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  1. #1
    Curt Raymond's Avatar
    Curt Raymond Guest

    Default Curt Raymond Inspect-It 1st

    Hi I'm trying to get information on the Federal Pacific service panels. I went to Consumer Products Safety Commision and they closed the books on this panel in 1983 without taking any action.

    I have talked to electrical supply houses and they still sell the FP breakers and will buy all the FP breakers I will ship them.

    I had a city electrical inspector tell a client they should replace the panel and make me pay for it! I asked the city inspector to put his findings in writing on city letterhead but he wouldn't do it.

    Has anybody seen anything official in writing which breakers are bad. Or if these breaker are linked as the exact cause of a fire? Are they anymore suspect than any other breakers?

    As one supplier put it, " I have been in business for 30 years. I'm not going to sell a piece of junk that would jepordize my business; and I still sell them." "There are problems with every breaker on the market." Thanks for any in put I appreaciate it, Curt

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  2. #2
    Jon Randolph's Avatar
    Jon Randolph Guest

    Default Re: Curt Raymond Inspect-It 1st

    You can do an internet search.
    Try

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

    FWIW, I always recommend an evaluation and recommend replacement for bulldog push-omatics, FP or Zinsco panels due to the problems that they both have. During my continuing ed for license renewal, the instructor said that he personally saw a FP breaker put to the test. They had a 20 amp breaker allowing 120 amps to flow through it and only stopped the test because the breaker itself was starting to melt. The breaker never tripped. That is the problem with FP panels.

    Last edited by Jon Randolph; 09-18-2007 at 09:18 PM. Reason: spelllllllllllllling

  3. #3
    Jon Randolph's Avatar
    Jon Randolph Guest

    Default Re: Curt Raymond Inspect-It 1st

    Sorry about not being technical enough. A breaker not tripping under load is a problem with that breaker and not the panel. The only issue is that FP panels only accept FP (or FP knockoff) breakers and yes, they do sometimes come detached when removing the panel cover, but I would be much more concerned with trying to pull 120 amps through a 12 guage wire.


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Curt Raymond Inspect-It 1st

    Quote Originally Posted by Curt Raymond View Post
    Hi I'm trying to get information on the Federal Pacific service panels. I went to Consumer Products Safety Commision and they closed the books on this panel in 1983 without taking any action.

    I have talked to electrical supply houses and they still sell the FP breakers and will buy all the FP breakers I will ship them.

    I had a city electrical inspector tell a client they should replace the panel and make me pay for it! I asked the city inspector to put his findings in writing on city letterhead but he wouldn't do it.

    Has anybody seen anything official in writing which breakers are bad. Or if these breaker are linked as the exact cause of a fire? Are they anymore suspect than any other breakers?

    As one supplier put it, " I have been in business for 30 years. I'm not going to sell a piece of junk that would jepordize my business; and I still sell them." "There are problems with every breaker on the market." Thanks for any in put I appreaciate it, Curt
    Curt, tell us more about your problem. From what I take, is that you inspected a home with an FPE panel and your client then had some problems and contacted the city inspector? Is that what has happened?

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  5. #5
    Richard Rushing's Avatar
    Richard Rushing Guest

    Default Re: Curt Raymond Inspect-It 1st

    Jon,

    Tell me more about why you recommend the Bulldog Push-matics replaced...

    Yeah, they are getting old, but no inherent problems that I know of...

    Can you post the re-call thread, the CPSC warning or a link to bad history?

    rr


  6. #6
    Chad Fabry's Avatar
    Chad Fabry Guest

    Default Re: Curt Raymond Inspect-It 1st

    FWIW, I always recommend an evaluation and recommend replacement for bulldog push-omatics...
    What Richard said.

    I've yet to read anything or observe anything that condemns all Pushmatic panels.


  7. #7
    Jon Randolph's Avatar
    Jon Randolph Guest

    Default Re: Curt Raymond Inspect-It 1st

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Rushing View Post
    Jon,

    Tell me more about why you recommend the Bulldog Push-matics replaced...

    Yeah, they are getting old, but no inherent problems that I know of...

    Can you post the re-call thread, the CPSC warning or a link to bad history?

    rr

    I don't know of actual inherent problems, but due to the age of the panels and the fact that replacements may be hard to find, I think that it is prudent to let the client know. Also, breakers are a mechanical piece of equipment and all mechanical equipment (even GFCI's) can only activate so many times before it begins to malfunction. I have no way of knowing how many times the older breakers have been tripped. Most other panels still have replacements available (even the FPE and Zinsco) and the breakers can be replaced if problems arise.

