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  1. #1
    Jon mackay's Avatar
    Jon mackay Guest

    Default FPE Panel with warm vibrating main feed

    I came across this FPE panel today that I was advising my client to have evaluated further by an electrician and put it on their list of things to replace.
    When I was checking the breaker for temperature, I noticed that the Main Cable at the right side was over 100 degrees and when I touched the sheathing it had a slight vibration. The left cable was below 80 degrees and had no vibration. I have not run into this before. Any possible cause that you can think of?

    Thanks,
    Jon

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: FPE Panel with warm vibrating main feed

    Jon

    If you remove the duster to the left of the picture that will eliminate the heat and vibration from the panel. The sec is transversing the static electricity from the dusting wand. The cause the electric current back to the sec and causing it to heat up. Invisibly the current causes vibrations.
    Now you friend will not need that further eval from an electrician.


    mlc


  3. #3
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    Default Re: FPE Panel with warm vibrating main feed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon mackay View Post
    I came across this FPE panel today that I was advising my client to ... replace.
    That is where you should have left it.

    By recommending "further evaluation" you are leaving the door open for an electrician to work on the seller's behalf (not your client's behalf) and state 'Well, it will last a few more years.', then, after your client buys the house and needs some work done on the panel, the electrician can then say 'Well, I guess it's time to replace that panel now.'

    Bingo, your client is now out the money to replace the panel, whereas they *could have negotiated this with the seller* if you had only just stated "FPE panel needs replacing".

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

  4. #4
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    Default Re: FPE Panel with warm vibrating main feed

    Quote Originally Posted by Mitchell Captain View Post
    ...If you remove the duster to the left of the picture that will eliminate the heat and vibration from the pane...
    Man, I wish they'd taught me that in HI school! I've never given them dusters a second look!


  5. #5
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    Default Re: FPE Panel with warm vibrating main feed

    So, the duster is the answer? I understand, but never would have given it a thought probably. Wouldnt the duster bristles be "quivering."

    I bet that is the best working duster in town now!!

    Paul Kondzich
    Ft. Myers, FL.

  6. #6
    Jon mackay's Avatar
    Jon mackay Guest

    Default Re: FPE Panel with warm vibrating main feed

    OK,
    So, I will have an electrician come and remove the duster and everything should be fine?

    After removing the duster, do you think the panel should be replaced? he he

    Jerry, I think I will go with your recommendation, that sounds like the best answer.

    I was actually looking to see if anyone may know of a cause of this vibration, I was thinking a possible loose connection.
    The house does have Electric baseboard heat, water heater , stove, and dryer so the load potential is pretty high.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: FPE Panel with warm vibrating main feed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon mackay View Post
    I was actually looking to see if anyone may know of a cause of this vibration, I was thinking a possible loose connection.
    I knew that was what you were asking, but ... replacing the panel will take care of that.

    Could be the main disconnect is defective, heck, the other FPE breakers are known for not tripping, maybe that main is just like them.

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

  8. #8
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    Smile Re: FPE Panel with warm vibrating main feed

    I have one of those dusters, I better check my breakers to see if there overheating.


  9. #9
    James Duffin's Avatar
    James Duffin Guest

    Default Re: FPE Panel with warm vibrating main feed

    That appears to be a doorbell transformer mounted to the right side of the panel. That could be vibrating a bit. A transformer is about the only thing that comes to mind that could cause a vibration.


  10. #10
    Jon mackay's Avatar
    Jon mackay Guest

    Default Re: FPE Panel with warm vibrating main feed

    No, I wasn't the doorbell.
    Plus that would not explain the high temperature. I recommended that the home owner call an electrician but have not heard back.


  11. #11
    Greg D. Dames's Avatar
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    Default Re: FPE Panel with warm vibrating main feed

    Would have been handy to have an IR camera with you an IR picture of the panel would show you all the hot spots an is very helpful in getting your point across to your clients and whomever you have to persuade.

    Greg D. Dames
    National ThermoGraphic Inspections


  12. #12
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    Default Re: FPE Panel with warm vibrating main feed

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg D. Dames View Post
    Would have been handy to have an IR camera with you an IR picture of the panel would show you all the hot spots an is very helpful in getting your point across to your clients and whomever you have to persuade.

