After conducting several property inspections this summer and finding the dreaded Federal Pacific Electrical Panel (FPE) with Stab-LOK breakers, I became aware that the real estate community, in this part of the country at least, has many different impressions of the degree of seriousness and the implications of this style of electrical service.
In discussing the only option with this type of electrical setup, replacement, I realized there are many realtors, and possibly home inspectors, that believe modification of the panel or approval by a licensed electrician is a legitimate response.
This is simply not the case, and I have included in this document justification, and additional resources for the reader’s education. There is extensive documentation on the internet, but the foremost author on the subject appears to be Dr. Jesse Aronstein, Consulting Engineer, Poughkeepsie, NY. His latest document was updated on May 25, 2007 and is posted here.
The findings clearly support “the conclusion that virtually every FPE Stab-Lok panel installed in homes today contains circuit breakers that are seriously defective, and should be replaced in the interest of electrical and fire safety.”
In brief, FPE panels with Stab-Lok breakers were manufactured from roughly 1950 to the early 80’s. It has been estimated that some 28 million panels were installed across the USA. It was suspected in 1980 that earlier testing results used to obtain UL listing for the product were seriously flawed and did not meet the UL safety standard requirements. Basically, fraud was committed by FPE in logging the testing data for the express purpose of obtaining UL approval. Hence, a defective product had been introduced into the marketplace in large fashion. The nature of the defect was not limited to the breaker(s), but included the design of the panel as well.
Eventually, the FPE product was de-listed from UL, and is currently described as a “latent safety hazard”. However, the decision has not been clearly communicated to the field and some persons in the trade may claim that the FPE Stab-Lok system is in conformance with NEC, State, and local code because it was at the time of installation. This is simply not true. The defective performance of the product is not in actual compliance with any electrical safety code.
I encourage each person reading this document to go to the links I’ve included and do further research. And, please communicate to your business community, as a realtor, home inspector, electrician, handyman, etc., the presence of these types of panels must be removed/replaced. No other remedy is satisfactory.
Check out these links for additional info: