My Home Inspector Blog: Hazardous Federal Pacific Electric Panels- Escondido Home Inspection

Hazardous Federal Pacific Electric Panels- Escondido Home Inspection

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         Biz card photo

             Master CREIA Inspector #0115

             ICC Residential Combination Inspector #5251439

             Certified Infrared Thermographer #7791

                                       FHA/HUD Inspector- #V975

                                       203k Consultant #S0611

                                     888-335-3040

 

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Comment balloon 6 commentsSteve Stenros • May 19 2011 10:48AM

Comments

I wonder how many buyers actually change out the panel.

Posted by Steve Hall, Make the Call to Hankins and Hall (RE/MAX United) over 7 years ago

I hope they all do!  Or they could end up looking like the fellow in my blog!  Or worse!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) over 7 years ago

My parents bought one of these homes with the famous Federal Pacific panels and the inspector warned them of the potential dangers. They said "We will fix it as soon as we own the property - Buying from a trust, hard to get repairs done" They closed on the property, ordered the electrician, two days later, one day before the electrician was to arrive, they had a fire. Got lucky, the damage was limited to the garage.

These aren't something to fool around with or take chances on.

Posted by Respect Realty LLC, Brokers - Oregon / SW Washington Real Estate (Respect Realty LLC) about 7 years ago

Wow! Thanks for the first-hand testimony, Todd. Federal Pacific panels are scary!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

Hi Steve, I know now why my garage doesn't have a ladder; good information and welcome to the Rain.

Posted by Teral McDowell (Referral Patners LLC) about 7 years ago

Thanks for the comment, Teral. Obviously you were commenting on my other post, Attic Ladder Safety- Encinitas Home Inspector!

Posted by Steve Stenros, CREIA MCI, ICC, ACI Home Inspector,San Diego (Poway,La Jolla,Del Mar,Mira Mesa,Carlsbad,Escondido,Temecula) about 7 years ago

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