    The old fuse blocks are also recommended for upgrades. Not due to possible malfunctions but because insurance companies are not wanting to ensure a house with fuse block as the main panel. Plus they are usually undersized for todays power demands.


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Curt Raymond Inspect-It 1st

    Whenever I encounter an FP I highly recommend replacement and include the following statement in my report and let them make the call:

    A Federal Pacific Electric Company "Stab-Lok" electrical panel is in use. I recommend that this panel be replaced by a licensed electrician. If you are told that this panel is OK, please, get it in writing, from the electrician, that he feels the panel is "safe". These panels have been noted to present a latent hazard by malfunctioning under certain conditions resulting in a jammed breaker which afterward may not trip under load, failure of the bus connections due to inadequate bending space for the service entry conductors, and potential arcing problems.
    There is controversy over these panels. While the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) refused to recall the panels, they also refused to state that the panels were safe. Some electricians say the panels are safe, other electricians say they are not.
    Further information on this controversial equipment can be obtained at the following internet web sites:
    o Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Panels, A Summary Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab-Lok Panel Circuit Breaker Hazard, Repairs, Electrical Panel Replacement Electricians Directory for Stab-Lok Repairs
    o CPSC Closes Investigation Of FPE Circuit Breakers And Provides Safety Information For Consumers Commission Closes Investigation Of FPE Circuit Breakers And Provides Safety Information For Consumers
    o Electricians and Home Inspectors discuss FPE: FPE panels and breakers

    Austin Structural Inspections
    email: larson@austinstructural.com
    web: www.austinstructural.com

  9. #9
    Curt Raymond's Avatar
    Curt Raymond Guest

    Default Re: Curt Raymond Inspect-It 1st

    Hi Scott, I did an inspection on the house and the panel was a Federal Pacific with American breakers. The people moved in and started adding to the house. Namely a huge 100 gallon electric water heater. A geothermal heat and cooling system, and a swimming pool. They had 3 different electricians out adding service the Federal Pacific panel. On electrician said they should consider changing the panel and he would only charge the $5000.00 to do it.The other 2 electricians said nothing about the panel. The people were happy until the city electrical inspector walks in and says, he would never have that panel in his house and he would replace it before it burns the house to the ground. Now they call me and want me to give them $5000.00 to replace the panel. I have looked at the NEC and there is nothing in there about Federal Pacific. I have looked at all my training material and there is nothing in it about Federal Pacific. This was the first Federal Pacific panel I have run across. If this is that big of an issue I would expect it to be treated like a furnace that is pumping out carbon monoxide. It gets tagged and put out of service.And it doesn't matter if it's January in Minnesota. It's turned off end of story. He certified the work and left the house. (I should add this house was built in 1954 and has has had numerouse upgrades extra receptacles, grounded receptacles, and GFCI's) and inspection certificates for all of it.
    Does anybody know what ASHI or NAHI's position on these panels are? I think a blanket statment might help. I'll deffer to those who have doing this longer than I have. I think my policy is going to be (CYA) and every Federal Pacific panel should be replaced. If an electrical inspector can say that it's bad but does not have to support his reason to justify his position. Maybe I should just say, according the ciy of ______ electrical inspector he says they should all be replaced.
    Anyway I figure the more information I obtain the better I get. Good to hear from the inspectors that responded I look forward to more input. Thanks, Curt


  10. #10
    Richard Rushing's Avatar
    Richard Rushing Guest

    Default Re: Curt Raymond Inspect-It 1st

    Hey Kurt... ask your client if the city inspector put a red-tag on the panel. If he did not, ask them why he didn't do so since he thought it was in imminent damger of burning the house down (obvioiusly he didn't). Then ask the client if any of his electricians had mandated the panel be replaced in lieu of upgrading.

    The truth is, these type panels *DO* have a history that is well documented with inherent design issues. Now... here comes the rub.

    You can go to Mike Holts Electrical forum (of electricians and electrical contractors) and post the same question (which has been done many times by the way). Some of the responses vary from:
    • I've worked with these for 15 years and never had one issue.
    • These are junk and the best thing to do is replace'em
    • (One of my favorites) My favorite is to see the FPE panel hit the bottom of the trash can.
    • If it doesen't have any visible evidence of overheating or excessive wear to the buss bars and contacts-- no problem... use'em.
    While alot of electricians will always recommend replacement, there are still quite a few out there who will question the need to replace the panel if everything is still working fine with no evidence of failure.

