Hazardous Federal Pacific Electric Panels- Escondido Home Inspection
Steve Stenros- First Choice Inspections just found another hazardous Federal Pacific electric panel at an Escondido home inspection. A home's electric panel provides over-current protection for it's electrical system. If the panel does not serve it's intended function, a house fire or personal injury can occur. One of the most problematic electric panels is the Federal Pacific Stab-Lok panel. It can be identified by the red or orange tips often seen on it's circuit breaker handles. Here's a look at this troublesome electrical panel's history:
Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) panels were manufactured from the mid 1950's to the early 1980's and were widely-distributed throughout the United States. For years, fraudulent manufacturing & labeling, house fires, and injuries have been attributed to this product. Independent testing has confirmed that FPE Stab-Lok circuit breakers fail to trip, at times as much as 70-80 percent of the time, posing a serious fire and shock hazard. FPE Stab-Lok panels were installed in millions of homes.
In addition to the failure of the circuit breakers to protect against dangerous overcurrent, switching an FPE Stab-Lok breaker to the "off" position may leave the breaker "on" internally, risking serious or fatal electrical shock. The breakers also have a tendency to become loose at their connection to the bus bar causing arcing and overheating which can only be seen by removing the breaker. So when I see circuit breakers that are loose or have become unattached, or I see evidence of overheating in hazardous Federal Pacific electric panels at an Escondido home inspection, I'm not surprised at all.
Based on failure studies and field reports, experts estimate that FPE Stab-Lok panels cause significant property damage, injuries, and deaths each year. Just having the equipment installed in a home does not itself initiate a failure. Rather, when a dangerous overcurrent situation occurs, the equipment is likely to fail to provide the protection that's 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 event has not previously occurred and the circuit breakers have not been called on to do their job.
There is no practical way that a licensed electrician, inspector, or engineer can determine which breakers in hazardous Federal Pacific electric panels at an Escondido home inspection are seriously defective internally. The only way to do that is by means of functional and life test procedures that they are not trained or equipped to perform.
Given these facts, hazardous Federal Pacific electric panels at an Escondido home inspection, or any other location, are considered a fire and shock hazard risk. Complete replacement of the equipment, in the interest of occupant safety, is advised. Replacement costs can run between $1000 and $1500 or more depending on the size and type of panel. Steve Stenros- First Choice Inspections is a CREIA MCI inspector. He can be reached for appointment at 888-335-3040.
Steve Stenros, MCI
Master CREIA Inspector #0115
ICC Residential Combination Inspector #5251439
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