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  1. #1
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    Default Thermal photo of FPE panel

    For you guys that know thermal imaging; I am learning how to use my FLIR camera. This is a photo of a FPE panel. The glowing breaker and wires in the bottom left corner is to supply a remote panel in the basement. At the time the photo was taken, there were just a few lights on in the basement.

    Does the thermal photo indicate a problem or just normal heating of a breaker in use?

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Lon Henderson View Post
    For you guys that know thermal imaging; I am learning how to use my FLIR camera. This is a photo of a FPE panel. The glowing breaker and wires in the bottom left corner is to supply a remote panel in the basement. At the time the photo was taken, there were just a few lights on in the basement.

    Does the thermal photo indicate a problem or just normal heating of a breaker in use?
    I don't like FPE Breakers, with that said my WAG is if the breaker ( regardless of the brand ) is too hot to touch ( above 118 F ) it is a concern. The temperature Rating of the branch wiring cover would be the definitive answer.

    The hot breaker looks like 50 amp and would be running a lot more than just a few lights in the basement.

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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    I used the camera on the panel because I'd seen some thermal photos of FPE panels elsewhere and was curious to try out my camera on this one. I've used the camera on some other brand panels as sort of a control. On other panels, I've seen some breakers showing slightly warm when the associated circuits were in heavy use, but nothing like this. This 50 amp on the FPE panel was not only hot on the photo but warm to the touch.

    There wasn't very much in the basement for the breaker to control and only three light fixtures were on. The townhome was vacant and there wasn't anything plugged into any outlets.

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    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    Lon,

    we all have to start somewhere but don't hang your assets out too soon
    numerous free starter courses Infrared Training Center E-LearnIR Portal - Course Catalog
    call if you have questions

    badair http://www.adairinspection.com Garland, TX 75042 TREC # 4563
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    My Stab-lok 40 amp breaker has a 40 degree Celcius rating or 104 deg. F. I think its likely the same for 50 amp cb.

    According to the iR image you posted that breaker is well below 104 F.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    Quote Originally Posted by BARRY ADAIR View Post
    Lon,

    we all have to start somewhere but don't hang your assets out too soon
    numerous free starter courses Infrared Training Center E-LearnIR Portal - Course Catalog
    call if you have questions
    Thanks, free is the right price.

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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    Looks like there is only an 11 degree temperature difference between the hottest and coolest spots in the picture. Well within specs.

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  8. #8

    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    a breaker under tension will always be hotter than the other ones not in use and that can throw you off if you're not trained properly. Temperatures is one of the things you want to look for but thermal pictures of the wire leading to that breaker is also needed as it will give you a good clue.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Lagueux View Post
    a breaker under tension will always be hotter than the other ones not in use and that can throw you off if you're not trained properly. Temperatures is one of the things you want to look for but thermal pictures of the wire leading to that breaker is also needed as it will give you a good clue.
    In my photo, we see the wires are warm too, so what is your conclusion from that clue?

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  10. #10

    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    As others have stated, take courses. Lots of courses, and then take a few more. Like the rest of our business, the learning never stops.
    In this particular image, I would not be concerned with the breaker as it appears to be within range. When in doubt, research the allowed specs from the manufacturer. What I would be more concerned about would be the connection of the wires at the breaker. Given the difference in emissivity of the breaker vs the metal screw connection, I would venture to say the temperature of the connection screws could be pushing 120F to 130F and that could be the warm to the touch that you are feeling. Are those connectors secure?
    One of the aspects of thermal imagining is not just looking at the temps, but in understanding what they should be or what could be causing the variations. That is where courses, courses, and more courses is beneficial.
    As an algebra teacher once said, until you've done a thousand word problems, you will struggle. Translated, until you've looked at a thousand thermal images you will struggle.


  11. #11

    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Lon Henderson View Post
    In my photo, we see the wires are warm too, so what is your conclusion from that clue?

    you don't see enough of it. A wire under normal tension will show warmer on the entire lenght of it but nothing to worry about. If the breaker is heating up, the temperature on the wire going to that breaker wil increasingnly be going hotter and hotter as it gets closer to the breaker or fuse.

    As Charles mentionned, get proper training and be careful as emmisivity and reflectivity can easily mess up your interpretation of the thermal anomaly. Also, the better the resolution, the better the result.


  12. #12

    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    You bought the camera but not the training. Makes you a "camera waver" not a thermographer.

    Every live panel will show "hot spots" under normal operating conditions. If any component is over ambient temperature, it will "read". That does not mean there is a problem necessarily. "How much over" is the question. The temperature rating of the device or wiring is the guiding factor. There are also things like "emissivity" and thermal reflections that will trip you up.