    For some really good information and good reading, take a look at Mike Holt's forum at:
    Mike Holt's Forum - Powered by vBulletin

    Here is a link to go to for some good reading on this subject;
    http://www.inspect-ny.com/fpe/fpepanel.htm

    To me it's a moot point if the AHJ didn't red-tag it. If there have been multiple upgrades with each having a licensed electrician doing the work, doesen't the homeowner beleive the electrical contractors would have noticed that the home was in imminent danger of burning the house down?

    By the way, I just finished doing an inspection on the home my son is buying... yep, you guessed it-- it has an FPE panel. If all other issues get worked out, this will not be the deal breaker. Does it need work-- yep. That's why an electrician will do the repairs and provide the final okey-dokey.

    rr


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Curt Raymond Inspect-It 1st

    Quote Originally Posted by Curt Raymond View Post
    Hi Scott, I did an inspection on the house and the panel was a Federal Pacific with American breakers. The people moved in and started adding to the house. Namely a huge 100 gallon electric water heater. A geothermal heat and cooling system, and a swimming pool. They had 3 different electricians out adding service the Federal Pacific panel. On electrician said they should consider changing the panel and he would only charge the $5000.00 to do it.The other 2 electricians said nothing about the panel. The people were happy until the city electrical inspector walks in and says, he would never have that panel in his house and he would replace it before it burns the house to the ground. Now they call me and want me to give them $5000.00 to replace the panel.
    $5,000 to replace a panel outrageous. The next step would be to have your electrician inspect it and give a written opinion and if needed a price to replace the panel. Then have the city inspector provide documentation back up his statement. The problem with this is that he will most likely be able to find it.

    I have looked at the NEC and there is nothing in there about Federal Pacific. I have looked at all my training material and there is nothing in it about Federal Pacific.
    It would not be in the NEC.

    This was the first Federal Pacific panel I have run across. If this is that big of an issue I would expect it to be treated like a furnace that is pumping out carbon monoxide. It gets tagged and put out of service. And it doesn't matter if it's January in Minnesota. It's turned off end of story. He certified the work and left the house. (I should add this house was built in 1954 and has has had numerouse upgrades extra receptacles, grounded receptacles, and GFCI's) and inspection certificates for all of it.
    If it is a 1954 FPE, it might not be bad. If it does not have Stablok breakers, it just might be OK. The older FPE panels did not have problems that I'm aware of.

    Does anybody know what ASHI or NAHI's position on these panels are? I think a blanket statment might help. I'll deffer to those who have doing this longer than I have. I think my policy is going to be (CYA) and every Federal Pacific panel should be replaced. If an electrical inspector can say that it's bad but does not have to support his reason to justify his position. Maybe I should just say, according the ciy of ______ electrical inspector he says they should all be replaced.
    Anyway I figure the more information I obtain the better I get. Good to hear from the inspectors that responded I look forward to more input. Thanks, Curt
    The home inspector organizations do not issue opinions on panels or anything else. Plenty of information can be found on the Internet and your schools was lack in not telling you about FPE panels and breakers.

    Another panel that you need to watch for are Zinsco and Sylvania/Zinsco panels. These have to vertical aluminum bus bars that ID them as the problematic panels. IMO, the Zinscos are worse than FPE panels.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  12. #12
    Curt Raymond's Avatar
    Curt Raymond Guest

    Default Re: Curt Raymond Inspect-It 1st

    Holy Hanna, I swear I can get more information of this site by accident than I could else where on purpose.

    I'll try to answer all you guys who have responded so far. There was no red tag by the city inspector.

    I have the other panels noted and the information is going out with me from now on.

    I asked about American breakers and was told they were ok. They were the replacement breakers for the bad Federal Pacific breaker. I wonder if they were talking about the issue of the breakers falling out of the panel or the one that would not trip?

    I will be looking into the other web site where I can get more information on elecrical too. I am getting the feeling I need to get myself further inot it than I am right now.
    Thank you


  13. #13
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    Red face Re: Curt Raymond Inspect-It 1st

    Curt, what were your findings when you inspected the panel? What do you have written down? Do you routinely remove the cover of panel boxes to evaluate what's behind them? If you do, and you have nothing documented regarding signs of trouble with the panel, then that might be good.

    First, my suggestion would be to go back out and look at the panel, and compare your findings today with your findings in your report. Note what has changed. Ask your client for any thing in writing from the city inspector regarding replacement of the panel. Go down to city hall and pull ALL electrical permit records for the house, and get copies.

    If, in your honest opinion, you did right by your client, then sit back and wait for the letter from their attorney.

    In the mean time, find your own attorney, for real legal advice. Because I am not an attorney, and this is not legal advice. It is approximately what I would do.

