Federal Pacific Electrical Panel ?


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Old 03-02-04, 10:24 PM
warnerwh
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Federal Pacific Electrical Panel ?

On my 125 amp Federal Pacific panel there is no single ON/OFF on the top of the box. There is a place where there are two 60amp breakers where it says "Main for Lighting". These are breakers 3 and 4 on the right hand side counting from the top. Is that the main power that cuts off power to the entire house and the lower part of the wide copper where the breakers connect? Not being an electrician it's very uncomfortable not knowing. I need to run another line and will have to remove and rearrange the breakers so I can use thin ones in place of thick ones as there's no room left. I would still be super cautious as I was last time I put in another line but would feel better knowing. Thank you for the help.
 
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Old 03-03-04, 10:17 AM
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Be very careful with that Federal Pacific panel. You might want to consider replacement of the entire panel, because FPE breakers are NOTORIOUS for not tripping on overloads. There were several lawsuits back in the 1970's regarding this. Do a Google search on Federal Pacific, and you will probably find a lot of hits on this subject.
Sorry to throw a wet blanket on things; it's just something you might want to think about.
Good luck
 
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Old 03-03-04, 10:57 AM
J
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I agree with Andrew that replacing the box should be very seriously considered.

You have a split-bus panel. They were such a great idea that they are no longer legal.

You can mess with the breakers on the lower half of the panel, but you can't mess with the breakers on the upper half. The breakers in the upper half combine to form the equivalent of the main breaker. One of them will shut off power to the lower half, and that will enable you to work on those breakers.

Before installing tandem breakers, make sure your panel is designed to accept them.
 
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Old 03-03-04, 01:52 PM
warnerwh
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Thank you guys for the information here. I read there's an issue with the FPE panels but didn't know what it was. Now that I do I'll make it a point to put in a different box. Any idea how much installation, not including the box, would cost?

Much of the wiring in the house has been redone but some is still the old cloth insulation. Maybe I should replace it and use 12ga for the 15 amp circuits. Being as I have a basement it's pretty easy to do. Any advice on any other electrical panels to avoid when I replace this one would also be appreciated. Thanks
 
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Old 03-03-04, 05:19 PM
warnerwh
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Everything went perfectly. Did have hot and neutral backwards on one line but that was an easy fix. Please don't take this wrong as I'm a printer, not an electrician, but if FPE was sued over their breakers not tripping in the 70's wouldn't they make sure the new ones were working properly?

Is replacing the panel something I could do myself? Seems like if the electric company could turn off my electricity for half the day I could swap it out. It doesn't look too complicated assuming things that are bolted aren't frozen and it takes three times as long as it should as is what commonly happens to me.
 
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Old 03-03-04, 05:30 PM
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Cost of a service change will depend on a few things :
Length of service cable will most likely need to be replaced as well
The region you live in,around here a typical 200a service will run about $1,300
Electrical equipment these days must meet strict standards from various organizations{U.L, Natl.Electrcal Manufacturers Assn. to name a few}So the quality is much better. Square D , G.E. & Cutler/Hammer are probably the 3 most common.
 
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Old 03-03-04, 05:37 PM
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I would not recommend doing the changeout yourself,there are many variables involved.Your Fedral panel isn't new by any means. F.P.E went out of business due to all the litigation.There is still a great deal of they're equipment installed and in use right now,in residential,commercial, & industrial areas.
 
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Old 03-03-04, 05:59 PM
warnerwh
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Ampz: thanks for the info. I wasn't really inclined to do it myself but had to ask. Why would the wire coming in need to be changed? Are the newer circuit breakers made for FPE panels safe? I'd rather change the breakers out than put in a new box. Thanks
 
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Old 03-03-04, 09:31 PM
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I'm guessing the service cable & meter is as old as the panel,and is probably deteriorated.If the outer insulation is split & exposing the conductors, the cable should be changed. The price I gave {$1,300} is for a 200amp service. 125amp services are seldom if ever done anymore {at least around Philly area}. A good contractor will not change the panel alone if the cable/meterbox is in bad shape. FPE breakers are still made but not by FPE,they cost a bundle.I recommend changing the entire service,its cheaper in the long run.
 
