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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Washington State
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    579

    Exclamation How is this working!

    This is an old Federal Pacific Stab-Lok panel. I called out both panels for numerous reasons and recommended replacing them both. I have never seen anything like this. The FP Stab-Lok was being fed off the main panel. There were no neutral wires at the bus bar or feeding back to the main panel. Old 2-wire cloth sheathed cable had each wire split off and connected to it's own breaker? So it appears that they are running two circuits off one cable. There has to be some type of neutral wire to make a circuit, but I just could not figure it out. This one really made me scratch my head. Anyone have any ideas, could there be a large shared neutral?

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Colorado Front Range
    Posts
    601

    Default Re: How is this working!

    Any chance there was electric heat in the house? Although there are a number of problems it appears the FPE panel was set up to run 240 volt loads only, and probably heat based on the number of 20 AMP breakers installed.

    No point detailing all the problems here as professional evaluation and repairs are necessary.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Washington State
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    579

    Default Re: How is this working!

    Now that I think about it there were several old 220-240 volt receptacles instlled in the home that were no longer being used. That help expalin the absence of neutrals, there was still some very strange things going on in this panel.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Vancouver
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    202

    Default Re: How is this working!

    I think the 220v is why it is wired this way, recommending further evaluation by a sparkie to upgrade the wiring is the way to go. Yes it may be functional but question is it safe for what they are going to be using it for as in the new owners. the new owners might have different plans and an upgrade would really help them move forward safely. this would allow the new owners to plan ahead and know they have this cost to deal with. as it will not be cheap.


  5. #5
    John Steinke's Avatar
    John Steinke Guest

    Default Re: How is this working!

    I see only 240v loads in that panel, so no neutral is necessary.

    Grounding is provided by the connecting pipe- which is OK for a single circuit, but not allowed for a feeder to a panel. There needs to be a ground wire.

    If the place is old enough to have Knob & Tube, I'd pay particular attention to the ground rod arrangement. Ditto for all the service details.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Philadelphia PA
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    3,177

    Default Re: How is this working!

    Quote Originally Posted by John Steinke View Post
    ...
    If the place is old enough to have Knob & Tube, I'd pay particular attention to the ground rod arrangement....
    John - Could you expand on that? I inspect a lot of homes with knob and tube, so I'm curious why "particular attention" to the ground rod arrangement.

    "There is no exception to the rule that every rule has an exception." -James Thurber, writer and cartoonist (1894-1961)
    www.ArnoldHomeInspections.com

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Chico,Ca
    Posts
    423

    Default Re: How is this working!

    Quote Originally Posted by John Arnold View Post
    John - Could you expand on that? I inspect a lot of homes with knob and tube, so I'm curious why "particular attention" to the ground rod arrangement.
    Because of "inventive" ways of connecting a GEC if there is one at all...


  8. #8
    Terry Clayton's Avatar
    Terry Clayton Guest

    Default Re: How is this working!

    One of the more dangerous problems would be the absence of handle ties to turn off the entire circuit on a fault or for service.


  9. #9
    Norm Grande's Avatar
    Norm Grande Guest

    Default Re: How is this working!

    The panel on the left needs cleaning up, or replacing. As an electrician, I would just replace. The panel on the right looks quite workable.
    Norm


  10. #10
    gene schafer's Avatar
    gene schafer Guest

    Default Re: How is this working!

    A federal box according to many electricians should be replaced as they are a safety issue. In all my reports where a federal breaker are involved I recommend that a certified electrician should evaluate the box. I have seen many of these boxes with broken or cracked breaker because of how the fasten and it not unusual to see that there was some arcing in the box.


  11. #11
    Norm Grande's Avatar
    Norm Grande Guest

    Default Re: How is this working!

    re FPE breakers. My understanding of the problem (recall?) is the older narrow stablok breakers were the problem. The new breakers have a colored handle now. I haven't had any issues with the wider breakers, and we have a Hospital full of them (thousands of breakers)
    Norm


  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Southern Vancouver Island
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    4,549

    Default Re: How is this working!

    Quote Originally Posted by Terry Clayton View Post
    One of the more dangerous problems would be the absence of handle ties to turn off the entire circuit on a fault or for service.
    Agreed. Especially the two breakers at the bottom of the panel. They appear to be paired up with wires coming down from the upper section. That's a nightmare for a home owner to deal with.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  13. #13
    James Duffin's Avatar
    James Duffin Guest

    Default Re: How is this working!

    I recently changed out the interior of a FPE Stab-Lok panel with a UL listed interior made by Eaton. Used the same can so all that was involved was installing the interior, new breakers, and a new cover that came with the interior. Worked great and was able to complete the change out in about 1/3 of the time of changing out the entire panel. Might be an option for the problems with FPE panels.


  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Philadelphia PA
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    3,177

    Default Re: How is this working!

    Quote Originally Posted by James Duffin View Post
    I recently changed out the interior of a FPE Stab-Lok panel with a UL listed interior made by Eaton. Used the same can so all that was involved was installing the interior, new breakers, and a new cover that came with the interior. Worked great and was able to complete the change out in about 1/3 of the time of changing out the entire panel. Might be an option for the problems with FPE panels.
    Not questioning your work, just wondering if "UL listed interior" means that it's listed or approved specifically for that "can", or what? I mean, it can't be appropriate for just any application, I assume.

    "There is no exception to the rule that every rule has an exception." -James Thurber, writer and cartoonist (1894-1961)
    www.ArnoldHomeInspections.com

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
    Posts
    26,252

    Default Re: How is this working!

    Quote Originally Posted by James Duffin View Post
    I recently changed out the interior of a FPE Stab-Lok panel with a UL listed interior made by Eaton. Used the same can so all that was involved was installing the interior, new breakers, and a new cover that came with the interior. Worked great and was able to complete the change out in about 1/3 of the time of changing out the entire panel. Might be an option for the problems with FPE panels.
    James,

    That means you now have an unlisted panelboard and enclosure.

    Kind of like cutting the ground prong off a ground plug so it can be inserted into a non-grounded receptacle outlet ... it 'works' ... but not legally, not correctly, not safely, not etc.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Point Richmond, California
    Posts
    21

    Default Re: How is this working!

    Trent,
    Thanks for the photos. I've seen lots of questionable wiring, but that rates in the top ten.
    Norm, if you've really got "thousands" of breakers in your hospital panels, I can appreciate your reluctance to replace them. Let's see... hospital means conduit, built in the 60s or 70s, circuits almost definitely added means there's of conduit coming out of at least 3 sides of every panel. Ouch.
    I haven't read of any recent problems with FPE panels that have had new breakers installed, but-
    "There are other hazards in FPE electrical panels besides the breakers, including bus and bus insulation meltdowns and shorts."
    That's one of a number of comments regarding the panels themselves, which I found years ago. (There are lots of web-sites which are dedicated to warnings).
    However, if you've already upgraded the breakers, at considerable expense, it's a tough call to make.
    James, Rated breaker assembly inside rated enclosure does not equal rated box.
    I've done it.
    However, I don't think I'll do it again. Even if I install a rated assembly, with minimum clearances on all sides and mounting at least as secure as the original, I've still 'created" a circuit breaker panel. As far as I know, I've assumed liability for anything that goes wrong. (At least, until a court decides differently).


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