Federal Pacific Service Panel

I came across a Federal Pacific panel this evening while doing an inspection. I was taught to never open one of these because the can be a hazard/liability. What is the proper procedure telling the client what to do about this situation, as well as why it’s not good to open a F.P panel?

I would explain that these panels are notorious for freezing breakers and arching; dangerous conditions that could and have resulted in house fires. I’d explain that I wouldn’t feel safe opening a known defective panel and that I wouldn’t want to provide a false sense of security by personally inspecting such a panel. I’d strongly urge the client to have a licensed Master Electrician evaluate the panel and would very strongly recommend that the panel be replaced and upgraded to a 200 amp service (might as well, won’t cost much more).

I open them unless I see something extraordinarily hazardous. How will you know the wiring type (copper or aluminum) if you don’t?

I do what Joe does.


Gerry Beaumont has created an electrical course that may be of help to you. Go to the Education section, click Education, then click Online Electrical Course, then Service Panels, then Problem Panels. You’ll get some information on the “Stab-lok” brand of Federal Pacific Panels.

I took an electrical course from Gerry at last year’s NACHI convention in Florida and he gave us a great tip in regard to inspecting these panels. When unscrewing the dead front cover if you feel the breakers pushing against the dead front as you are removing it, then stop, tighten the dead front cover and defer to a licensed electrician. This happened to me a couple of months later on the only FPE “Stab-Lok” panel I’ve had the pleasure of inspecting. I was really glad I didn’t open that thing up and have circuit breakers popping out. I explained the situation to the client, who had a licensed electrican remove the dead front and inspect the panel and stated everything was fine.

Another good resource for home inspectors is the book Electrical Inspection of Existing Dwellings by Hansen, Kardon, and Casey.

As do I.

This one was from today.

FPE Stab-lok, scorched/burnt bus bars, one breaker falling out, rust/moisture damage to another breaker and feeders so close to the dead-front, it’s difficult to remove or replace without contacting them.

All in all, not bad for FPE :smiley:








Wow Jeff,

I am surprised you are not the first to answer on this post being the “FPE Man” you are…:wink:
Must be busy unlike the rest of us…:D:D

Missed it by about 40 minutes :smiley: Looks like others covered it well.

It has been a busy week so far.

Everything was fine? EVERY sparky I’ve ever talked to about these
says replace them, and that’s what I recommend to my clients.

Luckily they are pretty scarce around here, but I had a fun one about a year ago, when I looked in the common laundry room of a 16 unit apt. building, and there was an FPE panel. Naturally all of the units had an FPE sub. Other than that apt. inspection, I’ve only seen about six others.

I had an older electrician tell me recently FPE was his favorite manufacturer of panels. But then, I woudn’t trust him to screw in a light bulb.

I was a little surprised. I explained in my report the potential problems with these panels, explained the condition of the breakers pushing against the dead front, and told her it would be best to have a licensed electrician open up that panel and look it over. The electrician she chose was a friend of hers, and he told her everything looked fine. It’s my job to educate the client about the potential problems and then recommend further evaluation by a licensed electrician (I stress that it would be good to choose an older electrician with years of experience with older equipment). If I’ve educated the client about the potential for problems, and a specialist says there is no problem with a particular piece of equipment, then I’ve done my job. I’m not going to tell her to replace the panel when a specialist says that it’s fine, the liability is now his.

Anyone know if there is more current information from the CPSC other than this 1983 statement?


As far as I know, that’s the latest word.

Did you also recommend replacement? Did you say anything like, “The FPE Stab-Lok service equipment panel is considered a safety hazard. The hazards associated with this manufacturer have been documented by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and by industry experts. A high percentage of FPE Stab-Lok breakers have failed to open under over-current conditions. Replacement is advised for safety reasons.”

Simply telling the client to have an electrician open the panel and examine it is not the best recommendation in my opinion.


Where do we find this documentation? My post above is the only thing I could find from the CPSC on this panel.

I finally found the report. This is what I wrote:

The electrical panel in the house was manufactured by Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) and is known to be problematic. I was unable to remove the dead front cover as the circuit breakers were starting to move. Among the many serious problems associated with this panel are the following items: the FPE breakers often fail to turn off when the handle is moved to the “off” position, and the breakers often fail to trip when overloaded. Additionally, some of these panels have a design flaw in the way the circuit breaker is attached to the panel that can lead to arcing that can cause electrical fires. Recommendation: Have a licensed electrical contractor evaluate this panel and make recommendations as to replacement/repairs to this equipment.

I found it on this website. http://www.nachi.org/forum/showthread.php?t=4995&highlight=documented+consumer+products among other posts. I failed to thoroughly investigate that phrase. I did not create the language, but got it off this board. Is that language incorrect? I’ve read the document you posted and if that is the last word, then we might need to rethink it.

:shock: That’s a lot to ask from a homeowner :shock:

I don’t rely on the CPSC as the last word, especially when it comes to these panels. This link has been posted many times before, but I send my clients to this one, as well as the CPSC site.