Federal Pacific Electrica panel ...questions

I have prescribed verbiage about Federal Pacific panels…
Should I automatically add it ? Recently a sub panel was
added to handle a new AC/Heater unit along with an electric
water heater. The Sub Panel installation looks professionally
done by a licensed electrical contractor. Here’s pics of the FPE

Here’s pics of the sub-panel:

Is that a mobile home?

Yes it is…

I took a cover off a FPE panel last week, and the main and branch breakers fell out. Power remained on to the house and cirquits that had missing breakers, even though they were missing. It left me and the home owners in a debate over who’s fault it was. I may(will) never take another cover off one of these panels, let alone debate if it should be called out for evaluation. I hope that sums up the true potential of one of these panels.

Did you get any pictures of this ? i would like to see that !

ok…Two Things…

1.) You said it was a remote distribution panel ( I hate the word Sub-Panel…sorry) so it has Overcurrent protection ahead of it…right…what was the make of THAT OCPD?

2.) Everyones experience with FPE are different…I looked at one just two days ago as the chief electrical inspector for my municipality. The FPE unit looked good enough to EAT off the panelboard. So my suggestion to them was replace the individual breakers with newer UL LISTED replacement breakers if 15 breakers or less and then I am confident the breakers will trip…this was my suggestion to him and I did NOT tell him he needed to replace the panelboard…

Moral of the story…everyone has their own unique experience with ANY panel manufacturer and I do know taking the covers off FPE’s can be tricky…but their is a science to doing it and always feel comfortable in deferring it to a licensed electrical contractor to remove your concerns but let THEM make that choice versus you telling them to 100% replace it…

Report what you see…give them advice and if they choose to take it…everyone wins.

I’m with you John, no way with FPE or Zinsco. I do not have a death wish.

Let me ask you a question…If this happened to you with a GE, Square D or Cutler Hammer panel would you feel the same way. If so the poor consumers are running out of manufacturers to use…lol…my point is this, the panel is old and depending on the condition of the panel it could happen with any type of panelboard manufacturer.

Now…I am not here to support FPE ( lord knows they had their day in the sun ) but I am more concerned with making recommendations based on the age of a product and condition of the equipment versus just saying it is FPE…so it is bad. Yes, it sucks…I got that but I find just as many problems with other manufactures as well and more often than anything it is AGE related or installation related versus any specific manufacturer.

Also keep in mind that the stab-lok design is still used in Canada under the Schnieder name and the method is still reliable. The contact points of a properly installed stab-lok breaker has more surface contact area than most other brands today…Canada is in some ways WAY more restrictive than the NEC and in fact the reason the NEC removed lighting and appliance panelboards and removed the 42 circuit limitation was primarily due to the Canadian Code and no reports of issues…and FYI they are not having issues with the stab-lok design either…so that leaves us to the breakers…THAT is where the real concern lies…

Here is an MODERN stab-lok panelboard for you…forsale everyday at home depot in Canada…Enjoy

A good point Paul, however, with a known track record of problems I would be more inclined to do the same as life insurance accuaries. Play the odds, more often than not you will be correct in not pulling the panel. Just my 0.002 cents adjusted for inflation.

and I respect your right to that opinion my friend. Just remember that you do have options and I have posted quite a few in the last few minutes under many FPE threads so I wont post them again…but I would say wear proper PPE, Gloves if you got em and open up ALL panels…find the problems and report it as you see it. Yes, they may pop out…but I am a believer that you guys can be SKILLED and replace a breaker as needed by turning it off and replacing…I trust in you guys and education is key.

I know some will say NEVER replace it…never turn it off to replace it and I say to that…PooP Poop Poop…lol…If you popped it out…You replace it but always get into that panel and report what you see…thats my opinion and honestly even if some inspectors flame me…I will ALWAYS keep that stance as I believe YOU guys are the cream of the crop…you can learn to be safe, educated and confident in replacing a breaker if it pops out…as long as you have proper eye protection and good properly fitted gloves in the event it happens I feel confident you guys can do it.

I see we are both night owls. I agree with all that you have said but how many HI’s out there have the basic knowledge necessary to re-install a breaker? We both know the protocols but how many others do ? I have all the PPE needed but seldom bring all of it to do an HI with the exception of the gloves, never leave home without them. When doing electrical IR inspections I bring my electrician to open the panels and stand back a few feet but still wear all my PPE. Safety was ingrained into me in the USN.
You are an electrical guru and I am way below your grade however I have replaced FPE panels on a few of my rentals. I think that as far as HI applies to the average guy/gal in this trade it might be best to work from the understanding that most do not have your level of experience with electricity and to address the issue on that level. Sorta like advertising, play to the lowest common denominator. I hope you understand where I am going here. Many HI people read these boards but are afraid to ask a question for fear that they will be “flamed” or otherwise abused.
My point is this, as much as you correctly emphasize the need for PPE perhaps we should also emphasize the need not to go beyond your level of expertise or comfort zone. What is the worst case scenario for calling out a FPE for upgrade? The HI *might *have to pay for an electricians service call if the electrician said all was well, which I would doubt. What is the best case scenario, the potential/current owner will upgrade the service panel and everyone will be the better for it. PLUS we would not have an unqualified person trying to re-install breakers that fell out of the panel…breakers that fell out of the panel. I think that says it all. Just my 0.0002 cents adjusted for inflation.

I hear ya…and yes…I kinda have a little more knowledge of some of these things. I guess what I am saying is putting a breaker in properly is not brain surgery and while I would like to think I have this magic knowledge of installing a breaker…reality is my 13 year old son installs them quite nice…and he is not an electrician…You feel me fella…anyway I understand your points and I would NEVER flame you…these boards SHOULD have originally been designed to ask ANY question from experts without fear of someone jumping on them…kinda what my message board is all about but I digress.

Everyone knows his/her comfort levels so I guess my point is this…rather than just saying it has to be replaced…incorporate some options for the customer to think about as you defer it to a licensed electrical contractor…why…because chances are the licensed contractor has no clue of the options…they may be EXCELLENT at replacing a breaker…but very poor on option knowledge. I guess when I did a lot of home inspections (remember I am a CMI so I actually did thousands in my time) I like to list it in my report (even FPE’s) but I always explained some options for them just so the electrical contractor also knew about these options…just something to think about.

I always just like to keep inspectors thinking…everyone has an opinion and they all can be valid…these are just mine and i don’t have 2 cents to give…:wink:

oh…when i say options…read my post on Federal Pioneer as I am not sure I listed the options here in this thread. And YES…I have no idea why I am a night owl tonight…I think it is because I came here to answer a PM for my good friend G.Wells and never left…lol