is a website if you google Federal Pacific failure with all the documented cases. Some of them quite interesting. One was an electrician at an apartment complex that went to fix a security light. It was shorted out and he turned on the switch not noticing anything and left to go get materials. When he came back, the fire department was there with the entire building in flames, I think in his case the panel just blew up or something.

I told a customer the other day about hers and she wanted me to send her a link to that website. After sending it to her, I called her 1 day later to give her a price. She said, "Sorry I already had someone else come change it." Guess from now on I'll have to be ready to change the panel the same day I show someone that website (:

Price is probably about right pending what area you are in. See if it is just changing the panel or upgrading the service components: mast, meter, service cable, main grounding. The service may be in bad shape and need to be changed at the same time and some electricians would avoid that by not pulling a permit. For that big a job, you should call your regular guy back and ask him for a bid to compare.


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RE: Is my Fed. Pacific Board Safe

I would not own a home with an FPE panel, except for the time needed to replace same. In the interim, the power would be off at the meter.


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RE: Is my Fed. Pacific Board Safe

There is a website if you google Federal Pacific failure with all the documented cases. Some of them quite interesting. One was an electrician at an apartment complex that went to fix a security light. It was shorted out and he turned on the switch not noticing anything and left to go get materials. When he came back, the fire department was there with the entire building in flames, I think in his case the panel just blew up or something.

How the hell do you energize an unfused dead short circuit with a wall switch and NOT NOTICE?

Similar situation where I grew up, the wall switch BLEW APART. I can't imagine failing to notice the IMMEDIATE shower of molten plastic and metal!


That said, no, your panel is ultimately NOT safe.


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RE: Is my Fed. Pacific Board Safe

College roommate of mine had a Federal Pacific panel and was quoted about $3500 for a replacement. He did a little web research and found a retrofit kit, talked to the electrician and had the kit put in for about half the origional quote.

Just something to look into.


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RE: Is my Fed. Pacific Board Safe

In 2006, I bought my first home. While doing a total kichen remodel several months later I was shocked to see burned looking wires inside the wall by the only counter top outlet. Since the kitchen had only the one outlet, I had planned on calling an electrician anyway. What he discovered is that the circuit breaker for that line was not tripping and he guessed it was rountinly carrying more current than it should have. Yes, you guessed it....it was a Federal Pacific panel from 1972.

My advice is to please have it changed. $1100 may or may not be a good price. Since the incoming wires and meter for my 100amp service were still fine, my job was priced as follows:
New 100amp GE 20-space panel with necessary breakers $185.00
7 hours of labor @ 85.00/hr $595.00

Hope you make out well. Good luck.


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RE: Is my Fed. Pacific Board Safe

"How the hell do you energize an unfused dead short circuit with a wall switch and NOT NOTICE? "

It depends on how low the short circuit impedance is and the impedance of the branch circuit.

I have seen defective equipment across from hot to neutral at 240 V.

The nice buzzing sound went on for a short time before enough insulation cooked off the wires in EMT to make an even better short to ground.

It did manage to burn a hole in the EMT before finally shutting down.

The few 480 faults have been shorter lived but more spectacular.

We even had an 18 kV feed in rigid conduit fail and blow a large hole in the conduit before a line fuse went.

The drops of molten steel splattered around the area and lit a number of small fires.


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RE: Is my Fed. Pacific Board Safe

Short answer - NO ! - not safe at all. The electrician that advised you of the issue is 100% correct, and as the others have said, Federal Pacific panels have a high rate of failure. I bought a foreclosure house in December 2007 that had a Federal Pacific 200 amp stab-lok panel in it. Before I called the POCO to get the power on, I had my electrician out to change the panel. Better safe than sorry. And $1100 sounds reasonable.


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RE: Is my Fed. Pacific Board Safe

I too have a Fed Pacific stab loc panel. My kitchen remodel is in complete standstill until the panel is replaced. In fact, I just found out that my insurance company probably wouldn't have insured my home if the home inspector had correctly marked the "Federal Pacific" panel box on the inspection sheet. Since he didn't, I now have insurance, but it's not safe. In fact, while changing a light fixture in the top story I found knob and tube, with blown in insulation. That on top of a Federal Pacific panel sent me into a panic and I shut the upstairs off completely. My electrician thinks I'm nuts, but why take chances! I have found several burned areas in ceilings in my house where wires once were operating but no longer are, and I figured that out when trying to replace the light fixture with one that actually worked. Turned out it wasn't the fixture at all, but overheated wiring that probably should have tripped before it torched.

My advice is change it as soon as you can. It's costing me $3K to change the panel, and move the service as it's 90 years old and not up to current codes. As the 3rd owner of this house, I am nervous everyday that I live here with this panel, and thankful that the house hasn't burned down!


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RE: Is my Fed. Pacific Board Safe

Is your Federal Pacific Electrical circuit breaker panel safe?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: No.

Replace it, and soon. I had one of these in a high-rise I used to live in. They are inherently defective, and the older they get, the more unreliable they've become. Basically, they don't always trip when they're supposed to, causing a fire hazard. The 208/240V double breakers are especially troublesome. In some states (New Jersey, I know) you can't even pass a home inspection if it has a FPE panel.

Get rid of it.

Here is a link that might be useful: FPE Panel FAQ


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RE: Is my Fed. Pacific Board Safe

My 1953 vintage house has a Federal Pacific Noark panel. First off it is getting replaced soon, so this isn't a "do I really have to replace it?" question. However I'm curious about something, I've poured over site where they list all the horrors of FPE panels and to me it looks like my panel is not one of those shown as having problems. It's a 100AMP panel and the main buss is protected by two fuses in a kind of cartridge. The panel says Stab-Lok but none of the photos I've seen of the evil Stab-Lok breakers look like these. In addition I haven't seen one picture of an FPE panel with main fuses like this.

Is this some creature that in the distant past has been rewired and the box just happens to have started life as an FPE? The breakers do trip by the way, we've had a few overloads (to be corrected with a new panel) and each time a break has tripped.

Thanks I'm really just curious more than anything.


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RE: Is my Fed. Pacific Board Safe

The problem with FPE is with their breakers and not the board itself.


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