    Grab some of that free training and learn how to use your equipment so you don't shoot yourself in the foot and cost someone a lot of money fixing a problem that does not exist.

    PS: See if you can figure out what my avatar picture is...

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    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    Can't tell if these are Stab-Lok breakers, but, in NJ you can't sell a residence with FPE Stab-Lok breakers. See: Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab-Lok® Class Action Settlement - THIS IS A LEGAL NOTICE AND IS NOT AN ADVERTISEMENT.


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    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Dana Bostick View Post
    You bought the camera but not the training. Makes you a "camera waver" not a thermographer.
    None of these IR photos are in my report because I'm not comfortable hanging an opinion based on my lack of knowledge with IR photos. If the 50 amp breaker had been under heavy load, running warm would have been normal. But it seemed a little too warm for the small of amount of use those remote panel circuits had at the time. But in this case, the recommendation is easy since I always recommend replacement of FPE panels (whether Stab-Lok or not, because even the non Stab-Lok panels use the same breakers and similar systems).

    I've attached a close up photo of the breaker in question.

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  15. #15

    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    The pic does not show any useful data. The target reticule is not on the hot spot nor does the hot spot fill the target circle as it must to get a valid reading. You are showing 85+ degrees (because you are half on the cold item in the frame) and that's not much higher than ambient.

    Two important things: FOCUS & filling the reticule.

    BTW, I agree about the FPE panels, I always warn about them and recommend replacement or further eval by an licensed sparky. Put the onus on them that are trained.

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    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Dana Bostick View Post
    PS: See if you can figure out what my avatar picture is...
    Here all along I thought your avatar was the cover illustration from "The Gods of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burrows. OK, I need a bigger monitor.


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  17. #17

    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    Here all along I thought your avatar was the cover illustration from "The Gods of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burrows. OK, I need a bigger monitor.

    A hint....I took that after attending a 4-day IR Certification course. One of the demos was looking down into a pot of water as it heated up.

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  18. #18
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    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    You would be best served by taking more electrical training. You can cause a lot of problem for your self, client buyer/seller with an IR Camera if you don,t understand what you are looking at.

    You understand the IR. Now understand electrical panels.

    Question? how are you going to state this condition in your report?

    Further inspection required "Safety item" ?
    Further inspection required? at what cost.
    Further inspection recommended ?
    Further inspection buyer may want to employ ?

    Best

    Ron


  19. #19
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    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Dana Bostick View Post
    A hint....I took that after attending a 4-day IR Certification course. One of the demos was looking down into a pot of water as it heated up.
    That's what I thought! Your pumping the bilge

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  20. #20
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    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Bibler View Post
    You would be best served by taking more electrical training. You can cause a lot of problem for your self, client buyer/seller with an IR Camera if you don,t understand what you are looking at.

    You understand the IR. Now understand electrical panels.

    Question? how are you going to state this condition in your report?

    Further inspection required "Safety item" ?
    Further inspection required? at what cost.
    Further inspection recommended ?
    Further inspection buyer may want to employ ?

    Best

    Ron
    I understand the panel just fine, and if you are wanting to know how to write up your reports concerning FPE panels, there is great information in other threads here, some of which I contributed.
    My question was about the IR photo.

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  21. #21
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    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    When apprentice work on a commercial property years ago,. we use to have to shot IR for every panel on the property, I think was insurance reasons but had a lot of constant changes, engineering labs using a lot of power so was done quite often to verify was nothing was getting overloaded.
    Most of the time I could tell just by feeling the breakers.

    Every connection has some resistance, better the connection less resistance, but any resistance will produce some heat, negligible and hardly readable if a good connection and moderate current load.

    Breakers have two connection points, the buss connection and at the wiring. I would think that the pressure connection to the buss would be the worse connection point. the terminals at the breaker should have less. the contacts in the breaker could be resistive enough under heavy load to have some heat, I suppose could be transferred to the wiring terminals but the heat signature at those terminals are a little more concern.
    As mentioned may not be enough temp difference to matter but could warrant a check on those terminals if tight enough ?
    does look like #8 wire, 50 amp breaker so seems appropriately sized, depending on distance to remote panel.
    I wonder how much percentage of capacity load is operating on that feed ?


