Federal Pacific Question.

Does the NEC actually demand or even suggest that Federal Pacific Bkrs/Boxes be removed?
Also, if someone lives around Nashville… Do the Nashville “Metro Codes” actually demand or even suggest that Federal Pacific Brkrs/boxes be removed?

NO

But we are not code Inspectors.

Just do a search on the subject.

Thanks… I understand the problems with Fed Pac. They have been around for 20+ years now. I just had a client ask me if it was mandated that the change be made and I answered no. Then I got wondering and second guessing myself. She has the standard blerb that I give… if that doesn’t scare her… nothing will! Thanks!

Stab-lok panels date back to the '40’s. They’ve been around much longer than 20 years. . .

I meant that the problems with such have been known for 20+ years. I’m thinking back when I owned a hardware store during the 70’s and 80’s and stopped selling FPE products when they were sued into oblivion only to be resurrected by the employees and who knows after that. Sorry I didn’t make that clear.

I always tell them to have a Electrician evaluate as a precaution.

This includes Zinsco.

The age of the panel has as much to do with any problem as anything!

The answer to your Nashville question is : No.

As far as the reporting requirements of the TN Dept of Commerce and Insurance, you need more than hearsay to require panel replacement. If it’s hot, broken or doesn’t work you report it. Not just because of it’s name.

I disagree. According to Inspectapedia the name needs to be reported with this general statement.

****** Safety Warning***** I have observed a Federal Pacific Electric “Stab-Lok” service panel in the house. This panel is a latent fire hazard: it’s circuit breakers may fail to trip in response to an overcurrent or a short circuit. Failure of a circuit breaker to trip can result in a fire, property damage, or personal injury. A circuit breaker that may not trip does not afford the protection that is intended and required. Simply replacing the circuit breakers is not a reliable repair. The panel should be replaced, and significant expense may be involved. Additional information about the fire and shock hazards associated with this equipment can be read on the internet at *http://InspectAPedia.com/fpe/fpepanel.htm](http://www.inspectapedia.com/fpe/fpepanel.htm).

