Service Panel Safety

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Service Panel Safety

This is important information regarding service panel safety.  Residents of Mission Viejo, Lake Forest, Irvine, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Hills, and all other South Orange County California communities should read this information carefully.

If you have a Federal Pacific Electric service panel, you and your family may be in danger.  These service panels can fail to provide proper service panel safety and protection for your home.

Service Panel SafetyFederal Pacific Electric Company (FPE) was one of the most common manufacturers of circuit breaker panels in North America from the 1950s to the 1980s.  FPE installed millions of these panels in homes across the country.  Yet, as the years passed, electricians and home inspectors often found FPE panels failed to provide proper protection to homeowners and their families.  Experts now say that FPE panels can appear to work fine for years.  However, after one overcurrent or short circuit, they can overheat and become fire hazards.

Service Panel SafetyIn a class action lawsuit, the Court ruled that the FPE “violated the Consumer Fraud Act because FPE knowingly and purposefully distributed circuit breakers which were not tested to meet UL standards…”  An expert who investigated the potential hazards of FPE panels stated that FPE panels fail to trip at a much higher rate than standard panels.

When a breaker fails to trip, an extreme amount of power from the outside electrical supply surges into a home’s panel and circuits.  When this happens, the electrical current cannot be stopped or shut off manually.  Electricity will burn until it runs out of fuel or the wires melt.  The panel could overheat and catch fire, causing serious harm to a home and its occupants.  Many FPE panels and breakers can operate properly for years.  But if and when they do malfunction, a disaster could occur.

Federal Pacific Electric panels compromise service panel safety.  These Panels Can Be Dangerous.

Service Panel SafetyA Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) circuit breaker panel can appear to be working properly for years. BUT experts warn that if a FPE panel experiences an overcurrent or short circuit, it may not keep the electrical circuits from overheating.  This can cause a fire hazard.

According to a report, some Federal Pacific Electric panels failed to operate properly nearly 60% of the time in the event of a power surge.  To the right is one example of a Federal Pacific Electric panel.  The homeowner reportedly heard a loud pop, followed by a sizzling noise and a burning smell.  She called an electrician; the picture on the right is what he found.

The homeowner had too many electrical devices plugged into one room.  There was no possible way she could have known this.  The devices required more electricity than the circuit could provide.  “The wiring got hot enough to fry an egg,” the electrician reported.  Normally, the circuit breakers should trip to cut off the electricity and prevent a fire.  The FPE breakers did not operate properly.  This caused two circuit breakers and a bus bar to burn and melt.

What should a homeowner do to ensure service panel safety?

Service Panel SafetyThe circuit breaker panel is one of the most important parts of a home’s electrical system.  It constantly distributes and receives electricity.  The panel protects homes from power surges and other possible hazards.  With regular maintenance by a licensed electrician, experts say that today’s electrical panels can function properly and protect homes for 30 years or more.  If not properly maintained, panels and circuit breakers can easily begin to fail in less than 20 years.  If your home was built using a 100amp, 125amp, or 150amp service panel, you should upgrade to a 200amp service panel.  Why?  With today’s heavy electronic demands, anything less than a 200amp panel is no longer safe.

If your home has aluminum wire, you should consider replacing with copper wire.

Current building codes require that all kitchen and bathrooms be on their own dedicated 20amp circuits.  When you remodel your kitchen or bathroom, if any of the below are true, replace your existing service panel.

  • Kitchen and all bathrooms are not on their own dedicated 20amp circuits.
  • Service panel is a Federal Pacific Electric or Zinsco service panel.
  • Main breaker is not 200amps.
  • Service panel is 20 years or older.

Summary of FPE and service panel safety

  • Independent testing confirms that FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breakers fail to trip, at times as much as 70-80 percent of the time.  Other manufacturers do not fail at anywhere near this high rate. The equipment is a fire and injury hazard.
  • Overheated Circuit BreakerIn addition to the failure of these circuit breakers to protect a building and its occupants from dangerous overcurrents, switching an FPE Stab-Lok® circuit breaker to the “off” position may leave the breaker “on” internally, risking serious or fatal electrical shock.  Based on failure studies and field reports, experts estimate that FPE Stab-Lok® panels cause significant annual property damage losses, injuries, and deaths each year.
  • FPE Stab-Lok® is a latent fire and shock hazard.  The presence of the equipment in a home does not itself initiate a failure.  What happens is when a dangerous overcurrent occurs, the equipment is likely to fail to provide the safety protection that is expected of circuit breakers.  For this reason, an owner’s failure to observe a problem “up to now” is absolutely no assurance that the panel is safe.  It may simply be that an overcurrent has not previously occurred, and the circuit breakers have not been called-on to do their job.  FPE circuit breakers simply do not work safely.
  • There are other FPE panel-defects independent of the breaker problems, panel and panel-bus fires and arcing failures in some equipment.  The failure rates for these circuit breakers were and still are significant.  In some cases, failure to trip occurs 60% of the time – a serious fire and electrical shock hazard.

FPE equipment violates the National Electrical Code (NEC) because of the proven high defective rate.

Overheated Circuit BreakerFPE Stab-Loc breakers do not provide the circuit protection that is required by applicable codes and standards (NEC and UL).  This constitutes an increased risk of fire and injury.  A building with an FPE Stab-Lok® electrical panel does not meet the requirements of the NEC nor of any other electrical code.

There is no practical way that a licensed electrician, inspector, or engineer can determine which breakers in a given electrical panel are seriously defective internally.  Do not attempt field testing of FPE Stab-Lok® equipment.  Doing so risks serious fire or injury, and testing, even simply switching breakers on and off increases the risk of a future failure to trip.

Always Hire a Reliable and Dependable Contractor to Remodel your Home

Design Build Bathroom Remodel | Best Local Contractor DAD's ConstructionAlways work with a trustworthy contractor like DAD’s Construction.  We are experts in bathroom, kitchen, and interior remodeling.  We remodel and manage projects in an efficient manner.  DAD’s Construction will do everything to minimize the possibility of change orders.  Our team will make sure we have all the necessary information to prepare a proposal that meets your requirements.  Rest assured that we will provide you with a detailed, by line-item contract.  We will make sure that the contents of this agreement are properly and clearly communicated to you.  If you have questions or need updates regarding your project, we will always answer your inquiries.

How Can I Receive More Information on Remodeling my Kitchen, Bathrooms, and Replacing my Service Panel?

If you would like more information on enjoying the best bathroom, kitchen, and interior remodeling experience in Orange County, call Dan at (949) 380-0177 or at for a free in home consultation.  DAD’s serves all of South Orange County California.  This includes Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Foothill Ranch, Portola Hills, Ladera Ranch, Irvine, San Clemente, Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano, Rancho Santa Margarita, Coto de Caza, Dove Canyon, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Hills, Newport Beach, and Aliso Viejo.

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