  22. #22
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    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    Quote Originally Posted by Endicott69 View Post
    Can't tell if these are Stab-Lok breakers, but, in NJ you can't sell a residence with FPE Stab-Lok breakers. See: Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab-Lok® Class Action Settlement - THIS IS A LEGAL NOTICE AND IS NOT AN ADVERTISEMENT.
    Where is the info that you cannot sell a house in NJ with FPE Stab-Lok breakers?


    Thanks
    Corey

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Endicott69 View Post
    Can't tell if these are Stab-Lok breakers, but, in NJ you can't sell a residence with FPE Stab-Lok breakers. See: Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab-Lok® Class Action Settlement - THIS IS A LEGAL NOTICE AND IS NOT AN ADVERTISEMENT.
    Where is the info that you cannot sell a house in NJ with FPE Stab-Lok breakers?


    Thanks
    Corey


  23. #23
    don agel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    I would concentrate more on the panel being a safety device which was shown to have problems which can lead to fire/death. Sadly no recalls, and a failure to finish much needed testing to confirm the defects by the CPSC leaves many thousands of homes and homeowners in danger. Ironically when speaking to the NC chief electrical state code enforcement officer regarding the potential hazards his comment to me was, "I have one of those panels in my garage and have had no problems with it." Seems to be more strict regulations in auto recalls than there is in these panels.


  24. #24
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    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    Quote Originally Posted by don agel View Post
    Ironically when speaking to the NC chief electrical state code enforcement officer regarding the potential hazards his comment to me was, "I have one of those panels in my garage and have had no problems with it." Seems to be more strict regulations in auto recalls than there is in these panels.
    I had an electrician say the same thing to me a few years ago. An inspector friend finally replaced his FPE panel at his house last January. He and the electrician got a bit of surprise when they found the back of the main breaker melted! Looking at the front of the panel revealed no problems.

    BTW, thanks to all for the comments about the IR photos.

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  25. #25
    don agel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    About 4 years ago I was almost nailed by this problem. I had turned off the Federal Pacific Stab Loc Breaker prior to going to replace the water heater in a rental property. When I took loose the conductors from the wire nuts one of the wires made contact with the metal box and immediately welded to box, turned the brightest orange color i have seen as it melted the insulation and then finally heated to a point where it the copper wire melted and dripped. Meanwhile as this is occurring I have ran back to the breaker panel where yes the breaker is in the off position. Just never shut off. Live and learn. Check all connections for live power prior to beginning work on anything electrical. Never trust a Federal Pacific Stab Loc Breaker Panel! I was lucky enough to live and learn. Many others may not have that mercy/luck. I always argue to the agents/sellers that these panels must go! Safety device shown to be not safe by the numerous reports of failures in the field.


  26. #26

    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    Do you have the ability to focus your image?
    I recommend you get some training soon.
    FLIR/ITC or Infraspection Institute for starters have good programs.

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  27. #27
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    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    This may be a little late, but you mentioned that this double-pole breaker energizes a second panel in the basement. Did you open the panel door to see the ampacity of the secondary panel? The photo appears to indicate that there is high current use to the sub, or the screws securing the conductors at the breaker are not sufficiently tightened to prevent oxidation due to resistance in the loose connection. You say there are only acouple of lights functioning in the basement. Is there an electric water heater in that space? That would certainly account for the possible high current use. If you have a clamp-style ammeter, check the circuit for current use; that reading should answer your question...


  28. #28
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    Default Re: Thermal photo of FPE panel

    [QUOTE=Corey Friedman;227299] Where is the info that you cannot sell a house in NJ with FPE Stab-Lok breakers? Thanks Corey

    Allow me to rephrase - of course you CAN sell a house in NJ with FPE Stab-Lok breakers assuming neither the seller, the agent(s) nor buyer is aware of the NJ court decision that FPE committed consumer fraud in representing that its Stab-Lok breakers met UL standards and / or the seller / agent / buyer agree to the sale with full knowledge of the defective equipment. However, if the seller and their agent knew - or should have known - the breakers were defective and failed to inform the buyer, they have committed fraud and are subject to consequences.

    One CAN also sell a dead horse under similar conditions. Whether or not one SHOULD do so is a personal decision.

    In my never humble opinion, given the notoriety of FPE products, it is advisable for an HI to refer to the numerous documents demonstrating the issues with this equipment and suggest, at minimum, the panel(s) be evaluated by a licensed electrician.

    You can find a 2008 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission discussion of FPE Stab-Lok breakers (and FPE panels) at http://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/87419/alumwire3_18.pdf. That discussion concludes "The presence of an FPE panel in a home should be classified as a "Safety Defect"... There is no question but that the FPE Stab-Lok panels should be replaced. There is no practical and safe alternative."


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