    Greg D. Dames
    National ThermoGraphic Inspections
    That was subtle!

    I was just wondering, since the breakers were the problem with these panels, and they now have UL rate replacement breakers for these panels, why would you recommend replacement of the panel?

    If it were me, I would just replace the panel because of the labor involved.

    Eric Van De Ven Magnum Inspections Inc. (772) 214-9929
    www.magnuminspections.com
    I still get paid to be suspicious when I got nothing to be suspicious about!

  13. #13
    Brandon Chew's Avatar
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    Default Re: FPE Panel with warm vibrating main feed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon mackay View Post
    I came across this FPE panel today that I was advising my client to have evaluated further by an electrician and put it on their list of things to replace.
    When I was checking the breaker for temperature, I noticed that the Main Cable at the right side was over 100 degrees and when I touched the sheathing it had a slight vibration. The left cable was below 80 degrees and had no vibration. I have not run into this before. Any possible cause that you can think of?

    Thanks,
    Jon
    Jon,

    First, update your profile to add your location. Answers to many questions can depend on where the person asking the question is located. Just click on "User CP" at the upper left of the page, then "edit profile".

    In my opinion, when you encounter an FPE Stab-Lok panel, you best serve your client by getting right to the point and recommending its replacement. All the info that you need to support that recommendation can be found at Daniel Friedman's site, here:

    Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab-Lok Panel Circuit Breaker Hazard, Repairs, Electrical Panel Replacement Electricians Directory for Stab-Lok Repairs

    Now, if you are operating with a HI license in Kentucky, and you are not also a licensed electrician, you'd be violating a directive by the KBHI if you recommended replacement. They say only a licensed electrician is qualified to make that call. Well I cannot and I am not advising you to violate that directive. If you are in Kentucky you'll need to make up your own mind about what is the right thing to do. I don't think there's anything in the KBHI directive that says you cannot fully inform your client about what you know about the hazards of FPE panels. They are saying that only an electrician is properly qualified to say it needs to be replaced (in the absence of any physical damage to the panel that you could see and report during your inspection).

    http://http://www.ohbc.ky.gov/NR/rdo...1011071203.pdf
    If you want more info on that, do a google search on FPE and KBHI.


    Regarding the warm and vibrating service conductor, transformers do produce heat and vibration and that cable looks like it runs close to the transformer. Is that enough to cause what you observed? I don't know, and it's beyond the scope of a typical HI to determine cause. The way I would handle it is report my observations and say "When the electrician comes out to replace the panel, have him investigate this and make any necessary repairs".

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Van De Ven View Post
    I was just wondering, since the breakers were the problem with these panels, and they now have UL rate replacement breakers for these panels, why would you recommend replacement of the panel?

    If it were me, I would just replace the panel because of the labor involved.
    Well first off, FPE Stab-Lok panels haven't been made for a while, so it's old equipment. Unlike fine wine and cheese, electrical equipment does not improve with age -- it becomes less safe. That alone is not reason enough to replace it, but there's more.

    Even though it was UL approved and met code, many people share the opinion that the the Stab-Lok bus is a problematic design. It's too easy for someone to jam an E breaker into an F slot, and there are many reports from the field where it's been found that people have done it.

    Even when E and F breakers are installed in the proper slots, there are many reports from the field where the connection between the breaker and bus is loose, causing arcing and burning on the bus.

    Then you have those bus bars that are mounted on springs so that their height can be adjusted (a design now prohibited by code) that are often not properly adjusted, causing a gap between the breakers and the deadfront cover.

    The simple act of removing the deadfront cover can result in breakers coming loose from the bus and flopping around in the cabinet ... not a good thing if the system is energized.

    In my opinion, you can't trust the UL labels on the FPE breakers, and you can't expect them to be turned off when you move the handle to off, or to trip properly under overload conditions. And you can't properly field test every breaker to see that it meets current UL requirments. So you need to replace all of the breakers, including the main.

    Last time I checked, replacement FPE breakers were very expensive. By the time you add up the cost of all the breakers, the labor involved, and the other factors above, you're better off replacing the whole panel with a new one.