Additional Reading

Explanation

  • Latent fire/shock hazard: Properly described, the presence of an FPE Stab-lok electrical panel in a building is a latent fire or shock hazard. The panel does not “initiate” an unsafe condition. Rather, when an unsafe condition such as a short circuit or current overload on a circuit occurs, the equipment may not provide the protection expected. The result can be an overheated wire and an electrical fire and/or personal injury. If you are not sure how to identify an FPE Stab-Lok electrical panel, see HOW TO IDENTIFY FPE & FP. While we have had fewer reports of failures in the Canadian version of this equipment (Labeled Federal Pioneer Stab-Lok) we have had field failure reports from Canada, and there has been one Canadian product recall. See CANADIAN VERSIONS of FPE Stab-Lok.
  • Past “performance” does not mean “safe”: The fact that a problem has not occurred in a building is absolutely no assurance that questionable equipment is “safe.” A circuit breaker has normally little to do except pass current onwards until there is an unsafe condition. If an unsafe condition has not occurred in a building the fact that a breaker may not trip is not discovered. If an overcurrent or short circuit subsequently occurs it’s a bit late to discover that the circuit breaker did not do its job. For an in-depth technical report explaining the hazards of this equipment see FPE Stab-Lok TECHNICAL REPORT
  • Panel replacement is required: There is no safe alternative to complete replacement of the FPE Stab-Lok electrical panel. Replacement circuit breakers do not reduce the hazard, both because the breakers themselves have not been shown to be a safety improvement and because there are multiple hazards involving the breakers, the panel bus design, and the panel itself.
  • Financial impact: The presence of an unsafe electrical panel and the need to replace it is not, by itself, a reason not to buy a property any more than needing to replace an unsafe tire on an automobile would be, itself, a reason not to buy the car. The cost of a new electrical panel is not a significant percentage of the value of a property.
  • Real hazard: The safety problems with this equipment are real, not theoretical. In addition to the information on-line, I have received a number of reports of panel overheating instances and related fires. It really happens. Some electricians have written to me that they call these “federal no-trip” panels. See REPORTS OF FPE FAILURES. Regrettably, parties with conflicts of interest in this matter, including FPE and some building sellers, have offered inaccurate “opinions” which have confused other consumers, inspectors, and realtors. For our response to an egregious example which the FPE attorney placed in a national magazine, see IAEI LETTER.
  • Class action status: At least one attorney has brought a successful class action suit (in New Jersey). Information in the court documents (available at the FPE information website) also confirmed the hazards and history of this safety problem. If/when there is some suitable public action and announcement I’ll post it at the website and submit it to the appropriate publications such as the ASHI Reporter as well.
  • Ongoing research: For research purposes we are quite interested in obtaining actual field samples of these panels, both when overheating or fires have occurred and when they are replaced before such an unfortunate event. When you come across one of these that’s to be replaced I’d be grateful to hear about it; we can arrange shipment of the old panel to the appropriate expert at no cost to the homeowner. The panels are tested by an independent forensic engineer in order to develop additional competent data for CPSC and industry. To submit an FPE Stab-lok panel for research use the “Contact Us” link on any of our web pages.
  • Accurate reporting: In all cases it is appropriate to report the risk to the consumer in clear, calm, unambiguous language. Inspectors who are vague about hazardous conditions are liable to charge of failure to exercise due diligence, malpractice, or worse, criminal negligence. Inappropriately vague language which does not make clear the hazards is negligent. Inspectors must be clear in reporting the hazards of and need for action concerning this defect.
    Just as vague “soft soaping” language is misleading and negligent, inappropriately frightening language is not appropriate in a professional condition of property report.
    Which is worse: a nervous buyer who understands that it’s a legitimate concern that needs to be addressed, or a comfortable buyer who doesn’t understand that and who later has an electrical fire that could have been prevented. Just ask: nervous vs fire, nervous vs fire, and figure out what’s the professional responsible choice.
  • Urgency of action: For some hazards it may be that a reasonable course of action is simply to be informed that risks are involved, leaving to the consumer the choice to replace equipment or to correct an unsafe condition. Some unsafe conditions do not need to be handled as an emergency. Choices regarding of urgency and extent of action depend on the risks involved, the use of the facility, and the alternative costs to remedy the condition. However in the case of electrical equipment which does not perform as intended my opinion is that the risks are serious enough to require prompt action.
  • Bias and Financial Gain: we conduct this research and provide this information as a non-profit project out of personal concern and interest in the material. Home inspectors and building professionals have a professional obligation to protect their clients and other consumers by presenting information in an accurate, informed, and unbiased manner using clear, unambiguous language which speaks to the point. Simply reporting an FPE Stab-Lok electrical panel as “obsolete” or “hard to find replacement parts for” is potentially criminally negligent.
  • Ethical building inspection means not profiting from repair work and not engaging in conflicting interests. It means not having any financial connection with properties inspected. (See the ASHI Code of Ethics.) It means not having hidden relationships with referring agencies such as real estate firms - known in the home inspection industry as “the buy-in” or “paid referral” or “referral agreements” (which are not disclosed to the client ahead of time and perhaps never). It does NOT mean soft-pedaling the information to keep realtors and sellers happy at the risk of a loss or injury to the ultimate consumer or building occupants.

So, in doing that, you are actually reporting that you have zero opinion on these panels other than to let some random electrician decide for your clients.

Is that truly what you want to do and feel is right?

My state law (and most don’t) “require” this evaluation or diagnostic.
There is no basis for this responsibility to fall on a home inspector (who is conducting a visual inspection for significant deficiencies).

You show me in the law, where I have to report this situation!?

If this was in fact such a huge hazard in 100% of the existing panels, why have they not been all recalled in a class action law suit?

By the way, there is not mention of this organization under my states home inspection law. Why do you think I must follow their stuff?

Either get the tools and/or perform the procedure to determine the panel is bad or keep your recommendations of replacement to your self.

Your article says you must report “Not too strong” (or your wrong) and" not too soft" (or your still wrong). If I needed to report this, my state law would say exactly what I need to say about it. Just like everything they say I must say in every inspection.

David,

Are you saying that all problems will be surface related and if we don’t see a problem we should let well enough alone without posting a message that the panel could lead to a possible fire?

No my State Inspection Law is saying…

It is not our job. If it is not detectable under the Standards of Inspection set by law, it’s not part of the inspection and it is NOT YOUR JOB.

Someone else out there takes care of these things. Not Home Inspectors.

If you want to debate this, start by posting the Standards of Practice that states we must report this situation.