    Randall Aldering GHI BAOM MSM
    Housesmithe Inspection
    www.housesmithe.com

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Curt Raymond Inspect-It 1st

    Quote Originally Posted by Curt Raymond View Post
    There was no red tag by the city inspector.
    Curt,

    That one statement, lack of by the city inspector, gives the city inspector's "official" opinion. That's what he, the city inspector, and the city have to stand by.

    Now, *if* perchance the city inspector comes back out and red tags the FPE panel, tell you client to obtain back up supporting documentation (i.e., "code" for the city inspector) from the city inspector for that red tag.

    The city code inspector must be able to provide a code reference.

    Home inspectors do not have that requirement.

    *Should* you have recommended that the FPE panel be replaced? Absolutely yes.

    *Is* there a code "requiring it"? Absolutely not.

    The difference is you are not doing a code inspection (we say that all of the time, and it is true), you are doing a home inspection (which is based on codes, but is not a "code inspection" per se).

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

  15. #15
    Nolan Kienitz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Curt Raymond Inspect-It 1st

    RE: Federal Pacific Panels ...

    There is a housing development in "near North Dallas" ... (pricey area of town) ... the association for this development sent letters out to all homeowners this past spring (2007) and advised them that before anyone put their house on the market for sale they would have to first replace the FPE panel that was in their house. Before listing they would have to show documentation that the panel had been replaced or they would not be allowed to list their home for sale. All the houses in this development were built in the "high FPE install" era.

    An agent I work with from time to time lives in the development (I inspected her house before purchase ... yes, it had an FPE panel) and she was the one who advised me of the HOA notice to the current residents. It appears they were taking a pro-active approach to get rid of a potential problem.

    To say the least it was an interesting situation and I do share that with buyers as just another source of information for their consideration when it comes to FPE panels.

    I rather shudder when I come across the FPEs, Zinsco, Sylvania-Zinsco panels as Scott noted. Just don't like messin' with 'em.


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Curt Raymond Inspect-It 1st

    Nolan, that letter would be interesting if you could find it. Of course I will bet the HOA did not publish it for the general public. That would be one more nail in the coffin for people needing confirmation that there is a problem with FPE panels.
    Jim

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Dallas, Texas

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Curt Raymond Inspect-It 1st

    I really don't see how a published letter from a HOA would have ANY impact on FPE panels or opinions about them. My gosh, with the amount of blogs and web pages on the internet making claim after conflicting claims about just about any topic, a person can find validation for just about any arguement, up to and including elvis being alive, elvis was an alien, and alien abduction. Not to mention cancer treatments and prevention of hair loss and ED.

    By the way, I have seen first hand evidence of a FPE panel burning down a house.

    Sorry for the drift.
    JF


  18. #18
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    Post Re: Curt Raymond Inspect-It 1st

    I have a used FPE panel in my display stock. It was taken out of service on my recommendation as a result of a home inspection. The seller was acting fire chief for a fairly good sized fire department in south-west Michigan, and offered to let me take it after it was pulled. After bringing it back to the office, I opened it up - again. There were some minimal signs of "trouble" during the inspection. I found a lot more this time. Heat damage to breaker contacts. Discolored busses where the breakers attached (not fully visible while in service), and discoloration from arcing, to mention a few. There is a condominium project in Kalamazoo County (over 200 units) that was outfitted entirely with FPE equipment.

    Randall Aldering GHI BAOM MSM
    Housesmithe Inspection
    www.housesmithe.com

  19. #19
    David Banks's Avatar
    David Banks Guest

    Default Re: Curt Raymond Inspect-It 1st

    Quote Originally Posted by Randy Aldering View Post
    I have a used FPE panel in my display stock. It was taken out of service on my recommendation as a result of a home inspection. The seller was acting fire chief for a fairly good sized fire department in south-west Michigan, and offered to let me take it after it was pulled. After bringing it back to the office, I opened it up - again. There were some minimal signs of "trouble" during the inspection. I found a lot more this time. Heat damage to breaker contacts. Discolored busses where the breakers attached (not fully visible while in service), and discoloration from arcing, to mention a few. There is a condominium project in Kalamazoo County (over 200 units) that was outfitted entirely with FPE equipment.
    I inspected a unit in a complex of at least 200 units and when I brought up the FPE panel issue to my client the Realtor said they are all being replaced due to Insurance issues. Of course a hefty assessment will be added monthly.


  20. #20
    Curt Raymond's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Re: Curt Raymond Inspect-It 1st

    Howdy to all, I want to thank all of you who responded to my request for information on FPE panels. I am going with the consensus that these get called out from now on. Thanks again, Curt


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