Federal Pacific (FPE) Circuit Breakers

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Are Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Circuit Breaker Panels Safe?

It is our opinion and that of most electricians that using an FPE circuit breaker panel is unsafe and may contribute to a fire if an overload or short-circuit occurs.

This is a FPE stab-lok panel

How do I know if I have an FPE panel in my home or office?
Design names associated with these panels include: Federal Pacific Electric, FPE, Stab-Lok, Federal Electric, Federal NOARC, and Federal Pioneer. All of these panels contain the faulty technology. These panels starting coming into use around 1950.

What exactly is the problem with using these panels?

There is a possibility that these circuit breakers may fail to trip under overload or short-circuit conditions. In some independent studies, it was reported that these circuit breakers failed to trip more than 50% of the time. The accepted industry standard is less than 1%.

This is overloaded circuit that did not trip

What happens if a circuit breaker doesn’t trip?
When a short-circuit or an overloaded circuit condition occurs, a circuit breaker is supposed to detect the fault and ‘cut off’ the power to the circuit by tripping, thereby preventing further damage. If a breaker fails to trip under these conditions, it could lead to a fire, property damage, electrocution, or even loss of life.

What do I do if I have a FPE circuit breaker panel in my home?

The best course of action would be to replace it right away. There is no repair solution available for these panels to make them safe. For the small cost of a panel upgrade (usually between $900 - $2,000.00 in many cases), it’s not worth the risk to continue using this unsafe panel.

melted wire from overload

I’ve had a FPE panel installed in my house for more than 40 years and I never had a problem. Why the urgency for me to take care of it now?

Under normal conditions (that is, no overloads or short circuits occurring) an FPE panel will deliver electricity to all the circuits in your home or business without any noticeable issues. The problem only occurs in the instance of an overload. If you’ve never had an overloaded circuit, you would have never seen the problem. However, even if you have had tripped breakers in the past, it only increases the probability that the next time might be the one where the circuit breaker does not trip. Those are odds not worth gambling with.

damaged bus bar

Who pays for the cost of the panel replacement?


Unfortunately, the cost must be borne by the property owner. Federal Pacific Electric is no longer in business and there is no recourse you can take with them. Our experience has also shown that most insurance companies will not cover the cost to replace the panel, although it doesn’t hurt to ask!


One other thing to keep in mind: if you are planning to sell your house, you may not get away with passing the headache on to the buyer. Many home inspectors are trained to look for these panels during their walkthrough and it is usually a red-flag item on the report they give to the prospective buyer. You might want to invest in a panel upgrade before listing your home to keep this problem from becoming a deal-breaker.

Wurtsboro Electric Service, Inc.

Licensed electricians serving Orange county, Sullivan county, and Ulster county in New York
(845) 888-8000 

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