Replace old FPE Load Center

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  #1  
Old 03-31-13, 06:48 PM
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Replace old FPE Load Center

I have an old FPE load center and an FPE main breaker. I would like to replace the load center due to, well, you know..

The load center appears to be 200 amps and the main breaker appears to be 150 amps. I assume that because that's what it says.

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Here is the panel:
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First off, I'm wondering if you all think this is correct that the panel is a 200 amp panel and the breaker is 150 amps? I mean, it says it is but just being careful.

2nd, why is there a 200 amp panel on a 150 breaker?

3rd. I'd like to replace the hub panel due to the fact that it is an FPE panel. I don't think the main breaker comes into play. Is that correct?

The main feeds from the main breaker are aluminum. I believe the panel buss is aluminum. I have read that there may be a problem with mixing copper and aluminum. Is this true?

What would you do??

Thanks
Tim
 
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  #2  
Old 03-31-13, 07:29 PM
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The main can remain when the panel is changed, but it will still be FPE. You may want to consider changing it also.

The panel is rated up to 200 amps. A lesser rated main can be installed.

You are not mixing AL and copper. The lugs should be rated for both.
 
  #3  
Old 03-31-13, 07:34 PM
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Your main disconnect is 150A, so therefore your service is 150A. You'll have to replace the main breaker with a 150A disconnect. The downstream subpanel can be any size, at least 150A, since it is protected by the 150A disconnect.

The subpanel will need to have an isolated ground bar and the neutrals and grounds need to be kept separate. You'll probably need ground rods too, depending on your current grounding situation.

No issue with using AL wire for the feeders, just use a wire brush to ensure the wire ends are shiny and use no-ox to reduce oxidation.

A few questions/comments
- How far is the main disconnect and the panel? Maybe they can be combined into one?
- Now is a good time to take a look at the service entry wires, are they still in good shape?
- Usually, replacing the main disconnect is not a DIY project since removing the meter should be done only by someone trained and with the appropriate protective equipment. Something to consider...

The pros may be able to tell you if your main disconnect needs to be replaced. Not all FPE equipment was problematic...
 
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Old 03-31-13, 08:22 PM
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Thanks Zorfdt:
The main breaker is like 3 ft. from the panel (other side of the wall).

As far as combining them, that might be a little more than I want to handle. I simply want to rid myself of the FPE stigma on the panel. Just replace it with like a 32 circuit panel that will go in easily to where the FPE panel is. Kind of hard to find as far as I can tell at least at Lowes or HD. Their selection is mostly main breaker hubs.

My concern is having the wires the right length to fit the new box and not coming up short (so, no lug nuts). I would assume that if I added a main breaker load center, is that it would just add height. But, on that note, would it be OK to have another (2nd) main breaker in the panel?

I have no idea about the service entry wires other than they don't look bad as far as I can tell.
Thanks

Thanks pcboss. I don't think I'm mixing AL and copper now but, a lot of the new boxes have copper busses. Should I just make sure it has an AL buss? Or, does it even matter?
Thanks

The inside dimensions of the box are 23h X 12.5W X4D if anyone has an idea of what I could use for a good fit?
 
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Old 03-31-13, 09:09 PM
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I don't think I'm mixing AL and copper now but, a lot of the new boxes have copper busses. Should I just make sure it has an AL buss? Or, does it even matter?
The lugs are steel. The connection to a main breaker is brass. I would look for a panel with copper buses. I would also buy a main disconnect panel and pull copper feeders for it straight from the meter.

If you need a 200A service for any reason (central A/C?), now is the time to upgrade. The POCO feed may already be heavy enough to handle that. When I upgraded our old house from 60A to 200A some years ago, we never touched the triplex from the pole - it was OK for the new service.

The inside dimensions of the box are 23h X 12.5W X4D if anyone has an idea of what I could use for a good fit?
You won't know without opening the wall or scanning it with a good stud sensor, but there should be enough space once you open it up to install a standard size panel that's 14-1/2" wide.
 
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Old 04-01-13, 06:07 PM
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Thanks Nashkat1.

"pull copper feeders for it straight from the meter."

How is this done? I call the Poco and they turn me off? How do I get into the meter to attach wires? What guage wire would the feeders be?

I don't know if I need 200amps. I have AC. Also a pool pump and all the other normal stuff. All I can think of "needing" is maybe a 20 amp breaker for a dedicated Microwave line. I have 15 now. Is 15 enough for Micro?

Did you change out the wires when you went from 60 to 200?

I have room on the wall and opening walls for fitting the panel is not a problem. But, making the existing wiring reach all the terminals and lugs without using wire nuts is a concern.

Thanks Nashkat1.
 
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Old 04-01-13, 10:43 PM
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"pull copper feeders for it straight from the meter."

How is this done? I call the Poco and they turn me off? How do I get into the meter to attach wires?
If you have the permit to replace the distribution panel, then yes.

What guage wire would the feeders be?
That depends on the size of the service you decide on.

I don't know if I need 200amps. I have AC. Also a pool pump and all the other normal stuff.
Do a residential load calculation to find out. Do you have an electric water heater, dryer or cookstove?

All I can think of "needing" is maybe a 20 amp breaker for a dedicated Microwave line. I have 15 now. Is 15 enough for Micro?
If it's a dedicated circuit, probably. I can't recall offhand if there's a requirement for it.

Did you change out the wires when you went from 60 to 200?
Everything was replaced from the point where the POCO triplex ended - mast, meter base, etc.
Originally Posted by Nashkat1
we never touched the triplex from the pole - it was OK for the new service.
 
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Old 04-03-13, 07:04 AM
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So, an electrician comes over. Real nice guy.
After all the normal talk about this and that I said, 'If this was your house what would you do'. He said he has an FPE panel in his house. nuff said.......
 
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Old 04-03-13, 07:46 AM
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I know if I had an FPE Stab-Lok panel in my house, it would be the first thing to go.

The Federal Pacific Electric FPE Stab-LokŪ Panel Circuit Breaker Hazard, Repairs, Electrical Panel Replacement Electricians Directory for Stab-LokŪ Repairs

It seems in 2011 the Consumer Product Safety Commission released their review of FPE Stab-Lok panels and was inconclusive the latent fire risk. That said, their UL listing was rescinded because of the possibility of some breakers not tripping when required and being the root cause of a number of fires.

Everyone has their own opinion of acceptable risk, to each their own, but be sure you're informed before you make that determination for yourself.
 
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Old 04-03-13, 08:46 AM
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I would also make sure I had the best homeowners insurance I could get - including, at a minimum, replacement value for the house and its contents.
 
  #11  
Old 04-03-13, 05:56 PM
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And.....don't be surprised if your insurance company requires you to replace the FPE panel. Zinsco panels actually scare me a lot more than an FPE panel, but if I had an FPE panel I'd definitely be making plans to replace it.
 
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Old 04-03-13, 07:18 PM
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Fear can be a strong emotion.
 
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Old 04-03-13, 08:24 PM
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Fear can be a strong emotion.
All feelings are strong. Accepted and faced, fear can become the basis for resolution and change.
 
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Old 04-04-13, 06:05 PM
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Fear can be a strong emotion.
If you have ever seen a few Zinscos or FPEs burn up you would better understand.
 
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