    Last edited by Brandon Chew; 02-29-2008 at 10:40 AM. Reason: Add link to KBHI directive

  14. #14
    Brandon Chew's Avatar
    Brandon Chew Guest

    Default Re: FPE Panel with warm vibrating main feed

    Additional thoughts on the warm service conductor.

    Unbalanced load on the bus bars?

    Malfunctioning main breaker?

    An IR camera would be an excellent diagnostic tool for this problem.


  15. #15
    Patrick Norton's Avatar
    Patrick Norton Guest

    Default Re: FPE Panel with warm vibrating main feed

    I agree with the recommendation to have your client replace the stab-lock panel. I believe the temperature difference between the two main wires is a common occurance depending on the active load differences on each side.


  16. #16
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    Default Re: FPE Panel with warm vibrating main feed

    Quote Originally Posted by Brandon Chew View Post
    Jon,

    First, update your profile to add your location. Answers to many questions can depend on where the person asking the question is located. Just click on "User CP" at the upper left of the page, then "edit profile".

    In my opinion, when you encounter an FPE Stab-Lok panel, you best serve your client by getting right to the point and recommending its replacement. All the info that you need to support that recommendation can be found at Daniel Friedman's site, here:

    Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab-Lok Panel Circuit Breaker Hazard, Repairs, Electrical Panel Replacement Electricians Directory for Stab-Lok Repairs

    Now, if you are operating with a HI license in Kentucky, and you are not also a licensed electrician, you'd be violating a directive by the KBHI if you recommended replacement. They say only a licensed electrician is qualified to make that call. Well I cannot and I am not advising you to violate that directive. If you are in Kentucky you'll need to make up your own mind about what is the right thing to do. I don't think there's anything in the KBHI directive that says you cannot fully inform your client about what you know about the hazards of FPE panels. They are saying that only an electrician is properly qualified to say it needs to be replaced (in the absence of any physical damage to the panel that you could see and report during your inspection).

    http://http://www.ohbc.ky.gov/NR/rdo...1011071203.pdf
    If you want more info on that, do a google search on FPE and KBHI.


    Regarding the warm and vibrating service conductor, transformers do produce heat and vibration and that cable looks like it runs close to the transformer. Is that enough to cause what you observed? I don't know, and it's beyond the scope of a typical HI to determine cause. The way I would handle it is report my observations and say "When the electrician comes out to replace the panel, have him investigate this and make any necessary repairs".



    Well first off, FPE Stab-Lok panels haven't been made for a while, so it's old equipment. Unlike fine wine and cheese, electrical equipment does not improve with age -- it becomes less safe. That alone is not reason enough to replace it, but there's more.

    Even though it was UL approved and met code, many people share the opinion that the the Stab-Lok bus is a problematic design. It's too easy for someone to jam an E breaker into an F slot, and there are many reports from the field where it's been found that people have done it.

    Even when E and F breakers are installed in the proper slots, there are many reports from the field where the connection between the breaker and bus is loose, causing arcing and burning on the bus.

    Then you have those bus bars that are mounted on springs so that their height can be adjusted (a design now prohibited by code) that are often not properly adjusted, causing a gap between the breakers and the dead front cover.

    The simple act of removing the dead front cover can result in breakers coming loose from the bus and flopping around in the cabinet ... not a good thing if the system is energized.

    In my opinion, you can't trust the UL labels on the FPE breakers, and you can't expect them to be turned off when you move the handle to off, or to trip properly under overload conditions. And you can't properly field test every breaker to see that it meets current UL requirements. So you need to replace all of the breakers, including the main.

    Last time I checked, replacement FPE breakers were very expensive. By the time you add up the cost of all the breakers, the labor involved, and the other factors above, you're better off replacing the whole panel with a new one.
    I am well aware of everything you wrote above. I was just asking a question.

    Although the breakers may be twice the cost of standard breakers, it would certainly be cheaper to replace the offending breakers than it would be to change out the entire panel, which, being over 30 years old wouldn't comply with todays NEC (2008).

