Electricians, including 110220v have continued to see Federal Pacific Electric circuit breakers in San Mateo homes recently. If you search for Federal Pacific Electric on Google, the first result that comes back is “FPE Panels – Is My Electrical Panel Safe?”
Our electricians are very concerned with this state of affairs.
The problem has been known since at least 1980. The FPE company was purchased in 1979. Shortly after, in 1980, Reliance notified the CPSC (the Consumer Product Safety Commission) that an internal investigation had shown that FPE circuit breakers did not trip correctly. They had found that FPE circuit breakers did not fully comply with Underwriter Laboratory compliance requirements. (UL is one of the approved safety inspectors by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration). The CPSC also conducted its own investigation and determined that the circuit breakers were defective. However they did not order a recall.
There has been at least one lawsuit over the years. The New Jersey State Court ruled that FPE had violated the Consumer Fraud Act. They believed that the FPE had distributed circuit breakers they knew were not tested to UL standards.
The FPE company no longer exists in any shape or form. However thousands of the defective Stab-Lok circuit breakers are still in homes across the Bay Area and they represent a real risk to your house.
So what exactly is wrong? Well the circuit breakers in question are called the “Stab-Lok” curcuit breakers from FPE. Our electricians have seen these exact circuit breakers in cities like San Mateo, Burlingame, and Millbrae. What have we observed?
- The circuit breakers were installed before 1990.
- They are often recognizable because they say “FPE” on the cover of the circuit box.
- Scientific tests in the 1980s have proven that one quarter of all FPE Stab-Lok breakers are defective and will not trip circuits correctly.
- The circuit doesn’t “trip” because the mechanical device which activates the trip jams very easily in Stab-Lok breakers.
- Can lead to a fire if there is a circuit overload and the breaker continues deliver electricity to the shorted circuit.
Why is the circuit breaker important:
Circuit breakers are there to protect your home from circuit overloads, shorts, and power surges. When the circuit has an overload, the breakers will “trip” by breaking the electrical current to that circuit. If the circuit doesn’t break the overload continues and it is very easy for the circuit to burn through its housing and cause a fire.
So what do you do if you see one of these in your home?