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Old 03-04-04, 02:06 AM
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If you pay a "package" price for a complete service, make sure your grounding system is brought up to date as well, it should be part of the deal.
 
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Old 03-04-04, 12:46 PM
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Good point noxx,I always check that ,but forgot to type it
 
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Old 03-04-04, 05:01 PM
warnerwh
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Is there anything wrong with grounding to the pipes? That's the way it's done and would seem like a good idea or at least better than a grounding rod.
Do all cables coming out of the main box have to have conduit or is romex ok? Thanks again for the info.
 
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Old 03-04-04, 05:47 PM
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Grounding is a complex issue.

If you have metal pipes in your house, then they must be connected to the electric panel ground connection. If the pipes extend underground for at least ten feet then they are one of the ground connections for the panel. However, a second ground is needed.
 
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Old 03-04-04, 05:48 PM
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If your plumbing is metallic and in contact with the earth for at least ten feet, then you must use it as your primary grounding electrode. You must connect to it within five feet of where it enters your house. Modern code, realizing that this grounding is good but not sufficient by itself, requires at least one or two grounding rods to supplement the plumbing.

For anybody reading this thread casually, be aware that we are discussing the grounding electrode system here, and that this system has absolutely nothing to do with the equipment grounding conductors that provide safety grounding for your receptacles and appliances. Never, ever confuse these two systems. They have completely different rules.
 
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Old 03-04-04, 07:19 PM
warnerwh
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John: You're saying I should add a grounding rod? Do you run another line out of the box to this grounding rod or is it ok to run from pipe to the grounding rod. This is not a good place to put a grounding rod as there's alot of rock, I suspect it would need to be drilled. Doesn't the grounding rod need to be a specific depth and diameter?
 
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Old 03-04-04, 07:57 PM
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There are a lot of options to vertical grounding rods if you have rocky ground. I don't have my code book handy to quote you all the specifics. You might ask your inspector or electrician what is common in your area.
 
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Old 03-04-04, 09:20 PM
warnerwh
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Thank you guys very much for the help. I'll be investigating getting the electrical on this house upto snuff. One thing I've noticed is that here or on home audio forums the electricians seem to not have that much respect for the NEC. It's as if the people who wrote it really aren't qualified to be making the rules. Any comments?
 
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Old 03-04-04, 10:15 PM
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In this forum, you very rarely see anyone recommend something that violates the NEC. And if anybody does, there's always a dozen people to jump in and protest. I think you'll find that almost everyone here follows the NEC very closely.
 
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Old 03-04-04, 10:47 PM
warnerwh
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John: what I was trying to say is that it appears many electricians don't think the NEC is safe enough in some cases. Many recommending larger wire than the NEC considers safe. I've seen this often on other forums I frequent. Seems to me that running larger wire than is required would be a good idea and costs hardly anymore. I'm too old to not realize the importance of safety or doing something correctly. It really doesn't cost much or take much more time anyway. At work there's a space heater run off of a 14 ga. extension cord. You can feel this cord get warm. That makes me nervous. I do wonder though if it's because it's stranded as opposed to solid and if there's actually more copper in 14 ga solid as opposed to stranded.

I still would like to know if conduit is required at the main box or if Romex is ok coming straight out. If conduit is required I need to get some conduit. There is some of the old type wire that is not in conduit coming out of the main box though. It's some sort of heavy fabric. Same as the main line coming from the meter to the box. It's all in good condition however.

This house has been mostly rewired and I see that holes through the studs supporting the main floor must be ok to pass the wire through without conduit. The studs I'm referring to support the main floor and are easily accessed in the basement. I ran the two lines just like all the others were done using 12 ga Romex for 15 amp lines. I only use commercial grade outlets too. Except on my stereo where hospital grade outlets reside.
 
 

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