    As to home inspectors calling for replacement, which is what I was getting at, as you stated "Now, if you are operating with a HI license in Kentucky, and you are not also a licensed electrician, you'd be violating a directive by the KBHI if you recommended replacement. They say only a licensed electrician is qualified to make that call."

    How long do you think it will be before other states adopt the same directive?

    Then of course, there are the legal ramifications of recommending replacement of something when you can't find anything wrong with it.

    I have always felt that I couldn't recommend replacement of anything without some evidence to support that recommendation.
    Fortunately, just about every FPE panel has had something wrong with it!

    Eric Van De Ven Magnum Inspections Inc. (772) 214-9929
    www.magnuminspections.com
    I still get paid to be suspicious when I got nothing to be suspicious about!

  17. #17
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    Default Re: FPE Panel with warm vibrating main feed

    I once ran into a situation where I detected a buzzing sound while inspecting the master bathroom and finally located the noise was coming from within the lavy cabinet. Becoming more curious as I could find nothing electrical I began moving some personal stuff around when I discovered a small leather bag titled “Good Vibrations.” When I realized what I had found I quickly replaced everything and exited stage right in a big hurry. If you’re in the profession for any length of time you’re bound to run into some very curious personal “stuff.”

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  18. #18
    Brandon Chew's Avatar
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    Default Re: FPE Panel with warm vibrating main feed

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Van De Ven View Post
    I am well aware of everything you wrote above. I was just asking a question.

    Although the breakers may be twice the cost of standard breakers, it would certainly be cheaper to replace the offending breakers than it would be to change out the entire panel, which, being over 30 years old wouldn't comply with todays NEC (2008).

    As to home inspectors calling for replacement, which is what I was getting at, as you stated "Now, if you are operating with a HI license in Kentucky, and you are not also a licensed electrician, you'd be violating a directive by the KBHI if you recommended replacement. They say only a licensed electrician is qualified to make that call."

    How long do you think it will be before other states adopt the same directive?

    Then of course, there are the legal ramifications of recommending replacement of something when you can't find anything wrong with it.

    I have always felt that I couldn't recommend replacement of anything without some evidence to support that recommendation.
    Fortunately, just about every FPE panel has had something wrong with it!
    I thought your question was: why replace the whole panel instead of just the breakers? My answer and reason for posting the other problems with FPE panels is that even after spending a large sum of money to replace the main and all of the breakers, you are still left with old equipment and a bus design that is prone to having loose connections between the breakers and the bus. My recommendation to my client would be to spend the extra money and replace the whole panel.

    On Kentucky and the comments related to that, I think what it comes down to is that there are two schools of thought about what a home inspector is qualified to do. There are those who think a HI should be limited to just observing conditions and reporting what he/she sees. Others think the HI can and should take it a step farther and form professional opinions on what was found and provide advice to the client on what to do about it. Some say that HIs shouldn't do the latter unless they also hold a license in that trade or profession.


  19. #19
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    Default Re: FPE Panel with warm vibrating main feed

    Quote Originally Posted by Brandon Chew View Post
    I thought your question was: why replace the whole panel instead of just the breakers? My answer and reason for posting the other problems with FPE panels is that even after spending a large sum of money to replace the main and all of the breakers, you are still left with old equipment and a bus design that is prone to having loose connections between the breakers and the bus. My recommendation to my client would be to spend the extra money and replace the whole panel.

    On Kentucky and the comments related to that, I think what it comes down to is that there are two schools of thought about what a home inspector is qualified to do. There are those who think a HI should be limited to just observing conditions and reporting what he/she sees. Others think the HI can and should take it a step farther and form professional opinions on what was found and provide advice to the client on what to do about it. Some say that HIs shouldn't do the latter unless they also hold a license in that trade or profession.
    I agree with you regarding the breaker replacement vs panel replacement. It would be comparable to rebuilding the motor in a 74 Vega that is completely rusted out!

    I think a "competent" home inspector should be able to tell his client to replace something, as long as he can give some sort of rational reason to do so.

    Eric Van De Ven Magnum Inspections Inc. (772) 214-9929
    www.magnuminspections.com
    I still get paid to be suspicious when I got nothing to be suspicious about!

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