Here you go (for your convenience).

2.7. Electrical
I. The inspector shall inspect:
A. The service line.
B. The meter box.
C. The main disconnect.
D. And determine the service amperage.
E. Panels, breakers and fuses.
F. The grounding.
G. The bonding.
H. A representative sampling of switches, receptacles, light fixtures, and test all GFCI receptacles and GFCI circuit breakers observed and deemed to be GFCI’s during the inspection.
I. And report the presence of solid conductor aluminum branch circuit wiring if readily visible.
J. And report on any GFCI-tested receptacles in which power is not present, polarity is incorrect, the receptacle is not grounded, is not secured to the wall, the cover is not in place, the ground fault circuit interrupter devices are not properly installed or do not operate properly, or evidence of arcing or excessive heat is present.
K. The service entrance conductors and the condition of their sheathing.
L. The ground fault circuit interrupters with a GFCI tester.
M. And describe the amperage rating of the service.
N. And report the absence of smoke detectors.
O. Service entrance cables and report as in need of repair deficiencies in the integrity of the insulation, drip loop, or separation of conductors at weatherheads and clearances.
II. The inspector is not required to:
A. Insert any tool, probe or device into the main or sub-panels.
B. Operate electrical systems that are shut down.
C. Remove panel covers or dead front covers if not readily accessible.
D. Operate over current protection devices.
E. Operate non-accessible smoke detectors.
F. Measure or determine the amperage or voltage of the main service if not visibly labeled.
G. Inspect the alarm system and components.
H. Inspect the ancillary wiring.
I. Activate any electrical systems or branch circuits which are not energized.
J. Operate overload devices.
K. Inspect low voltage systems, electrical de-icing tapes, swimming pool wiring or any time-controlled devices.
L. Verify the continuity of the connected service ground.
M. Inspect private or emergency electrical supply sources, including but not limited to generators, windmills, photovoltaic solar collectors, or battery or electrical storage facility.
N. Inspect spark or lightning arrestors.
O. Conduct drop voltage calculations.
P. Determine the accuracy of breaker labeling.

If you look up the TN Home Inspection Licencing Law you will find that there is NO “Required Reporting Criteria” in the Electrical section of the law as there is in other sections of the law.

What do you have to support this fire hazzard is present in the panel your inspecting?

I just note that a FP panel is present and the buyer needs to check with their insurance company for insurability. If the client asks than I expalin both sides of the story and let them decide.

Yup. Same here.

When I see one of these, I look a lot harder and do more testing.

I have never recommended panel replacement without documented issues.

David, thank you for the definitive “No” which was the answer I was looking for.
Now with all due respect…and I do respect your opinion, here are the problems I have with your analysis.

"As far as the reporting requirements of the TN Dept of Commerce and Insurance, you need more than hearsay to require panel replacement. "

It is my understanding that I, as a HI, do not have the authority to require the replacement of anything. The TN Dept. of Commerce and Insurance never issued me a badge and a gun. I simply report what I see and in certain cases recommend to the client that he seek further more “expert” advise.

“If this was in fact such a huge hazard in 100% of the existing panels, why have they not been all recalled in a class action law suit?”

You’re using an “all or nothing” analogy here. Which, no matter what the subject, is wrong most of the time. Of course, FPE equipment does not fail 100 % of the time… nor does any other product that proves to be faulty and gets recalled or the company is subject to numerous lawsuits as was FPE. Years ago I had a hardware store in northern NH. We sold FPE products for years. Recalls were not popular in the 70’s and 80’s. If a product was bad the company would get sued over and over until they stopped producing it, went under, or the government stepped in. FPE was sued over and over during that time period, and was eventually sued out of existance. A number of months later the company was resurrected by the employees and they went right back to stablok. They continued to have problems with stablok and in 1997 a Canadian recall was announced. I do not believe that a US recall has ever been made. There is a long… well documented series of problems with FPE products and I fully understand that there are those that still decide to stick there heads in the sand. I stopped selling FPE in the early 80’s because I felt there was sufficient evidence to warrant not selling them to my customers. Today, I have seen no evidence to the contrary, and will continue to recommend, as a HI, that my clients seek further “expert” advice.

