Federal Electric 100A standalone main breaker -- OK or problematic?

I did an inspection, which had an old c. 1960 Bulldog pushmatic type circuit breaker panel, with a 100A Federal Electric main breaker in a separate main panel.

This did not appear to be a “Stab-LOk” breaker. Does anyone in the house (ahem!) know whether or not this type of Federal breaker is associated with the usual FPE circuit breaker issues?

Internet searches turned up lots of irrelevant stuff, as usual.


Do you have a pic of the breakers from the subpanel?

This was from a standalone main. No other breakers in the Federal panel. here are a couple pics.

The other panel was a perfectly fine Bulldog panel with “Pushmatic” type breakers. Not Federal Electric/FPE.



Main, only, looks okay. Just remember that the next panel down the line is a subpanel and must be wired, accordingly.

Good point. The grounding electrode appeared to have been run directly to the sub-panel.

based on the age of the main breaker I would recommend replacement. Breakers are not like wine, they don’t get better with age. :slight_smile:

Bill, what would you use to back up your recommendation on replacement of the main CB, besides it looks old.

Based on it’s age. Breakers are mechanical devices that can be affected by a wide range of things (dust, wear, moisture, etc). Manufacturers usually guarantee breakers for only one or two years. I routinely recommend replacement of any breaker that is 25 years or older.

might want to change your ideas.

From a Cutler-Hammer brochure

[FONT=Univers-Light][size=1][size=2]Cutler-Hammer Type CH breakers
also carry a lifetime warranty –
the best in the industry.

For Square D

Square D/Schneider Electric Residential Products Limited Warranty
I. Square D/Schneider Electric QO® brand Load Centers and Load Center Branch Circuit Breakers
Square D/Schneider Electric warrants its branch circuit breakers to be free from defects in material and workmanship under normal care and proper usage in a residential installation, for the lifetime of the load center in which it is installed. QO® brand load centers are also covered under the same lifetime warranty. If the circuit breaker or QO brand load center fails within the warranty period because of a defect in material or workmanship, Square D/Schneider Electric will replace the defective breaker free of charge upon following the notice procedures below and return of the product to place
of purchase.

I agree with Jim here. Unless you have specific documentation, you’re kind of going out on a limb saying that an old looking breaker needs to be replaced.

Good info Jim - but that pertains to new breakers. Don’t forget we are talking about breakers that are 25 years old, or older. You won’t find any documentation to support replacing old breakers in the NEC, but based on comments from Paul Abernathy, and info from the book “Electrical Inspection of Existing Dwellings” I am comfortable suggesting the replacement of older breakers. As Home Inspectors we can suggest safety measures even if they are not code supported. We are not code enforcement officials. For example: I can recommend that a handrail be installed on stairs with less than 3 risers. Codes will not support that, but I can recommend it. I think it’s important to keep our clients safety in mind. :slight_smile:

Yep…if the breakers are to replace existings breakers then Schneider (Square D) can stick it. The Mag. V. Moss act made his replacement argument pointless. This is the intent of a UL Classified Breaker and has it’s own warranty. Have you ever tried to get Square D ( Schnieder ) to replace a 25 year old breaker…good luck. Adding a new UL Listed classified breaker has it’s own warranty by Eaton regardless of the panel it is installed in as long as it is tested for that panel…and their is a list on here I posted of all classified breakers and the panels to be used in.

If the breaker is simply OLD…and not defective then the warranty is pointless. The issue of suggesting replacements for breakers that are 25+ years old is a sound one considering the importance of the Overcurrent Protection and since older devices are thermal activated…heat has negative effects over time so I have no problem with the recommendation on old breakers…none what so ever.

Do you take it to the next logical step and recommend AFCI’s as the CPSC and most fire prevent organizations do?


I recommend AFCI’s :smiley:

Here’s mine.

  **The 15 and 20 amp circuits of the home are not ****AFCI** **(Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) protected circuits**.  

AFCI’s are a relatively new safety device that can protect the home from a potential fire as a result of damaged wiring, loose connections or defective appliances by shutting off the circuit when a hazardous arc fault condition exists.
The CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) and numerous fire prevention organizations strongly recommend that older homes be upgraded to AFCI protected circuits.
More information regarding AFCI’s can be obtained at


Was that a requirement at the time the equipment was installed?

If 25+ year old breakers are recomended to be replaced , won’t it be wiser to replace the whole unit ?