Originally Posted By: dbozek
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Here is a true story for all the doubters with the FPE panel. This happened TODAY…
Got a service call from an individual that was concerned about an outlet that had sparked when he tried to plug in some computer equipment. He told me prior to doing such, he smelled something coming from this outlet. The first thing I noticed was that he had 3 monitors, a laser printer, 2 towers and a ups unit all running off this single receptacle. I checked some data on the equipment and told the customer that with everything running, he would definitely exceed the rating of the wire feeding the outlet and more than likely would trip the protection device for that outlet. He told me that he had never tripped any breaker and that all was running fine until he added the laser printer. The printer was rated for 9 amps by itself.
This particular house was built in 1925 and had a mix of k&t and romex wire. In the basement was a lone FPE panel with a 30amp breaker, 4 single pole 15 amp breakers, a 20 amp breaker and a lighting main breaker of 50 amps.
I pulled the outlet out and all seemed normal. No loose connections or any evidence the outlet was defective. Aside from running too much on that single branch circuit, I found no real defects with the circuit other than the protection device. It would not.....and I repeat, would not trip.
I have this neat little device I built which when activated will cause a short circuit on a outlet, and therefore, hopefully. will trip the breaker. The device has a time delay fuse inside of it in case it does not trip the breaker or blow the fuse. Given ample time with the use of this device, the breaker or fuse should blow. It is a device I use often to test breakers as well as finding a breaker.
I hooked it up to the suspect outlet and it never tripped the breaker. Of course not....it was a FPE breaker I was trying to trip. I told the customer that he needed 2 things. First was a panel upgrade.....and second was two dedicated circuits to run all of his computer equipment.
Fact is, with everything turned on and running.....his current at the feed to this outlet was 24 amps. That's 24 amps on 14 gauge wire protected with a 15 amp FPE breaker. The wire itself had brittle insulation and needed to be replaced as well.
I told him he should buy a lottery ticket....for he is lucky that his house didn't catch fire.
Bottom line here....from an expert.......someone who has dealt with FPE panels for better than 30 years.....
FPE panels are bad news. Require that they are checked by a qualified sparky and if at all possible, require them to be replaced. This story is jut one of many I can tell you about FPE's. The remark about arc welding with these panels is true for the breakers fail to protect circuitry. This circuit alone......a 15 amp breaker and wire, sustained an excessive amount of amperage (24 amps) on a continuous basis......for some time before the outlet and the wire finally said.....ENOUGH! This is a true story....better to be safe than sorry. Every house I enter that has a FPE panel in it, is immediately recommended for upgrade. I do not use the bad history with FPE panels to sell upgrades either, as some may think. I state the facts and I inform people to not take my word for it and to do their own research via the internet. My little testing device needs a new fuse....I gaurantee you that I will not replace that fuse with a FPE breaker instead!
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they should and could do for themselves. Abraham Lincoln