“Either get the tools and/or perform the procedure to determine the panel is bad or keep your recommendations of replacement to your self.”
First of all the “recommendation of replacement” are your words not ours and certainly not mine, although I admit to having removed two FPE panels from apartments I own on this very day. Which was, by the way, the reason I started this thread in the first place.
I can think of many examples of items I would bring up in my report that are not directly mentioned in the law. I can also think of many that I would not need to “tool and test” before mentioning. One never knows what we will find in a home, for instance, If I was to find something that in my experience, looked like it could be a pound of spilled gunpowder in the cellar next to an old reloading bench. It would certainly go into my report and I would certainly recommend that the client seek expert advice. I would not feel the necessity to test it because as a HI, I do not have an expertesse in explosives.
I feel, as HI’s, we are required to be expert in one thing only… locating problems and/or potential problems. Unless we are licensed to be an expert we should not act as such. Maybe you are a licensed electrician and, as such, have been authorized by the state to act as an expert in these matter. If not, I would suggest that you think about possibly recommending experts in your reports rather than writing as one.

I agree with you on inspectapedia. It is one of many sources that are available to us as HI. Personally I feel they overstep there boundaries when they try to tell us exactly what we should do and how to do it. I use these sources as suggestions only.

This has been an interesting thread for me and I thank you for your input!

David, how do you test a breakers ability to trip within mfg’s specifications while doing a HI?
How do you test a panels ability to carry “full load” while “in place” during a home inspection?
These tests are outside the parameters of a HI. We must instead rely upon the data that has been gathered over the years. FPE has a long documented history of problems when compared to other brands. This is the information that we must use in our decissin making… not “tools and testing”. The “tools and testing” criteria you are using demands that every Hi must be a licensed “expert” in every trade.

A client was about to buy a house once that had a Zinsco main and an FPE stab-lok panel. I made the usual writeups and recommended replacement of both due to safety concerns. He had not heard of this before and called an electrician friend from out of state who told him I was right and to replace the panels. The seller/house flipper ended up agreeing to replace the panels after talking to his own electrician. You have to remember the vast differences in the knowledge base of different electricians when just recommending one inspect an old panel. especially these types. Many of them think of a breaker only as a switch and have no desire to check the overcurrent protection in the whole panel. It would be stupid anyway to pay an electrician for several hours of labor to truly test an old panel anyway. Anyone who is aware of the problems published here and online about these panels could be found negligent if they did not recommend replacement when a major fire or death resulted later on.

I am waiting for Joe Farsetta and the new documentation he has seen on these panels. Something we not aware on FPE…

Joe any word??

I asked him about that a few weeks ago, it appears he is concerned with the liability of posting information about a company that according to him still has some operations in place. This tells me that the information must be negative and further supports what is already available to us in the public domain. I really doubt Farsetta only recommends some random electrician make the decision for his clients about these panels.

State whether the condition reported requires repair or subsequent observation, or warrants further investigation by a specialist;

In this case repair requires “replacement”.

Licensees shall not engage in false or misleading advertising or otherwise misrepresent any matters to the public.

The all or nothing has to do with “ALL OR NONE OF THE PANELS REQUIRE REPLACEMENT” not about how you handle the situation. My issue is about home inspectors like Billy recommending replacement of panels with no significant deficiency condition noted. Simply that because it has FPE it should be replaced.

Do the Nashville “Metro Codes” actually demand or even suggest that Federal Pacific Brkrs/boxes be removed?

Post by Billy:
*** Safety Warning*** I have observed a Federal Pacific Electric “Stab-Lok” service panel in the house. This panel is a latent fire hazard: it’s circuit breakers may fail to trip in response to an overcurrent or a short circuit. Failure of a circuit breaker to trip can result in a fire, property damage, or personal injury. A circuit breaker that may not trip does not afford the protection that is intended and required. Simply replacing the circuit breakers is not a reliable repair. The panel should be replaced, and significant expense may be involved. Additional information about the fire and shock hazards associated with this equipment can be read on the internet at

I am not debating “bringing things up in the report”, I am debating “required replacement” reporting.

According to the court, I am considered an expert. I have been officially proclaimed a home inspection expert by a federal court judge. I do recommend experts when they are required because aditional testing that is not allowed during a HI is required, or a repair must be made before complete evaluation can be completed.

Agreed.

Yes it has. Thank you for contributing.

I will ask you the same thing about the electrician that you recommend for further evaluation. I will comment on your reply.